Interview with Amelia Baron

What compelled you to start making art?

I was always a very arty kid, but I rekindled my love for art when my mental health deteriorated. I found that making art became a therapy, and allowed me to cope with intense emotions in a healthier way.


At the start, was your work spurred on by seeing the work of other artists?

At first it was just the process of producing work to keep my mind busy, therefore it wasn’t heavily influenced. At university though, research and outside influence has to be documented and graded, so that’s when I began taking inspiration from great artists such as Marina Abramovic and my ultimate favourite, Yayoi Kusama.


How do you see the influence that those two artists have had on your work? What about them inspired you?

Abramovic’s work opened up a whole new practice in which I could express myself. Performance art has this immediacy about it and a radical way of withholding the audience’s gaze. I want the viewer to leave my performances with the issues I’m trying to portray at the front of their conscience.

Kusama also worked with performance art in the late 60s, but what inspires me most about her as an amazing woman, is that she uses her art as a weapon to counteract the daily mental health struggles she faces. At the age of 88 she still continues to create art despite having been a residence at the Seiwa Hospital in Tokyo since 1977. A true warrior!


What are you working on/planning on working on next?

I’m currently working on the concept of control. I’ve recently found myself in a position where my control is very limited, so making do with the materials around me I’m creating a physical piece that hopefully visualises this battle for control and the mental and physical endurance that coincides with it.


What place do you think control has in the world?

It’s hugely dominating in more ways than we imagine. Control can be seen in the larger scale of politics, society and authority but can also be seen in the simple day to day scenarios of independent choice and obsession. Control can be used for both positive and negative outcomes, but like with power, we need to be conscious of the consequences.


What do you want to communicate about control in your work?

In the grand scheme of things I’d really love my art to communicate not just the role of control, but the wider effects that mental health has upon an individual, and also within society. Mental Health has become a more commonplace subject- especially on social media sites, however I still feel there’s a lot of people out there who are ashamed and embarrassed by their struggles, myself included. Therefore by producing art based on these struggles I hope to offer the chance to open up a discourse, or at least let the viewer know they’re not alone in their daily battles.


How do you feel about the way mental health is depicted in mainstream media?

More awareness has been made but there’s still so much more that can be done. I also find that it can have negative affects at times, especially when it comes to cases such as anorexia, the stories seem glorified and can be extremely triggering. For example, social media and magazines are saturated with “before and after selfies”. That’s why I try to use my art to show the behaviours behind the emaciated figures, or the images we so often associate with anorexia, depression, obsession etc.


How important is the process to you (when compared to the importance of the final product)?

For my piece Obsession For Perfection, process held significant importance. Through the process, the physical and emotional drain that accompanies mental illness could be witnessed. For a lot of my work, the final product is ephemeral, although photos and objects do exist for documentation purposes, and my website, but the processes within my performance are a critical way of really engaging with my audience.


Where do your ideas begin?

A lot of my ideas stem from autobiographical experiences and emotions. And it’s because of this I still worry that others may see my work as narcissistic and egocentrical.


Do you see that in other artist’s autobiographical work? 

No, I actually find other artist’s autobiographical art intriguing, as there’s always a story to tell. I think it’s just paranoia about my own work as when I was a child, and even now, I struggle being the centre of attention- I much prefer being a wallflower and observing others. I’m terrible- I’ll take myself to my favourite coffee shops in Leeds and sit by the window with a book but end up just people watching, it’s my form of escapism when I feel overwhelmed!


What direction do you see your work going in the future?

I have no idea about the future, which is absolutely terrifying, but also exciting. I guess for now I’ll just take each day as it comes.


You can find out more about Amelia’s work here:

Patti Cake$

Released: 2017

Available On: In UK cinemas now

Director: Geremy Jasper

Reviewer: Mhairi Ledgerwood

We received a complimentary ticket to see Patti Cake$ at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, in exchange for an honest review. Patti Cake$ is showing at Tyneside Cinema all week. 

Patti Cake$ is a film about a white, female, overweight rapper. In other hands that might have been all the movie did – present us with a subverted stereotype and believed that this was enough to hang a story on. Instead the film gives us a story with hopes and setbacks and likeable characters to root for.

Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle MacDonald), or ‘Patti Cake$’, lives in New Jersey. The town she lives in is a place of impossible dreams and dashed ambitions. But she’s not going to settle for that. She composes raps with her friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), writes lyrics instead of serving customers, and when she is met with conflict, chooses words as her weapon. She has a talent and she wants out of there.

Her home situation is not a happy one. She lives with her mother Barb (Bridget Everett), a singer whose career as a recording artist was cut short years ago when she fell pregnant with Patti. Barb is now singing bad karaoke and seeking solace in alcohol. They are trapped in a life of spiraling debt, being chased by a finance company to pay the outstanding money for Nana’s (Cathy Moriarty) medical treatment.

It’s the character of Patti Cake$ and the performance that made this film for me. I was surprised to read that Danielle MacDonald is Australian and learned to rap for this role. I hope her convincing performance is recognised come awards time.

Patti has a good sense of who she is. She is a rapper and she’s proud of that. She’s kind, befriending a secluded man, Basterd (Mamoudo Athie). The result is that she and Jheri team up with him, forming an act called PBNJ. They record a song (even including Nana in on the act, resulting in some of the film’s humour) which they then look to distribute in the hope they will get noticed and can ‘get out of here’.

However, it is Patti’s relationship with her Mum that is key to the film. Barb doesn’t recognise her daughter’s talent. She sends her daughter off to waitressing jobs, encouraging her to look sexy in the belief that will gain her employment. Underneath the layers of her mother’s character is a sad life of wasted talent. Tales of talent held back by lack of opportunity and wealth are all too common, and I’m glad this story was highlighted.

In this film we have an overweight character who is never once shown to be dieting or worrying about her weight. She’s mimicked for her size, being called ‘Dumbo’ but she doesn’t let her size define her. I find that refreshing.

Patti Cake$ is not a fairy tale. In the end not everything is fixed, though some things are. For it to play out any other way wouldn’t do the context of the film justice. This is not your typical Cinderella story, and I liked it all the more for that.