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Sriwhana Spong

Sriwhana Spong
This Creature

Sriwhana Spong – This Creature

Aotearoa New Zealand-born artist Sriwhana Spong’s video This Creature takes as its starting point her unfulfilled request to handle the only known surviving manuscript of The Book of Margery Kempe (1436–38), held in the British Library. The book is an account of the early 15th-century mystic’s devotional life and her personal, highly physical, spiritual odyssey. Considered to be the earliest autobiography written in the English language, Kempe dictated the book to male scribes, referring to herself not by her own name but in third person form as ‘this creature’. 

Filmed by Spong on her iPhone, This Creature comprises footage of the artist’s hand touching various sculptural and architectural forms in London’s Hyde Park. An anonymous voiceover accompanies the scenes, narrating ruminations on Kempe’s complex somatic life together with fragments from Spong’s own biography. In its multi-voiced narrative and slippage between styles and genres, This Creature invokes the mystic’s styles of writing to create a textured world of Spong’s own. 

About the Artist

Sriwhana Spong is an artist from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently living in London. Drawing largely on the particular and ecstatic practices of women mystics, she produces scripts of the body, which document the oscillations of distance and intimacy generated by an approach toward another organism or object. These have included: a rat nesting outside her bedroom window; a newly discovered species of snake; a painting by her grandfather, the Balinese painter, I Gusti Made Rundu; a twelfth-century Javanese poem; and the dreams of two female Sufi mystics. These encounters spark journeys where different modes of knowledge production produce reorientations through films, sculptures, and performances, which ultimately ask: What is the body? 

 Spong graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland in 2001. She received a Masters of Fine Art from the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam in 2015. Her work has been included in significant group presentations including: 17th Istanbul Biennial (2022); trust & confusion, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2022); Honestly Speaking: The Word, The Body, and The Internet, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland (2020); Sights and Sounds, The Jewish Museum, New York City (2015) Taking Form, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2013) and 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012). Significant solo exhibitions include Luzpomphia, Michael Lett, Auckland (2023), The Poem is a Temple, Western Front, Vancouver (2021), Ida-Ida, Spike Island, Bristol (2019); A hook but no fish, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth (2018) and Im Wintergarten, DAAD Gallery, Berlin (2016). Spong has been the recipient of multiple residencies including with the ISCP, New York City (2008); and Gasworks, London (2016). She was nominated for New Zealand’s premiere contemporary art award, the Walter’s Prize, for Fanta Silver and Song in 2012. Spong was nominated a second time for her work castle-crystal, presented as a part of Now Spectral, Now Animal at the 2019 Edinburgh Arts Festival and included in Honestly Speaking in 2020. 


Image: Sriwhana Spong, This Creature, 2016 single-channel HD video, sound 14:55 minutes, image courtesy the artist © the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland/New Zealand