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Public Projects Ongoing

dirty nails (les ongles noirs)

7 June to 27 July 2024

Launch Night Digbeth First Friday 7 June, 6–8pm
Everyone is welcome!

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.

A chain of invitations led us to invite you …

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

– Maria Muehombo aka M I M I, offering sonic vibrations
– Sym Mendez aka Sym Stellium, offering spiritual care coordination and performance arts
Ban Workshop, offering hospitality in Dakar, performance instructions, and ceramics
Jade Blackstock, offering performance arts
Carmen Wong, offering food ceremonies
Ayesha Jones, offering still and moving images
Bronwyn Katz, offering moving images
– Bousebik (6yrs) and Eole (5yrs), offering instructions on how to throw soil against white walls
Chandos Primary School, offering destruction skills
Manoj Yoga, offering a special sound bath evening
Wutangu, offering astrological guidance
Jaz Morrison offering writing and reflection
Geamhradhr/Winter, offering vocal rituals
Ibrahima Ndome, offering responses in textile and clay
Agnes Essonti Luque, offering film
– Karen Dhlamini, offering support and holding space


melissandre varin used dream work and a four month sabbatical to conceptualise this thing. Sym Mendez, Eastside Projects, FABRIC, and Ban Workshop 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; movements at still-birthed YunNan’s sage-invaded graveyard; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Grada Kilomba; returning in dreams on Upper Katanga soil in DRCongo; the 20th death and burial celebration day of their mother/Dani who was born in 1962 and would have been 62 this year like the coincidental number of M.I/L!K? made and shared during the fermentation of this experiment; their local public parks and their inhabitants in Birmingham; magick; Nina Simone; le terrain vague in Sannois, near Paris which was Nature to them growing up now demolished; relating and working with different beings and loving them; Period Power by Maisie Hill; this strange-warm-intoxicating inner guidance; Maya Angelou’s coming as One but standing as Ten Thousand;  witnessing the wind; Rébecca Chaillon’s Carte Noire Nommée Désir; constant collective-individual grief; the act of wild swimming; intentional presence and artistry of all artists and artworkers involved; noticed and retained breaths;

the first time Eole wrote F R E E D O M; 

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.


melissandre varin (they/them) is an undisciplined atmosphere-maker.
Intimacy, embodiment, and healing emerge from their work via experimental partnerships contributing to freedom and liberation.⁠

melissandre is working with Eastside Projects as an Incidental Artist


Co-commissioned with

Supported by