Dance, Stanley, Dance
The Needle and the Larynx
The Bird Game
, 2015 | 17th July 2020 - 31st July 2020
One of the interesting things about Simnett’s work is this force of aversion to what it is doing. To see a scalpel applied to an udder is painful, even though I’ve been implicated in agricultural commerce since before birth. It’s uncomfortable to look at the gelid interior of a nose, even though I am used to wearing one on my face. Simnett has spoken about her desire to draw political and ideological thought into the reality of the bodies we live in. Increasingly, it is apparent that these bodies are out of hand. Any number of phenomena— Fukushima, Zika, the mouse with the ear on its back—make it clear that people have erratic and unpredictable control over lively, trans-corporeal agencies, but it isn’t always easy to relate scientific or philosophical insights back to normal life. The fragments of ordinariness and hope which punctuate Simnett’s work become pressured and touching. A group of men quietly rehash a football game around a living-room table. Two boys blow bubbles into their chocolate milk. Even that which seems psychedelic—they happen to be drinking milk inside a chamber of a cow’s udder—is often a reasonable expression of bodily reality. (The fact that humans drink milk is what keeps udders full, and constantly refilling.)
— Daisy Hildyard, Art Agenda
In Blood, the final work in Simnett’s trilogy, Isabel travels from the Udder to Albania with Diana, one of the last “sworn virgins” of the Balkans, also known as burrnesha. The oath of celibacy Diana has taken is part of a tradition that enables women to escape the restrictive life allotted their gender by living as men. “A woman is a sack made to endure,” Diana tells a questioning Isabel. Intercutting scenes of the two as they visit Diana’s rustic village in the Albanian mountains with the surgical removal of two turbinate bones in Isabel’s nose, Simnett merges their fates through the specter of self-sacrifice or martyrdom. The nose, like the udder, is made into a theatrical set: a giant papier-mâché version that the turbinate bones, personified by two little girls, gnaw at and harass with a form of parasitism that is distinctly Freudian.
— Jane Ursula Harris, Flash Art