CocoRosie, the sister duo of Bianca and Sierra Casady, released a powerful, timely new video today in collaboration with Belarusian artist Irina Anufrieva. “Go Away!” was inspired by the uprisings in Belarus around their recent election, and also the changing political landscape of the United States as we head into the next presidential election and bear witness to protests around race, reproductive rights and more. The collaborators saw similarities in the situations of their respective home countries, and decided to use their art as a way to express and process their feelings and engage others. Watch the video below, and read on for more from our interview with Bianca Casady on the collaboration, working with Anufrieva and why art is a powerful vehicle for activism.
District Fray: How did you and your sister come to work with Irina to put together the shared message about what’s going on politically in the United States and in Belarus?
Bianca Casady: [It started] with both of us being away from where we’re from, Belarus and the U.S., and simultaneously witnessing so much civil unrest and uprisings happening at the same time. We were [also] experiencing powerlessness and moments of emotional draining just by passively consuming the images of what’s been going on. And so, right around the election in Belarus in the beginning of August, we decided to do a kind of creative protest, which was just a series of images and a video with “go away” in Russian as a kind of slogan. And it felt really uplifting, just on a personal level, to interact and not sit back and keep getting hit with all this imagery.
What was that process like for all of you?
So from a very personal place as artists, it was a good thing for us to remember that participating with our own creativity really transforms personal experiences of witnessing and being affected by what’s happening politically. Then the situation unfolded in Belarus and got more and more violent and atrocious. We asked ourselves what the best thing to do in response to this would be, and that was making a song that’s very focused on this moment. We were catching wind of parallel situations in many places, like having a really good friend from Lebanon around the time of their explosion, and also uprisings and their government turning against them. We were felt like getting involved by putting something out there that is activating.
It sounds like it was cathartic for all of you to work through this and to make a song and engage in this creative process. What do you hope that people listen to it and gain from listening to the song and watching the music video?
I’m hoping to draw some attention especially and some perspective and connectedness even on a bigger scale with these uprisings in the U.S. and Belarus. And specifically in Belarus, the amount of people who have joined together [to protest] was a really powerful image to me. Even though in the US, it’s a huge uprising, we’re so polarized. To see the majority of a country unite together gave me a new sense of hope that I hadn’t really imagined, coming from the American perspective.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the music video, and why you felt that that was also an important way to tell the story that you’re sharing in the song?
We started with a very blank canvas. I thought that with the song being so energetic, it would be a dance performance focused video, and not necessarily a narrative. That way, it inspires people to dance and to express themselves in a very extroverted way. As we got into it, an unexpected narrative started to emerge. The character that I play started to appear like a mad general, like I was actually this dictator. So we just went with that and pushed it further. That’s something a little bit typical of my work in CocoRosie – to take the unpopular character and act it out from the first person and find all kinds of sort of interesting things in there. There’s moments of perhaps even sympathizing with this character, I would say, in the video. I guess it’s also just to carry the song, and to touch more people and to get more into people’s imaginations.
What was that like for you, to embody the dictator character and feel a sort of empathy in that process?
That’s a good question. It’s hard to answer, but it was kind of wild to be embodying this very theatrical parody. It’s over the top. So getting to express and even make fun of a little bit how crazy some of these guys actually are. That’s all taken from us having swallowed some of these really shocking images. It was easy for us to make it look completely absurd.
Why do you think the vehicles you’re using here – music, videos and dance – are such powerful ways to work through the feelings that come with living in a time like this?
I suppose since everyone’s consuming so much real imagery with just a cell phone, it’s to subvert it and transcend that into the imaginary world. Something about it could be healthy, and a way to sort of metabolize this real, aggressive kinds of fragmented imagery we are constantly consuming.
What else have you and your sister been up to with CocoRosie?
With CocoRosie, my sister and I have been working remotely on a lot of new music, and found it to be surprisingly fruitful. It’s something we’ve never done before. We’ve made maybe half of a new record.
And individually, what have you been working on?
Apart from that, I have initiated an online experimental poetry course. We did one in the spring, and we’re preparing to start another one in a week or so. And that’s been really, really rewarding, and something that’s really possible in this situation. Since it’s all based on text, I don’t feel that there’s anything really compromised about having these people from around the world working on their own in their homes. I’m also embracing the opportunity to really reevaluate a pace of living, as I personally hadn’t stayed in one place this long in 20 years. I’m giving in to the fact that there’s no real choice about it. This is a moment to reassess and it seems like it’s also happening on a bigger scale, with the political movements in the United States. They’re a big byproduct of everything completely switching gears.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.