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Interview: Sarah Smith from Hexxx, working with Welsh Women’s Aid

Hexxx – Jessye Curtis, Phoebe Davies and Sarah Smith – is a group of female artists from South Wales and Lancashire. Through collaboration and collective action they generate work that explores power dynamics and relationships of solidarity. Hexxx collaborated with Welsh Women’s Aid to make a banner for the Cardiff PROCESSIONS, which they’ll be participating in on Sunday.

Tell us about Hexxx and and the concept behind it

SS (Sarah Smith): ‘Hexxx is made up of three artists – me, Jessye and Phoebe – and all of our work is based in different mediums but all within the same sorts of disciplines, in that we’re all very interested in political issues to do with gender and class and we all have similar motives in making as a result. Phoebe works with a lot of performance art, and educational stuff for schools. Jessye works in film and is very interested in gender-based performance within her filmmaking. I do a lot of poetry and stuff with words. Together we have a combined energy for direct action when it comes to social and political issues. We’ve been formed for about a year now but this is our first commission as a group.

‘The name Hexxx plays into the concept of a female collective, with the idea and practice of witchcraft [‘hex’ is the Pennsylvania Dutch word for ‘witchcraft’]. It’s sort of recreating that sort of concept and changing the negative connotations.’ 

Tell us about your experience making a banner for PROCESSIONS in collaboration with Welsh Women’s Aid

SS: ‘We wanted to work with a charity that was based in the realm of domestic violence and gender-based violence. It’s been challenging because it’s not easy stuff to talk about, but it was a really empowering experience. The workshops were incredible and the outcome was really positive. We were working with a group of women who ranged in age between about 30 and 70, and we did lots of different things with them to bring out their thoughts and opinions on what sort of banner they wanted. We co-wrote a manifesto. We asked them what their demands would be in terms of seeing change in the political climate. We did mind maps. We did automatic writing. We did mood boards together. 

‘The collective energy we found in those workshops was a really positive thing. And working together as a collective of three female artists, we’ve been able to use the strength we got from working with these women and put it into the making process. It’s been challenging because this is really important stuff and it’s important to the women that we get this right – it’s not our banner, it’s the women’s banner, it’s Welsh Women’s Aid’s.’

How can art help to bring about social and political change?

SS: ‘Art is something that can be accessible to all, or at least the majority – especially these days with social media, such as Instagram. Art today is something that can be anything and you can make of it what you want. It also offers a place where things can be said or talked about in ways that isn’t allowed in other spaces. For me, that’s what’s important about art. It doesn’t have to be aligned to anything or anyone. It can influence change in that sense.’

You can research their work at phoebedavies.co.uk, saucysez.com and jessyecurtis.com

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