Do You Understand What Is In Your Blood · Interview by Holly Ann Golightly
From the 14th of March to the 5th of April, Girl Gang Manchester proudly presents ‘Everything I Know, I Felt’, an exhibition embracing big feelings at The Lowry.
This exhibition explores the diverse emotional experiences of womxn. One of the artists, Eliyana Evans, has created a collaboration with film maker Sophie Broadgate, and dancer and choreographer Yandass Ndlovu. The piece is called ‘Do You Understand What Is In Your Blood'.
Through dance, music and poetry, the viewer is invited to consider how hormones affect all of us. It is phenomenal that such simple chemical reactions in our bodies can have such a wide ranging impact on us both psychologically and societally. This film installation explores the effect oestrogen has on the body, and the emotional experience of transitioning. I had the privilege of previewing the work and discussing the ideas explored with the artist and the filmmaker.
H: At the start of the piece, it felt like the viewer was immediately placed into the position of a voyeur as the subject contorted and wretched. Was the uncomfortableness an important element of the artwork? If so, why?
E: Yes absolutely, at first when I started to write the first section of the piece I was just angry at a lot of things. I was angry at family, society, masculinity, privilege and I was jealous of other people doing things that I knew I could do better than them. So I guess I just wanted other people to feel that, I want other people to be forced to feel how I am forced to feel by my hormones in moments like that. It’s so easy to say that we understand what others are going through but we don’t, we don’t know how exactly those chemicals would affect us because we just cannot occupy the same space as them. So I wanted to get as close to that as possible.
S: When reading the piece, I got such strong imagery, the visual style felt quite intuitive based on the words and early conversations I’d had with El and Yandass. For me it was really important to establish a relationship between the camera and character. Reacting to the mood the narrator sets, myself and Yandass used our languages (film and dance) to communicate feelings. The start of the piece feels very introspective, the audience isn’t allowed in, the camera and character don’t interact as much. The evolution of camera through movement and style will hopefully encourage the audience to interact with the work in an intimate way.
Filmmaker & Director Sophie Broadgate
H: The work was both humbling and approachable. The living room setting was familiar to us. Was the slightly messy room and the laundry included to represent the every day and the ordinary?
S: El’s writing set a high standard for the level of honesty and vulnerability that we wanted to carry on as a visual theme, the living room became another tool for us to show and tell things how they are. The objects we placed around the set informed the performance, during takes Yandass and I thrived off the energy of the set and immersed ourselves in the world we were creating. It was also freeing to shoot in one location. I went in with a list of shots we needed to get and then used the rest of the time to explore, using the music, words and movement as a guide.
E: Yes, it contained so many little Easter eggs that might look domestically normally to other people but have shaped me in every way up to this point. Clothes are a huge way that I express my gender identity but they are essential objects in our lives. You can also see a big pile of hormones in the corner and the book ‘Freshwater’ that inspired this piece. Again these objects are so essential to me as a person and an artist but are quite innocuous to others.
H: The poems reference the cruelty of ‘others’. Is this a comment on the emotional impact of words, and passive inaction?
E: The others in this piece are whoever the viewer wants them to be, if you think you are a good person and not part of the ‘others’ then maybe you are! Or maybe you have an inflated view of yourself? It sounds harsh but we are all others in some way. I am an ‘other’ to the violence currently going on against Muslims in India and I am an ‘other’ to everyone who has a disease that I do nothing to help fight. I care about them of course, but how could I live my own life to the fullest if I dropped it all to try and help every good cause out there? Passive inaction can be dangerous, but really it is just an increasing symptom of the modern assault of knowledge. So basically what I'm trying to say is if you are an ‘other’ then fuck you but also … fuck me too.
H: The piece was uneasy to watch at times, but there were also feelings of triumph and celebration. Was this reminiscent of transitioning?
E: I realised half way through writing it that I was falling into the same place of creating another depressing queer narrative because it’s easy to write from a place of anger and depression. So I decided to write about resistance, fortitude, and just the sheer fuck youness that is a big part of my personality. The last part of the film is celebratory and purposefully brings together a lot of aspects of my life that I love because I just love being Trans and everything I have been through to achieve this is worth celebrating. If I had a choice now between being born Cis or Trans then I would choose this one every time. It is my superpower and I hope it can inspire other people to find theirs.
Writer & Composer Eliyana Evans
H: Transgender politics are common place in the media, everyone has a view. But the focus is often on differences rather than similarities. What impact do you think this has?
E: Everyone certainly does have a view. The major extenuated problem currently is that people who have extreme views are the ones being allowed to have their say in the media over Trans people. They spread vile disinformation about us making us seem like predatory monsters. We literally just want to get our hormones and be left alone!!! It is the same language that has been used against minorities throughout history. What happens is that people who had no former opinion on an issue now have an opinion which is based off of lies and contextual twisting. Some advice to anyone when thinking about Trans people is that if you have not done your own unbiased research or have any first-hand experience then sit down, be quiet and listen.
S: I think this sort of behaviour creates fear and violence. I think in general if we as humans feel uneducated about something we naturally react with fear, fear of the unknown. It’s how you react to this fear that is important and determines the impact, do you choose to educate yourself, question your motives, your ideals or do you react with the knowledge you already have and guess the rest?
I’m going to end this string of thoughts with this: Let’s talk and be kind, please.
Dancer & Choreographer Yandass Ndlovu
H: Although there has been some improvement, is it still fair to say that trans women do not have enough of a voice in society? How can this be improved and why is this so important?
E: Yes and it will continue to be that way until we are allowed to take control of our own narratives. So I say let’s be incredible! Let’s be so good that they have no option but to listen to you. Find whatever your passion is and be amazing at it. Keep shouting about yourself and your achievements and fight for power. We will win because we have been around since the dawn of humanity and we simply cannot be erased. We need to win because of all the young, scared Trans kids that are wrestling with their place in the world. Far too many Trans people commit suicide or are murdered and so we have to be heard. There is no other option. It is life and death.