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CHICKENPOX is a sensory exploration of the violent in the sexual, the sexual in the violent


Review by Will Challis


CT: Sexual violence and explicit images


On 29th April 2022 in the Project Space at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, Angelica Krikler and Sarah Mitchell screened CHICKENPOX, a fusion of poetry, video and plastic arts that, in the words of Krikler and Mitchell, “seeks to undermine the binary of love and violence; to show how they are much more intertwined than we care to admit”. Seemingly inspired by the obsession with the abject that characterised the art world during the 1980s and 1990s, CHICKENPOX challenges and upsets our preconceptions on what it means to love and be loved.


Divided into five standalone poems, CHICKENPOX depicts Krikler sleeping with, writhing around with, dancing with, fucking, and consuming a gargantuan arachno-humanoid creature reminiscent of Louise Bourgeois’ fabric sculptures. Handcrafted by Mitchell, it has white skin and limbs made of stuffed hosiery which give it somewhat human elements, but its lumpy, sack-like form and lack of distinguishable features blur the line between human and object. Nonetheless, Krikler clings to and fixates on this unidentifiable, monstrous being and, in poems Feral, Cherry Prose and Offal, Krikler speaks of it using bestial imagery to remind us of the violence, the power dynamics and the primitivism of love. This takes place primarily upon a dirty mattress, the site where various private and personal rituals are enacted. Sleep, illness, birth, death, sex, and rest: the bed is the one place to which we consistently return as we transition from infancy to old age. It bears our weight during various joyful and painful life stages (including the juvenile rite of passage that is contracting the chickenpox virus) and the inclusion of the bed in the film brilliantly conveys the liminality between love and suffering.


Still from CHICKENPOX


“[m]undane violations, traverse the line of tender and crime” – Cherry Prose


Tactile language and explicit references to the body and its functions create intimacy and sensuality. Yet there is something at once erotic and unsettling in CHICKENPOX’s overt and grim depictions of sexuality. Illuminated under harsh lighting, a pool of cum is made from a mixture of icing sugar and water, and hands and thighs are bloodied with what appears to be crushed raspberries. The acrid and the metallic represented by the saccharine and the sweet. One is both repulsed by the stomach-churning corporeality and enticed by the sweet confectionery and raspberry pips. In love’s absence, our most universal bodily substances are the most repellent and, in its presence, are as banal as sugar and water. CHICKENPOX confuses the distinction between disgust and attraction, love and violence, human and animal, animate and inanimate.


Still from CHICKENPOX


“it hurts like when the pencil makes that screeching sound” – Cherry Prose


Krikler’s experimental and highly stylised poetry is rooted in a conscious disregard for conventional form. Krikler ponders:


“[W]hat if my experiences cannot make grammatical sense? What if I can no longer make the messiest events of my life neat for everyone else?” – Krikler


There are times when language cannot sufficiently express the complexities of our inner psyche. As a consequence, we must play with form, language, and punctuation in order to create new ways to evoke empathic responses in others. Krikler’s poetry is designed to be read aloud and the tone in which she recites it is calm and matter-of-fact. When read on paper, errant commas, eternal sentences, and fragmented stanzas indicate the incoherence of the brain and body trying to process traumatic events. The “screeching sound” is the non-verbal response to a pain that cannot be put into words though it emerges from the voice box. Where she cannot verbalise her feelings, she does so vicariously through her pencil with which she writes.


On the impetus to create, Krikler hints at the healing powers of the creative process.


“Instead of hoarding old memories, I wanted to write poems, make fake blood, learn how to use Final Cut Pro and collaborate with friends” – Krikler


It is the act of creating art that engages the artist in new sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences which cathartically extricate them from an inescapable and overwhelming vortex of traumatic wallowing. Through making CHICKENPOX, Krikler and Mitchell transition from the dissociative experience of the traumatic flashbacks described in When I Look Back I Think Of It Like A Film and, from them, create something that is grotesque yet beautiful, private yet universal, unclean yet purifying.



Still from CHICKENPOX


CHICKENPOX is available to view at: https://vimeo.com/703410874


CHICKENPOX was written, directed, edited and performed by Angelica Krikler.


Sarah Mitchell is the assistant director of CHICKENPOX and designed and made the props and prosthetics



Fenner Brooks-Street composed the music and sound for CHICKENPOX

Still from CHICKENPOX

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