(para)site is an ongoing, multi-stranded artistic project by zack mennell. The project reflects on class, disability, queerness & ecology through the lens of zack’s experience. The (para)site works emerge through zack’s psychogeographic explorations of sites of industrial, working-class history, where they scavenge for materials and undertake strange performative actions.

(para)site began with a vision; I can't remember if it was waking or sleeping. There is a person, an alive, moving body swaddled in puffy white diapers. This person slowly approaches a body of water and walks in upright, never swimming. Being both viewer and nappy-being in this vision, I feel the weight of the diapers absorbing the environment. I feel my skin infringed upon by the water and its microscopic aberrations & pollutants. I feel the pressure around my ribcage and the silted ground under my feet. My nervous system begins bursting with adrenaline as the realisation sets in that I cannot swim well, if at all, let alone weighed down by 26 diapers. The vision ends as the water swallows my shoulders, meeting the submental space of my chin.

*      *      *

I received a letter in the post in a PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL envelope, headed by the NHS logo was a lengthy account of my mental illness, crises and all. The letter notified me of my new updated record, telling me that I have EUPD (emotionally unstable personality disorder), not Bipolar, for which I had been unsuccessfully medicated for over two years. No wonder it was so unsuccessful. I took a photo of this letter and sent it to the DWP (department for work and pensions). They said I was not ill enough. My GP (general practitioner) told me to stop working. The CMHT (community mental health team) said I was too ill to see them. The ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) department asked me to keep chasing them for an appointment while telling me that my diagnosis of ADHD makes it difficult for me to remember things like appointments. The DWP assessment centre said I made a hearteningly healthy amount of eye contact. My psychiatrist said I made too little eye contact and that I overshared. In the MHAU (mental health assessment unit), I pissed in the corner of my room and then complained about the smell, only to be told it was in my head.

IFLISWATIA (I Feel Like I Should Write All This In Acronyms).

Walking away from the entrance of St Thomas' A&E (accident & emergency), I take all these papers to the river. The river will make sense of them. The river will keep flowing. The river will take me with it. The river will wash my records clear. The river will take me downriver. The river will take me home.

Tangled within the residue of the city and the detritus of you, its people, I find myself downstream, but not yet at the chalky gorges and metal industrial estates of my childhood. Fishing myself from the water, I crawl up a wood corridor in the riverbank, ascending stairs to spite the undercurrents. Oozing liquids unknown, I drag myself through the town to a small space with a glass wall; here, I begin to unpack all that I am and have been and everything I have collected along the way.

(para)site, zack mennell, 2022. Videography & editing by Baiba Sprance. watching with headphones is recommended due to the use of binaural sound

about zack

Artistic expression is, for me, a way to make sense of the world and an attempt to contextualise who I am within it. In stepping into difficulty and pain through artmaking, I attempt to understand life through a different register to that of daily survival. I want my work to have an uncanny quality, that it might temporarily unsettle familiar places, making visible some of the strange aspects and tensions embedded there.

zack mennell is an emerging (unemployed) artist using writing, photography and performance to explore queerness and neurodiversity in relation to presence and visibility. zack has been active as a performer, photographer and writer since 2015. They have collaborated frequently with performance artist Martin O’Brien, notably in Sanctuary Ring (SPILL Festival, 2016) and The Last Breath Society (ICA, 2021).

Last year, zack presented (para)site: a discharge of cultural sewage, their first solo exhibition and performance project at VSSL studio (London). (para)site was commissioned by the Thames Festival Trust.