Sarah Gonnet is a multi-media writer and artist who makes work about mental health, feminism and her many other obsessions. Her film Womb was commissioned by Random Acts as part of their First Acts program: a series of ﬁlms celebrating England’s most exciting 16-24 year-old artists, ﬁlmmakers in partnership with the Arts Council England.
I started making art when I was in hospital as a teenager, and I have been doing it obsessively ever since. I love the feeling of creating something, of making marks, whether they are words or drawings on paper; the images which make up a film; or a wide range of other practices. I work project by project and do whatever needs to be done to realise that project.
I choose projects based on what is running through my head at the time. I am lucky that I am in a profession which allows me to pursue these obsessions, otherwise all of that energy would go to waste. Currently I am working on The Female Gaze, a play which brings together my obsessions with feminism, film and theatre. I am also making a film about women’s bodies, and the lack of control we have over how they are perceived.
I have a wide range of influences. Horror films are right up there with Sarah Kane, Sharon Olds, bell hooks, Jane Arden, Maya Deren, Lidia Yuknavitch, Gillian Flynn and Yayoi Kusama. I think that absorbing other people’s work is a necessary process in order to create your own. The wider your influences, the more original your work. becomes.
In all of my work I try to be playful; being playful in some form is vital to making art. Making art requires many forms of playing – playing as children do – creatively; but also playing different characters, and playing with different ways of viewing an issue or theme. I don’t think being playful cancels out the seriousness of the issues being discussed; and even some of my much darker work is also quite playful.
I try not to be too prescriptive in the response I want from an audience. Instead I want to explore themes in a way that might touch different people in very different ways. For me nuance and avoiding cliché is much more important than anything that could be classified as a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ reaction. Often I find that the way of doing this is counterintuitive – it involves making a character or a situation very specific, in order for a wide range of people to see some kind of truth in that.
Womb examines hoarding from a non-judgmental viewpoint. Through shapes, artwork and soundscapes, I convey what it is to be an artist living in a hoarding space, and how creativity can be influenced by this collecting.
As my previous experience working with scripts has been in theatre, Random Acts offered some useful training in filmmaking, followed by two months of mentoring. During that time I discussed the ideas I had about compulsive hoarding and how hoarding has influenced my art. The film grew out of those conversations.