Astrid Butt is a feminist film and performance artist, living and working in Leeds, currently working towards a master’s degree in Fine Art. Her work utilises the grotesque and the surreal, burrowing into uniquely female anxieties, with a particular focus on generational trauma and the terrors of the body. Butt’s work provides an unflinching perspective into the cruelty of womanhood, which she uses to discuss harrowing topics, such as domestic abuse, motherhood and sexual assault.
Astrid’s practice is an unspooling of the grotesque and surreal nature of her own femininity. “Throughout the last academic year, I have been attempting to escape the confines of my own fear and shame surrounding womanhood through my art. My art is a product of all the women in my life, to whom the trauma of being a woman has left them feeling out of control over their own bodies.”
The stories Astrid creates are diaries of the abject; they are a means through which she explores the inner workings of the human form, spewing impressions of sex and blood through image and the written word. Her films often involve hybridised human-animal characters, shaped by their relation to sexuality, degradation and violence. These tales of cross-bred creatures bound to their womanhood; of bird-women, selling their fluids like cows at market; of dog women, eating only when told like good, good girls. These tales traverse the complex webs of relationships between women, webs made of bloody intestines, pulled tautly and pulsing with tension.
Bird Diaries is a short, surrealist horror film, following a day in the life of a bird-human hybrid, as she laments over her relationship with men, women and her own body. The Bird is a character identified by her lack; a wingless, featherless creature, unable to fly or lay eggs. She appears to the audience naked, with an oversized, cartoonish bird head. As she hopelessly writhes and crawls through the length of the film, her raucous voice recounts stories from her fictitious life. Through eerie voice-over narration, recorded by Sam Killinen, The Bird reflects on relationships, miscarriages, familial expectations, and the consumption of her breast milk by a faceless male partner. Using a combination of child-like whimsy, god-fearing declaration, and crude bodily description, Astrid Butt conjures a voice that is equally filled with immense power and immense grief.
The viewer is given a tour into the mind of the bird-human crossbreed, as she dances through the dreamlike, technicolour landscape of the film, littered with disturbing images of writhing insects and sexualised violence. The final product is a macabre tapestry of body horror and earnest emotional turmoil, lamenting on the terror and loneliness of womanhood.