15 Minutes With Selina Thompson

Selina Thompson is an artist and performer based in Leeds. Her work is playful, participatory, intimate, and focused on the politics of identity and how this defines our bodies, lives and environments. She’s coming to Toronto to present her project, Race Cards, as part of the Progress Festival from February 7th to 11th. 

SDTC: What’s at the top of your bucket list?

ST: Don’t have one! They’re dependent on luck and privilege often, aren’t they? Travel here, do this, see that. Nah. It’s not for me.

What’s your go-to song for getting stuff done?

“I Am The Black Gold of the Sun” by Rotary Connection.

What advice would you give to your fourteen-year-old self?

Don’t diet. Nothing else. She did alright, fourteen-year-old Selina, she’ll figure it all out.

Who has made a big impact in your life recently, and how?

We’re currently working with a lady called Lou Platt – she is an artist well-being practitioner. It’s a cross between life coaching, mentorship and therapy, and it takes a very holistic, artist specific approach to mental health. I’ve had sessions with just her and me, but also sessions that have included the rest of my company: producer Emma and General Manager Claire.

The approach has been impactful. We can be doing talk therapy, drawing and painting, role playing, and empty chair exercises using toys and artwork. This is radical to me. My last therapy was just talking, but as someone who kind of talks for a job, there are things I can’t access with that bit of my brain. This process has really changed how I think about healing. It’s also an approach that genuinely takes on board the weirdness of being an artist – being the subject and object of your own autobiographical practice, being an artistic director, hustling for funding, finding yourself treating your own self like a product, balancing ambition and integrity, working with people as a company director, especially when you’re also friends… whew! Just starting to unpack that has been transformative.

What does your ideal Saturday look like?

Get up very late. Meditate. Cook and eat breakfast. Clean my house a little bit. Read. Have a spectacular lunch. Call my mum. Potluck dinner at my house with friends and sangria. They leave promptly, because I like solitude. A film, a bath, bed. Notice that I never left my house ONCE! I am the truest of all true Tauruses.

What’s the best part of being your current age?

I only have to do it once.

What no longer upsets you that used to?

There’s a lot of stuff on Twitter that used to rile me up. Nonsensical stuff celebrities say, arguments that seem to occur every year. I’m glad that a lot of that stuff is water off a duck’s back now that I can kind of log in and go, “Oh, that’s what y’all are pissed off about today, alright,” then shrug and log back out. That should reduce the speed at which my skin is aging by about 200%.

What/who is currently inspiring you?

Rebecca Sugar and her show Steven Universe. I think she’s an incredible storyteller, and the show is doing truly radical work. I adore her. Watch it. All of it. Start at the beginning and watch it all. Pay for it. Shout at Cartoon Network so that they program it better; it is truly something special.

What art work would you love to have in your space/on your walls, and why?

Lorna Simpson’s Waterbearer. There is something she is able to do with language and images that no one else quite nails. She had a retrospective in Newcastle a few years ago and it was the first time ever, EVER, that I saw a gallery space in the UK filled with a black woman’s work. I was in there for hours. The work is beautiful, simple. I love it too much to even wish I had made it.

If not Waterbearer then Carrie Mae Weems: The Kitchen Table Series – “Untitled (Nude).” OMG, OR Portrait of a woman who has fallen from grace and into the hands of evil.

Okay, lets put the Kitchen Table one in the kitchen, Fallen from grace in my bedroom, Waterbearer in the hallway when you enter the house – hmmm I’m gonna need a Sonia Boyce, too.

Fave rainy day comfort food? Or activity?

Reading and Tartiflette.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Clever. So I said I wanted to be a brain surgeon.

What was your favourite game/toy as a child?

I liked reading and being left alone. I still do tbh.

What adult task would you like to get better at?

The brain trainer app on my phone says I suck at listening, so I guess it would be that.

If you could spend a year studying something, what would it be?

Black British Feminism with a focus on the work done by women of Jamaican descent in the last thirty years.

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