Kat Anderson: Restraint Restrained

17 September 2020

Run Time

96 mins
Tickets available soon

The word “episode” has dual references. It is derived from the ancient Greek word for the material between two songs in a Greek tragedy, and in contemporary visual culture it refers to a narrative unit within a larger dramatic work, as well as being a term used by mental health professionals to refer to a period of unstable mental illness. Kat Anderson’s ongoing artistic and research framework Episodes of Horror draws on both references. Her work challenges racialised depictions and projections of visual culture onto Black subjects and their wider implications on the lives of Black people. It also draws on the experiences of Black people with mental illness at the hands of police or mental health professionals. Anderson’s practice centres the accounts of Black people and has its focus on Black liberation.

Restraint Restrained was originally exhibited at Block 336 following her residency at the Black Cultural Archives. In the video work John, which makes up one part of Restraint Restrained and was originally exhibited as a two-channel installation, the mechanisms and genre codes of horror cinema are re-claimed as social investigation. Familiar cinematic tropes are utilised by the artist to make highly visible the insidious and systematic horror of racism. Anderson’s work confronts how racism manifests in the white imagination, as well as its direct outcome of severe violence in both the mental health system and policing.

Anderson’s work is interested in re-claiming the cinematic language of horror films—the cinematic imaginary, alongside its shortcomings, holds the potential for escape, visual pleasure and creative freedom—but, equally, her work is deeply engaged with the “non-fictional” (if such a binary can be applied to her work) spaces of community, activism and anti-racist work across spheres of everyday life. The ways in which her artistic practice is interwoven with a commitment to activism is demonstrated across her work, and here in particular in the film Roundtable Conversation. As Rabz Lansiquot succinctly writes in their accompanying essay to the films, “this piece gives voice to those doing the work.”

The mechanisms of film and fictional storytelling are one approach to a close and re-positioned perspective on violence. But alongside cinematic, literary and poetic references, Anderson’s work is also a close listening to the accounts and experiences of Black people dealing with mental health issues, those who have lost loved ones, and those working professionally and in their communities against the many guises of racism.

The moving-image works of Restraint Restrained, presented here at BFMAF, point to Kat Anderson’s ongoing artistic dedication to engaged dialogue on Black liberation, a conversation that continues after the cameras have stopped rolling. —Christina Demetriou

John

John tells the story of a young male, a psychiatric hospital patient who witnesses the death of another Black male patient at the hands of white staff. Blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, this work draws from real life cases of Black mentally ill men who have died as a result of excessive force of the State.

On a split screen, a man writhes on a wooden bed. The man moves from the bed—in a dark room lit by a fluorescent light—revealing a red smear of what looks like blood on the wall. John moves out of this room, through a hallway illuminated by white light, and emerges into a communal space—a recreation room of sorts. Utilising the stylised tropes of horror films, Anderson depicts the mental health unit in which John is in as a cold and harsh place.

Other people populate this shared space. Patients and staff are distinguished by the differences in their pastel clothing. John watches two other Black men as they sit and talk, but he doesn’t join their conversation. The screen goes black and John’s nightmare resumes, as he is back again once more, writhing on his bed. Amidst this loop, tears gather in John’s eyes, as another Black man in the room is put in a hold by the staff. As John runs away, he finds another room: a solace. A group of people sit on chairs chanting, “come the light, come the hope.” Hands grip his own in a handshake and smiling faces approach him, welcoming him. Illuminating this stark contrast, warm tones radiate outward, and hands come together on John’s head—an act of care, of healing and protection. It is through this ritual that John is given power and he returns to the room of before—where he saw a man restrained—holding his fist high in resistance.

Elements of the soundscape bring the film back to genre, too: a low buzz is punctuated by cold metallic clangs, shakes of percussion, heavy bass—a near constant pulsating of an eerie variety. A disembodied voice seems to address the universal “you” in a monologue reminiscent of Frantz Fanon.

In framing the work through the lens of this clinical world of horror, Anderson is able to communicate nuance in a depiction of pain. Using a genre and visual language where violence is expected, an act of violence can be brought into a fictionalised focus and remove a layer of reality from it. How does one gesture to the very real violence that people suffer from without inflicting more harm? —Myriam Mouflih

Director Biography

Kat Anderson (UK) is an artist and filmmaker. She studied Fine Art at the University of West England and Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. She is currently working under an artistic and research framework entitled ‘Episodes of Horror’, which uses the genre of horror to discuss representations of mental illness and trauma as experienced by or projected upon Black bodies in media. Anderson has co-curated ‘Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora’ at the Royal West of England Academy. She has previously been commissioned by the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin) and has been an artist-in-residence at METAL Liverpool, as part of its Liverpool Biennial programme to look at the historic and contemporary mental health of Black people living in the city. Her first solo exhibition ‘Restraint Restrained’ opened in 2019 at Block 336.

Director Filmography

Bad Man Nuh Flee (2020), Roundtable Conversation (2019), John (2019), Gestures (2018)

Production Year

2019

Premiere

Director

Country

Dialogue Language

English

Primary Contact

Kat Anderson

Roundtable Conversation

In Roundtable Conversation, Anderson brings together family members of Black men who have died in police custody or psychiatric units; mental health and legal professionals; activists and artists who reflect on violence as it relates to institutional racism. Through their discussion, the people gathered round the table communicate what needs to be done in order to free the Black mind.

Roundtable Conversation is a companion piece to Anderson’s film John. It shows a group of people sitting round a table as they discuss various forms of institutional racism. As the conversation continues, the connections between those seated around the table become clearer as references to how they know each other filter through: these people are the family members of Black men who have died in police custody or psychiatric units; mental health and legal professionals; activists and artists.

Reflecting on the film in which they have been part of, those sat round the table discuss institutional racism and the hostile environment as policy, but the psychological consequences of this are felt too. Emotional impact is intoned through voices, facial expressions, breathing. The reverberations of violence and of trauma are felt not just in the bodies of those it is inflicted upon, but through their loved ones too. But it is not just individualised actions that inflict this, but being other in a world where white supremacy reigns.

And yet within this roundtable space, Anderson is able to enact a space of healing, where the discussants’ shared experience puts them in solidarity with each other. Community care is felt through this action—of allowing people to openly speak about the work that they have done, that they continue to do, in resisting institutional racism in its different forms. In this space, much like in John, the participants play a role in imagining the liberation of the Black mind, through resistance and through speaking truth to power. —Myriam Mouflih

Director Biography

Kat Anderson (UK) is an artist and filmmaker. She studied Fine Art at the University of West England and Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. She is currently working under an artistic and research framework entitled ‘Episodes of Horror’, which uses the genre of horror to discuss representations of mental illness and trauma as experienced by or projected upon Black bodies in media. Anderson has co-curated ‘Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora’ at the Royal West of England Academy. She has previously been commissioned by the KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin) and has been an artist-in-residence at METAL Liverpool, as part of its Liverpool Biennial programme to look at the historic and contemporary mental health of Black people living in the city. Her first solo exhibition ‘Restraint Restrained’ opened in 2019 at Block 336.

Director Filmography

Bad Man Nuh Flee (2020), Roundtable Conversation (2019), John (2019), Gestures (2018)

Production Year

2019

Premiere

Director

Country

Dialogue Language

English

Primary Contact

Kat Anderson