Apr 06, 2016 11:19AM

Petra Collins On Sad Girl Theory And Owning Your Feels

As part of her new project '24 Hour Psycho'.

Petra Collins has been dropping wisdom on all things female for the past few years, and building a community of empowered internet and IRL artists in the process. Her latest project, entitled 24 Hour Psycho, is a reflection of how her ideas have grown up within this space. 

Drawing from Audrey Wollen's Sad Girl Theory, the works explore intimate emotional worlds — rejecting the idea that women need to put on a happy face in order to be acceptable in the eyes of society, and instead finding strength in sadness. 

We caught up with Petra as the 24 Hour Psycho exhibition opened in San Fran to talk about depression, femininity and owning her feelings.

Lucy Jones: Can you describe your 24 Hour Psycho project in a sentence?
Petra Collins: Making sad strong. ;)

The works are a pretty big departure from stuff you've done in the past. Can you pinpoint anything that prompted this shift into a more emotional, intimate world?
Hmmm, I think growing up and feeling more agency towards my feelings. I grew up super depressed and anxious, and now that I've grown I feel like I can express more of that. It's such a big part of my life and I want it to be included in my work.

How would you describe your personal feminism right now?
Trying to not give a fuck and be as inclusive as possible.

How has that changed over the past few years?
Just learning more about it by learning my place and my privilege.

How did you first come across Sad Girl Theory and how does that play into this project?
I'm a huge fan of Audrey Wollen's work and when I read her theory I sort of freaked out — it was exactly what I needed. Again, as a young girl I was super depressed, had disabilities and I felt so weak, unfeminine and powerless, but her theory changed that view for me. I no longer have to hide behind it and I don't think other girls should either — we can be sad, hysterical, depressed and that is not a sign of weakness.

Have you ever experienced shame for expressing melancholy?
Yes, definitely. It's not a very "feminine" thing to do. We're supposed to be smiling pretty rays of sunshine not sad, sick and angry.

Your subjects definitely aren't passive, how important is building up a relationship, and a sense of trust, in order for them to actively create/experience emotion in the work?
SO important! They inform the photos, not me. I shoot in groups so I can become passive; they are active. I make sure there are more of them than me and they take over the room, the image, the mood and the sound.

Do you remember the last time you cried and why?
Today. I was feeling lonely.

24 Hour Psycho is showing until April 30 @ SFAQ.

Photos: Courtesy Of The Artist

Lucy Jones