Fiona Whitty was born in Tinahely, Co. Wicklow and moved to London in 2009. She is a visual artist and documentary filmmaker with a special interest in migration. The “movement of bodies through borders, cultures and time” is revisited in her work whether the subject is Nigerians in Ireland, Irish in England or West Africans in Jamaica. She holds degrees from D.I.T. Ireland Fine Art and Chelsea College of Art and Design, London. In 2011, she co-founded social enterprise WhittyGordon Projects with her creative partner Jenny Gordon. Together they make films and organise events. Upcoming projects involve setting up an international artist residency project in Lagos and new documentary in Jamaica.
What are you up to right now?
Right now I am writing funding applications for new film projects across London and editing a film for an exhibition at Damer House Gallery in Ireland with my creative partner Jenny Gordon. I’m also promoting my mum’s spelt bread business, preparing for a project in Nigeria in September which has been funded by the British Council and when I get time squeeze in time with friends and exercise.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and anybody who stands up for human rights and the underprivileged.
What’s been the best decade of your life so far and why?
This is definitely the best decade of my life so far because I am more aware of and taking more care of my health. I also feel like I’m heading more in the right direction with my career.
What song sends a shiver down your spine?
Jeff Buckley – Halleluliah
What is your favourite place in Ireland?
The Dying Cow Pub in Wicklow and Sherkin Island off the coast of West Cork because of the beautiful landscape and friendly and artistic people who live there.
What makes you angry?
People who disrespect, take advantage or mistreat others. I always stand up for the underdog and under-represented.
What book influenced you most?
One is Relational Aesthetics by Nicholas Bourriaud. I was always searching and struggling for a way to describe and communicate my art practice and ways of working and this book was a breakthrough because it made me rethink what art can be and define my practice as an artist. The quote “Artistic activity for its part strives to achieve modest connections, open up obstructed passages and connect levels of reality kept apart from one another”, really struck me.
What was the worst moment of your life?
When my mum developed anaphylactic shock due to an allergic reaction and was in hospital. I was so scared she wasn’t going to make it but out of this terrible situation something really good happened. She developed a spelt bread recipe because she thought it was wheat that caused the reaction. She then began baking this bread for a local health food store. My sister nominated her recipe for a contest on RTÉ and she reached the finals and then set up her business called Cathy’s Spelt for Health.
Which local star in any field should the world outside Ireland know about?
I recently came across Irish photojournalist currently based in New York called Kim Haughton whose work highlights humanitarian issues in developing countries.
If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything in my past. I am trying to remain focused on the present and future, always looking for ways and changes I can make to be the best I can be.
Can you recommend an interesting website?
Vice.com is definitely worth checking out for the latest documentaries.
What is your favourite film and why?
I like documentaries and darker films generally because I am interested in anthropology and sociology and I want to watch a film that pushes boundaries and gives psychological insights and perspectives. Some of my favourites are Driving Through Tehran by Abbas Kiarostami, The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jororowski, Interview With A Vampire, Bladerunner, La Haine, The Shining, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Werner Herzog is one of my favourite documentary makers.
What do you believe in?
I believe in believing in yourself because we are often our harshest critics. I believe in being generous and kind and treating others the way I would like to be treated.
What trait do others criticise you for?
Not washing the dishes properly.
Where do you live and what are the best and worst things about that place?
I live in Dalston in London. I love where I live because it’s very diverse, hip and trendy full of creative people. I also love the village and community feel of living in Hackney and the contrasting edginess and grittiness in the areas that have not been so re-generated. The worst thing about the place is the fact that it’s being gentrified so the cost of living in the area is getting higher.
What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
Baked New York or white chocolate cheesecake
Who is the love of your life?
I’m still awaiting a marriage proposal from Usain Bolt. I met him in Jamaica and he was a stunner, but open to the closest offer….