Although not artist-led, nor independent as such, Film & Video Umbrella are a commissioning agency whose stated aim is “to capture something of the spirit of the moment”, and so works with relatively ‘emerging’ artists (though this term appears to be becoming increasingly meaningless in it’s catch-all capacity, hence the ‘relatively’). Featuring work commissioned by FVU, What will they see of me? ran between 11th March and 26th April at Jerwood Space in London, and comprised of new video works by Lucy Clout and Marianna Simnett. For the purposes of depth, time, and because it was the more engaging, ambitious and intriguing of the two pieces on show, we are going to focus attention on Marianna Simnett’s piece, Blood.
Simnett’s earlier companion piece, The Udder, felt like a compelling combination of subject, cinematography, set design, editing, sound, and dialogue - it was video with urgent vitality with regards to story-telling. The Udder riffed on the cows udder as a kind of indistinct prototypical protuberance morphing between nipple, finger, nose, and potential phallus, using numerous elements: beautifully designed sets of thin coloured fabric walls showing characters interacting between them, a young girl walking around a dairy farm, and shots and interviews with people working within. Everything in the piece worked towards the drive of the film, whilst feeling close to virtuosic in its handling of the material.
Simnett’s work at Jerwood very directly continues this earlier occupation with the latent morphability of the body, its connection with childhood, and in turn gender, framed around the removal of a particular bone from the nose, and the subsequent swelling and bruising of the face post-operation. The piece explores the anxiety of bodily growth and change in childhood through semi-realistic, squeam-inducing depictions of the nasal operation itself, song, dialogue (where the girl, Isabel, is chided by two other girls for her bodily difference, who at moments appear as her friends, imaginative embodiments of her own anxieties or dramatisations of her body itself) and, once again, sumptuous sculptural sets, this time coloured in bright body pinks.