Video Artist Sandrine Schaefer talks about their work ‘Simple Relations No.4’, which forms part of Ugly Duck’s 10th year and their 4th annual @Disturbance Festival

Founded a decade ago in 2012 to platform the work of marginalised artists, performance venue Ugly Duck, located in Bermondsey – South East London, has been at the forefront of working with performance artists who are not afraid of exploring lesser talked about themes. Their @Disturbance Festival, now in its 4th year specifically created to showcase LGBTQ+ artists and stories. Set to show Simple Relations No.4, a performance made for camera that queers the use of everyday objects to explore the complexities of living in a gender fluid body in the Southern United States as part of Ugly Duck’s 10th year anniversary on the 10th, 11th and 12th of November, video artist Sandrine Schaefer tells us what inspired them to explore the show’s themes further, how they’ve approached creating the filmed performance and what can be expected!

Hi Sandrine, you’ll be taking part in Ugly Duck’s @Disturbance Festival from 10th and 11th November. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

Hi! I am looking forward to debuting my new piece, Simple Relations No. 4 at @Disturbance!  Sadly I am unable to attend in person, so I am especially grateful for the online component of the festival.  

You’ll be showcasing Simple Relations No.4, a performance made for camera that queers the use of everyday objects to explore the complexities of living in a gender fluid body in the Southern United States. What has inspired the creation of your piece?

Simple Relations is an ongoing series of performances for camera I have been making since 2016. Each piece in this series is recorded in a single shot and creates unexpected compositions using everyday objects. Using a site-sensitive approach, my work most often presents as live performance. Earlier pieces in the Simple Relations series have felt a bit placeless. With the newer works in this series, I have been experimenting with how I might translate the site-sensitive approach I use in my live work to performances made for camera. Simple Relations 4 attempts to capture subtleties of the place it was made. I recently relocated from Boston, Massachusetts (my home for over 20 years) to South Carolina in the United States for a teaching position. The physical, social, and political environment in South Carolina is radically different than what I am used to. Simple Relations No. 4 reflects my experience of uprooting and trying to find a sense of belonging in this place.

How have you approached creating the piece?

The piece is sited at the ocean’s shore and unfolds in 3 movements “Holding,” “Grieving,” and “Making Kin.” In “Holding” I explore different ways of holding and peeling an orange. This action is directly sourced from my practice as a trauma-informed educator. Peeling an orange is a sensory exercise that can help someone restore balance when they are dysregulated. In “Grieving”, I mimic the action of peeling by continually unwrapping a present. This action plays with anticipation and expectation. In “Making Kin” I revisit an older photo series as I undress and use my clothing to “sculpt” a portrait of a queer elder. I replace the original sound from the performance with a recording of the same ocean over 900 miles north in.

Ugly Duck celebrates 10 years, with their @Disturbance Festival celebrating 4 years of championing marginalised artists. What does it mean to you to form part of this special celebration?

Although I am sharing work made in another country and I am unable to attend the event in person, being included in this programme has given me a sense of belonging. There is an alarming attack on the rights of LGBTQIA+ people throughout the United States at present. South Carolina is one of the most dangerous states in the country with little to no protections for our community. Moving from Massachusetts where I had a non-binary marker on my ID’s, received gender affirming healthcare, and was surrounded by other out and proud LGBTQIA+ folx and allies has made this relocation challenging. I am currently one of few out trans faculty at my university. I have found myself stepping into the role of a queer elder in my new community. Assuming this role in this place has been meaningful, but can feel isolating.  Sharing my piece in a historically supportive and celebratory program like @Disturbance promises a level of nuanced understanding in the work.

What have you learned/taken away from creating the piece?

I had intended for the piece to feel more playful than it does. This is one of the tenets of working site-sensitively. There must be room in the work for the adapt and shift to the present conditions. I always have a plan going into my work, but I leave room for intuitive decision making. In the moment of its making, Simple Relations No. 4 became more about grieving and desire than I originally anticipated. Something I appreciate about working experientially is that the work will become what it needs to become.

What can audiences expect from your piece?

@Disturbance will debut my new performance for camera, Simple Relations No. 4. Both poetic and contemplative, Simple Relations No. 4 queers the use of everyday objects to explore the complexities of living in a gender fluid body in the Southern United States.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the piece?

I work with “Modest Actions”. This is a term coined by artist Jed Speare used to describe and celebrate unassuming actions in performative works. Modest actions are free from heroics and center interconnectedness in their relatability. My hope is that my piece provides a pause to contemplate complex themes around queer grief and belonging to build a sense of connection through the screen.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

@Disturbance Festival will take from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th November 2022 at Ugly Duck. To find out more about the event, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop