FAWN is a tender exploration of grief, reciprocity, care and popular culture. This video work is the latest iteration in an ongoing project by feminist art collective APHIDS that explores the contours of grieving a parent, as embodied by performer-participants with lived experience, including lead artist Lara Thoms.
In FAWN, performer-participants do not put words or narrative to their grief; they are not asked to monumentalise or eulogise. Rather, the work explores the intimacies of a life lived alongside the loss of a parent.
The performers first appear alone, dressed as Disney orphans and other characters in children's literature and cinema missing a parental figure, such as Pippi Longstocking, Nemo, Dumbo and Batman. As they dance, preen, or read, their performances are playful, even a little defiant – but as the work develops, we see them gravitate towards each other. Rather than following the heroes' journeys of a Disney orphan, for whom parental death is a single, instigating event that often leads to adventure, this tender performance meditates on the continuity of parental grief, and its slippery relationship with intimacy, family, and care.
The figures who occupy FAWN honour the myriad of daily, seemingly minor experiences of absence that follow the loss of a parental figure. The performers care for each other in a manner that is intimate, tender and sometimes even frivolous – from brushing another’s teeth or applying band-aids, to holding each other. The ministrations between performers mimic parental care, bringing its absence into conversation with the presence of new, temporary, queered notions of intimacy and family. The work meditates on the reality that grieving a parent entails much more than just the monumental loss of a single person; it is the loss of a paradigm of care, either lived or imagined. This experience of loss reverberates throughout the minutiae of the everyday.
Despite its grave subject matter and refusal of linear narrative, FAWN is far from tragic. As much as it memorialises intimacies lost, the work is equally a celebration of the infinite and continuous possibility for intimacies in the plural.
Through its quiet, domestic choreographies of care, it reframes grief not as a linear process of healing, but as an ongoing series of adjustments and personal reconciliations – an experience that is inherent to the act of caring itself. FAWN, like so much of APHIDS’ work, is fundamentally communal in nature. By refusing to narrativise the experiences of grief it embodies, FAWN shies away from framing loss as the diametric opposite of intimacy. By contrast, these diverse, collective experiences of mourning offer a doorway into new intimacies, new paradigms of care – new forms of family.
– Jini Maxwell; Curator, ACMI
About the artist
APHIDS creates urgent art in urgent times.
APHIDS is a 28-year-old artist-led experimental art organisation based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Collaborative and future-focused, APHIDS is led by Co-Directors Lara Thoms and Mish Grigor with Executive Producer Anna Nalpantidis. The work of APHIDS is feminist, intersectional, angry, and funny; we bring artists into meaningful exchange with audiences through performance, screens, critical dialogue, and unpredictable encounters in the public realm.
Past APHIDS works have been presented in major venues in every state and territory in Australia, and in more unexpected places: Elderly homes in Finland, industrial zones in Bulgaria, Union headquarters and beamed into outer space. Our collaborators have included funeral directors, Uber drivers, scientists, and pop stars. Our projects promote open, accessible yet complex and rigorous encounters between artists and the public.
FAWN, commissioned by ACMI as part of a larger project commissioned by RISING.
Created by APHIDS
Lead Artist & Director Lara Thoms
Creative Producer Anna Nalpantidis
Dramaturg Mish Grigor
Performers Liv Fay, Jason Hood, Panda Wong, Yoni Prior, Joshua Tavaras, Elena Gomez, Robert Draffin
DOP Alice Stephens
Gaffer Alec Barnett
Costume Designer Verity Mackey
Hair & Make Up Lou McLaren
Editor Tommy Thoms
Sound Design Tom Smith
Collaborating Artists Marleena Forward, Amrita Hepi and Xanthe Dobbie
Special thanks to Jini Maxwell and the ACMI team, Rose Harriman, Bronwyn Belcher and the RISING team, Brisbane Powerhouse, Toffee Studios, and our many collaborators, supporters, partners and friends who have contributed to realising this work.
This work was commissioned by ACMI as part of a larger project commissioned by RISING. This work has been made possible by the Australia Council for the Arts, its funding and advisory body, the City of Melbourne through its biennial grants program, Creative Victoria through its Creative Enterprises Program. APHIDS would also like to acknowledge the generous funding and support from partners; ACMI, Brisbane Powerhouse and RISING’s A Call to Artists initiative, a program supported by Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne and Besen Family Foundation.