In January 2021, Annick Sickinghe graduated with her graduation project ‘Later’, a documentary about the late consequences of childhood cancer. In this interview, Annick tells us more about this remarkable work.
What have you been up to since graduation?
Since my graduation in January, I have been working on finishing my graduation film ‘Later’. The premiere will be this fall. Furthermore, I am working on a new EP together with Studio Medemens that we recorded in June.
Can you tell us a bit more about your graduation work and how it came about?
In 2013 I got lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). I was fourteen when I first received chemotherapy. Thankfully, I was cured, and I moved on with my life. I thought that I had processed my trauma. But the first lockdown period, as I spent a lot of time at home, made room in my life. For the first time in seven years, I had time and space to reflect on my experience. That is when I realised that my sickness has been seeping through in everything I make as an artist and a musician. It prevails in my poems, drawings, animations and songs, and that made me wonder: did I actually process my trauma?
Then I started wondering what ‘processing’ means exactly.
When you get cancer, you enter a clearly defined process of treatment. But after you recover, a rather undefined period starts: the mental processing. There is no manual for that, and nobody can tell you what it will look like.
The main research question of my graduation project was: ‘What is mental processing? And can one even process an experience as such?’ I wanted to research what the late consequences of childhood cancer are, but especially to create acknowledgement and understanding for these consequences. I mean, try to explain to your employer why you still experience fatigue caused by chemotherapy you received 30 years ago. That is very difficult to grasp.
So, I placed a call on social media to find people that had suffered from childhood cancer while growing up. Out of the overwhelming amount of 64 respondents, I finally selected a group seven people and interviewed them at their homes. These interviews form the basis of my documentary. I also included more ‘theatrical’ elements, such as poetry, animations and music in order to capture the emotion of the late consequences of childhood cancer.
And what do you hope to achieve with your documentary?
The way I see it, my documentary could have an impact within three different spheres. The first sphere, or target audience, is that of other childhood cancer patients, doctors and researchers. I want to help other former patients process their trauma, and I received a lot of encouraging messages from both patients and doctors telling me to continue with this project. The second sphere is society at large: I want to create acknowledgement and understanding for the late consequences of childhood cancer. It is an undefined and elusive process that could continue for the rest of a person’s life. And the third are people that have recovered from another sickness. I believe this documentary is not only interesting for people that have had childhood cancer, but for any person dealing with late consequences of the sickness they have recovered from. Maybe even people that did not have such experience themselves but are interested in the mental processing or want to support a loved one.
How did you experience graduating in corona times?
That is interesting, because it could very well be that without the outbreak of Corona, this documentary would not even exist. I postponed my graduation because I was planning to travel to Cuba and go on a tour with my band. But when Corona started, all of these plans were cancelled, and I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. As I mentioned before, this newly found time and space triggered me to start processing my trauma for the first time in seven years. For the rest, Corona did not affect my graduation project that much.
Has your graduation work influenced your perspective on your current or future practice?
Definitely! I have always known I like working with film, but now I would really like to continue on this path. I also discovered that bringing together different artforms is really my thing. In my documentary I combine poetry, music and animation. I believe that is kind of typical about my work: I don’t usually work with a single medium but prefer to combine them.
I am very interested in cultural anthropological research, or in people in general. Now I know how I can bring this to expression.
Where do you hope to be in a year?
I hope that I can continue being a professional documentary maker and artist and that I can initiate more projects. Besides that, I see myself doing freelance work or find a parttime job for a broadcaster. I would also really like to engage in collaborations, but ideally, I would like to keep initiating new projects.
What will you be working on in the near future? What are your next steps?
I graduated with a short version of my documentary. I showed this short film to different people and gathered their feedback. We are now editing the full version of Later, which will be finished by the end of the summer. Same goes for my EP ‘Alles wat kan zijn’ (All that could be), which I recorded together with Studio Medemens in June.
How would you introduce yourself as a practitioner today?
I call myself a visual artist, a documentary maker and a musician.
What role did WdKA, and your practice, play in the process of becoming the professional you are today?
WdKA provided me the space to experiment. Not only with different media but also with different creative processes. The Academy works in quite an interdisciplinary way and in the RASL minor ‘Re-imagining Tomorrow’ I could even collaborate with people outside of the artistic realm. Thanks to this, I can now create what I like the most. Throughout my studies, I made a lot of work I am not particularly proud of. But I am very glad I made it because it helped me discover what I do and do not want to make. I now feel like I am capable to independently give direction to my artistic practice, which I am very grateful for.
What is the future of your work field, in your opinion?
This question is difficult to answer because I do not identify with one single discipline. Music is a completely different field than documentary, and even documentary is a very broad field. I do think, however, that crossover collaboration is something that is emerging and that will become increasingly important in art and education. I think transdisciplinary collaborations and the merging of artforms is the future, and I hope I can use this to position myself in the market.