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Interview with Rosana Cade

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself; who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I’m Rosana Cade. I’m an artist based in Glasgow and my work straddles performance, live art, experimental theatre, film, club/cabaret, and activism.

I identify as a queer artist. For me queerness is about: 

Rebellion! Celebration! Experimentation!

Rebelling passionately against societal norms which constrain the boundaries of your existence, 

Celebrating fiercely all those who are under-celebrated, 

Experimenting wildly with imaginative new ways of doing/being/looking/thinking/acting/seeing/making. 

I am non-binary, and this goes beyond gender for me. I try to embody and work with fluidity, un-fixedness, the spaces in between, the potential for change, multiplicity, endless possibility. 

I work across different contexts and the form of my work varies, emerging in relation to the process of inquiry I’m working with. I have toured across the UK and Europe, as well as Hong Kong and Australia. 

As a queer artist, I question: Am I creating work or experiences for my queer community, to feel represented, affirmed, safe, to learn about ourselves, to bolster the subculture, to be free to experiment and grow? Or is my role to reach out beyond that community, to create work and opportunities for exchange with different people, to facilitate greater understanding and a more empathetic society? 

And of course, as a non-binary person, I don’t place these drives at opposite ends of a spectrum. I recognise they can both be sliding around on top of each other.

I often collaborate with my partner Ivor MacAskill and we are currently working on a semi-autobiographical trans response to Pinocchio called ‘The Making of Pinocchio’, which premiered in digital form in May and we’re developing back into a live-work to tour next year.

For Wired Women you have developed a new Audio Description for your film Walking:Holding could you tell us a bit about the process of working with the audio describer to create this?

Walking:Holding is a project which is partly about challenging our preconceptions and unconscious biases, exploring how people are perceived in public. The film itself gets under people’s skin, and we hear intimate interviews from a range of people about their identity and their experiences of being in public spaces. Intentionally we never see the person who is speaking. Instead, we see a series of different people, allowing the viewer to observe their own preconceptions about whose voice might belong to who. Because of this, I knew that we would need to be sensitive and interrogate the approach to creating an audio description of the film, thinking about how to describe the people on the screen, and what it means to describe someone else’s appearance.

I got in touch with Quiplash who is a London-based organisation that advocates for better practices around Queer Crip spaces, particularly within the performance sector. I had an Audio Description Consultancy session with them, where we discussed identity politics and audio description, and the complexities of describing people. A couple of main takeaways from my consultancy were that it’s really important to consider Audio Description from the inception of a piece of work (it’s a struggle to fit it into something that is already created, like the Walking:Holding film), and also that you should always ask the performer or person being described to describe themselves in their own words, in terms of age, gender, body type, ethnicity. It also got me excited about Audio Description being an opportunity to facilitate someone’s experience through the work, and to really consider what to bring attention to. 

They hooked me up with an Audio Describer called Bee Jammin, who also works as a Drag King and in a school for visually impaired young people. In working on the text we discussed ways to find a balance between giving information about what is happening visually whilst not overloading the film and changing the pace too much. The experience of the film is meant to feel slow, meditative, giving the feeling of going on a gentle walk, and there are intentional silences and breaks in text to allow for this slowing down, for the speakers' words to settle. We were wary of cramming in too much extra text and not allowing for breathing space, creating something that felt like a run rather than a walk.

I’m excited to get feedback from blind and visually impaired audience members to hear how they experienced the film and whether we found a good balance.

The discussion following the screening on Saturday looks at identity & vulnerability online, exploring safety & accessibility for marginalised individuals plus the potential to fuel protest and foster connection. How does this follow on from Walking:Holding as a film that looks at those same issues in public space?

I’m keen to use the film as a response point to consider our different experiences of the online world, imagining the internet as a kind of virtual city and exploring what it takes for different people to be present there. 

Walking:Holding began in response to my own experiences of holding hands in same-sex couples in public spaces and not always feeling comfortable to do this. The decision concerning this seemingly simple action was fraught with tension around desire, risk, intimacy, and spectacle. Through having conversations with different people, I realised that many of us feel unable to be ourselves in public at different times. I began to realise that whilst we share the same public spaces with hundreds of people every day in urban environments, we may all behaving very differently in experiences of those spaces, depending on our identity or our associations with the place. We tow a line between visibility and vulnerability, unsure whether being seen as who you are poses a threat to your safety, or a barrier to your movement. It felt important to me to create an experience where audience members would get a glimpse into different people’s experiences of the city, by walking with them and holding their hand.

Because our western world has been designed through a white, cis, male, hetero, able-bodied lens, which is positioned as the ‘norm’, many have no idea about the ways this design of space and culture excludes people with marginalised identities. As an able-bodied person, I have learnt a lot through working with disabled people in Walking:Holding about how often the literal physical design of public spaces excludes people. I created the project with the desire to start to share and understand some of these differences, in order to collectively build more accessible public spaces in the future.

The work is strongly inspired by this quote from Audre Lorde: ‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences.’

So I’m interested to move this inquiry into thinking about different experiences of the digital space, which has also been designed from a cis, male, hetero, able-bodied perspective. How does our identity affect our experience here? What does safety look like online? How does our anonymity and physical distance create greater opportunities for freedom of expression? How does this same anonymity protect those who commit hate crimes here? What barriers exclude people online? How can the digital space bring people together who are unable to access the same physical spaces?

Whilst Walking:Holding is about highlighting our differences, our privileges, and our subjectivity, it is also about connecting through hand-holding to a shared humanity, and bringing attention to our interdependence, turning strangers into fellow humans and enlarging our capacity for empathy and connection. I’m also interested to open up this discussion to hear from others about the ways the digital space has allowed them to connect to strangers, and open up understanding around other people’s experiences. 

You have invited some fantastic guests to join you for the panel discussion on Saturday, could you tell us a bit about your three guests?

Jamie Rea is a professional artist who also works in different roles such as producing and curating. He recently co-curated SQIFF (Scottish Queen International Film Festival), and was a producer for Take Me Somewhere Performance Festival in Glasgow. He trained on the BA Performance in British Sign Language and English at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Annette West is an entrepreneur who has been based in Edinburgh for 30 years and is of Caribbean descent. She is an experienced aromatherapist and business owner for a leading health and wellbeing company. She also presents a regular Saturday morning show on HeartSong Live Radio. She has a keen interest in accessibility due to having experienced visual impairment.

Beatrix Livesey-Stephens is a third-year Language and Linguistics student at Aberdeen University, where she is a senior committee member and disability and access consultant for the WayWORD festival, and a volunteer for ABDN CASE, their consent awareness group. She is also a member of feminist Arts Collective Artificial Womb, an ambassador for TABOU disability magazine, and has been coordinating the access for Neon Festival.