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The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.

Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.

With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.

How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
Whilst I was at university studying art I was also involved in the burlesque scene in london. It was some of the first places I showed my work. There I met my community and began making work with them outside of school, doing various shows and performances. Slowly I bagan realising I wanted to generate work that archived those around me and so I began teaching myself how to 3d animate. I used it as a diary, recording everything and everyone around me. After scouring the archives for Black Trans people and not finding any I realised that I wanted my work to be an archive and started transitioning my work to become autonomous archives that reacted to the audience. Now each time I make a work, I work alongside a different group of black trans people to determine how the work is accessed and what choices are available.

What inspires you to make your work?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
I want to archive Black Trans People. I want to create spaces that centre us and that build worlds around our experiences. I won’t let us be forgotten by history again.

Most of my work is interactive and does not allow the audience to passively consume the work and instead requires them to invest time and effort to reach certain aspects of the work.

Using the audience’s identity as a medium is something I am hugely invested in, as it means the work can react to how it’s treated and becomes Art that refuses to be passively consumed.

Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
The existence of my community is my inspiration. I often work alongside my community, through conversations, motion capture and sound. The ways in which black trans people tell stories affects the direction the work goes and how it is interacted with. How people interact with the work is developed with those who are being archived through it.

The ways in which Black Trans people tell stories, move, speak and support each other have allowed me to breathe where there is no air. I want to make spaces that let those like me breathe easier.

Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
My work aims to create work that only centres black trans people and tells our stories on our own terms. In the archives there are very few accounts of our existence. Those accounts that do survive often use violent means to record our existence. I want to create archives for future generations of Black Trans People to have markers in the past. Archives made by Black Trans people are extremely rare and I aim to make sure that we may not be forgotten again in history.

The positive impact is that it uplifts and stores us on our own terms. Creating spaces that do not focus on the fact that we are trans but instead the stories we would like to tell. Seeing these stories, hearing these stories give us precedent and power to push further and find pride in our existence.

How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 20:21 theme of ‘Communion’?:

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
The work is an ode to the black trans sisters who have kept me alive. I am here because of the generosity and effort of other Black Trans Femmes to hold each other’s head above the rising tides. This piece is a praise song to those Black Trans Femmes whos intimate and unwavering dedication to each other keeps so many alive

Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
I don’t think so.

How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
The prize would allow me to focus on part of my practice which seeks to generate space and work through working with large groups. It would be able to take my time in bringing together the group and allowing us to slowly generate ideas.

Currently I am often doing a lot of the work myself not having enough time or funds to allow the expansion towards a black trans studio. The prize would allow me to move towards having more permanent members of the team creating more complex experimental projects.

What would you do with the money?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
I would start a black trans production house funding interactive projects by other black trans people.
This way we wouldn’t have to rely on people co opting us into benefiting themselves and instead will be able to create projects that centre and uplift us.

This production house would be the first all black trans group dedicated to making games from the perspective of Black Trans people. It is my hope that we will be able to create something that would generate passive income for us so that we can continue to fund and build towards becoming a larger team that produces work that others like us would not get funding to make.

If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?

DANIELLE BRATHWAITE-SHIRLEY:
My community often has huge issues accessing money and often when we do it comes with particular caveats. With this prize we will be able to kick start something that focuses on uplifting the community of black trans people and the stories we want to tell. We currently do not have a single institution that focuses on uplifting only Black Trans people and creating work that needs to be made.