What was the original brief?
The brief came directly from photographer Nick Knight. He asked various SHOWstudio contributors to respond to the recent ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’ exhibition at the MET where he’d served as a consultant.
Rather than looking at the traditions of punk per se, my instinctive reaction to the brief was to consider certain aspects of its legacy and in particular post-punk movements like the Riot Grrrls. I am very interested in how the legacy of subversive punk tactics, protest and sloganing has been picked up by so many activists and groups such as Pussy Riot and Femen over the past couple of years. Also as an image-maker I have become more and more conscious of the hyper-sexualisation of young women in fashion, music and advertising so my initial thoughts were to make a film which would focus on these issues and turn this on its head.
What triggered your visual response?
The visual response came from a lot of research and particularly a photograph I found of artist Judy Chicago’s Fresno Feminist Experiment in the 1970s which had four female artists all in pink satin posing as cheerleaders with the word CUNT spelt out across their chests. The image just blew me out of the water, as it was so powerful. Out of curiosity I then began looking at clips of cheerleaders today, in particular the NFL cheerleaders, and was gob smacked when I realised how reminiscent of the Russ Meyer school of filmmaking they had become with cameras going up skirts, down tops and the generally anatomical nature of the filming.
These original inspirations coincided with a summer full of music videos that, as a woman, left me feeling pretty cold. I don’t need to name them but you know the ones I mean. So I decided to hold up a mirror to reflect the absurdity of this trend in some music videos, and indeed fashion film too, and subvert this trend with a smile.
Tell me about the shoot please, how it came about?
I was out in L.A working this summer and although I hadn’t planned to shoot it there due to cost, I ended up meeting a fantastic production company called Connect the Dots who helped me pull the whole thing together in a matter of days. Looking back the film would not have worked nearly as well had it been shot in a rainy field in Kent so I’m really glad it came together over there.
The girls in the video are all freelance dancers and their stories of what they are asked and indeed expected to do on some jobs were fairly worrying so together we worked on this piece to kick back at this trend. I worked with a very talented DOP called Andrew Shulkind who really got the brief and shot the piece beautifully.