When would you say you first began thinking about your identity?
I started thinking about my identity quite early - as a child, and through books. I read a lot and I remember realising from all those worlds I found from my bed (safe and not) that a person could invent their own life, that I could make mine by directing my desire towards something, anything. I knew, quite early, what I'd rather die than become. I could see the plurality of roads and journeys, of the world; and that people's lives could veer off in unreal and unthinkable directions.
By the time I turned eleven, I already knew (some of) my personal answers to difficult questions about love, life, family and culture. Those answers have changed over time (and of course: identity shapeshifts with information and experience). But I've never really been confused about who I am. Never for long, at least.
It's been said that both creativity and mental illness involve slight deviations from a normative mode of thought. Tell me about ‘Color this Brain’.
I've always been fascinated by brains. I shot Color This Brain in 2016 with a friend and figure model, Byenyan Bitrus. I sat on the project for a year, because I was still unsure about its final visual language. A year later, I stayed up all night, editing in a daze, and Color This Brain was done by morning.
Art has the power to show you yourself. I made this series because I hadn't come across many visual representations of neurodivergence that made me feel seen, that weren't situated in stereotypes on 'madness' or trying to contrast that experience with what 'normal' looks like. I'd seen brilliant depictions in literature, but not so much visually, so I made it in dedication to myself. And I shared it because I wanted people to interact with a neurodivergent brain personified (what can it look like with a body, some limbs, a scream?).
I think it's important for people to see what a mind can do from inside a smiling head or while sitting in a fully functioning body. So far, it's been relatable to people who know what it means to love your brain, but also be deeply frustrated by its antics at the same time.
What other mediums do you work in, and how do they interlink?
I write. Everything begins, for me, with writing. I also started painting last year and making short films, which I don’t share just yet. A few people have said to me that my writing and visual art have drawn similar reactions out of them. I think it's because I tend to obsess over subjects I find stubborn and haunting. All my work - from writing, to visual art, to painting, to film - either comes from a nagging discomfort, a question I need an answer to, and/or a story that won't leave me.
What projects are you working on in 2019?
I spent most of last year working on my debut novel, which is now near completion. I'm also working on another writing project, and a visual art series called The Sanctum - which is nothing like I've done before.