Fibi Cowley


My research centers around the anthropological history of the trance, driven by its therapeutic praxis within jungian dream analysis, cinema and theatre going, and indigenous hallucinogen rituals. These practices demonstrate the sharing of the waking dream as a method of personal interrogation and cultural catharsis to maintain social harmony. Seeking to invoke a communal dream amongst viewers, my practice revolves around the video trance. I work in expanded cinema, using video as to alter the ambience of a space, thus the screen becomes an object of meditative focus at the centre of a contemporary healing ritual.


My imagery is influenced by personal and cultural recollections of the dream, the drug and the hallucination, drawing from theatrical extravagance, the poems of the Romantics and psychedelic counter-culture. Blending real footage and digital animation, the scenes depict a world in drag, in which the production-arts of film-making are used to extend reality, through the fabrication of prop appendages and the augmentation of editing. These flowing films are populated by androgynous shapeshifters plucked from the archetypal fairy figure, whose mischievous presence draws from the rebellious nature of the queer experience. This for me, comes from my own frustration with what is deemed ‘real’ and ‘not real’, and with the hierarchies of knowledge within mainstream culture that fail to validate the experiences of marginalized identities. As queer people concepts of ‘realness’, ‘passing’ and ‘fantasy’ are embedded within our language, terms which imply that the queer experience is an otherworldly one. The feeling of alienation from others, alongside the lack of confirmation of one’s identity from one’s surroundings, means that we are driven to create fantasy spaces in which we are native. The radical oblivion of queer nightlife, to paraphrase Jenkin Van Zyl, is the compulsory yet optimistic laboratory for the invention of potential identities, and whose resistance to social norms acts as a necessary testbed for taboo ideas, eventually exerting pressures for social progress. 

Though my work is superficially surreal, it is concerned with the real life repercussions of the radical forces within the dream. Compelled by the politics of pleasure, I interrogate the mediation and prohibition of the altered state, and seek hopeful alternatives that will allow us to mobilize its therapeutic potential.