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Week 5 | Deconstructing the Nuclear Family Ideal Through Images

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

But also: Press Release hell | Poster limbo | animation + music

Above: Frame from the intro video that will introduce the animations I am drawing frame by frame. Taken from an educational 1949 American video "The Millers" on how to be a successful family. Spoiler alert: be like a business, it says.

I think I'm learning to storyboard, which is surreal. My storyboarding is. There's conceptual notes, word associations, images through text, small titles with no images, blanks and question marks, things downloaded from online that I'm flashing into the thread of the animation piece, post-its and more. That's how it works right? The main concern is that I'm not into linear storytelling. In fact, part of my taking a queer perspective on these narratives is very much an attempt at unpacking and deconstructing heteronormative stories around fertility, pulling some images apart to question underlying power imbalances. Can I come out of it stronger? With that kind of queer joy that is a celebration of queer, rather than another story that reinforces the struggles...We shall see. I can't put too much pressure on myself right now, as this residency is about taking risks and experimenting. So if you're reading, don't eat my heads off.

However, I'll need to put a lot more work into it, especially as George Paris and Ryan McGrath are helping me compose the music for the hybrid performance event at the end of April, as we go along.

My main job has been to collect creepy, patronising and heavily gendered family videos from the 50s and turn them into something else. There's one in particular I've been focussing on about 'The Millers', an exemplary perfect nuclear family who go to have picnics in black and white suburbia over the weekend. I've taken specific moments in the video and played with speed, repetition and sound. I'm gonna be merging some of these scenes with parts of my animations and spend a long time debating what transitions I'll choose.

In moments of darkness, I remind myself of the three guiding principles for this residency: generosity, transparency and hospitality. Generosity, in particular, is an interesting one, as it's a way to cope and rebalance the attitudes, philosophies and mindsets of scarcity that characterise our time and which I often find as internalised voices within myself too: 'I'm not good enough..., I don't have time to... etc., as if there really weren't enough money to go around...Let's refocus. Zoom in a little: the money is there, the time is there, it's just not given because of the greed of those who are addicted to power. So generosity, as a consequence, becomes a tool of resistance: I might not be financially wealthy, but as a person I am rich and have plenty to give and offer. Transparency, within this scenario, is more about vulnerability, accessibility and an attitude of openness, even if it's openness to grief, chaos or confusion, which leads to the importance of hospitality as a radical act. I'd like to write more about this, but I'm stream of consciousness-ing a little here and I'd probably do a crappy job.

My pleasure this week was in inviting another queer performer and artist to deconstruct some of the complexities around all of this. Let's be cheesy for a sec, babes: connecting is healing, especially as the questions in my head are relentless, spiralling in all directions at once and demanding. So yeah, this is another point of this residency: I'm kinda taking the time to invite anyone with whom I strike a creative connection, no matter where, no matter how. And so far, it's made the whole experience of opening up to people a lot more pleasant and hopeful.

On another note: Gad, can someone else write press releases for me please?? I beg you, Universe. Bring a writer to me who will love me and understand me. Thanks.

Jokes aside: it took me hours, sat at my desk, on my boat, setting timer after timer to stay focussed long enough to write and unknot the different layers of this residency, and to make it sound appealing too...bah -whilst the work is still all majorly in progress? Sure, why not. Anything else?

But I did promise myself that I would allow my work to be more visible, and I would allow myself to be more visible, and I would allow myself to show that: I'm a work in progress, my work is a work in progress, my life is a work in progress etc. etc. forever. And also a commitment to discovering a way that feels mine. Do I sound a bit like one of those thousands of inspirational quotes shared on social media every minute of the day that sort of merge into one nightmarish soup of clichées? Oh well. Give me a break I had to write a press release, dipping in and out of big words that give me an existential crisis for hours. So now I deserve to speak in clichées and eat chocolate for at least a week, if I fancy; or maybe not speak at all, just draw and recover from the stress of it.

Last but not least, there haven't been enough hours in the day to work on my paintings and I only got a chance to design a few things for my wearables: a nose, a spoon based crown for a papier machée moon mask and egg moulds. I'm largely more experienced in these last two mediums than animation or music composition, so I hope I can put some time aside later in the month on them. I don't mean to have them 'finished finished', you know, more like: playfully presentable.

Milou Stella presents: Playfully presentable stuff, I mean, art.

Hey, do you want to support my work?

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