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: http://ameliakatebaron.wixsite.com/artist

Feed Me

 

Released: 2015

Director: Rachel Maclean

Reviewer: Sarah Gonnet

 

Feed Me left me in such a bizarre headspace, that I had to wait a week before writing this review. Deeply disturbing, luridly coloured, and featuring an oddball assortment of characters, this is Rachel Maclean’s masterpiece.

I didn’t realise until the end of the film that all of the characters, and there is a very wide variety of dystopian figures in this piece, are played by Maclean herself. Her complete creative control over her films makes them highly unique and bubbling with ideas. I don’t take Maclean for a person who ever compromises her vision.

There are flashes of plot in this art film, though we move between storylines with quick, disorientating, cuts. It moves from one theme to another, structured almost like the bizarre juxtaposition of real life and fantasy to be found in dreams. However, my dreams at least, are nowhere near as fascinating as Feed Me.

This film tackles a whole host of themes, including paedophilia, big companies’ investment in surveillance of the general population, capitalism, gun violence, but most of all our eternal human need to be fed. This need to be fed is what threads the strands of the film together into something coherent.

Apart from the alarming visuals, which are beautifully created using CGI, augmented reality and extensive prosthetics; the thing which stuck with me the most was the repeated sayings of Maclean’s world. For example, characters describing everything they like as “cute”, and so dividing the “cute” and the not “cute” into two categories. This reminded me of the splits in our society between “us” and a perceived “other”. For a few days after the film I kept finding myself almost describing things as cute, as if it had got to my brain.

Then there is the saying “I’m too happy”, with the emphasis on the “too”. Again I felt a personal connection to the words- to me it reminds me of grading my feelings in a mood diary when I was first being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I’m sure it touches a nerve with other people for equally unique reasons. As will the whole film.

You can find out more about Rachel Maclean’s work here: http://www.rachelmaclean.com/

Nothing Without EU

 

Released: 2017

Artist: Holly Standen

Reviewer: Sarah Gonnet

 

This EP features five pieces of sound art. Each track relates to the previous one in a way that suggests that they are all of the same world (or as a response to the same world- our world); yet different enough that I have decided to discuss them each separately.

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This piece opens the EP with quiet distorted sounds. Listening to it I found myself picturing a vine germinating and starting to grow. The image stayed with me as the sound gained volume and complexity. Occasionally the noise would plateau for a moment, before musical shapes on different instruments sprouted and then died away.

The piece in its entirety made me feel a sense of calm; but sometimes this sense would be suddenly corrupted by blasts of sound. Near the end of the piece, everything fades out into deep, long notes.

Desperation in Threes

Again, this piece starts with quiet sounds, though these ones have a squirming quality. The squirming has a haunted feeling, like your veins have started to move like snakes beneath your skin. At some points in the track, the sounds try to sequence themselves, but they soon collapse again into disorder.

Slow but Steady

This track begins with a low rumble. There are suggestions of patterns imposed over the top of this rumble, but the sound doesn’t allow enough space to connect the dots into a coherent feeling. This leaves an impression of confusion and discomfort- which is what I imagine the piece intends. Progressing towards the end, the piece becomes even more disorientating.

The Man Frog

Trump seems to be the theme of this track, and fitting that assumption, the sound is much more on edge than it is in the other tracks. Bubbling noises and other sounds struggle against the droning background. This is followed by itchy moments of guitar before it all dies out.

SNAFU

The final track is full of explosions, contrasted with soft electric guitar sounds. It is just as unsettling as the other tracks, and a fitting way to end the EP.

Standen is a political artist, and when you listen to these tracks with the current political situation in mind, they take on another layer of meaning. A brutally honest meaning, that seems to suggest we are pretty fucked right now. I would agree with that.

 

Find out more about Holly Standen’s work, and purchase the EP, here: https://www.hollystanden.com/