Commissioned by the Chelsea Theatre, for their 2006/7 Sacred Season, White Squall, investigated ‘whiteness’ - as a colour, ‘idea’ and cultural signifier, and was Sheila's first attempt to try and untangle her experiences around being identified as white (as opposed to mixed heritage). The piece was shown twice over the course of the season; as a piece of work in progress in 2006, and then in 2007 as the 'finished article'. Mem Morrison acted as Sheila's mentor throughout the making process.
What happened in the work?
At the work in progress showing, the piece existed as a series of action-paintings that had to be worked through almost like a weight-lifting circuit. These actions were accompanied by text. In this early version of the work, all of the materials were set out and visible when the audience entered. The wooden box was constructed on stage (accompanied by The Pixies "Into the White"), then pulleyed up into the air.
In the 2nd version of the piece audience entered into an empty space stripped of everything apart from a wooden box. Everything that Sheila would work with, including herself, was inside the box. The first action she carried out was to electric saw herself out of the box, then slowly reveal all of the materials and theatrics (including lights) one by one. This was accompanied by text and a soundtrack in Gujarati recorded by members of Sheila's family. Images/text were also projected onto the box.
Sheila is currently re-investigating whiteness in Sugar Sugar White.