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Blood, 2015

Vows and promises run throughout Blood, linking social relations with images of a body in distress. A young girl, again played by Isabel, navigates her own identity from the position of a sickbed, as she encounters a real ‘sworn virgin’ from the north of Albania who has elected from an early age to live life as a man.

Dreamlike depictions of Isabel’s botched nasal surgery reference a Freudian theory that the nose could be operated on to treat women for menstrual problems and symptoms of hysteria. The phenomenon of the ‘sworn virgin’ comes from an Albanian code of morals which grants women to become men under extreme patriarchal conditions, on the promise that they renounce their sexuality. Isabel, on the brink of puberty, navigates both her and the sworn virgin’s complex world, taunted and tormented by Olivia and Molly, who play her missing phantom turbinate bones after their surgical removal.

Documentary scenes in rural Albania are intercut with eerie nursery rhymes sung by characters on screen. Lurid pinks exaggerate the colours we attach to girls and boys and the binary teachings imposed upon children from the earliest age: a reminder of the hidden sinister impact of the tales we tell, the games we play, and even the nursery rhymes we sing.

Courtesy of the artist and Jerwood/FVU Awards.