A neuroscientist invites artist, Sarah Small, to speak at a conference on PTSD, trauma, and the brain. During her talk, she reads a letter she wrote to her childhood sexual abuser, igniting a dance-and-music-centric journey into her psychological landscape, illustrating the nonlinearity of memory and transformation.
Secondary Dominance is a hybrid biographical expression / auto-fiction documentary / long-form music video that explores trauma’s cellular imprint from a place where art and science intersect. The film arcs a wide range of emotions — moving from grief, to the ridiculous and silly, to placidity and so on… in circles, such as in life.
This film is deeply personal to me, rigorously honest, and was somewhat scary to create. It is an expression of how over the last 38 years, since an incident of sexual trauma as a 4-year-old, I’ve navigated my relationship to myself and to others.
This is not a victim piece. It opens up big questions: questions about a mother’s response to an early age incident; a sincere inquiry about a perpetrator’s experience and their humanity, and a deep dive into the systemic complexities that lead up to and result from an occurrence of sexual trauma.
The film has been built over six years and was crafted somewhat backwards, as the script came last. Secondary Dominance was born as an album I’d written over the course of a decade, during which HERE Art Center / Beth Morison’s Prototype Festival commissioned a staged work of the music. It was during this time that my co-director, Wade, and I met and launched our co-visioning on this film.
Secondary Dominance’s characters are “The Child”, “The Scientist turn Muse”, “The Lover turn Dragon”, “The Dragon turn Light”, “The Receiver”, and “The Self”.
“The Self” is played by me, and “The Scientist turn Muse” is played by Wade who — in parallel with my auto-fictional experience navigating my character — is currently in school obtaining a degree in neuroscience. "The Dragon" character is examined through the lens of Balkan mythology, alongside western childhood fairytales, acting as a framework for exploring our far more nuanced lived realities, ones wherein simplified archetypes do not exist.
Our overarching intention for this film is that it can be of service, that through an adventurous storytelling template, Secondary Dominance can act as a conduit for a multidimensional conversation around trauma, transformation, non-linearity of memory, and our capacity as humans to hold this complexity.