Don't Tell Me How to Feel About You, 100 Days, Sticks and Stones

Don't Tell Me How to Feel About You - Textile & Polyester Stuffing, 100 Days - Photo Books, Sticks and Stones - Photographic Prints

J Whitehead

Sticks & Stones

A Performative Installation / Photographic Prints

This piece aims to put a spotlight on misogyny and sexism. It began as a therapeutic exercise between my flatmates and I two years ago. We would often experience sexist remarks and behaviour on nights out, on the street and even in our homes. This started to become the main focus of our thoughts and conversation so we needed a way to get it off our chests. We began writing these remarks and actions on sticky notes and putting them on the wall, affectionately naming it ‘the man shame wall’. The cathartic release we felt from this simple exercise was incredible and very quickly we had a physical representation of the scale of the problem. Having left the flat, I had searched for ways to stop myself from dwelling on the emotions attached to such mistreatment from men. This led me to return to the wall, wondering if others had felt similar emotions and how I could open it up to a wider audience and give that sense of relief to more women with similar experiences whilst simultaneously highlighting the scale of the issue.

In response to this, I sent out an open call for women who felt they had things to get off their chests. Although they were wary, I found that many of the women were very keen to open up to me in this way. I took photographs with the women holding their sticky notes, some even requested to write more than one. Understandingly many of the women were concerned about anonymity so we worked together to take photographs with a level of anonymity that they were comfortable with. The outcome of this piece became a wall of sticky notes, highlighting the shocking nature of the way these women had been treated and multiple photographic prints of the women holding their sticky notes.

I am hoping to take this project further, by opening it up to a much wider audience. I am hoping to provide an opportunity for women to have a cathartic release whilst also creating a much larger wall that is more representative of the scale and severity of sexism in 2018, potentially working alongside the #metoo movement, fighting against rape culture.

Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About You

Film/ Fabric Dummy

‘Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About You’ is a personal piece I created that was born out of the feelings I had toward past lovers who had wronged me. I created this piece in order to give myself the opportunity to say the things that I have felt in response to these men that I never got to say at the time. I created the ‘Boyfriend’ as a vessel for my rage and distress and progressed from that point. Allowing him to embody the different lovers through clothing and the way I interacted with him. I took him out in public on dates in order to see how the public would react to us but also to simulate companionship that was cut short. I wanted the opportunity to get things off my chest as well as giving myself a safe space to experience intimacy and companionship without opening myself up to cruel remarks and actions from real people. The piece evolved into a film in three chapters following some organic, spontaneous writing of spoken word pieces about three of the most hurtful lovers. I wanted to portray in film the outcomes of the relationships that I had wished for in contrast to the stories of hurt, betrayal and manipulation. I hope to continue these experiments in self-care and recovery in the future which will culminate in a public display of rage to allow me to process the anger I have been feeling for some time and have not yet dealt with.

100 Days

Self Portraiture / Printed Books

In response to a short film I made exploring my identity and feelings toward my body (“10 second portraits of 6 different people”) I began documenting my face/body by taking one self-portrait a day and uploading it to Instagram (@S_cattered) in order to collate them. As I moved through the project I decided to set myself a time scale of 100 days since this would be enough time to notice changes in myself. Once I had a collection of 100 self-portraits, I decided that I wanted to make a photobook, showing the photos in chronological order with the hope to demonstrate change.

When it came to adding text to these books I wanted to create something that would show how I felt about my body since my self-esteem was at an all-time low. I found myself self-depreciating in all of the text that accompanied the photographs but I let myself pour my feelings onto the page regardless, finding it strangely therapeutic. To accompany this, I wanted to contrast my own emotions with someone else’s so I selected a loved one who puts me on a pedestal to make their own comments on the photographs, creating a stark contrast between my own self-depreciative opinions and his hyper-positive opinions of me. It was incredibly interesting for me to explore who I am and want to be whilst really delving into the idea that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Museum of lost childhood

Interactive installation / Process Film

The Museum of Lost Childhood was a piece I created in response to my emotions toward my body failing me. As a child, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, the treatment for which took a toll on my body and mental health. As an adult, I am still coming to terms with what happened to me as well as dealing with the late effects of the treatment I went through. I wanted to create a performative piece about what I went through and the feelings I am still going through so collated objects and paperwork from my time in hospital and relating to my more recent diagnoses in order to create a space that demonstrated that difficult period in my life and would give the viewer a similar sense of overwhelm that I have been feeling. I wanted to make this piece interactive and accessible to others so focused on the theme of loss in response to my lost childhood, lost hair and lost time.

I took a quote from Malcom X which states “every loss contains its own seed” and decided to create my own paper containing seeds for plants that represent hope, new life and companionship. I then asked people to come and experience the space and write about their own losses on this seeded paper, trading their loss for a small vial of the hair that I lost from my first round of chemotherapy that I had kept. It was extremely emotional for everyone involved but it made for a therapeutic experience, many of the participants wishing to share extremely personal and even traumatic stories of loss with me, a total stranger.