Buckle up! Seven female warriors are preparing to tear down the patriarchy, and you’re going to join them every step of the way. Inspired by 19th century restoration artwork, Dudley’s installation is a feast for the eyes and ears, displaying seven individual moving portraits accompanied by some of the most enchanting arias of the classical world. Hard stares and striking portrayals of strength explode into a cacophony of historically male battle cry quotes, led by Dudley herself as the war mistress.</strong

This piece oozes with authenticity and rawness, whilst reminding audiences that the army of females before them comprises mere children from as young as 8 years old. Though these warriors are nothing short of intimating, there is something so charming about them that makes it impossible for spectators not to like them. In a world where femininity is still shunned, mocked, and abused, Dudley presents us with a piece that will succeed in encouraging young women to take ownership of their gender and remain resilient when faced with adversity. WE WILL SLAM YOU WITH OUR WINGS is a triumph for females everywhere. Lucy caught up with Dudley to talk about what the installation means to her as a female in the arts industry….

Lucy: “So we have a biography for WE WILL SLAM YOU WITH OUR WINGS already on the Freedom Festival website, but I just wanted you to tell me what the piece means to you personally as the creator.”

Dudley: “For me, I think it’s about inspiring young girls or anyone, and the future really is in their hands - that's the main theme - and it’s also about our relation to nature, and that there needs to be a proper relation to nature, and how many more girls or girls of the younger generation are feeling very much about nowadays. The installation also covers how we've gotten used to - for so long now - the representation of women in art and in theatre, opera, stories, and films. I mean we’re still seeing these representations of women in these art forms and thinking ‘Now? It it seriously still like this? Do we have to still see this stuff?’ It even took me by surprise one day, and that's when I decided to do this. Then I realised, as well as being surprised that that’s the representation of women in every art form, that the people who inspired me most were the daughters of close friends of mine, and I thought ‘Wow! I’m just finding these women so inspiring and fascinating!’ So, I guess that’s when WE WILL SLAM YOU WITH OUR WINGS started.”

Lucy: “That’s so beautiful! Just off the back of that, what is your creative process like? How did you start off with the idea, and was there any sort of turning point that made you want to create the piece?”

Dudley: “Yeah there were two moments: one was when I was like working with this artist, William Kentridge, at the Met Opera and I was creating a character for an opera called Lulu, that was like the altar ego for the main soprano. And all William kept saying to me was, ‘Well you don’t die’, so I was like, ‘Well that’s good because I don’t really wanna die’, but because of that there was one day where I had to wait until the soprano had finished rehearsing her death scene, and I wasn't dying, so I was just watching her for hours and it was just so weird to see this being repeated again and again and again. And then it occurred to me that, when she's finished with this opera, she’ll do another opera maybe playing another different character, but she'll be dying again. And I thought about what that would that do to your brain as a woman, in that 70% of your work is being a female character that's being killed or kills herself. And I just thought, ‘Wow - that's the fantasy - how bizarre!’ and we've kind of got used to that. It was because I was seeing this on repeat I thought that it would be kinda fascinating to just look at these death arias, which also use some of the most amazing music written.

There was also another point where I was again with William in New York at a venue called the Armoury, and we did a big piece there and the Armoury was a building that had been built by sort of the military elite, who I don't think ever went onto a killing field in their lives, and they created this huge building for themselves as like a big men’s club. It was gorgeous like I think there's one room known as the Tiffany room made up of Tiffany windows, and I was there getting undressed because I had to change costume and I felt really weird all of a sudden. Then I looked around, and from the ceiling to the floor the walls were covered in military, and of course they were all men. So there were soldiers and paintings of presidents from over the last maybe 200 years or something, so I literally had the eyes of all these paintings of men in these very strange positions which felt really odd. And what was really weird was that because there was so many of these paintings in one room, I realised that they were all sort of standing the same way and because of a common code it meant that they would be holding something of importance that also showed their social power. And it just looked silly, and the whole thing just made me laugh, and I thought there was something about these poses that I'd like to also bring into this project, because I obviously didn't want to just do a project portraying girls dying because that’s not the idea. So I wanted to bring these things together and put them up against each other, and with the girls as well it was all about them re-interpreting what it is to feel powerful and to show power in the wrong way rather than copying something else.”

Lucy: “So I suppose you kind of gave them a brief of kind of what you wanted, and said, ‘Look, take it your own way’?”

Dudley: “Totally.”

Lucy: “So considering that, I want to know how you selected the girls? There’s such a great range of them!”

Dudley: “Yes completely! I didn’t want show kids, it wasn’t about auditions, it really was the girls that are daughters are friends, that I've just seen growing up, and all of them in very different ways have really inspired me. I mean, they’re from all over the place because I travel a lot so there's one girl, Kittu, who's my best friends’ daughter - she’s the eldest one - and so I’ve known her since she was a baby. My niece is in there, as well as daughters of colleagues or daughters of friends, so they're all girls that I’ve seen growing up which helped a lot because it means that they trusted me and we could speak quite openly. And that was so important because with this subject matter and because the filming was so intense - because it's just one on one and there's one person there being filmed with a crew - they had to feel comfortable, and they had to come to us to say if they didn't agree with something or they didn’t understand. So it was important that we felt comfortable with each other and they felt comfortable with me.”

Lucy: “So you had to build a relationship with them rather than just say you know, ‘I want you to do this’ or ‘I want you to do that’?”

Dudley: “Yeah yeah completely.”

Lucy: “So with feminism being the central focus on the piece why did you decide that it was gonna be the most integral part of this? And what does feminism mean to you?”

Dudley: “Gosh, what does it mean to me? You see that’s a funny question you know because its just one of those things like it's essential. It’s one of those things that to me is just as essential as breathing, so it’s almost like being asked, ‘Well what does oxygen mean to you?’ I just think it’s humanity, and it's treating people with respect - it’s the same with race and equality for all genders. It’s just essential to living and even if you don't agree with it initially, you’re gonna have to agree with it at some point otherwise you're gonna have a very difficult life.”

Lucy: “I love the work that you've done with young people as well, inspiring those females to create and do things like that must have been so daunting for the girls but so exciting as well.”

Dudley: “Yeah it was so nice! I think the last piece I'd done just before that was the one with William, on world War one and was very much about male soldiers and there was a lot of screaming over a lot of noise and I was really enjoying working with this project. Whereas with this project it was so lovely to work with just one person in a very quiet way and it wasn't a big film team and it was really about making sure that the girls felt literally like queens for the whole time, so whatever they wanted, they’d be looked after. The costume designer is a good friend of mine - he just treated them like absolute queens - so, I think most of the time, and there was some tense moments sometimes because it was exhausting, but the focus was entirely on them feeling good.”

Lucy: “How did you decide on costumes with the costume designer? Obviously, there’s this fantastic dress that you wear throughout the duration of the piece, but how did you decide on what the girls were going to wear too?”

Dudley: “Well we called it the War Dress, and we liked this idea that it could almost be like an animal in itself you know, sort like this weird that comes alive! And the costume designer, he works for Prada now but he worked for Dior at that point and he was working for the men's collection, and it was really interesting because with Dior there’s this whole history - especially in the women’s wear - of it being influenced by military wear and that was because when Dior started with his first collections it was just after the war. So that's all that was available at the time, and strangely enough the fashion was sort of influenced by uniforms. So it was really useful that he had that background knowledge behind him, and it was also fantastic because he had the Dior seamstresses to work on the dress but that history was quite important as well. And even though the dress is quite out there, the detail behind the way it’s structured is quite Dior in some ways, but it is out there because it's really a symbol of anarchy and of a creature being let out and taking over. And with the girls, I wanted them to really be wearing clothes that we believed that they’d be wearing every day, and then there was this whole idea - which is also slightly Dior influenced I suppose - we call it belting up where the customer would develop in regards to medals that they had or several belts or lifesaving jackets. So it was that sense of belting up and preparing for a BIG step and taking over and bringing it into our own hands and into the new world.”

Lucy: “Honestly the whole installation is so captivating, and I really got that sense from watching it that it was the girls preparing for the revolution. So just to round up, what do you want audiences to take from this piece?”

Dudley: “I think that with young people, I want them to see that there’s so much strength there. I think that - not that we should stop trying - but we should really trust and give these people a chance to actually do something new. To really question, also when you walk through this museum and other museums alike, the way women and girls have been represented because it’s still really bad, and the fact that we’re still talking about this is really quite bizarre and that does really need to be looked at, and women need to be represented more. And it’s not only women of course because, you know, we’re in a much more complex world right now and it’s so much more interesting with the gender fluidity, but my piece it is about women actually, but I mean that for everybody. We do have to be looking at this properly and asking these questions surrounding representation and making change.”

Words and Images by Lucy Tessier