Blood In My Milk

Marianna Simnett

Blood In My Milk is the title of a film and sound installation by Marianna Simnett.

Simnett creates fable-like film, performance, sound and light installations that examine the sense of intimacy yet anxious unfamiliarity we experience with our own bodies. She particularly focuses on the means we deploy to control these bodies, both technological and cultural. Her works show her interest in how gender is constructed and in its relationship to mechanisms of desire and capitalist consumption. They also reflect the impact of new technologies – robotics, virtual reality, bio-medical – on both the built environment and subjectivity.

As a trained musician, the influence of theatre and classical music on Simnett’s work endured as she turned to film, installation and performance during her BA at Nottingham Trent University in 2007 and her MA at the Slade School of Art in 2013.

Blood In My Milk is a survey of her filmic universe and a continuation of her ongoing investigation of anxieties around the body and the self. Experienced as a single storyline unfolding across five screens, this project chronicles Simnett’s exploration of organs, body parts, and infection through the lens of medical treatment and procedures.

The sound and film installation Blood In My Milk has first been presented at Zabludowicz Collection in London in the summer of this year, where three of her films The Udder (2014), Blood (2015), and Blue Roses (2016) had been installed as a trilogy for the first time.

For Simnett’s current exhibitions at the New Museum in New York and the MMK in Frankfurt am Main, she presents BLOOD IN MY MILK as a five-channel video installation, including her films mentioned above, together with her latest film project “Worst Gift” (2017), and summarizes their work of the last five years as a composition of their new edits.

Blood In My Milk constitutes Simnett’s first encompassing visual epic, bringing her many characters in dialogue with one another across time and space—medical experts and scientists perform routine injections and operations alongside children’s games of hide-and-seek, farmers carry out disinfection rituals and cockroaches turn into biobots— to construct paranoid tales of sickness and transformation, often with Simnett herself as the protagonist. Simnett is consistently working with non-actresses and non-actors. Many of the individuals Simnett meets through her research become collaborators, performing heightened versions of themselves within the films of the multi-channel installation.

Accompanied by a new soundtrack, Blood In My Milk conveys a sense of discomfort with sterile environments and the invisible alien substances in our bodies that medical and industrial procedures aim to conceal. The songs, written by Simnett and performed by the cast, lend an air of innocence and lightness to her densely layered storytelling, are serving as a pre-linguistic tool for communication. Simnett’s films unfold from multiple, occasionally impossible perspectives (from within dreams or personifying internal organs), reflecting the fluidity of our identities as they are embodied and performed. The films have the potential to provoke a visceral reaction, featuring unflinching depictions of many commonplace phobias such as needles, cockroaches, blood, and of medical procedures which the artist has herself undergone. They present the body as both monstrous and clinical, combining scientific description with the cathartic fantasy of musicals and horror genres.

The drastic nature of the images still does not lead into the splatter genre whatsoever, but into theory, back to the question of economic and social power relations, as Simnett’s works seek to create in-between states that defy and threaten easy categorisation by the patriarchal social structures that govern our bodies and identities. It’s an approach that throws into doubt binary categories such as innocence and cruelty, purity and contamination, desire and revulsion, and even life and death.