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19th July 2012
Mother of invention
Title of film: Kneaded 2012
Director: Jemima Burrill
Artist and film maker Jemima Burrill's work resonants with those moments of mundanity, motherhood and, well, life

From scrolling through your website we see that your ongoing artistic exploration is with the relationship between comfort and discomfort particularly in domestic life and from the point of view of a mother. Do you see your work, such as Kneaded and Playground, as a metaphor for motherhood?

More a metaphor for a feeling. What strikes me is the intense feelings that I experience being a mother. These may relate to people who do not have kids: a sense of isolation, or being involved in repetitive action, or the feeling of being overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Or the state of having too much to do and not having enough time for yourself, your own thoughts and time for self reflection.

The kids could be bees, or flies, or emails, they are a way of describing a sensation. I also can’t get a way from the fact that I am a mother trying to be creative, so motherhood and an artistic intent bleed together sometimes, and my work can reflect the act of struggling with trying to be a good enough parent and a good enough artist. I am firstly a woman, then an artist then a wife and a mother, but all of those things inform each other.

What is your process of creating videos? Is it an emotional quality that you feel compelled to convey? How do you decide on the narratives?

I am definitely trying to convey an emotional quality – there is always a sensation I want to explore. In ‘In the Woods’, I am exploring the notion of being a teenager trying to find a place of comfort – both fitting into children’s beds but also wanting to try a double bed out for size. Through my protagonist exploring the bed department in John Lewis, she became the emblem of my thoughts about being at that uncertain point in your life.

There is a fairy tale soundtrack which I read to her – I tell her things she might need to know or not. The narritive comes from an exploration of a small idea, so the process is from idea to how that can be described in a compelling way. Most importantly, I never want to be perscriptive. My film ‘cleaner’, for me looked at being a teenager and fucking around – I am not sure that anyone would get that from watching the film – but I hope people would interpret it in there own way and maybe have a sense of the feeling I am trying to convey, whether through similar circumstance or not.

It’s a process where you obviously involve your daughters – how do you get them to participate so willingly, are they aware they’re making a video or is it just playing?

They are aware that it is my work and we are making a video! They take it quite seriously. I was worried initially in getting them involved (Sally Mann had issues later on) but someone gave me a great piece of advice – get your kids involved in what you love doing. I love making art – and their excellence is totally due to the fact they respect and understand the project. I sat for over 30 minutes and just laid out some tools, the flour, honey and water. I gave them specific instructions and they just got on with it. There was a sense of trust, and my youngest daughter did empty a pot of water over my head – twice! But they were perfect.

They are not so interested in the final video. I have just made a film in a carwash and my daughter said to me: “How was work Mum, did you go through the carwash today!”

What are you up to now?

I have just finished shooting a short where I go through a carwash – literally. I am the domestic lady with rubber gloves, an apron and a 1950s rose covered dress.

I get hoovered and sprayed and go through the rollers and come out transformed. It was physically hard (I must enjoy that on some level) but I had a great team who worked to get great footage in very little time. The idea behind the shoot comes from an interest in exploring loosing control, washing away responsibility and how this might open up possibilities. We will see if this is conveyed in the final video!

I am editing next week. It is the first time I have used both a crew and an editor, so it is very exciting but also unnerving giving up some of my control to work with experts. I am thinking of doing a radio program now about breadmaking and cleaning, so I can go back to a mic and me! Or making a feature!

Would you like to direct other genres such as music videos?

I would be interested in working in any genre as long as they were interested in my world view! How to see the mundane as distinctive and even beautiful. I am also interested in different environments being stages for performance – a launderette, a supermarket, a home becoming places for curious things to happen. Pushing the mundane into the significant. I like this music video. And music and sound are a very important part of my making – becoming more so.