Worst Gift is set in an alternate world in which a voice surgeon (played by real-life surgeon and singer Dr Declan Costello) injects prepubescent boys with a substance to lower their voices. Shot in a Botox factory and theatrical surgery, the film follows a female protagonist (played by the artist) as she ventures on a mission to obtain the substance refused to her by the surgeon.
Soundtracked by Marianna Simnett, Lucinda Chua and Leo Chadburn, Worst Gift combines elements of fairy tales and musicals to create an unsettling sound world, at once invitingly familiar and acutely unnerving. Punctuated by worm-curses, love songs, and dream visions, Worst Gift charts a hallucinatory journey of transformation.
Needles are a central motif in Worst Gift. These ambiguous objects are desired and feared in equal measure; they evoke the violence of penetration and the possibility of healing, mosquito stings and surgeons’ cures. Worst Gift extends the needle motif into the physical space of the gallery. Arranged on the ceiling, hundreds of needles release drops of illuminated fluids in rhythmic counterpoint to the narrative unfolding on screen.
Worst Gift is a sequel to Simnett’s previous video work, The Needle and the Larynx (2016). In the earlier film, a surgeon injects the artist’s vocal cords with Botox. The physical changes the procedure brings (Simnett’s voice lowered in pitch as a result of the injection) triggers an exploration of infection, gender, perversion, desire, and illness. In Worst Gift, these themes are heightened and intensified. Simnett confronts the viewer with a fantastically strange yet viscerally affecting world.
Accompanying the exhibition will be a new whitebook, free to visitors and featuring a text by Charlie Fox.