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lizzie corrall: a house with a brain | interview

Elizabeth Corrall was one of the first people to message me introducing herself when I found out I got into the university. However, she chose to leave and decide if university was right for her later on.  Since, she's been working hard on her own independent projects and has recently had a documentary made about her and her work. I talked to Lizzie about her and her recent documentary piece, her art and her childhood growing up homeschooled. 

Can you tell me a little bit about this project?

“It's a short film piece about me, my art and self portraiture as a whole. I call myself a house with a brain because I've got so many thoughts; I give them little houses in my brain. It’s about me and along with my photography work from a self-taught perspective.”

“PJ, our Director, approached me, we've known each other for a long time, and said ‘they've given me a green light to film you and your art, do you want to do it?’ So I said yes! It's in an interview style, where I answer questions and narrate what's happening. I had to create a specific project for the documentary so I made a little triptych of photos where I get killed in them” she chuckled.

What was it like? 

“It was so weird. I'm so used to being behind the camera and when I'm in front of the camera I'm performing. I'm on my own normally, so it was quite weird to have to sit there and talk about some quite vulnerable things in my art with 6 people watching me. It was a really intimidating experience but I think anything that’s intimidating can eventually become rewarding. I'm really happy I did it because it was such an experience to see how another part of the industry works, and how a team is so important for a single persons project; having other people and that unity is so important. It was so interesting to see someone else create something and be a puppet in that creation - it was scary but it was rewarding in the end. A whole new experience.”

“It has definitely taught me that I don't have to be so self driven, and don't have to assume my work will always be the best. Having other people voice their ideas is really quite important. I am self taught - in talking and everything. You form this protective bubble. If someone says, ‘Oh I don't like that’ it's as if they are saying ‘I don't like how you've taught yourself’ or ‘I don't like that part of you.’ Whereas when you're in a team and collaborating, it just seems so much more fluid. We just bounce off each other.”

“It's made me really torn about going back to university. Before we actually started filming, something in my gut was saying maybe I don't need university and I should just go and get and job and just do something that’s not art, but then I did it and I had so much fun! It was such an inspiring experience but now I'm split again. It's definitely helped me realize that maybe the goal to work towards is having that collaboration and that unity in all my work.”

What was your experience growing up homeschooled?

“It started with my sister. Kathryn had a lot of anxiety as a kid; she had panic attacks about going into school. With everything that had be happening she'd be visiting a psycho-analyst, I was very young at the time so I don't really remember, but he asked if my mum had thought about home education and they took her out of school.”

“I think it all started when my Gran passed away in year 7. I developed very severe abdominal migraines, and it’s a chronic illness that children have - you grow out of it which is very fortunate. I was put on a medication for it and it worked for a while, but that soon stopped. There was a lot of hospital visits, blood tests, being checked for weight, go on this medication, go on that medication. I was off school so much because I was so ill kids started bullying me. I looked so ill. There are pictures of me and I look about 90. I was stick thin and people didn't understand what had happened to my relative who had passed away. I was in a place with a lot of upset. I think looking back on it the medication didn't stop working, I think the tummy aches were ‘anxiety stomach’. When the bullying got worse I wouldn't go into school, even when I was, my grades where so low that my parents figured that since they already home educated one child, they might as well do the other.”

“It's very expensive. We did distance learning. You would pay this company a grand and they'd send you a thick folder with your year’s work and every two months you'd have to do an exam. You'd send that to a tutor long distance, and they'd call you and go through it with you. There was teacher there if you had problems, but I was teaching myself. On the day to day we were sitting in the dining room, sitting reading books for 7 hours a day and then we'd go out, after school. It taught me about free thinking. If there was something that interested me, I could write about that. It taught me that you don't have to just do one thing if you find something interesting. It definitely did that for me with classics. I got really into Greek art and ancient art, mythology and sculpture and that is something I know research a lot.  It made me think about everything I do, slightly more out of the box. It gave me this feeling of slightly being an outsider.”

“I didn't have a prom, I didn't really have a group of friends until a year ago when I started making friends (aside from PJ). I didn't have birthday parties, I didn't go out. I didn't go and do those things. It's made really small things feel really scary because I've just never done them. If someone invited me to a party I'd be like, what the fuck is a party - how am I meant to behave in this situation? I don't think it's limited to home educated people, but I think it's exacerbate when you're home educated, and especially when you're home educated because you don't have any friends. If you're home educated and you've got friends it doesn't matter so much. A lot of people are homeschooled and I say that to them and they say they've had all those experiences. I think it's because I was bullied and because a few people I was at secondary school who said they'd be my friend never continued to be my friend after I was taken out of school. It was even more isolating. Now I feel behind everyone else.”

“I think a lot of my recovery is telling myself I'm not actually that abnormal.  I'm really proud of the fact I was homeschooled. I'm really proud that I taught myself and that I am the reason I have the interest I have. I'm really proud that my desire to learn and experiment and create was not just in a classroom. I'm really proud that I didn't let go of that. In school I really liked art. I think I just liked getting messy I didn't actually like drawing or painting. I'm really proud of myself that I then taught myself when I realized I actually enjoyed it. I didn't have anyone as guidance I was my own teacher and apprentice. I think we all feel like an outsider. We all feel like we don't belong in a situation and I think that's what makes us all as people, especially creative people. The feeling that my voice doesn't belong in this box let me go and make my own box; I think all creatives think like that.”  

The film is directed by PJ Grey. It will be releasing soon on her Vimeo. You can find Lizzie's work here at: 

@ahousewithabrain on Instagram 

And the film, along with the rest of PJs work at: 

@pj.gray on Instagram  

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