Making a personal statement during a time when populism has steered hard right is bold; publishing a hardcover print magazine filled with the personal statements and stories of un-populist aesthetes is near political. But Cause & Effect, a new annual London-based fashion and culture magazine, is seeking to do just that, guided by a mission to ‘prioritise and profile artists, makers, activists, models, photographers, designers and writers working on the fringes today.’ Co-founded by stylist Amnah H. Knight and queer culture writer Tom Rasmussen, Cause & Effect is provoking cultural conversation by digging into the speakeasy underground and emerging with gems. The first issue, published in hardback, features among others the vogue house mother and HIV+ activist Kia Labeija; the trans female New York dancer and performance artist Imma, and the docu-conceptual video artist Alessandra Kurr who debuted a new work, “Maureen” on Cause & Effect’s website. To quote i-D, who recently profiled the editors of C&E: ‘if there were ever a time for a magazine like Cause & Effect, that time is right this very second’.
Knight, Kurr, and producer Sorcha Bacon were kind enough to answer a few questions about the video work and how it relates to Cause & Effect’s general mission.
What were the origins of this collaboration? How did everyone first become acquainted?
Amnah H. Knight:, I was asked to do the styling on a music video for Denim, a London-based drag queen girl band, that Try Hard (Sorcha’s production company) were producing. I met with Sorcha and the director Matthew Knott to talk through costume ideas for the video. I remember towards the end of our meeting Sorcha mentioned that she had recently seen and loved the baseball movie A League of Their Own. I swear she may have been the first person I met in years that had seen that movie and loved it as much as I did, so she was immediately in my good books. A League of Their Own—such a good movie. I felt like I got on with Sorcha from the start.
Alessandra Kurr: I met Amnah on set of Denim’s music video shoot. We got chatting while perusing the monitor and something just clicked between us. A couple of months later, I asked her to style a video I was working on, which she did and aced! So when Amnah approached me to make a film for Cause & Effect, I was like ‘if Amnah’s in charge it’s going to be great: I’m in.’ As for Sorcha and I, we’ve been making films together for years now to the point that it’s pretty effortless for us to collaborate. Sorcha’s beeon one of my main supporters and has pushed me to go further with my own filmmaking.
Sorcha Bacon: Alessandra and I were both lucky to work with Amnah: I previously worked with her on two projects: along with the video for Denim, which went on to be nominated for best music video at the Raindance Film Festival, we also recently worked on a music video for Connie Constance that went on to be nominated for a UK Music Video Award. I love Amnah’s infectious positivity and amazing style, and so was delighted to have been asked to work with her and Alessandra, who has become a long-term collaborator, on this Cause & Effect project.
One of the more eye-catching things about this video are the different ways you levitate and give motion to clothing. Could you discuss what provoked this concept?
AK: The original working title of the film was the rather clumsily phrased ‘clothes we don’t wear anymore’, which encapsulates the subject of this doc. By bringing these items out from people’s drawers, storage boxes and even suitcases, however, it felt as if they were being brought back to life. Fundamentally, though, the clothes were still never to be put on again by their owners, so I didn’t want to film them being worn. By allowing them to fly and levitate in the frame, it reminded me of how we throw clothes about when discarding them for a wash or to be given away to the charity shop. We inflated the other items in the video with air, which gave the sense of invisible bodies wearing them.
What inspired the text that is read in the video?
AK: All the voiceovers are from interviews I conducted in the weeks leading up to the shoot. Sorcha and I scoured the internet to find people that had unusual stories of clothing they no longer wore and why. I loved meeting and chatting to people who I normally wouldn’t have had the chance to meet. What I had hoped, and found to be true, was that clothes we don’t wear anymore, but have kept, can be used as mouthpieces for memories to recalled, in particular ones that we don’t necessarily vocalise very often, because when we shelve those items, we also we’ve shelved the stories they contain. Doing the interviews was one of my favourite parts of making the film.
This team has previously worked together on music videos. How did this work of video art differ? What kinds of constraints were you free from and what others emerged?
AHK: We have a segment in Cause & Effect called ‘Out of Print’, where with each issue, we want to collaborate with an artist of a different medium and create something special just for our readers. It’s not strictly for them, but they are the first to be given access, via a secret code, when they buy the magazine. It takes you from holding the magazine to going online to find out more of what’s in store for you, which is why I put this segment at the end—I didn’t want our readers putting the magazine down in the middle of reading it. When I decided to start with film for the first issue, I knew I wanted wanted to work with Sorcha and Alessandra. I approached Alessandra and described our magazine’s mission statement and brief, and asked her to pitch ideas. She and Sorcha then came up with this idea of clothes flying across the frame and the emotional attachment between the wearer and the garment. I knew it would be a perfect fit with the magazine.
AK: This was a film where I felt totally free from usual constraints. Amnah supplied a clear brief that I could interpret how I wished, and once the three of us decided on an idea that was right for the magazine, Amnah let Sorcha and I make it exactly as we desired. It’s something I have never really known before to the same extent—and subsequently the whole experience of making this film was amazing. It made me remember why I decided to get into filmmaking: collaborating with fantastic people.
SB: With music videos you are often restrained by the guidelines that the artist, commissioner and label need to abide by from the marketing teams and the people at the top. With this project, we were free from that: Amnah completely trusted us and our creative vision. That’s the beauty of working in such a collaborative, but freeing way and the project really shows that.
Do you all have plans to collaborate again in the future? If so, any hint of what that might be?
AHK: A project hasn’t come up yet, but when and if it does, I’d of course love to work with them again.
AK: Currently I’m working on a script for a short film. If I get it finished in the near future, I’m hoping I can persuade Amnah and Sorcha to make something together soon!
SB: Couldn’t agree more with you both!
Issue 1 of Cause & Effect can be found in a growing number of magazine shops, including Donlon Books, Claire De Rouen, Wardour News, and Charlotte Street News. You can follow them online on Instagram and Twitter.