The Udder, 2014
Single channel HD video
16 minutes 10 seconds
Courtesy the artist and Jerwood/FVU Awards
Set on a robotic dairy farm, this metaphysical tale of virtue and contamination features a cast of non-actors – a farmer, a deaf herdsman and three children. It focuses on bovine mastitis, a painful infection of the mammary gland. The action alternates between the cavernous interior of a cow’s udder, where adults instruct and children run amok, and the dangerous world outside, where the angelic and innocent heroine Isabel meets her future sexualised self. Here, in the farmyard,
‘Isabel must resist the temptations of her double – played by the same child-actress but with added lipstick. One part Lolita chatting in the mirror to two parts schizoid Golum talking to himself, this scene, like any implicit sexualisation of children, is unsettling with its talk of tongues, smudging of make-up and Isabel trilling about mastitis and chastity: Mastitis, mastitis / I’m swollen, so sore and inflamed.’ (Sam Solnick, Glasgow Review of Books, 4 July 2014)
Throughout the film, confrontations are staged between purity and corruption, chastity and lewdness, punctuated by scenes of violence, real or implied. At one point, armed with a scalpel salvaged from the mud, Isabel, who is ‘too beautiful to play outside’, becomes intent on cutting off her nose – to spite her face and preserve her chasteness.
Isabel reappears, together with noses, notions of chastity and other themes from The Udder, in Marianna Simnett’s film Blood (2015), shown online here from 22 January – 10 April 2022.
Read more about Marianna Simnett here.