Marianna Simnett (born 1986, lives and works in London) gained an MA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Art in 2013, and BA in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University in 2007. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: Seminal Work, Temporary Arts Project; Time-based Media, UCL Art Museum; 21st Century: Graduate Screening, Chisenhale Gallery. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Adrian Carruthers Award and the William Coldstream Prize.
(2015 / 15m30s / DV)
If childhood is a land of milk and honey, it is also a place of demons and ghosts. In Marianna Simnett’s short film The Udder, the mammary gland of the title doubles as a kind of memory machine that plugs us directly into that heightened, reverberant universe. Shot on a robot dairy farm in rural Sussex, and conjuring extraordinary performances from the people who live and work there, Simnett’s magic-realist tale considers the increasingly technical process of automated milk production as the site of an elemental struggle between the forces of purification and corruption; forces that loom equally large over a much more personal rite of passage, in which halcyon innocence is shadowed and clouded by the uncertainties of puberty. As soon as that threshold is crossed (even as soon as it is suggested), everything changes. Inside this looking-glass world, images sunder and splinter, and words take on double meanings. As the White Queen might have said: the udder is utterly udder, and utterly other – liable to transform, in a moment, from maternal monad to grisly gonad, or shape- shift further into protuberant nose, or phallic appendage. Simultaneously a familiar source of comfort and a disconcerting harbinger of the desires of the flesh, the udder is heavy with symbolism. Proceeding placidly to the place where it is milked, mutely acquiescing to the apparatus that surrounds it, it also invokes our bodies’ relationship to ever-enveloping technology, and the looking-glass landscape it portends: a new land of milk and honey, perhaps, but just as likely a new place of demons and ghosts. (Text by Stephen Bode, Film and Video Umbrella.)