Sade Mica (they/them) is an artist based in Manchester, UK. Their current practise explores their experiences navigating the world as a fat, queer, black person and the nuances that brings in fleshing out an identity that is often met with contempt and confusion. They use photography, textiles, print and film alongside other mediums to document their body, emotions, and ever in flux gender presentation and the facets of their identity they feel most pressing in regards to their gaze and worldview.
Q: How was lockdown for you?
My lockdown has been very repetitive, everyday feels the same at this point. Mostly I’ve been dabbling in new techniques and buying new equipment, my embroidery machine and a punch needle for rug making. It’s been fun but my room is a mess with it all.
Q: Your video work often takes place outside in the British landscape. You’ve previously described this way of working as an act that helps to release your anxiety from body dysphoria. In what other ways do you think trans and non-binary bodies can express or release their anxiety and dysphoria?
I can only speak to my own experience because it is such a personal ‘journey’ so to speak. Currently my freedom is coming from embracing the things I dislike about my body by paying them no mind. I used to wear a bra everywhere, because even though I don’t want my breasts, I figured the best way to keep attention from them was to control them. Then I started not wearing one to the supermarket and still being conscious but figuring if anyone notices and is confused as to my gender, that’s not my business, it’s theirs and oh well! Now, since lockdown actually, I’ve kinda devolved as a person and I don’t dress appropriately at all, but I haven’t worn a bra since March and even now being back at work I’m still not wearing one and learning to just let it be. It’s not my fault I’m saddled with these body parts and it’s not my fault that they’re incongruous with who I see myself to be. It’s not my fault that people will look or be offended by sagging breasts on my ‘masculine’ (I guess) form, it just is what it is and I need to go through life as comfortably as possible until, if ever, I don’t have these parts anymore.
Q: The British landscape or environment is also a loaded site, heavy with colonial histories. In your recent film series Uproot, new roots, you describe how you reject these colonial and nostalgic relationships using your body. Could you tell me more about the process of using your body in your film work?
Documenting myself was originally just about observing my form and how I move. I hate representation merchants, but it was also about creating an archive of a trans body that isn’t white and thin and objectively androgynous. I don’t look like that and I wanted to make work about gender and transness and figuring myself out and my relationship to how I look and how my body serves me as a person who is non-binary. I wanted to observe my posturing and control it and free it from gendered expectations. I wanted to make people see a fat person also. I think people are so unfamiliar with fatness and the way fat peoples bodies actually look and move and carry and I feel that being candid in my expression gives them a chance to see fatness in a new light, or maybe I’m giving myself too much. I think, maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing myself, that when you watch my films the fatness isn’t the first thing you see, maybe it only enters your mind when you consider the structured poses I’m doing and when you see me struggling to maintain them for some 15/20 seconds. I don’t know what that makes the viewer think, but I’d guess that they hadn’t seen a body like mine move in a thoughtful, considered way like that before, because when are we given the space to do that?
Q: What is the relationship between non-binary identity and the environment in your work?
I’m always considering how my ‘identity’ relates to my environment. In my work and my actual life, it’s more so just about how I respect the landscapes I move in. When I’m heading to these beautiful towns and middles-of-nowhere, I just want to capture how they make me feel. It doesn’t have much to do with my identity sometimes, just that I’ve found a lay-by on a country road with a view I couldn’t have imagined and I want to capture myself in it. I am so amazed by the world and nature and before starting these works I didn’t have much of a relationship with it, which is the same for my transness. Through making these films I’ve forced myself to explore both and also to find a new relationship with my body where I push it through countryside trails and mud and rivers and respect that it needs rest and that it can do more than I thought. It’s all been about learning and connection.
Q: You have an interdisciplinary practice, working across mediums such as photography, printmaking, textiles and filmmaking. What does your process look like in the early stages of an idea? Does one medium come first?
It’s really just whatever I’m compelled to use for that work. I think textiles is my root, just because there’s such a range of things you can do and I take to it and enjoy the process. I’m also very slapdash. I don’t have the patience or dedication to really master a medium; painting, for instance, I’ve never really used in my work. I’d love to, but to me it’s not just something you can dabble in, it takes time and energy and creativity that I don’t possess. I have no clue. Maybe one day I’ll finally try it, but I think I see it as some kind of innate skill.
A lot of the time I just have an idea that requires some new medium I’ve never tried and it’s like...okay well now I have to learn to weave or upholster or screenprint. I just love the process of making. That’s mainly what my whole practice is about, that’s where I get joy and what drives me.
Q: You were recently in an exhibition called GENDERS at the Science Gallery. Your work, entitled Grace in the Garms showcased six different binders made from materials from PVC to cotton. They incorporate holes and writing in their unique designs and feel very much like statement fashion pieces. You’ve spoken about celebrating the binder and how in time this changes the relationship to your gender identity. Can you explain how you decided to start making binders, and how they have become a part of your everyday wardrobe?
I started making the binders because I was interested in the idea of binding my chest but was disillusioned with the idea of what a binder could actually do for me. I wanted to make a binder rather than buy one because I figured it was a safer bet financially. I tried to make the binders actually bind my chest but then it became more of an experiment in style. It became an experiment in textiles; I wanted to make binders from different materials, I wanted them to have specific looks. I wanted them to be garments that you wore outside, on show. I didn’t want them to be hidden, I didn’t want the transness of a binder to be stealth and physically uncomfortable. I wanted cisgender people to have to watch what trans people put their bodies through and see how considered we are in our everyday lives in order to present ourselves in specific ways, so that the onus wasn’t solely on us anymore, but now also on them, to relieve ourselves of some of the pressure that we face.
Q: What is the POC queer scene like in Manchester? How did you initially branch out to different London communities, scenes and subcultures? What advice would you have for queer POC Manchester-based artists trying to establish themselves?
I honestly don’t know. I am not really a part of a queer scene in Manchester. That’s not for lack of wanting, more so trying, but also because admittedly I can be a very lazy and isolated person a lot of the time. We do have a great groups such as Rainbow Noir providing activities, spaces and opportunities for queer POC. Initially I applied for the BBZ London/SYFU Alt Grad Show; a graduate show for black queer people, and it was the best decision I’ve made so far in my art career as it has led me to so many people and places and has provided opportunities since that I couldn’t have imagined. The advice I would give to Queer POC artists in Manchester is to apply for the shows you might think you won’t get. Don’t be discouraged because you’re not from or based in London. Keep in contact with people you meet at exhibitions, follow and engage with people whose work inspires you and go to their shows when you can!
Q: And lastly what are you working on next ?
I’m mostly working on watching Jersey Shore from the beginning again! It’s been hard to create in quarantine but I have some textile stuff happening, mostly machine embroidery of my face and body, surprise surprise! I also want to get back to the binders, I don’t think I ever fully progressed them and I have some ideas so maybe that’s the next step!
Thank you for having me!!!
Published: 21/08/2020 by Queerdirect
Edited by Tamar Clarke-Brown