Kat Anderson’s Mark of Cane comes after many years of developing her research framework, Episodes of Horror, which uses horror as a lens to understand durational trauma, the disturbing echoes of colonial histories and how these manifest within the experiences, representations and mediatic readings of Black folks and Black bodies.
This immersive exhibition premieres Anderson’s short horror film, Las, Fiya, which was shot in an existing sugarcane farm, and was written, directed and performed by Anderson herself. The film follows a tour group around Jamaica, and portrays the disturbing and dystopian realities of extractive tourism and its decorative references to the horrific legacies and bloody processes of the sugarcane industry. But then, justice (of sorts), is served.
The lyrical and eerie film encompasses ideas of decolonial purging and embodies Black Caribbean life as well as the experiences of diaspora, by highlighting ancestral inheritance and the protagonist’s relationship to the local community, the land, and the crop. This conversation with sugarcane continues beyond the film, through Anderson’s works on paper which use sugarcane’s by-products to build abstracted vessels of communion for the artist and her ancestors. 
Although Anderson’s work lives in the nightmarish and distorted fictions of the horror genre, her art is undeniably, a grounded exploration of reality which asks us the most pressing questions. How is privilege truly sacrificed, and how do we listen to history in order to bring about Black liberation and reparative justice? 
First of all, congratulations on winning the East London Art Prize and presenting your solo exhibition, Mark Of Cane, at Nunnery Gallery! Before we delve into the exhibition itself, could you tell us a little more about your ongoing research project, Episodes of Horror and why you were drawn to horror as a genre and a strategy?
Thank you! I love horror films and I have been watching them from around the age 5, (laughs). Episodes of Horror, is something that I was thinking about for a long time prior to ever making any work for it, about ten years before in fact. I wanted to explore the subjects of horror and trauma, as experienced by or projected upon Black bodies and as constructed and recorded using lens-based media and literature. The use of the term Episode in the title both refers to the episodic or serialised nature of the project and the colloquial definition of incurring durational trauma i.e. to have an episode.
I am interested in understanding the mechanics and historiography of racialising visual culture and in exploring the emancipatory (and other such) potential of reclaiming or re-presenting the black image in horror and black mental illness through horror.
I think a lot about the violence and am interested in why the perception or understanding of what violence is, can so dramatically shift, depending on the reader or viewer and the subject on which an act is being committed on (and who commits the act).
As a filmmaker, what are the films you keep returning to and why?
Oh, I can’t answer that. There are too many, for too many reasons.
Across your work, you explore and expose historical and present structures of white supremacy, as well as media’s (mis)representations of and projections onto Black bodies, especially when experiencing trauma and mental illness. In your 2019 film, John, you layered archival images of demonstrations and court inquiries into the deaths of Black men under police and clinical supervision, weaving them into the fictionalised narrative of John—a patient at a psychiatric ward who witnesses the death of a Black patient at the hand of the white staff member. As a filmmaker, how do you navigate this liminal space between archive and fiction and its slippage?
When I think about the liminal space between archive and fiction, the first thing that actually comes to mind is my body or the body of a Black, poor, queer person with disabilities, born and living in the UK, and a descendent of enslaved Africans. To inhabit such a body is to be in the constant flow of history and the present and some dream or perverse fiction of a or the’future. The navigation is a living experience that requires intuition, rhythm and balance; it’s a kind of ancestral inheritance. I am learning this way in my work also. As an artist filmmaker, I’m not super precious or preoccupied with whether something is considered fiction or real or archive. We all bring different readings to work and I’m okay with that. I want my work to say what it or I or a collective we need to say and evoke ideas that can linger around for a bit, or longer.
Have you had the impulse to make a documentary and lean solely towards that type of research narrative?
Yes. I love documentaries and have lots of ideas for documentary films. I’m just waiting for my patron!
Your current exhibition, Mark Of Cane, is an immersive exploration of notions of homecoming, voyeurism, expulsion and reclamation. The horrific legacies of the Transatlantic Slave trade and the impact of sugar on the local population and the African-Caribbean Diaspora, are at the center of the presentation. Your short film, Las, Fiya, was predominantly filmed in Jamaica in an existing sugar cane farm. How was the experience of filming this story in this space?
It was tough, emotionally, physically and mentally tough. We shot in multiple sites of colonial violence. The entire region we were in was former plantation land, and some areas are still the land of old families. We could drive for miles and still be on one family’s estate. The Great Houses that have become golfing resorts and wedding destinations, where industrial relics lay in the ground as decorative features and idyllic scene, more than historic evidence to atrocities of a people on another people - it’s disturbing. It’s a lot of things, but disturbing is certainly the feeling that comes to me right now.
It’s interesting how your work makes an inquiry into the projections and (mis)reading of Blackness—especially when dealing with themes of extraction and the extractive voyeurism that can happen through tourism in an island like Jamaica. However, your work is also interested in the witnessing of brutality and the legacies of colonialism whilst understanding how these continue to permeate today’s societal structures. With this in mind, how do you approach the abstract concept of having an audience who will be reading and witnessing your work and the characters and histories embedded within them?
I’m not thinking of an audience when I’m working. I am trying to listen very intently to a space, an event, an ancestor, a material, a dream or to myself, for what needs to come out and how. I suppose the how could be the place where I meddle or intervene or edit, but I am still trying to work from a place of a received message and mission and let that guide me and recentre me.
A few years back you curated a series called Concerning Violence, named after Frantz Fanon’s essay, in which he states that in order for the decolonisation of indigenous land to happen, a total and violent purging of the colonisers by the indigenous people must occur. Purging—in the literal and metaphorical sense—is incredibly central to Las, Fiya. We see the tourists succumb to bodily abjection and expulsion (falling teeth, blood tears, vomit). Could you talk a little about this incredible scene and the ways it reimagines expulsion - given that the film is centred around a member of the diaspora and it was made only a few years after the Windrush scandal?
It was actually an artist commission and exhibition with Block336 and Black Cultural Archives called Restraint Restrained (2019), but yes, one of the themes of that show was the main argument that Fanon gives us in Concerning Violence.
The purging seen in Las, Fiya is a moment of violent sacrifice. It is something that whilst being produced from the bodies of these tourists, is an involuntary giving and a giving that looks and feels disproportionate or untypical to what a body can by itself; without an extreme provocation, produce. These things can, however surprising to the characters or viewer, still be produced. Sacrifice doesn’t have to be violent, but if it is a necessary component of reparative justice, reparations, Black liberation, (and it is), then it is likely to hurt, some. For me, when I look and think about these characters and what they represent, the question that comes to me is, will the sacrifice (the relinquishing of control, dominance, land, property, wealth, money, history etc) be voluntary or will it be forced? In both this fictional space and our real space, we get to decide what kind of revolution will we have. But in my imaginary space at least, the revolution is inevitable and by any means.
You used a special cane crusher and boiler furnace to extract the materials for your accompanying works on paper. These pieces appeared to be like reimagined topographies, maps emerging from abstraction and organic material (the by-products of sugarcane). There is so much food for thought when thinking about the history of cartography and its connection to colonialism and empire. How did you find working in this new medium with these materials which are so inextricably steeped in geography and violent legacies?
Yeah, many folks have said that, and it is there. The paperworks mean something else to me. In all of the work in the exhibition, I have had to go through some kind of embodiment or stepping into - whether that be acting or narrating or crushing cane manually or handmaking the paper. I wanted to have a conversation with sugarcane and explore its materiality, which has so impacted the materiality of Black Caribbean life, whether on the island or in the diaspora. I wanted to speak with the cane and through it to family members, elders, that I will never meet in this space and time, but who had to survive so much for me to be here. I wanted to know, as a bodily encounter and through contact with the cane and the paper processes. Again, they are like inheritances, like a collection of letters or scrolls, from an ancestor that needs me to know something. It’s an ongoing thing.
Do you view these works as an extension of the film, an echo or a totally new vessel for exploration?
Each of the works in the show, are just modes and attempts at a conversation. They belong to themselves, and each other, and a very specific moment where I was guided to make or bring them here.
Are there any new projects on the horizon that we should get excited about?
Yes, definitely. I want Mark of Cane to go on to other venues in UK and further afield and have started a few conversations in relation to that.
I’m heading to Bristol in March, to begin an R&D fellowship with the West of England’s Visual Art Alliance. I will be developing a new project that considers the effect of trauma on the voice of Black womxn; the vocalisation and reception of Black trauma, protest in public spaces, and the policing of Black womxn’s voices. I’ve also been invited by the Urban Room at UCL East (a partner on ELAP), to do a part two to my residency there, and continue researching and making the sugarcane paperworks.