Chelsey Campbell

A vase, a vessel, a body, a home

Excerpt about A vase, a vessel, a body, a home from Know Thyself as a Virtual Reality essay by Lianne McTavish

The VR artwork created by Chelsey Campbell highlights stillness in a distinctive manner, with a consistent focus on the pleasures and politics of rest. Those experiencing the installation are invited to lie down on a bed within the gallery space. If they choose to don a headset, they will enter a domestic space created by the artist. Campbell made a LiDAR scan of their bedroom, complete with flowing drapes, charming windows, and comforting plants. An MR scan of the artist’s torso rests on the bed, but it is not meant to be legible or provide information to be deciphered. This body fades away as the visitor takes up a prone position, one that invites them to recognize and empathize with a disabled body. In the prone position of the scanned body, the visitor can reach the larger rendering of Campbell’s torso, pressed behind the window. The further they reach, the more the large torso recedes to reveal the words “a vase a vessel a body a home.” Visitors can also look around the dreamlike bedroom in a slow manner that is at odds with the barrage of data often provided by medicalized imagery and virtual reality experiences. This space is liminal, in between the real and the virtual, with a painterly texture, empty spaces, and lack of perfection that point to its deliberate construction.   

Campbell’s artwork is primarily designed for disabled bodies. It holds space to just rest, in keeping with the research of a range of disability scholars, especially queer thinkers of colour. The work of Trisha Hersey is a key inspiration, for she argues that bodies are sites of liberation. To proclaim the value of rest and recuperation is to refuse the demand for constant productivity that fuels white supremacy and capitalism. Campbell’s VR work features a bedroom as a majestic, revolutionary space. All bodies are welcomed into this space and its conceptual community; they are encouraged to rest without hesitation or guilt, building the sustenance needed to resist the relentless demands of an oppressive world that privileges what bodies can do rather than what they are.

Chelsey Campbell (they/she) is a queer crip artist, educator, and cultural worker. A nonbinary white settler of Scottish descent, Campbell resides as an uninvited guest in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. Exploring tender narratives of disability justice, feminized care labour, and crip kinship, their practice intertwines autoethnographic storytelling with community-oriented practices of access, care, and interdependence. Through a combination of printmaking, 3D modelling, installation, and photography, their work seeks to make space for the body in pain, celebrate disabled narratives as complex and whole, and build radical access for community through artistic practice.

Artist – Chelsey Campbell
Unity development – Walter Ostrander
3D scan refinement – Bhagyashree Zala
MRI Research Associate – Peter Seres