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Kiran Gandhi, better known by her stage name Madame Gandhi, has seen queer women portrayed in media before. But she hasn't seen enough of that representation being brought to life by queer women themselves. "Oftentimes, two women being in love is overly sexualized, and I find that oftentimes, it's for the sexual experience of cis straight men," she tells Billboard. "While there's nothing wrong with men exploring their own fantasy, it's important that we as queer women get to present our love as we experience it."
So when the artist-activist went about crafting her latest music video (premiering below), she decided to make sure it was as authentic as possible. For a song like "See Me Thru," where Gandhi sings about a healthy, happy love affair, the star wanted to be as authentic to the queer experience as possible — which is why she hired queer artists Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti to direct and co-star in the video.
Gandhi says that bringing in Ti and Catherine to work on her video was an "obvious" decision — their visual aesthetic as conceptual artists matched immediately with the idea she had in mind for her video, emulating the "double-entendre of glass and water and the literal interpretation of something that is clear." In terms of having the couple star in the video, Gandhi says she wanted to see something authentic and real, rather than casting an actor to play her lover. "Either I'm going to put someone that I'm actually in love with in that video, or I want someone else to tell that story and represent it."
The trio began working together in what Gandhi describes as a "true three-way collaboration" to create the dreamy, visualized landscape of "See Me Thru." Their collective vision is represented in the hypnotic new video, which sees Gandhi, Ti and Catherine moving through a series of refractive-light sets, interacting with waterfalls, a romantic pool, and, in Gandhi's case, a killer drum set.
In an exclusive statement to Billboard via email, Catherine and Ti said that the visual effects seen throughout the are not simulated via technology, but rather created through practical effects on set. "Each scene was an immersive installation, our bodies were inhabiting each world whether it be defined by water, light, or another material, which makes everything feel more visceral and fleshy," the pair said. "This approach gives the work more voice and avoids fashionable software and plugins that often, in our opinion, risk making contemporary work look homogeneous or time-stamped."
But the collaboration between the trio went far beyond creating cool visuals for a stellar video — it was also about making a statement regarding the importance of representation. Gandhi and her directors went to great lengths to make sure that it wasn't just the core trio who were women, but rather the entire production — according to Gandhi, "almost 100 percent" of all roles on set were filled by female and gender non-conforming staff members.
"We curated a team with the awareness that the standpoint and experiences that each individual involved creatively will subtly but significantly influence how we, Kiran, and queer love will be represented and translated to the audience," Ania and Dejha said. "What we want 'See Me Thru' to show that is often missed in representations of love between womxn is the ways that small moments can be monumental, whispers can scream, and one look can shift your entire sense of reality."
Gandhi herself says she noticed a very positive difference in the way the "See Me Thru" production was handled, and that she hopes other sets begin to help create more space for this kind of work. "That energy was really positive, because everyone was really aligned with the story we wanted to tell," she says. "I think it's really important to surround yourself with the folks who oftentimes don't get these types of jobs, because we oftentimes overlook women and gender non-conforming folks for film roles. Be brave enough to build the team that will allow you to most safely and effectively tell your story."
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