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Eastside Projects and FABRIC have co-commissioned melissandre varin’s dirty nails (les ongles noirs), an exhibition that will open from 7 June to 27 July 2024 at Eastside Projects, Birmingham.

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About dirty nails (les ongles noir)


Interview with melissandre

About the Team

In dirty nails (les ongles noirs) artist melissandre varin has invited eleven other artists to be part of an experimental project which is manifesting as exhibitions, gatherings, and encounters that take place between Senegal and Birmingham.

Audiences will be able to experience performances, workshops, and other events in the frame of the exhibition that will be open from the 7 June to 27 July in Eastside projects and across other locations in Birmingham and Nottingham.

About dirty nails (les ongles noirs)

dirty nails (les ongles noirs) is a sticky experimental thing happening between Dakar, Senegal and Birmingham, UK. This is an invitation to: play, grieve, hum; throw soil on white walls; dance, pray, touch and be moved by the unknown.

Stewards of the land (visitors, clay, little ones, microscopic insects, artists, soil, ancestors…) compose a space of transmutation, where spirit is summoned through sonic, embodied, and imagined yearnings. As we re-invest in the present with what we have how do we form alternative ways to call in freedom?

The exhibition in Birmingham is emerging through rehearsals of non-verbal incantations, re-enactments of degenerative rituals, and gatherings and is infused by an intoxicating ‘i don’t know’ which punctuates the ana-choreography of the ever unfolding experiment.

les ongles noirs is infused by an intoxicating ‘i don’t know’ which punctuates the ana-choreography of the ever unfolding experiment. 

melissandre varin used dream work and a four month sabbatical to conceptualise this thing. Sym Mendez and Eastside Projects are meticulously driving this vessel with their respective talents and generosity so we can come closer to this assemblage of transformative experiences. 

melissandre has been inspired by Combien de Solitudes by Véronique Kanor; the work of Thich Nhat Hanh; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Grada Kilomba; their local public parks and their inhabitants; Nina Simone; the joy felt returning to Dani’s grave after 19 years; Period Power by Maisie Hill; witnessing the wind; Rébecca Chaillon’s Carte Noire Nommée Désir; Olafur Arnalds; the act of wild swimming; heartbreak and faith in faith. 

Gratitude to the ashes carrying me/us to the non-human, more than human, and human beings co-choreographing this mess of an experiment.

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Here you can find all the events related to the exhibition.

All of the events are free but booking is required for some. Click below to find out more about each event and how to book.

dirty nails (les ongles noirs) Exhibition

Fri 7th Jun 2024 to Sat 27th Jul 2024 (check key information for time details)

Launch Night: dirty nails (les ongles noirs) and Idols of Mud and Water

Fri 7th Jun 2024, 6:00pm

Venue: Eastside Projects

Location: Birmingham


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Online Studio Visit with melissandre varin

Get behind the scenes at this informal lunchtime conversation with artist melissandre varin about their practice and les ongles noirs.


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About the team

A chain of invitations led us to invite you … 

It started with Eastside Projects inviting melissandre varin who in turn invited artistic crushes: 

melissandre varin (they/them) is an undisciplined atmosphere maker investigating love, intimacy, and tenderness from an Afro and Caribbean diasporic context. Relation, displacement, multiplicity, interdependency, and language emerge from their work.⁠ Commissioned across borders, melissandre co-parents 4 year old Eole. They are based in Birmingham. 

They are co-founder of two collectives, B.O.O.K (Building Our Own Knowledge) and Papaya (cross-border afro-feminist collective), contributing in various ways including as working group member, artist-curator, writer and performer. They also programme Open Call, a re-distribution vehicle for performance artist-researchers as part of Studies in Theatre and Performance journal. 

melissandre is someone who is in love (too). 

melissandre is working with Eastside Projects as an Incidental Artist. This project is co-commissioned with Fabric and has been developed in collaboration with Ruth Claxton, Gavin Wade, Dwayne Church-Simms, Atxarte Lopez de Munain, Lucy Grubb and Naoibh McNamee.

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