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WOMEN’S CINEMA AMBER TUTWILER ATHENE GREIG MYRNA RENAUD SHARON LOMANNO GIANG PHAM LISI PRADA MARIA LUSITANO SANTOS PAULINE BATISTA MADELEINE STACK NATAŠA PROSENC STEARNS SMARAGDA NITSOPOULOU LARA SMITHSON
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Contents Lara Smithson
130 Lisi Prada
NataĹĄa Prosenc Stearns
Myrna Renaud & Sharon Lomanno
Training A Parting
Pauline Batista & Madeline Stack
Comb / All The Time
Maria Lusitano Santos
Women Cinemakers meets
Lara Smithson Lives and works in London, United Kingdom
Ilkla film creates an interworld, a place between digital image and painting. The camera acting as an eye into these painted world, merging brushstrokes with the landscape of Ilkley Moor, in Yorkshire. Trapped moths in the painting create a fluctuating still life, while using movements of the camera to reveal and unravel the paintings in time.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Hello Lara and welcome to WomenCinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite our readers to visit https://www.larasmithson.com in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production and we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training
and you hold a BA that you received from the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art: how did this experience influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how would you describe the kaleidoscopic quality of your art practice? I started out as a painter, working on huge, temporary layered paintings that left traces on the walls. I found it was this transitory nature, along with the performative act, that I was interested in. After two years of transferring these vast paintings into digital images/slides, to project, I became aware of Matte painting in early cinema. I
Women Cinemakers began to make my own intricate glass paintings, while acting, directing and creating my own props/costumes. This switching between roles and mediums was incredibly liberating, I embraced being a painter and a camerawoman, ‘a magician and a surgeon’. I was influenced by how Andrei Tarkovsky slows film down to the point where it can almost be considered painting and how Peter Greenaway enacts and recreates painting, extending the drama into film: my experiments fell somewhere between. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected ‘Ilkla Mooar,’ a stimulating video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your inquiry into the connection between cinema and the act of painting is the way it provides the viewers with such multi-layered experience: would you tell us something about the genesis of this captivating work? My work is cyclical, often ideas/projects are left and revisited so that I don’t experience a rupture in production. I prefer this fluid way of working, using glass paintings I could film repeatedly, allowing me to keep them alive and activating them in various
ways to question both the surface and presupposed time-scapes of cinema and painting. There were things that I felt couldn’t be said or visualised in cinema that could in painting and visa versa, I enjoy their mutual contamination. Fresco cycles can be compared to early cinema, as a series of scenes that tell a story. In ‘Ilkla Mooar’ there was more of a narrative in the paintings than the setting in Yorkshire, yet this was only accessible through the filming and remains enigmatic. I always think about painting when I film, it applies to everything - colour, framing and all that happens offside. We have highly appreciated the non-linear nature of your work and we daresay that your successful attempt to offer an alternative to the linear-temporal approach to the representation of memory: how did you structured ‘Ilkla Mooar’ in order to pursue such stimulating outcome? Were you particularly interested in speaking to the spectators' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? I had already developed an interest in moths while watching them take over a house I was staying at, in Slovakia, within a few hours of dusk every surface and light was covered in moths. The idea’s origin came from research into the Qingming
Women Cinemakers festival in China, a remembrance of ancestors. Moths are universally recognised as symbols of death, though through the month of April Chinese custom ordains that moths should not be disturbed or killed, as they are believed to represent souls of family and lovers once lost. This ‘remembering’ I explored with shifting focus and the slowed, woozy pace of the camera’s exploration of the ‘Moth Theatre’. The structure was always intended to be fluid especially as the practicalities of the shoot left a lot to circumstance. My original hope was that the majority of the moths would fly by the evening. However on delivery I realised that a vast proportion of them had died in transport. This was really upsetting and changed the nature of the film, it developed an unsettling atmosphere and became more explicitly about death. I really wanted to leave space for peoples’ imagination, almost in the same way that the holes or gaps in the painting let in the surrounding landscape. Holes and splits in painting and film have acted like ‘Mandorlas’ in Renaissance painting, though rather than opening up to the heavens, they turn the videos inside out: exposing an imperfect mirror. The well-orchestrated tapestry of dreamlike images and minimal ambient sound, provides ‘Ilkla Mooar’ with such a poetic quality: how did
you conceive the balance between sound and the flow of images?
who used contact microphones to pick up the
The sound gave the film direction and pace, focusing my edit. I was struggling until I added the sound captured by my artist friend Sholto Dobie,
rest came from sound he caught from barbed wire
beating of some surviving moths frantic flight. The fencing in the wind, when being plucked or â€˜playedâ€™, creating a really beautiful but eerie noise. I had
always wanted to use the sound of moths to create a tension for the viewers combined with the steadicam shots that imply flight. Sound has the ability to slow down or speed up even a still image. I was working in a very tight framework of three
minutes, so making these seem longer and providing the film with a trajectory came from the sound. While marked out with such a seductive beauty, Ilkla Mooar features such an ambivalent visual
Women Cinemakers quality that seems to reveal such a channel of communication between the conscious sphere and the unconscious dimension. Could you comment this peculiar aspect of your artistic research? I am interested in contrasting the internal landscape with the external. The paintings felt very much as if they came form an unconscious process, a series of thoughts and symbols from research mapped out. On the other hand the process of filming was very conscious especially as I was directing with a crew for the first time. Navigating a loose plan with lots of changeable elements so that many decisions were made on the day, something I couldn’t have done without my crew and cinematographer Emily-Jane Robinson. The evolution of a film from an idea to its final form is a process of communication between the conscious and unconscious. My practice often begins with research into rituals and myths from a variety of cultures and how these are simultaneously eroded, created and embellished throughout time. This erosion is often an unconscious affect of time and it is only later that this becomes apparent, whether that be through the process of an edit or the effect of centuries. I aim to seduce but also to confuse and offer a strand of beauty that isn’t always obvious and sometimes disquieting. My family has roots in Yorkshire, and while the location was a discovery made from walking, Ilkla Mooar also gives its name to a traditional Yorkshire song, “On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at",
Women Cinemakers which communicates the original idea of death on the moor. Combining painting and footage, Ilkla Mooar shows a keen eye for emotional truth: both realistic and marked out with dreamlike quality, this work seems to unveil the bridge between outside reality and our inner landscape. How do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination within your process? Progressively, my films are trying to examine psychological landscapes, through means of activating physical ones. ‘Ikla Mooar’ is not anchored in reality, the location is secluded, a world within itself allowing for a dreamlike atmosphere. It acts in the film almost as its own ‘Matte’ painting, encompassing and holding the theatre. At one point the gloved hands that lie inside the box are activated, they stretch into the paintings’ worlds. I had been looking at the laboratory gloveboxes used in science and thinking about delicacy and danger, and again contaminating realities. Dreams often infiltrate our waking lives, which themselves feed the nights - ‘Ilkla Mooar’ plays with this hallucinatory state. When I have ideas for films and works I am always confronted with this divide between reality and my imagination, sometimes the results are disappointing. In this instance the film
Women Cinemakers became its own imagination and far surpassed the original idea even after all the actor ‘moths’ died. Marked out with unique sensibility and exquisite eye for detail She Spoke Rain is an exploration of the unknown capable of triggering the viewers' perceptual parameters and we have particularly appreciated the way you created entire scenarios out of psychologically charged moments: what are you hoping the film will trigger in the audience? I spent a lot of time in caves, interacting with something that felt prehistoric. Caves are light absorbing holes that lure you in, they instil notions of entrapment and danger, yet are realms of discovery. I wanted to capture their magnificence and the human in relation to this. I would climb and hike for hours to reach one and this itself felt like a pilgrimage. These holes I found myself in had once been filled with water and were now covered in this fine layer of grey dust or dripping with moss, and in some instances fairy lights. Collapsed caves or sinkholes are called ‘Tiankeng’ or ‘heavenly pits’, for me this translation made a lot of sense: the stillness, absence and isolated nature of these beautiful spaces had something celestial about it. The process of filming and moving in them was simply to try and create some sort of connection or understanding. I carefully choreograph my body as a gesture, in these spaces,
A still from
Women Cinemakers creating my own rituals. I was interested in the falling hair and frozen stalactites and stalagmites that operate with seemingly different gravities, layered over each other, pairings which I hope create sensual or hallucinatory experiences in these guttural spaces. Your works feature stunning landscape cinematography: and we have highly appreciated the way Spitting Is A Language combines urban and environmental elements, creating a captivating synergy: how much importance has landscape in your artistic research? And how do you usually select the locations for your works? I applied for funding to go to China with the intention of filming caves to investigate ‘the cave versus the screen versus the minds eye versus the eyes mind,’ but naturally I ended up filming a variety of landscapes and situations. I had many narratives going on in my head and was asking lots of questions of my surroundings and situation. Location is crucial, my early work really used painting as a location but now I am increasingly finding my ideas form around particular sites. Coming back to the UK with so much footage of many places was fantastic but also problematic. I didn’t want to create travel videos and for a year I didn’t know what to do with the material. It was through writing a lot of the spoken word material that I was really able to concentrate my ideas. Using notes and things I had written at the time of the
trip along with the footage I wove my own landscape into these films ‘She Spoke Rain’ and ‘Spitting Is a Language.’ Your art projects seem to draw from reality to speak about the inner sphere. To emphasize the need of a bound between creative process and direct experience, British artist Chris Ofili once stated that "creativity's to do with what's happening around you". How does personal experience fuel your creative process? In particular, do you think that a creative process could ever be disconnected from direct experience in order to investigate particular ideas that do not belong to the realm of perceptual reality? My films are definitely personal, I am in them physically and audibly, but I try to hide in them, to be less direct and to create opportunities for more universal understanding. Creativity for me happens a lot through research, this is sometimes triggered by things that are happening now, in my own life, or world events/movements. On the other hand it is sometimes historical events or distant artefacts/traditions that inspire me. Performing in the work doesn’t necessarily make it personal, as I have mentioned I use myself as a device.
Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Something is definitely changing, as has the understanding of my position since I began making art. This year has been incredibly exciting for women, unfortunately a lot of developments and awareness is coming from anger and frustration, but at least something is happening. Many women I know are really finding their wings within Film and Art, maybe more so the women than men. I remember getting fed up with people always asking me if I was making work about the male gaze, because I, being female, was in the films. I don’t get asked those questions any more, which is a relief, but only last week I saw a t-shirt which said ‘why haven’t there been any great female artists’ this kind of statement, especially worn by women, just enforces ignorance. There have been many incredible women in Art and Film and I feel positive that there will be more and that
Women Cinemakers they will be visible, I really hope to be a part of that. The gender pay gap within the arts in the UK is staggering, women need to be valued more. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lara. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Having been present in previous films as both ‘self’ and ‘she/other’ I want to use actors to help me develop existing ideas of collective and split identity (individual and social), disembodiment and reflection. I hope to continue exploring how history re-asserts itself under many guises in modern life, while we are always creating events that will reverberate in the future. There is a lot happening in the UK right now, we about to leave the EU. This is really worrying for the arts and I am expecting to have to navigate a lot of difficult change. Rather than travelling across the world for material I really want to address situations closer to home. I am still working on finishing a final project from China and trying to fund two further projects.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
Smaragda Nitsopoulou Lives and works in Athens, Greece
The main theme of my work, as the title suggests, is memory and death. The invention and democratization of the medium of film/video has profundly changed the perception of family continuity but humanity's as well. I used material taken from the Internet Archive in order to create an ecumenical family death album. In this triptych, the viewers will face their own mortality and oblivion through moments of death, portraits of happiness juxtaposed next to the names of the dead of the 20th century.
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant email@example.com
Ubi sunt or Where are those who were before us? is a captivating video by Athens based director and editor Smaragda Nitsopoulou: walking the viewers through a multilayered journey through the themes of memory and death, this stimulating video challenges the viewers' perceptual and cultural parameters capable of encouraging a cross-pollination. One of the most interesting aspects of Nitsopoulou's work is the way it urges the spectatorship to face their own mortality and oblivion. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted artistic production. Hello Smaragda and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to invite to our readers to visit
https://www.smaragdanitsopoulou.eu in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and after your studies in History of Art and after having earned your Bachelor in Film Directing, you moved to Paris, to nurture your education with a Bachelor in Film Editing, that you received from the Conservatoire Libre Du Cinema Francais: how did these experiences inform your current practice? Moreover, how would you describe the influence that your cultural substratum dued to your Greek roots have on your general vision on art? I was lucky enough to be born in a family were art
was considered part of everyday life. I took lessons of music and pottery at a young age so when I made the decision to pursuit an academic route in arts it only looked expected. The systemic education offered me a lot of key components that formed the type of art I produce today. From theoretical foundation about genres and currents to hands-on experience of editing tools and cameras, I value the offering of knowledge that my teachers and fellow students conveyed in me. What wasn't able to be taught, I believe in any profession of any kind, was the creative process. The struggle of transforming a yearning into an idea and then an idea into a project. I do believe though that constant will to learn from the new and to participate keeps a mind prepared. In my case, the fact that I practice my art as an everyday profession is a bliss. I get to edit several videos daily, with mainstream and corporate crowds in mind and get to learn how to think outside my mind. It keeps in on my toes and makes the art making way more rich and fun for me. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Ubi sunt or Where are those who were before us?, a captivting video that our readers can view directly at https://vimeo.com/202263828. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful artistic inquiry is the way your work addresses the viewer to the thin line between past and present, providing the results of your research
Women Cinemakers with consistent aesthetics. When walking our readers through the genesis of Ubi sunt, would you tell what did draw you to focus on the themes of memory and death? As any art, I guess, it draws from personal experiences and feelings. For Ubi Sunt it was the passing of my grandmother from Alzheimer’s and the revelation that her bloodline was carrying plenty of similar cases that triggered a fear in me, uncharted at first. Looking deeper, I suppose I realized that the fear of death and forgetness is the main drive of civilization. The idea of forgetting or losing who you are while you're still alive looks completely inhuman to me. So in order to explore this fear I turned into a medium that has in itself the idea of conserving, archive. The invention of cinema, capturing the regard, was underlined by the need of people to document so they would remember and be remembered, so it only made sense to use the footage of simple people conveying everyday actions. Death is an everyday action and living is so but western habits and religions spent a great deal of time trying to ostracize this truth. The archive footage as anything form the past has an alure to it and carries its own aesthetic. The combination of it with today's point of view in video form was a challenge I believe I solve by inserting minimal elements. Ubi Sunt then transformed into a triptych called “Ars Moriendi” that’s half way there. The second part of it is ready and it’s called
â€œMemento Moriâ€?. It deals with love and death again through a vintage look and feel. We have appreciated the way Ubi sunt unveils the channel of communication between historical references and the personal sphere: how do you consider the relationship between everyday life's experience and the concept of memory playing within your artistic research? Memory is synonym to identity. We perceive who we are based on what we recall we have done and we categorize other people with similar tools. The experience of life nowadays is way more enriched than
for the people depicted in archival footage. Today, notions like the right to be forgotten and avatar are so common that we don't even stand to think. I believe we experience and lead multiple lives each day, making difficult to understand and remember who we are and were. Other people may have a better chance in profiling us from our Facebook page and tweets. Then the identity we believe that we carry communicates and interacts with the others. Our viewing of art works in a similar way. I watched with fascination the reaction of viewers while they watch the video art piece. The reactions were more or less identical, firstly avoidance then sympathy and finally
sorrow. That's the fascination for me, that people of today, living complex and diverse lives manage to communicate with relatives of the past in a sincere and understanding way. We have appreciated the way you explore the expressive potential of found footage to enhance the narrative process, forcing the viewers' cultural parameters: what were the properties that you search for in the footage that you include in your work? To produce art using someone else’s prime material can be confusing. I have an idea or a theme in mind
but the constant images that pass before my eyes in every search drives to some point to each own direction. It is detrimental to me that I have close ups of people since they immediately become either the narrator or the protagonist of the story but the process is mainly completely free. There are some images that strike me as wonderful but then I can’t manage to marry them with the editing room. I get to try and try again and I am always sad when something beautiful doesn’t make the cut. But art isn’t about beauty so I keep an honest eye on how my sotry can be told via different mouths.
The audio commentary of Ubi sunt provides the film with such uncanny atmosphere and we have highly appreciated the way you have sapiently structured the combination between sound and moving images. According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? The images do register faster and easier into our eyes but the music and sound in general have the ability to evoke stronger emotions I believe. Music as an art form numbers many years in human history and thus registers more easily. We are accustomed to what it means and how it should make us feel. The spoken word inside music though, which was the case in Ubi Sunt is quite different. The viewer is asked to use cognitive on top of vision and hearing which sometimes works against the totality of the piece, especially if the language is not as universal as English. Sometimes silence might have worked better. As you have remarked once, the invention and democratization of the medium of film/video has profundly changed the perception of family continuity but humanity's as well: your work accomplishes such an insightful inquiry into the relationship between information exchange systems and peopleâ€™s social and subjective life.
Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the system you’re living under". What could be in your opinion the role of artists in our everchanging, unstable contemporary societies? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? Art has been used as a tool of political influence and manipulation by any government at any historic point thus proving its power. The artist at any era has the arsenal to affect and drive change but it’s a choice to make. Not everybody can express themselves through politically charged art and I don’t judge that. The opportunities of what we could be are endless especially for these unstable times. The reality most artists have faced in their lives is instability and if we had learned our lessons as humanity we would have known by now that there is no stability either way. It was a global illusion. I believe we should make good and honest art if possible. That’s our role and obligation. To not be afraid and to not be vain. To take responsibility. Under these circumstances being a woman I believe is a weapon of resilience. There are situations that we have been fighting for way longer that men have and we have won. But I always prefer to consider that any value I may produce, artistic or otherwise, it comes within me as a totality and not
focused on parts of my identity such as my femininity. Ubi sunt deviates from traditional videomaking to develop the expressive potential of the images and the symbols that you include in your videos. We are sort of convinced that new media will bridge the apparent dichotomy between art and technology, and we dare to say that Art and Technology are soon going to assimilate each other. As a creative passionate about digital media and new media challenges, what's your point about this? In particular, how is in your opinion technology affecting the consumption of art? I am sure that art will be conjoined with technology very soon. Technology can be a new medium to create art and is already a platform to promote and consume art. Every single artist has a site, museums as well, making managers obsolete every day and a little more. The blockchain revolution now offers the solution to copyrights that was never before possible in digital forms. Personally, I am set to explore the VR and augmented reality aspects of video art and performance. It draws me as a technique, the ability to immerge inside art itself. I find it fascinating especially because participatory art is something that the spectator wants in order to express his own artistic impulses and to understand the art piece
A still from
himself. To create a relationship with it. To me thatâ€™s the major advantage of new media technologies, we are using more senses in order to communicate with an art piece and thatâ€™s magnificent. Many of your works, as I donâ€™t exist and imaginary time/space often address the viewers to a wide number of narratives: rather than attempting to establish any univocal sense, you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations would you tell us how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? How open would you like your works to be understood? Nobody can see a work of art the way its creator does but I think that the artist owes to leave space for the viewer's psyche inside her work. It's a very conscious decision to leave the door open just a crack. To do that I knit loosely emotions and images hope that the spectator not only think but feel as well. To me that's my goal. These two pieces especially are very personal and close to me and it was difficult to me to release them. They involve the human body and time so quite universal subjects even though the way of portrayal may be unconventional and open to interpretations. Interpretation is inevitable and it's a waste of time to try and control it but emotion is something that can be driven and that's what I'm trying to do. If I can choose
what a spectator will remember about my art after he leaves it would be a feeling, no matter what. We have appreciated the originality of your works and we have found particularly encouraging your unconventional approach. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? As a person I have stayed away from the binary point of view man/woman and I believe that because of that I haven't had translated or awarded certain behaviors to my sex and how it was perceived. Probably I was naive but even so because I didn't see it, it didn't affect me. In any school I attended the majority of students were women and our professors as well. Of course in editing rooms I faced the manly reality but my work did get praised and I was given any opportunity to achieve my goals. As an artist whose work doesn't quite fit the expected, I get as many rejection e-mails as the mainstream ones.
But I do get more attention from people who wait for something like this. I don't feel pushed aside or ostracized, there is an audience for everybody's art and a platform can be found or created. I believe that the generation before me suffered because of the concept of rock star artist when my generation is craftier. We create the art, the medium and the gallery. Especially in Greece we notice the creation of multiple collectives of artists that create opportunities for themselves and I believe that that's the future of artists and society. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Smaragda. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I sincerely hope the triptych â€œArs Moriendiâ€? gets to finish and to be shown in its entity because it feels incomplete to my eyes every time I see a piece participating alone to a festival. As I told you I am set to explore the possibilities of VR technology and see how I manage to express me through that media. I believe that I will further attempt the combination of performance and video art and see where it takes me. I am looking forward to the future not knowing what I will be able to achieve. An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
NataĹĄa Prosenc Stearns Lives and works in Venice California
Project Hotel Diary exists as an experimental film, as a series of single-channel videos and as a video installation. Gender bending approach is frequent in my works, which reflect my personal experiences through a prism of imaginative, sometimes surreal or utopian prospect of non-anthropocentric world, where everything is connected and coexists with equal significance. The notion of connectedness, the awareness that everything is one, has been my most important drive into artistic experimentation. It has being reinforced in recent years, as we are becoming progressively more alienated from each other and from our physical selves. The works range from single and multi-channel videos, video installations, films, video objects and print media. The process of layering connects unrelated visual elements and leads to fragments of narrations. In the center is human body or figure, which merges with its surroundings and reappears, changed and regenerated, challenging the boundaries of both.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
solid formal training and after having graduated with
and Dora S. Tennant
a BA from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in
Ljubljana, you moved to the United States to nurture
Hello NataĹĄa and welcome to
your education with a MFA from the prestigious
would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple
California Institute of the Arts: how did these
of questions regarding your background. You have a
experiences address your artistic research? Moreover,
Photo by Jack Prichett
does your cultural background due to your European roots address your artistic research? There was a small class on video art at the Art Academy I attended in Ljubljana. The class was not required, but I took it anyway. We only had one camera; this was before phone cameras of course. From the first time I held that motion picture camera, I have been obsessed with moving images. With time I realized that for me moving images are the most compelling medium for creative expression because of their kinetic nature, which corresponds directly to constant motion of things. I was fortunate to receive a very good education in Slovenia, which initially informed my work and established a base for my future artistic adventures. Growing up in socialist Yugoslavia had another benefit. The value system, as much as it might have been flawed, it gave me a priority structure, where material values were never on the top of the list. Without pressure of looking at art as a commodity, I was free to explore whatever was authentically driving my work and was not inclined to follow trends or market demands. Things changed dramatically after the separation of Slovenia from Yugoslavia. Slovenia, which was under many foreign rules for centuries, undeniably deserved its own country, but the space shrunk considerably and the capitalistic system replaced the old one without adopting many regulations. The culture became prone to
A still from Hotel Diary, Balcony 1
Hotel Diary, Room With a Mirror
Women Cinemakers monopolists and I started feeling claustrophobic. There was progressively less room for diversity of ideas and artistic visions. When I first traveled to Los Angeles on a Soroš grant, I was immediately attracted to its opennes, to the vastness of the land, to the desert, the ocean and the big sky. It was a visceral response to the space, without yet knowing it, as I know it today. Cal Arts was significant during the first transitioning phase; it helped me with »translation« from one culture to another and back. This was also the time of intense hands-on creativity. A wide variety of film and video equipment, which was not as accessible then as it is today, was suddenly available to me. By mastering many facets of film and video production I attained a kind of creative freedom, which allows me to move effortlessly between different aspects of filmmaking. But I soon realized that I will never completely melt with my adopted country. Instead I became a person with two cultures, with two often incomparable and mutually untranslatable lives, which makes my life richer, but also more complicated. “America is my country, and Paris is my home town.” said Gertrude Stein. I feel similarly about Slovenia and Los Angeles. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such stimulating multidisciplinary feature, allowing you to range from single and multi-channel videos, video installations, short and feature films, video objects and print media: before starting to elaborate about your artistic
Hotel Diary, Staircase 3
Hotel Diary, Dead End Corridor 3
production, we would invite our readers to visit in order to get a
while thoughts and emotions are shaping into concrete projects. It is the inspiration, the seed of the project, which
synoptic idea about your artistic production: would
dictates the genre and the structure of the piece.
you tell us what does address you to such captivating
Sometimes it requires experimental approach, other times
multidisciplinary approach? How do you select a
it commands a narrative strategy. For me the world of
medium in order to explore a particular theme?
moving images is only one, so Iâ€™ll always be trespassing the borders of categories. This has become a common
Selecting a medium happens spontaneously
practice anyway. Many accomplished contemporary artists
Hotel Diary, Two Rooms
like Miranda July, Pipilotti Rist or Steve McQueen, are all
stories on the basis of the scenes presented in the
artists and filmmakers at the same time.
installation. In fact, their feedback partially informed my work on the narrative / film version, which was done later.
But my favorite projects are the ones that land into different categories simultaneously.
For this special edition of
example exists as a film, as a video installation and as a
, an extremely
series of digital prints. The non-narrative multi-channel
interesting experimental film that our readers have
video installation was finished first. It was interesting to
already started to get to know in the introductory
see the curator and the viewers constructing their own
pages of this article. What has at once captured our
Hotel Diary, Video Installation attention of your insightful inquiry into the relationship
friends just acquired a hotel in Downtown Los Angeles,
between the real and the imagined is the way you have
which has been vacant for a long time. They invited me to
provided the results of your artistic research with such
check it out in case I could use it for my projects. The space
captivating aesthetics. While walking our readers
had a strong impact on me. I love hotels, and the strange
through the genesis of
, would you tell
us what did address you to explore the themes of memory and perception?
patina I found at The Rendon Hotel just spurred my imagination. I thought of the scenes for different rooms, hallways and staircases and recorded them without a solid script. There was just a broad idea of a relationship, which
In case of
it started with location. My
may have unfolded among the walls of the hotel. The
Women Cinemakers but the memory has you,” describes best what interests me about the subject. could be considered an allegory of transitory nature of human condition and we have highly appreciated the way it mixes the ordinary to the surreal: challenging the audience's perceptual parameters to explore the struggle between reality and dreamlike dimension, your film provides the viewers with a unique multilayered visual experience: how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination within your process? And how much importance do metaphors play in your artistic research? For me imagination is part of reality, so there is no clear distinction between the two. The mixing of both emerges out of creative process without considering them as separate. I don’t necessarily think of metaphors and symbols, as I’m trying to get rid of thoughts, opinions and protagonists were shot separately and were later
positioned into the rooms together by using a layering technique. I often use layering to merge seemingly
Creative process at a certain stage adopts its own
unrelated visual elements. In this case it enabled me to
independent life. I’m only helping it to evolve. It starts
achieve a feeling of characters being together and
accelerating, producing its own energy. I try to be in tune
separate at the same time.
with this energy, I try to listen and articulate it. This is the
So the story contains many stories at once and therefore
plunge into the unknown, which happens when inspiration
many interpretations. Just like memory, which is deceiving
meets the energy generated by the process of its
at best. John Irving’s quote “You think you have a memory,
Hotel Diary, Room 23
Water is a key element of the mise-en-scène of and as you have remarked in your director's statement, it is present not just as an element, but symbolizing the subconscious and desire: are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations? In particular, How open would you like your works to be understood? I love Monica Vitti’s line in Antonioni’s film
she is looking through a window into the ocean: “I can’t look at the sea for long, or I lose interest in what is happening on land”. Water simply embodies more life than just about anything else. In my work water surpasses its function as a natural element to become a visual element of integration or deconstruction / abstraction. In some cases water causes images to decay, in other cases it serves as a fluid matter that connects and protects. I’m not trying to carry on a controlling message nor am I attached to an initial motivation for a particular project. I know that works will be interpreted differently by each and every viewer. I do try to impact my potential audience to have an emotional, intuitive or visceral response, something that they can take from the artwork, something that resonates with them. In fact I believe that’s the only thing an artist or a filmmaker can do, to create something alive. Everything else is fleeting: a message can be misunderstood, a style will age. “The main
thing in making art often is letting go of your expectation and your idea”. Agnes Martin Featuring well orchestrated camera work, has drawn heavily from the specifics of its environment and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance between the environment and the subtle movement of human body: how did you select the location and how it affected your shooting process? Entering The Rendon Hotel for the first time, I thought of films like Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door. I knew that I want to explore relationship between private and public, the role of secrets and desires. So I used static camera, which resembles security cameras peeping into people’s privacy, and atypical framing; characters without heads etc. As mentioned before, the location kind of fell into my lap. In fact I used it just before it will turn into a construction site of a new hotel. The renovations are starting this June, so the film will evolve from being a fictional history to become an actual document of the past. This is particularly interesting in Los Angeles, which itself is not really a city, but more like a big hotel, a place of constant transitions, of comings and goings, where past present and future collide through relentless migrations. Another interesting recent work from your production that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled and can be viewed at
Hotel Diary, Room 19
A still from Hotel Diary, Third Floor Corridor
https://vimeo.com/261943229. We have deeply appreciated this captivating video installation explores the grammar of body language to create a kind of involvement with the viewers that touches not only the emotional sphere, but also and especially the intellectual one. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the issues that you explore and the physical act of creating your artworks? Nietzsche’s quote “There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy,” reflects best my relationship to everything physical. Projects like
, where I
am in front and behind the camera are especially linked to the physical engagement. Refining the line between the figurative and the abstract happens intuitively. The space of a singular body opens up and multiplies, body turns into a pillar, which multiplies again into a colonnade, which turns into a suspended structure with ever expanding implications… Human body / figure has always been in the center of my work. It is the focal point through which I perceive, experience and translate the world. Body is often escaping the laws of gravity and physicality in order to reconnect with others, with its setting or with itself. The process of digital layering integrates different
visual elements and leads to fragments of narrations. Recorded footage undergoes elaborate editing process, which enables me to deconstruct and reconfigure the relationships between passages, to create a new reciprocity among them and to hint on bodyâ€™s potential limitlessness. The artwork communicates with the spectatorsâ€™ own sense of embodiment, in hopes to create an unrefined interaction without relying on theories and preconceived notions. In times of snap shots and instant sharing of images, my works are shaped slowly, over time, with many unplanned detours. The work probes present-day individualism and separation of mind and body, especially in an increasingly technologized environment, where many of us feel progressively more alienated from each other and from our physical selves. Various devices and gadgets are replacing humans, technology has clearly surpassed us; so we are facing anxieties and alienation caused by frequent engagement with screens, machines and other non-physical and bodyless things. Technology improves the speed of our communication but robs us of our pleasures, pains, and emotions. I believe that our bodies hide many unrealized hidden potentials, but we can only discover them if our engagement turns inwards into the mystery of our physical existence, instead of outwards, into seemingly safe virtual environment. I am convinced that answers to a number of contemporary existential questions are hidden precisely in
Hotel Diary, Window
Untitled / Torso 5
Women Cinemakers human body. By putting it in the focus of my creative process, I strive for the survival of authentic, experiential and mysterious. Marked with captivating minimalistic quality, the soundtrack provides the footage of
with such enigmatic
with a bit
unsettling sound tapestry: how do you consider the relationship between sound and moving images? Sound and music are crucial elements of my videos and films. They work hand in hand with visuals; often they exist before the images, especially when I work with a composer whose work I know well. In fact I believe “Music is the best art,” to quote Agnes Martin again, because it is completely abstract and stimulates directly our emotional response. I’m starting a new collaboration on a contemporary original opera with the Slovenian Opera House, which will add yet another genre to my list. I’m excited to be able to put music right in the center of this new piece. Serbian performance artist Marina Abramoviconce remarked the importance of not just making work but ensuring that it’s seen in the right place by the right people at the right time: as an artist particularly interested in exploring innovative strategies in visual and narrative expressions, how is in your opinion of
affecting the consumption of
art by the audience? Do you think that today is easier to speak to a particular niche of viewers or that online technology will allow artist to extend to a broader number of viewers the
interest towards a particular theme? Jean Cocteau said that â€œFilm will only then become an art form when it will be as accessible as paper and pen.â€? I think we are finally approaching this time. Digital technology allows for anyone who has a cell phone to record their own film or video. This is great, but the amount of works out there is enormous and unmanageable. It may be easier to find your niche, but it is just as easy to get lost in the sea of endless content where cat videos cohabit with works of art. It is harder than ever to distinct film and art of real importance from empty works or technological attractions and gimmicks. Numerous applications and filters allow for fast results without any knowledge of the craft or any artistic vision. So technology is by my opinion a double-edged sword, which can be a fantastic tool in hands of a person who knows what she wants or an accelerator of mediocrity when used in vain. Internet can be helpful in reaching a particular audience, but the visibility of art and film is ultimately still controlled by power players like studios, networks, festivals, galleries and museums. Internet is playing a big part in communication and distribution today, but it did not democratize the art field or any field, as it was naively expected at its inception. Over the years your work has been presented internationally and exhibited twice at the prestigious
of the hallmarks of your practice is the ability to establish direct involvement with the viewers, who urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship with
Untitled / Torso 4
Photo by Cigdem Akbay
Women Cinemakers your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception? And what do you hope to trigger in the spectatorship?
Thank you for the elaborate questions. It is always hard for me to talk about my work, since the answers are way better articulated in the work itself. However I’m always curious to
I don’t consider audience reception when I’m creating my
hear questions that the work inspires. Consequentially such
work. However I am trying to find crossings where my
dialogue often informs my future work.
personal story touches the stories of everyone. Where
This summer I’m starting a project, which has a structure of
exactly we will meet, if at all, it is impossible to say. I think
Matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll. First we will create a
it is very important to see yourself among others. When
new semi-abstract video art piece, which is based on
you’re able to see yourself as a part of something bigger,
geometric grids, nets and meshes found in urban
as a detail of a big picture, then it is easy to recognize your
environment. It will possibly be the most direct exploration
role in it. When issues of ego disappear, the talent can
of connectedness in my work so far. This piece will be part
channel itself to the right direction.
of a short film, which will be part of a series of stories titled . This episodic structure may result in a
Connection, the notion that we are all one, that everything is one, is actually a driving force behind all my work. This has been the case from the start. I used to have a hard time
Television or an Internet series, kind of like
drama with surreal elements.
explaining my intentions. I did not understand my strong
Also this year an outdoor installation of the multi-channel
drive to artistic expression and I almost wished that I didn’t
have it, so I could have more “normal” life. But at some
area of Los Angeles,
point I slowly started understanding that it is because of
Film Festival in Cannes, and will have new installments at
this strong desire to express connectedness of all things. I
The Rendon Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles and in
do think that disappearance of ego means happiness.
Lapidarium of Cistercian Church in Slovenia, and
Obviously our society is speeding in the opposite direction,
will take place in Santa Monica, the coastal will screen at AVIFF, Art
will première at Maribor Castle.
so I feel even more compelled to continue with my work. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Nataša. Finally, would you like to tell us
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
readers something about your future projects? How do
and Dora S. Tennant
you see your work evolving?
Women Cinemakers meets
Pauline Batista & Madeleine Stack Live and work between London, Berlin, Rio, Brisbane, California, and Barcelona
It’s about an excavation. Of the mind, of the self. Who is colonized and who flies freely? Fly in, fly out. We’re seeking a pattern. Pattern recognition. Data mining and mining for ore, a shared language of opacity and incoherence. Travelling at great speed above the surface of the earth or penetrating the borders that block free movement. Is there a point to vision when what affects our lives most is what occurs invisibly? Waves, data, infrared, corruption, offshore banking, infection, the outsider becoming other. Who enters and who is stopped at the border? Capital flows freely while bodies stagnate, are dammed. Technology reaches obsolescence at increasing velocity, and acceleration fails to take into account the material consequences of a dream of constant progress: permanent environmental damage, an expansion of the colonial project by way of corporations, an enclosure of the commons, and an expectation of total work. Between Big Data and Big Pharma, what falls between the cracks? Here are some threads at the intersection of technology and intimacy. Specifically, where have these projects for a future failed, and what possibility is there for dreams of progress to be redeemed? Perhaps via a third way, outside of the traditional binary of progress at all costs vs a return to the land. The imagery we mine is that of defunct and obsolete technology that once heralded progress. At the end of capitalism, the extraction of surplus value comes from what was once thought of as ineffable: our personalities, habits, preferences, memories. If algorithms take the traditional role of the artist in translating and making sense of the world around us, who decides what information is filtered, which memories are stored and how the circulation of bodies and ideas flows?
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Hello Pauline and Madeleine and welcome to : to start this interview we would like to invite our readers to visit and
in order to get a wide idea
about your artistic productions. In the meanwhile, we would ask you a couple of question about your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as filmmakers?
Personally I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a film maker, although I do use the medium. I often think that artists’ video and moving image production is more interesting and experimental than traditional cinema in terms of techniques used, themes addressed, and viewing apparatus. But it comes with its own setbacks - if a film is shown on loop in a gallery, the viewer is free to enter and exit at any point in the narrative, and I think that makes one more aware of how the work could function as a fragment, rather than a film seen in a cinema that would most likely be seen without interruption. With the art context, you can also break away from linear rules of narrative. We studied together and so have been in conversation for many years and seen our practices develop and mature, so it
Women Cinemakers was very easy with this background to enter into a collaboration. We actually started with an interest in the topic of mining, both being from vast, resource-rich countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and that developed into thinking about other forms of mining: data-mining, the mining of genetic or intellectual information, for example. For this special edition of we have selected , a captivating film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way your sapient narrative provides the viewers with with such an intense visual experience. While walking our readers through of , would you tell how did you develop your film? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every detail of your shooting process? For this project there was a strong sense of what we wanted to accomplish in terms of a general mood and the themes we wanted to come across for the viewer. But the actual process of making is at once both long and short. Most of the footage was taken from our individual archives. Knowing what we wanted to accomplish allowed us to be able to go through enormous amount of footage in order to construct the landscapes you see in the film. Particularly Madeleineâ€™s footage of an abandoned solar farm in the south of Spain, which was our starting point. In a way the film was made over a course of many years as the footage spans both time but also space as it was shot all over the world, from Australian dunes, to Italian volcanoes to Hampstead Heath park. The latter was the only footage which was shot after the initial concept and the research into our respective archives. Having reviewed and choose the footage we felt like the body aspect was missing.
Women Cinemakers Pauline: Having worked primary with women and women bodies in other works, I felt we were missing the bodily element. Madeleine work also heavily references the bodily aspects so we instinctively knew we wanted to address that within the film. At first I couldn’t articulate quite well what I meant by “rolling bodies off trees”. I think Madeleine was initially not so convinced by the idea but was more than supportive in setting up the shoot so we could test it out. Once we had shot and seen the footage we both knew it was the missing piece to tie in the ‘voiceover’ narrative. I think the key for us throughout the process was having a very clear idea of what we were after in order to be able to create that and then pull back so the film then became an abstraction from the world we had envisioned. We felt this as a way to avoid a straightforward narrative and be more generous in allowing the viewer to have their own reading. Collaborating with such an incredible writer and poet also didn’t hurt when we were after a text which would both let you into our thinking process but never fully divulge its entirety. Madeleine: Because I’m a writer as well, it felt natural that I would compose a voiceover narrative that would work in conversation with the footage we had gathered, and help to tie together some of the ideas that we were exploring. Once we had the addition of the bodily aspect, the story that these images tell became much more clear. features stunning Elegantly composed, landscape cinematography and each shot is carefully orchestrated to work within the overall structure: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? The footage was shot on different cameras, including iphones, as this is how we have kept archives of our explorations and visits to various sites throughout the years.
Madeleine: I prefer to use a small digital camera as it can be to hand at any moment, and can also be used without interrupting the flow of a scene in progress. Most of the things I like to record on video are spontaneous actions that arenâ€™t possible to schedule; it requires blind faith and being ready at any time. Pauline: The only shot not on iPhones was the bodies. For this we used my 5D Mark II. I have owed this camera for many years and have shot many bodies of work with it. It really is a versatile camera as it shoots video beautifully in addition to stills. The choice of lens was the 70-200. It allowed for a cinematic feel, as did the soft lighting coming through the trees. We wanted to create this isolated tableaux and so wanted to minimize attention to the background and surrounding trees and have the focus on the bodies.
shows the details of reality that hide beauty and simplicity: we have appreciated the way you show the ephemeral nature of human perception that raises a question on the role of the viewers' viewpoint, inviting us to going beyond the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to unveil such unexpected sides of reality, urging the viewers to elaborate personal interpretations? While we had a very precise idea of what we wanted to convey, it was as mentioned before done in a way as to allow for personal interpretation by the viewers. One could reach into it as much or as little as they wished. Maybe just meditate on the scenery, or pay close attention to the words in an attempt to decipher meaning. I guess in this case hope is that as artists we are able to elicit a reaction to the work, whatever that may be. Hopefully
then maybe a discussion ensures, the role of the artist and the work then more as one which facilitates and opens up space for discussion on topics addressed. has drawn heavily from : how was your creative and shooting process affected by locations? Given the last shots were done merely a month before our show by the same name Fatal Softness opened in London it was extremely difficult to both find the ideal location as well as willing participants. Madeleine and myself went to many locations in London looking for the right environment. Originally meant to be shot in Hackney Marshes. While we both love the location but the logistics of setting up from the tree trunks we found there was just not suitable.
The temperature on those days was brisk but we were lucky to know some brave women who were up for participating. We also mostly work with friends or friends of friends, which creates a more relaxed environment. The idea of hiring people for a shoot is a bit too serious and there is a wonderful complicity which happens when you work within your network. The idea being you are making this together as opposed to just being paid to be part of something which you arenâ€™t necessarily interested in. As we had 4 different shoot days due to schedule. Madeleine and myself decided to also be in the project ourselves, which is extremely helpful when it comes to directing. We knew exactly what it felt like to have to stand still, balance on the trunk and also experienced the fear of the fall ourselves. That way we could direct the others through it.
Women Cinemakers Both in photography and video projects I always put myself in front of the lease first and feel with my own body what I expect of others. That way when I am behind the lens I can much better articulate the body movements I am after, and I can understand, for example, in this case the difficulties they are going through in balancing and keeping still in the cold. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established together are and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project... could you tell us something about this effective synergy? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? We are both visual artists and multidisciplinary but this collaboration was one of the minds moreso. The original idea for the show which this work was part of came years ago and over many long conversations on technology, the body and utopian or dystopian futures. Both of our research practices are related to these themes, so the decision to collaborate was an attempt to deepen our understanding and create a more holistic experience for visitors to the gallery and viewers of the film. We daresay that walk the viewers to find unexpected points of convergence between technology and intimacy: we are sort of convinced that new media will bridge the apparent dichotomy between art and technology, and we dare to say that Art and Technology are soon going to assimilate each other. What's your point about this? In particular, how is in your opinion technology affecting the consumption of art? Pauline: Personally my own view of technology falls under the pessimistic one. While it allows incredible access to artists and those wanting to discover more, I think it can also become overwhelming to face a constant flow of imagery. I think it is
Women Cinemakers great to have a greater reach, yet the experience of watching something on your laptop cannot be compared to that of going to the cinema or the gallery.. At The Koppel Project, where the film was originally shown, the experience of being inside of a bank vault with echo acoustics which enhanced the soundtrack by Herdis Stefansdottir was all part of the experience of the work. A lot is lost when viewing things online. The same goes for consuming images of art on Instagram, in that works that donâ€™t scream - things that take time, that are delicate or ephemeral or complicated, are flattened into the shortest possible attention span. We have highly appreciated the way accomplishes the difficult task of establishing direct relations with the viewers: to emphasize the need of establishing a total involvement between the work of art and the spectatorship, Swiss visual artist Pipilotti Rist once remarked that "we are trying to build visions that people can experience with their whole bodies, because virtual worlds cannot replace the need for sensual perceptions." Do you aim to provide your spectatorship of an enhanced visual experience capable of working as an extension of ordinary perceptual parameters? As artists we are invested in the idea of total experience as well as the space we create as one which in addition to the experience of the work, one also has the possibility of connecting to others who are also having this experience together. The possibility for discourse is just as important as the work allows for it. The themes addressed, while they may be presented as futuristic or dystopian in the film, are very much every day ethical dilemmas happening currently. Questions around the role that machines can play in human life, and whether or not human life will continue to exist on this planet, are currently urgent matters that affect every aspect of human relations. Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in the contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing
A still from
Women Cinemakers something 'uncommon', however in the last decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Madeleine: Rather than women having â€˜found their voicesâ€™, I would suggest that the work - avant garde, experimental - women have always been making is just now beginning to be seen and appreciated. Pauline: I hope the future is a better one than the historical overlooking of women artists. While there is a long road ahead I do see many institutions and individuals wanting to address this. Recently was at a talk by Tate director Frances Morris speaking about he career and I left feeling more positive than usual on the topic. Her agenda, and subsequently that of the Tate, is very clear- to ensure women artists are well represented as well as promoting diversity. This needs to be seen more and more across the board as it is still a steep climb until we get to the point where we no longer need to be addressing this inequality of opportunities. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Pauline and Madeleine. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Pauline: I will continue to explore sound as a medium as well as never-ending exploration of the body and specifically its positioning within and against advancements in technology. Currently working on a sculptural sound piece as well as researching stages of new project which continues . This June I am also participating in She Performs, a show of all women artists, which I am excited to be part of. Madeleine: and I am writing another novel! An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
Maria Lusitano Santos Lives and works in London, United Kingdom
I use art as a tool/language to relate to the world and to interpret my experiences and metaphysical queries. My art projects use experimental models of storytelling/narrative and symbolical language, to explore links between historical and personal/family memory, the role of personal and collective utopias/dreams in the construction of reality, an understanding/exploration of consciousness and spiritual questionings. My practice involves artistic research, relational ethnography and participatory methodologies.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com London based multidisciplinary artist Maria Lusitano Santos' work rejects any conventional classification to explore the themes of memory, consciousness and collective dreams. Her artistic research involves relational ethnography and participatory methodologies and in the body of works that we'll be discussing in the following pages, she provided her spectatorship with a powerful tool to question their perceptual and cultural parameters. In particular, one of the most captivating aspects of her artist film (un)childhood is the way it offers an alternative to the linear-temporal approach to the representation of childhood. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Santos' captivating and multifaceted artistic production. Hello Maria and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a BA of Fine Art from the Maumaus School of Visual Arts, and after having earned your MFA of Fine Art from the MalmĂś Art Academy, you moved to the United Kingdom to
nurture your education with a PhD that you received from the prestigious University of Westminster, London: how do these experiences influence your current practice? Moreover, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum due to your Portuguese roots and your current life in the United Kingdom inform the way you relate to art making? My experiences across 3 different countries approaching art education in a radically different way, inspired me to embrace and integrate different perspectives and ways of dealing with art â€Śand relating to the world! All those experiences, now, seem to make sense! I began by studying at Ar.co and then in Maumaus, two small private art schools, located in Lisbon. Ar.co is a school founded during the seventies in Lisbon, very drawn to the aesthetics in art, by exploring the creative sensitivity and the transcendental. At Ar.co I studied drawing with Miguel Branco and Marta Wengorovius, and both influenced me profoundly. They were gentle, inspiring teachers, who weaved in their art, their spiritual/transcendental quests, while exploring issues pertaining to aesthetics. I remember one day Miguel telling me how my drawings were edible, and his metaphor, evoking pleasure, the pleasure of doing art arising the senses, touched a chord! Marta, worked with us affects, and designed very experimental classes.
Women Cinemakers Ar.co, was a very free school, people and teachers could do whatever they wanted to, there were no grades and almost no structure. Marta took our whole class, to a workshop in the countryside in Vila Velha de Rodão, a small town in Portugal, where she led us on a beautiful journey of exploration of our bodies, sensations, drawing, and where the boundaries between what it is to be a teacher and a student made no sense anymore … I remember those days in the midst of the plains of Alentejo as profoundly blissful, and increasing our friendship towards each other. I also attended for a few years, the school Maumaus, which had a completely different ethos. Maumaus was a very political school, inspiring its students to make politically engaged art. I needed that input, concerning more the “we”, the social, after the years at Ar.co, where I’d focused more in the “I". Maumaus, was also very well connected to an international artistic network, so there, I had the chance to meet international curators who provided plenty of opportunities to exhibit on an international wider context. A few years later, in 2007, already with an established career (I had been invited to participate in Manifesta 4, Photo España 6, and in other international and national great museums) I moved to Sweden with a grant to pursue my education in order to gather an MFA. I had by then, a 4 year old son and the profound desire to leave Portugal. So in August of 2007,a quick 3h flight moved me from a super warm noisy southern city, to a cold and silent city, Malmö! Malmö Art Academy, a very prestigious art academy very popular in Scandinavia, which was founded by Gertrude Sandqvist, and holds quite a unique set of core values, inspired by feminism. The whole education there is structured around the idea of the students taking the lead. We are the ones who choose our teachers and which tutorials we need. Once, Gertrude Sandqvist, the director of the school, told me how the school evoked a psychoanalytic process. The school offers the students a large individual studio, amazing workshops, budget for projects and help from technicians. The whole school is composed of a small student body, 60 students. Sweden was an absolute delight. I had a grant, the city was great and not too big, and it had a fantastic network of support toward my young son (they have great free kinder-gardens open all day) thus I could do my artwork all day long. I was so happy…curiously, Sweden led me into a period of enquiry and inner reflexion. I didn’t understand Swedish, so that triggered many thoughts. Moving there was like becoming “invisible” to so many things, that I could not understand… I did 2 video diaries reflecting my experience in
Women Cinemakers Sweden, “Moving Away from Home”(2008), and “Now this was just make believe…”(2010) They were both exhibited there, the first one at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In the first one I reflect on my quest for finding a home, by moving away from Portugal, on the second one, I state at a certain point “I hear myself in Sweden”. Living in the silence of Sweden, where snow buffers the sound, and the landscape offers you so much whiteness, I was inspired to calm down ... and to dive into my own darkness. In Sweden, I tapped into and sorted out some of the knots of my psyche, which informed my art. With the help of Matthew Buckingham, my supervisor, a fantastic artist working with history and filmmaking, I developed a project entitled “The War Correspondent.”(2010). The film was a story about William Russel, the first war correspondent, who journaled the Crimean War for the newspaper “The Times”. The 2 screen video and installation explored how the invention of mass media communication and the printed press, in the 1850s, had the double paradoxical function of on one hand to transform war into a visual spectacle, and on the other hand, inform civil society of what was going on, in order to foster needed humanitarian changes. However the project had a deeper meaning, I realise now. Once, in a tutorial with Gertrude Sandqvist I confessed how I was always dreaming about wars, running away from wars. And she pointed out how that meant conflict. “The war correspondent” was helping me to come to terms with those dreams, those patterns of conscience imprinted in my soul from my past experiences. Anyway, life has its twists, its absurd desires, which the rational mind cannot explain. And after 4 years well established, in Sweden as an artist, I decided to move to yet another country, another city, London, to pursue my PhD. London was… wow, it is like an embodied urban experience of sudden expansion in consciousness!! Overwhelming at first. So overwhelming that I am still trying to come to terms with the whole experience. Which is radical! The University of Westminster was yet again a completely different art education experience. It is an immense University, which is evidently very structured and academic. I had now to adapt to a very standardized system of communication about your art. There was evidently complete freedom for creative expression, but the way you communicated your art, in your writing, in public artist talks, had to follow certain standardised rules. One has to do research and write about it in a certain way. Which has its merits, as I had to develop critical skills and be able to transmit those in my writing with clarity and depth. Thus I had to
Women Cinemakers leave my “arty” bubble of an artist writing obscurely about her art in such a way that only I, or a very few could understand. You are a versatile artist and your eclectic practice ranges from video and drawing to video-installation and artist publications, revealing the ability of crossing from a particular media to another. Before starting to elaborate your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.marialusitano.org in order to get a synoptic idea of your artistic production: in the meanwhile, would you tell us what makes you address such captivating multidisciplinary approach? I work by project, not media. What I mean is that what drives me is a theme, a topic, an exploration. The theme then gets expanded through artistic research, unfolding itself into a project, and I would add, the theme is also lived, embodied in my life both on a theoretical and practical level. Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian poet that I love, said once in an interview, that the task of art is to transform what continuously happens to us, to transform all these things, into symbols, into music, into something which can last in man’s memory. “That is our duty, if we don’t fulfil it we feel unhappy” he says. And this is what happens with me intuitively. Everything I live, my motherhood experience, my journey to a different country as an emigrant, the friends I meet, the conversations I have, my spiritual experiences, the neighbourhood where I live, everything is transformed into a symbol, a history, a drawing, a poem, a film, an artist book. And those elements, assembled together usually lead to a final art piece that tends to take the format of a video, and/or installation. I call my installations “immersive installations” because I try to appeal to all the senses of the audience, creating spaces (like the living room of someone) where the visitors can feel “at home” to explore the inner worlds of the stories I am telling. Different elements participate and construct my installations. With wonder, I have been discovering how by relating to my daily life through art, I am able to deepen my understanding of the worldly experience of being alive. As Maya Angelou says, “life is a class”. I am fortunate, because I can add the symbolic language of art to my experience of life. It’s like I am painting, writing, drawing, filming, and adding a sound track to my life, and that is a blessing, and all minutes count, for the weaving of the symbolical into the mundane. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected (un)childhood, a captivating art project that our readers have already
started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into relational voices and times of childhood is the way your research challenges the convention of representing children entirely from the adult’s point of view, providing the viewers with such stimulating multilayered experience. When walking our readers through the genesis of (un)childhood, would you tell what did draw you to focus on this theme?
What led me to (un)childhood was … having a child… my own child! One day, when my son was 14 months in 2004, I had an epiphany: a 14 month baby was a being with a whole experience: he could talk, move, feel emotions, and he had a clear personality (that I believe, comes also from his previous life). Suddenly I was awe stricken …. mmmm, I had had the same experience … I also had lived so much … yet, I couldn’t remember! My parents had been the ones witnessing that being, the little me Maria, before memory! And I as a baby, was already so much …. One of my obsessions for a long time,
was about the first memory of one’s life. Looking at my 14 month old little smiley boy, I just couldn’t accept I had totally forgotten when that “I” had began. That made me look more carefully at the experience of my son in order to recollect my own experience. Because relationship is a mirror, I was sure I would find answers there, answers about what it was to be a child. Little did I know how I was to embark on a voyage of relationship, construction. Ah! I was also about to begin the journey of separating from the identity of “Maria” … interesting… You see, childhood, actually, (I would
discover through the making of my project,) is a constructed experience, happening in time and space, through the relationships of both adults and children, but also the relationship to cultural constructs, social norms, entertainment products, stereotypical ideas. In my project, I wanted to find a way to show the multilayered experience of childhood, as something happening and concluded all the time, and occurring between beings. At the core of my research, was the idea of a conception of the "self" that
one could call relational self, or the inter-being. That is why the title of the project is (un)childhood, as I am breaking the concept of childhood. So, in my film, I discovered how I, and the culture in which I was embedded, (I am embedded!) were orchestrating the experiences of my son’s childhood … how I was the fabricator of his memories… for example himself playing in the park. But he was also orchestrating my own memories … and making me revisit old ones, with a new understanding! Memory is a living operation…
Women Cinemakers representing, we were making, performing, with the help of film, childhood! Another source of inspiration for this project was the experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who in the sixties, aimed to make a film that would cover all his life in 24h. He wanted to call it "The book of life". One of the best films I have ever seen, which is part of the book of life its called "Window Water Baby Moving" and it was the first film ever made, showing the birth of a human baby. It was done in 1959… It is a poetic, graphic, beautiful film, where birth is depicted openly in a lyrical and passionate way! Brakhage used to paint and draw in the celluloid creating unique textures, and his films were silent ... But he aimed to do “The book of life” in a chronological way. And on that I wanted to challenge myself. I aimed to experiment with non chronology. My goal, was to include the present times of childhood in the film, thus breaking with the idea of evolution, that implies an observant from outside, filming, witnessing, representing. I wanted to focus in the present moment of the relation between 2 beings that were communicating. But paradoxically, in the film, my own identity prevails, because the kids were not so interested in the filming process as I was. So even if I wanted as much as I could to avoid authority and the adults voice looking over and producing representations of childhood, that didn’t happen that much.
Plus I wanted to give space in the film to children’s inputs of what childhood was to them. So we filmed together and edited some bits together. I was really inspired by sharing filmmaking; methods of filmmaking, that explore co-creation. Something I discovered is that children just live life in the moment. They are not interested in analysing, representing… So I decided to call the project thesis “performing the times and voices of childhood.” More then
We have highly appreciated the non-chronological nature of your project and we daresay that your successful attempt to offer an alternative to the linear-temporal approach to the representation of childhood questions the viewers’ perceptual parameters regarding the notion of time, urging them to reconsider their own condition of constantly evolving beings. How did you structured (un)childhood in order to pursue such stimulating outcome? Were you particularly interested in triggering the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? Due to its non-chronological nature the film presents time’s multiple dimensions interwoven via montage and the use of symbolic imagery, with repetitions, suspensions, accelerations and interruptions. The film also alludes to time literally through voice, by discussing the concept self-reflexively, directly and indirectly, either in conversations about
Women Cinemakers memories or in colloquial “philosophical” conversations with friends. So the multi-layering of images and sounds in the film, is one of its key techniques. Concerning time, it is that multi-layering that enables the film to include and relate to each other all the temporal dimensions that construct childhood: both the present times-in childhood, and the times of childhood (iconography of childhood taken as a symbol), which anthropologists James and Prout state are the future, the past and the timeless. (un)childhood doesn’t privilege or exclude any of these dimensions, but rather opts to relate all of them to each other. It is the multi-layering of all the dimensions (present, past, future and timeless) what enables the film to display childhood within, rather than outside, the world of adults. About evolution, I can see that the film presents the viewer with two times, the circular and linear time, which coexist and overlap. The film is made of loops, lots of loops, and those evoke circular time, circular evolution, spirals, revisiting the same stuff again and again, through a different perspective…Hopefully, such visits into the known patterns, situations, feelings, increase depth and understanding. Side by side with that, there is linearity. A clear linear journey from beginning to end, from a question to a resolution. Frames with the words “the end” appear all the time, and other frames with text on it, pause, to ask the viewer a question: “shall we begin”? Also, the film starts with the question : “When does the “I” begin” ? So I guess the geometric format that comes to my mind is the spiral. A spiral results from a series of circles being pushed by a linear force, which crosses their axis. The spiral, evokes the idea that if we move in circles, revisiting the same topics and challenges again and again, we do that with new eyes, promoting evolution. But in order for that evolution to happen, we need to allow ourselves to question whether it is the future that brings evolution, if becoming older is what brings evolution, or if growth is rather achieved by movement in both ways, both looking at the future and revisiting the past (evolution and involution). And a way to revisit the past, is through relationship, connection with others, such as children, living now, childhood. I can see now that the film offers yet another “time”, the time of stillness, of pause. That, I can see now, was an anticipation of what I would work with in the future, as the film is, in a certain way a
meditation, pondering and searching to represent/perform, the dimension of “now”. Some of the moments where “now”, is present symbolically in the film, are in frames of noise, filled with dots of black and white, ready to begin their journey into becoming something … Your art projects are inspired by your own life experiences, that you always contextualize and intertwine with the biographies of others. To emphasize the need of a bound between creative process and direct experience, British artist Chris Ofili once stated that "creativity is to do with what's happening around you". How
does personal experience fuel your creative process? In particular, do you think that a creative process could ever be disconnected from direct experience in order to investigate particular ideas that do not belong to the realm of perceptual reality? Curiously my present project is working with the idea of exploring direct experience. What is direct experience? What is it that remains, after the fall of perceptual reality, i.e. beyond the reality available through our senses, the ones that can be measured, seen, heard? How do you transmit, evoke, represent, what you are experiencing that is
not resulting from your senses? This is not easy! And I would say that maybe that is what is real, what is left there, and what I mean with real is what is immutable. Of course, everything is real, and I am here drawing on a notion coming from eastern philosophies, the notion of â€œMaya", a Sanskrit word for â€œillusionâ€?. Maya is very misunderstood because it means illusion just in the sense that Maya is just part of the picture, it is a partial truth, as it tells us about a reality that lasts just for a while, happening in time space. But there is something, an understanding that composes that reality, which stays forever, and I
Women Cinemakers am very interested in that. I have been actually interested in that exploration all my life, in what remains regardless of movement happening to matter, that can be seen, heard, touched. I have done various art projects about this. One project that comes to mind was a short artist film called “Existir” (to exist) that I did in 2004, about a mathematician obsessed with eternity, whilst living at a sanatorium healing from tuberculosis. The film explored themes of life and death, while displaying images of old empty sanatoriums in the middle of a forest. In one particular moment of the film, she ponders if there is a mathematical formula for eternity… In another project, also an artist film entitled “The man with excessive memory” from 2005, my main character reflects on how due to his extreme memory he is cursed (or blissed) by the capability of being able to constantly review his own life in one second, being able to travel during that time span, every single detail of his life since he was born, to which he just adds the new fraction of memory, the new frame. This absurd story, was inspired by a text written by Jorge Luis Borges. At a certain point in my life, something in me made me stop writing, filming and representing my conceptual search for the direct experience, what one could call “absolute truth” and to try to do it experientially. I began doing meditation intensively, and I was particularly drawn to a set of meditations inspired by Dzogchen Buddhism. In Dzogchen Buddhism they call the direct experience, primordial awareness, Rigpa and state that it is a non human experience. I mean, it is partially human, but also beyond humanity. It is something that never changes, that is always there. But to fully experience it you truly have to train yourself, into abandoning everything that concerns perception, the senses. From Dzogchen, I moved into an heart centred meditation practice and began working regularly with Robin Baldock, a discreet wonderful teacher, working at a non-denominational spiritual center here in London, called Helios. Robin led me into working through the layers of karma, by using an embodied heart centered practice, and the process made me expand very quickly. I also attended various retreats designed and led by Greg Branson, the founder of Helios, called “Enlightenment residentials”. The retreats, aim to help normal people to directly experience who they are without having
Women Cinemakers to go to a monastery to do solitary retreats, and also, to expand and live their lives from the heart. As Greg says: “We think, we reason, we feel but we do not know.” My recent practice made me understand the simplicity of the direct experience, what one can call “absolute truth”. You see this is not so esoteric as it seems. This is real simple logical life as it moves on. To be a 40 year old, you let go of being a teenager. The child you once were, doesn’t exist anymore. So… what remains? if we just expand a little our time line, or shrink it, the perspective on everything changes and you arrive at what is, you arrive at “absolute truth”. Answering your question more directly, I think that my understanding of direct experience is what is informing my practice now, focussed around the representation of what does not belong to the realm of perceptual reality… My recent projects with dreams, with mysticism are all the result of the practices described previously. Everything is connected, so evidently no one is disconnected from direct experience or from the inner planes. And if you train yourself, you are able to tap into it more, to live from the “I” more, as Robin says. And then, you can again engage in the world of relative matter, unfolding in time and space, and you can create yet another “illusion” another temporary frame (if we take the world and what happens as an eternal video game) in order to compose our tune, for the symphony in which we all play a part. And that frame, that tune, even if relative, ephemeral, is filled with meaning. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the system you’re living under". As an artist interested in the nature of the constructed relational 'inner times', how does external reality and culture affect your artistic research? Moreover, how much artists can contribute to shape the Zeitgeist? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? Relational inner times are profoundly intertwined with external times. But sometimes we just pay more attention to the outside. If we explore a little bit more what goes inside our inner reality, our relationship with the external reality changes. For example, in a recent project I decided to explore my dreams. In order to do so, I began a
Women Cinemakers dream journal, and decided to do some collages inspired by my dreams. The collages and the dream journal immediately gave me a huge amount of insight about what was going on outside me, reflected my inside life. It was transformational because it made me look at my inner shadow stuff in me, which I needed to embrace and sort out, in order to move on, to grow. Thus I was visiting again a cycle of involution and evolution. An artist and filmmaker I truly enjoy is Alejandro Jodorowsky. He made a film entitled “Endless poetry” (2016) that really moved me. In an interview about his film, Jodorowsky spoke how he felt there was a profound need, nowadays, to find the soul in art as it had been a bit lost. How could one make films that healed (and healing stems from the word whole) instead of promoting and fostering disconnection? I feel we have a bit of that running in the current zeitgeist pertaining to contemporary art. And art reflects and re-presents where we are at, as a society, and art that is disconnected, that mirrors the disconnection in which we live. I’ll never forget a performance I went to in London, with a performance artist working with the theme of hosting. The place was beautiful, filled with plants, and interviewing her was a renowned curator, who had to leave shortly, he told us. After he left, she began her performance, which implied a free flow speech about hosting and connection. At a certain point, she went closer to a participant. She gave the participant the microphone, but the sound was not turned off, so we couldn’t hear anything and she got it back in 20 seconds, to just resume her own one woman show. Was that hosting? On the other hand, I feel that there is really amazing art going on as well, very intimate, connecting, healing … and curiously, where I see this happening is in intimate circles, alternative artist run spaces. The way we make art and distribute art is changing. Because of social media, we have access to it instantly, or we can distribute it instantly as well, if we are the creators. But the abundance can be overwhelming. As for myself and my connection to art, I feel that in order to gain a new depth in my art, I need for a while to take a step backwards, and learn to relate to my inner world, to explore my inner times in order to then be able to relate outwardly in a more profound way, contributing for the making through art, of a new story in the world, where there is more connection. Being a woman contributes to yet another facet shaping the Zeitgeist, evidently, due to some of the main attributes of womanhood, sharing,
Women Cinemakers caring, relationally, circularity. But those are attributes of humans. They belong to the realm of the feminine wisdom, yes, but men also have them, just as we, women, have access to the masculine wisdom. Again balance is what I seek. I explored that balance, between the masculine and the feminine in a recent project, called “The alchemical cabinet of desires.”
It included an alchemical cabinet, a series of 36 drawings illustrating the 10 phases of alchemical transformation, a dream diary, a collage dream-journal, inspired by my dreams, and an interview with a non binary friend, Arian Bloodwood, about intimate community.
But I totally understand what Gabriel Orozco says. Plus, I am perfectly aware that my interest in my inner reality, stems also from the Zeitgeist of the moment, and the part of the world in which I live, where certain needs (more physical) have already been met. I am aware of my privilege of having time to be able to explore the inner reality, and that privilege doesn’t happen in all corners of the world.
During the 40ties and then throughout his life, Carl Jung researched alchemical treatises, particularly the Rosarium Philosophorum, written in 1550. In various of his books, Jung described how alchemy’s investigation on how to transform stone into gold (the quest for the lapis philosophorum, or the philosophers stone) should be interpreted not only as a physical quest (which originated chemistry, as we all know) but also as a process for profound spiritual transformation and the integration of the soul in the body.
Another interesting project that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled The alchemical cabinet of desires, an art project inspired by the ancient tradition of alchemy and dreams. We have particularly appreciated the way it inquires into Jung's theories regarding the interpretation of alchemy as a symbolical process: how did you develop ed these concepts to create your work?
The final result of the alchemical process, was the origination of a new being, which integrated in itself the two primordial energies: male and female. The process, not easy, but very rewarding, was called by Carl Jung, individuation. That was, the final goal of the alchemical process, where the philosopher's stone, if understood symbolically, meant reaching the center of the star (desire, in its etymological origin means "reaching for the stars”, i.e., the inner gold).
I used to have lots of bad dreams. This was the result of my spiritual practice, because if you truly dive into spirituality it is not only mindfulness or bliss! You awaken parts in you, that you are not aware of, it’s like opening a can of worms. So I became very interested in Dream Yoga, and that led me to explore my dreams, my shadows, often expressing themselves in nightmares. One day I woke up fed up with my fear of my dreams. I had to do something about them. Coincidently I read Jung’s book “ Memories, dreams, reflections” which is an autobiography. The book really touched me. I felt that Jung was my friend, a literary one! So I began doing collages about my dreams, while reading more about Jung and his work around alchemy. The alchemical cabinet of desires, began taking shape! The project is the result of a 2 year investigation. In it I was able to weave my investigations of the inner world, with art practice. This led me to developed a very personal method of spiritual practice which included a dream diary using collage, drawing as meditation and bibliography research about Carl Jung. I like to entertain the idea that even if The alchemical cabinet of desires is a quite personal project, the way it is displayed is universal. Its final result was an immersive installation that was exhibited at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Lisbon.
To arrive to that final stage, it was necessary to go through various phases. Jung delineates those phases, organising them in 10 phases, in his book “Psychology of Transference” (1954). He also mentioned how the process tended to last 9 months, and how sometimes, before the process, there was usually an occurrence of premonitory dreams. Through the process of exploring my dreams I have become aware that I have now many premonitory dreams. While marked out with such a seductive beauty on their surfaces, your works are marked with captivating ambivalent visual quality: rather than attempting to establish any univocal sense, you seem to urge the viewers to become active collaborators regarding the extraction of the meaning from the work of art itself. Would you tell us how important it is for you that the spectator rethinks the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Yes that is very important to me. In order to truly relate, you need to work with openness… but also closure… And what I mean with closure, is more connected with refuge… like you need to go to your own
Women Cinemakers space, and that is the function of ambiguity, polarity, in the sense that it is the interplay of on one hand common universal structures and on the other the personal connection with the art work, that you extract meaning. Because that meaning is a meaning that speaks to you. Maybe it contains messages, being delivered to you… My projects are extremely symbolical, and I know perfectly well how to decipher them, but there are symbols that pertain to the collective unconscious, that everyone can get. Then, there are more subtle symbols that are different to each one of us. I like to make projects that unfold in various layers of meaning. This reflects my own personal experience. It happens to me all the time, that I come back to my older projects, or other people’s projects, and discover more and more things, more meaning, explaining my past and even, anticipating my future! Over the years your works have been internationally showcased in several occasions, including your participation to Manifesta 5 and Photo Espana 6 as well as to the 29th biennial of Sao Paulo. One of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to establish direct involvement with the viewers. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? I am very interested in relating to the audience, because my art is quite relational, always resulting from the relationship with people with whom I am interacting at a particular moment. So I guess, there is always a very humane dimension in my projects that make them, at the first moment very earthy. Plus I use storytelling and documentary filmmaking techniques, which again, enable them to easily connect with the audience. Finally, I use music a lot in my projects, to connect and appeal to the emotions of the audience. This is not strategical though, it is just the result of my relationship with daily life. This is the way I live. I am a very musical person, so there are tunes inside myself all the time. These guide me, and sooth me. So in my art, this is reflected. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Maria. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
I am doing a new project, a story about 2 surreal botanists that travel to Atlantis. The project will take the shape of an immersive installation, and it will be shown at Wakehurst Mansion (Kew Gardens, London), a mansion from the XVIth century. The installation will use film, artist books and drawings to explore a story set in Atlantis, the sunken city firstly described by Plato, in his text Timaeus and Critias. The project is particularly interested in how Atlantis has been explored by mystic movements since the 19th century. It is also the result of my own spiritual work done at Helios Centre in London as I mentioned previously, and by a residency done at Kew Garden’s herbarium in London. For 3 months I spent my days at one of the biggest herbariums of the world, at Kew Garden’s Herbarium, and that was a unique experience. One day while navigating its corridors I noticed how it looked like an ancient library filled with shelves and shelves of folders… of plants, documenting voyages all over the world . The herbarium looked to me like an akashic record…In theosophy and anthroposophy, the Akashic records are a compendium of all human events, thoughts, words, emotions, and intent ever to have occurred in the past, present, or future. They are believed by theosophists to be encoded in a non-physical plane of existence (known as the etheric plane, called Akash, which means ether/sky in Sanskrit. The herbarium is a silent and immense place, and there, I felt still, while walking through its never ending corridors filled with cabinets and cabinets of plants. There, one can just sit, stay focused... and see what "films" show up in your minds eye, from its collective psyche, its spirit. There is no time in the Herbarium, I mean all times co-exist and when walking its corridors, I feel like navigating through a tesseract of multiple dimensions. There, while researching its stories, and exploring collage with plants, I had the idea of making an immersive installation, about the inner explorations of 2 botanists, that would use plants to open up portals, in the herbarium, to hidden dimensions. So this is what I am working with now!
Women Cinemakers meets
Lisi Prada Lives and works in Madrid, Spain
Short bio. A videomaker interested in a search for balance between conceptual and sensory, between ethics and aesthetics. She uses linguistic polyvalence as a resource for simultaneous multiple layers of meaning. With three solo shows in Spanish galleries, she has participated in group exhibitions, screenings and festivals in numerous countries
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
is a experimental audio/video project by Spanish artist Lisi Prada: minimalistic still effective in its composition and marked out with soundtrack, it challenges the viewers' perceptual parameters addressing them to question our relationship with the outside world. One of the most interesting aspects of Prada's work is the way it inquiries into the balance between conceptual and sensory, between ethics and aesthetics. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted and stimulating artistic production.
Hello Lisi and welcome to : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: in the meanwhile we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. Although you have a solid formal training in Music, you are a basically self-taught videomaker: are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? Moroever, how do your studies of Psychology affect your artistic research? Yes, my training as a videomaker is basically self-taught, although I have recently participated in some masterclasses by cinemakers that I admire, such as VĂctor Erice and JosĂŠ Luis Guerin, the latter also self-taught.
Photo by Julia Florez, 2017
The experience that influenced me the most was the compilation of the work of Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio, while he was making a DVD with footage from different media, especially with the material provided by David Trueba, more than an hour of filming that he did not use in his film and that I mounted in different episodes; it gave me great satisfaction to edit it and even though I had made some homemade videos [eg, , 2000], it encouraged me to continue researching in this field in which I found my best way of expression: paraphrasing McLuhan, for me, the montage is the medium, it is editing that allows me to articulate the ‘message’. I believe that what one has read, seen, heard or experienced is present in our works themselves, want it or not. In this sense, as for my studies in Psychology and Psychoanalysis, it is an added point of view, with a more visible influence on video essays, although also on the meaningful double meaning and word-image puns that I like to include in my work —For example, in this piece, with the use of uppercase and lowercase letters in the title, a double reference is introduced: electric-electronic, the first belongs to the second industrial revolution and the last to the one we currently live in, with the information in zeros and ones. What remains since before the first industrial revolution [steam], is water… 'e pur si muove'. we have For this special edition of selected , a captivting experimental video that our readers can view directly at . What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the liminal area where reality and imagination find a consistent point of convergence is the way you have been capable of providing such multilayered audio/visual experience with captivating aesthetics. When walking our readers through
ELECTRonIC water, 2013
ELECTRonIC water, 2013
Women Cinemakers the genesis of , would you tell what did draw you to focus on this topic? Moreover, could you elaborate a bit about the influence of Zygmunt Bauman's work on your artistic research? Thanks for considering it like that. For many years, I have been in the habit of filming water in the cities I visit and, as I like to travel a lot, I have a good file on it. This work in particular is more intuitive than formal; it is not about applying my knowledge in psychology to influence the viewer, it is an attempt to share emotions with the other. I tried to find a point of convergence between an ecological issue —the importance of water in our lives— and the need to preserve it, both as a vital object —three quarters of the surface of the earth and of the human body are water—, and as a cultural object: water is a good conductor of electricity and this work aims to produce you —in contact with your eyes—, a little tremor in your aesthetic and ecological consciences. The association with Zygmunt Bauman comes from his formulation where time is fast and everything around us is evanescent, unstable, fluid, provisional, ephemeral... and individuals, easily adaptable to the changing mold that tries to make us replaceable subjects of consumption, that is, objects. I consider it an essential reading to get closer to the understanding of our world, like the works of Boris Groys, Hito Steyerl, Georges Didi-Huberman, Harun Farocki, John Berger... and, of course, Walter Benjamin, to understand the contemporary world of art in particular. Rich with references to environmental references, through such captivating non linear narrative style, unveils the channel of communication between reality and the realm of imagination capable of offering to the viewer a multiplicity of layers of significance: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order
Scopic Drive, 2015
Imago Imperatrix Mundi [Image Empress of the World], 2017 to address them to elaborate personal associations? And how open would you like your work to be understood? I work with a conceptual and emotional archive in which I keep images that make me feel or think and I hope they can also make others feel or think. My approach could be encompassed within the since I work with few means: seduction by images, corresponds to advertising; there are other spheres in which I like to intervene, in a simple way and without great pretensions. That reference to the channels of communication between reality and the
realm of imagination, could lead us to think about Bachelard's , the close relationship between reflections on the water surface and the oneiric matter as they remit to the endless dynamism of imaginary worlds. Water is a vital element and the restless reflections in the water has always seemed to me very suggestive, an opening for the imagination and the senses. About your question, I like it to be understood as openly as possible; they may or may not carry a meaning, or a possible symbolic deepening; in this particular work, it can be an
Imago Imperatrix Mundi [Image Empress of the World], 2017 emotional experience, nothing more. My proposal is to let yourself go through the aesthetic enjoyment starting from
is that they do not provoke anything, that they leave you indifferent.
the metamorphosis of traces of light and shadows on the water surface, where vibrations spread according to musical phrases; the dialogue of broken rhythms, the metallic fluctuations of the undulating vibrato, sometimes shiny, sometimes as in a whisper. It will come in a different way to
The minimalistic and rythmic sound tapestry created by Hatori Yum provides with such uncanny aethereal and at the same time convulsive atmosphere: how do you see the relationship between sound and moving images playing within your work?
each of us, depending on how the spectator is placed before the work, with their own cultural baggage, memory, sensitivity and experiencesâ€Ś the only thing I would not like
That relationship is just the essence of this little work since the composition of Hatori Yumi acts as a warp on which I
am constructing the visual language. Images, in a certain way, dance with the composition, since this quest tries to emulate (never to the letter) the theme of the acoustic layers, and to follow the variations suggested by the sound pitches and frequencies, since by favouring an unstable equilibrium, the continuum of the sonic net with an obsessive corporeality is broken by a high-pitched noise announcing â€”in crescendoâ€”, other sound layers, colours, distortions and new frictions in the sequential synchronisations: the golden planes are accelerated or fractured by the black & white, or the abrupt appearances of colour, be it fleetingly or continuously, giving birth to various sensations produced by daring sounds and visual contrasts. Here I worked with a self-imposed rule: not to manipulate images in their visual aspect just in their temporarility [with any eventual duplication of layers and the use of black and white]. What may seem as visual effects (some sparks propagating into vertical lines and solid colours) are nothing but the result of a defect in the camera lens: an error might lead us to a little finding; it came in very handy for the synchronisation with the sound samples and glitches in the geography of soundscapes of Hatori Yumiâ€™s composition. Proliferous researcher, the works by Hatori Yumi are full of tiny nuances, of daring contrasts and conceptual progressions; so I found in their works, an ideal complement to develop my proposals. I am very grateful for his generosity. deviates from traditional videomaking to develope the expressive potential of the synergy between images and sound: especially in relation to modern digital technologies, what is your point about the evolution of visual arts in the contemporary art? That synergy and that expressive potential of which you speak are part of what I am interested in developing; I want to show
Almost Invisible. Two poems to Syria, 2018
Almost Invisible. Two poems to Syria, 2018
that it is not necessary to have the last model camera to be creative: it is a personal position in front of the consumer society. Human beings are creative and that potential is what we have to develop to invent a better world. I'm interested in recycling images with errors, using homemade recordings and taking advantage of failed images because I think that the gaps and errors can become factors that lead to change. Regarding the evolution of digital technologies, any change of paradigm involves addressing the facts from a different perspective, the visual arts and, in general, contemporary art have been very sensitive to these effects. From the technical point of view, in the audiovisual field, at the beginning of this century, the maximum resolution with which we made recordings has become obsolete; we have gone from 480 and 720 to 1080 and 4K, it has been multiplied exponentially, in parallel with the increase in resolution of the screens. It is about exponential changes in all senses, with very relevant psychosocial repercussions. If the ways of showing contemporary art change, it is also necessary to learn to look differently. From another point of view, we have overcome a first crisis of contemporary art 'that increasingly becomes an art of indistinction' [Jacques RanciĂ¨re] but we arrive at another greater abyss because it seems that Quality is now defined by capital and markets. What redeems art is that from that crisis of identity [end of History, death of Art, etc.] new modes of expression were generated: if the cinema has focused on the story, the novel, narrative literature, videoart introduces a new language, closer to the experimental cinema of the early years and closer to
Silent Recicling Man [ Postcard], 2012
poetry than to narrative: another way of saying that the word can even become mute without stopping to say and where the rhythm, the accentuation, the music, occupy privileged places that open a multiplicity of connections within the discourse of what the image is actually saying [and its interweaving with the sounds] in the audiovisual language. That is why, as for contemporary art, I am especially interested in what happens outside the markets, although, since Bourdieu theory, one must ask oneself if it is really possible to be out of the market. As Hito Steyerl clarifies in we now self-exploit ourselves, we are willing to work for the sake of art, without any remuneration beyond self-satisfaction or the thickening of our curricula. It does not seem very encouraging, unless we continue to idealize what we associate with . We have particularly appreciated your economical use of digital technology: while it seems that editing is crucial in your practice, we daresay that you are most interested into creating works of art that contains perceptible glitches that works as epiphanies on the subcoscious of the viewers, suggesting a continuous evolution of your work of art. How do you consider the relationship between digital technologies and your work as an artist? In particular, do you think that anew sensibility could be generated by new media, as online technosphere or interactive artworks? Well, the possibility of my work as an artist in this field, was opened precisely thanks to this evolution of digital and optical technologies, before that, it was unthinkable because many means were needed to make a production; that is in the very origin of video art. What was previously done by complete teams of specialists in each area, now is done by only one person.
WEB [triptich]. Installation, 2016
WEB Installation, 2016 A still[triptich]. from
Women Cinemakers As for the technosphere, it is already a fact: it is creating new sensibilities and it produces a cognitive dissonance because one is amazed at the creative capacity of the human being: the advances are spectacular but, at the same time, the human being is a generator of garbage, there are tons of plastic in our oceans. Regarding virtual societies and social media, it is a fortune to be able to talk instantly with people who are in the most distant countries, collaborate with them, exchange ideas and experiences, etc, but it is equally true that all these exchanges are compiled; the big data, which, up to now, had only been used for advertising, we already know that they are now being used for other purposes as well. Individualism, ego and narcissism grow, it is easy to notice and it is increasingly necessary to cultivate a critical sense, an education of the gaze in the world of the image. Technologies are not good or bad in themselves, it depends on how we use them. Interactive and immersive works of art are also part of the present and continue to be developed day by day, they will probably reach our homes and maybe that virtual reality will eventually disengage us from the other reality... I'm not very optimistic about it, I think that depending so much on the screens makes us not only controllable beings through surveillance but also beings that are very easily manipulated. Most people take for granted the news they see on TV though, if you have more sources to contrast them, the fallacy becomes in neo-capitalist societies. evident: the so called Another interesting work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled and we have been fascinated with the way it conveys both sense of intimacy that comes from your genuine approach to images and the urgence to interpret them in the context of the video: how did you conceived the visual unity of this video and what did inspire you?
Women Cinemakers I was inspired by this extraordinary human being, Simone Weil herself, whom I consider a revolutionary mystic, an intelligent and generous being like few others; It is worth exploring her biography and her writings. The idea arose because I was invited to participate in a collective exhibition [with graphic work, painting, photography and sculpture] in a small gallery in Madrid, Ra del Rey, on the occasion of the gay pride festival in our city. It was about each artist choosing a homosexual character who were known for their works and not for their sexual condition. I was a little naughty and I chose Simone Weil because she exceeded all the limits of that scheme, and I wanted to show it on a small screen, in a corner of the gallery, as someone infiltrated there to talk about her condition â€”which was neither homo nor Heterosexual. I used an ambivalent language in her speech that can be understood in relation to her choice for chastity and the of immaterial and, at the same time to the statute of video art, a pun that I do not know if it is translatable into English [in Spanish and are the same word: ]. At that time, in my country, video art was a very marginal branch and very rare in the exhibition spaces and this was a way to show that invisibility within the visual arts. Over the years your works have been internationally showcased in several occasions, including three solo shows in Spanish galleries. One of the hallmarks of your art is the capability to address the viewers to question their own cultural and perceptual parameters. So before leaving this interesting conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of medium is used in a particular context?
Simone Weil. En el รกngulo oscuro, 2011 ['that goes beyond aesthetics'.]
With Jonas Mekas at Visual Arts Center La Neomudejar Museum. Madrid, 2017
Women Cinemakers What motivates me to create is an inner need and desire; the possible response to the external acts only when choosing which work, already done, for which specific context, for which audience, but not as a motivation to create in one or another direction. I like to experiment with different genres and there is a gap between the creation of a video essay, in which I urgently ask questions or say something to someone, usually something that has to do with evidencing some issue I think it regarding the is necessary to think about [ex. in excess of images and the loss of the aura in the visit to the Museums, turned into a mass spectacle, or , about the selfie phenomenon] and an abstract video, like the one which this interview has focused on, in which the playful and the challenge of combining image as best as possible with the work of the composer of the score plays an essential part, or a poetry film, where the voice fulfills a rhythmic function similar to that of music in its imbrication with visual language, to which the poetic word is added.
projects that I have in mind but it is necessary to adapt oneself to our own reality. Last month I was invited to give a workshop , at the Espacio FundaciĂłn TelefĂłnica de Madrid, framed in Jennifer Steinkamp's exhibition ; that was a new experience for me, and the result has been very positive, although I prefer to focus on the video creation.
Yes, fortunately I have been able to show my works in more than forty countries to date and I have to say that I like to show my videos in the temples of art as well as in alternative places. If I worked thinking about audiences I would use another type of camera, another type of images and I would focus on some kind of subjectsâ€Ś then, my works would be accepted in the exhibitions seeking a commercial product but, as Chaplin said, 'it's not my business'.
Outside the sociopolitical art, right now, I'm starting a new abstract piece that wants to honor an admired creator of the avant-garde and beginning to imagine a new exhibition that I hope will take place in one of my favorite spaces of art in my city, the Visual Arts Center La Neomudejar Museum.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lisi Prada. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? What I try is to continue improving my work day by day; I would like to have more time to be able to carry out the
The last one I've done uses eight languages and is titled and I wanted to prerelease it at the Hotel City Plaza in Athens, a place occupied by volunteers to help the many refugees who arrive in that country fleeing from the horrors of theirs [not only Syrians] and the motivation comes from having known their country in 2010, before the conflict began with their dictator Assad, who is massacring its citizens in a real genocide that is not outspoken because nations [including mine] are still negotiating the sale of weapons, so they seem more interested in maintaining wars rather than ending them.
It has been a pleasure to answer such interesting questions. I am very pleased that you have taken time to understand the point of view from which I work, I really appreciate so much care and depth! Many thanks to WomanCinemakers!
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant
Women Cinemakers meets
Giang Pham Lives and works in Tuscaloosa, AL and Denton, TX Giang Pham received her MFA from the University of Florida and BFA from The University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pham's current visual investigation looks into the inheritance of trauma as she experienced from living in post-war Vietnam and later in U.S. poverty. Pham's art practice includes installations comprised of still and moving images, crafted and found objects, and performances (as events and experience). She also actively collaborates with other artists and works with professionals in other fields.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Rejecting any traditional classification, the artistic research of multidisciplinary artist Giang Pham starts from the inheritance of trauma as she experienced from living in post-war Vietnam and later in U.S. poverty. In the body of works that we'll be discussing in the following pages, she walks us through a multilyared journey to inquire into the concepts of discomfort, pain, and the futility of daily rituals, to trigger the viewers perceptual and cultural parameters: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Pham's stimulating artistic production. : we would Hello Giang and welcome to start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BFA from The University of Tulsa, Oklahoma you nurtured your education with an MFA that you received from the University of Florida: how did this experience of training influence the evolution of your artistic sensitivity? How does
your cultural substratum due to your life in post-war Vietnam and as an immigrant in the United States direct your artistic research? My family practiced wet rice farming in the southern region of Vietnam before we immigrated to the USA. We lived in poverty after the war and struggled to be fed daily. The discipline and diligence of working everyday, especially doing work with a precarious promise of reward, were habits and ethics my parents brought with us to the United States and continued to cultivate in their children. I bring this way of working to my art practice out of necessity, since there is no promise of reward in the visual art. My early experiences of living in Vietnam and the issues I faced growing up in the United States directly feeds the content of my work. All the way into graduate school I was under the impression that my early life experiences were deemed unsightly, uncouth, and it should be buried away. The idea that I experienced trauma from growing up in poverty and again dealt with a different flavor of abuse in the United States, and combined with the many
Women Cinemakers unresolved issues of gender and racial differences—it was all too much to bear, much less unpack and shared. But most of all, I was made to feel shameful of that past. It took awhile for me to unpack the residue of colonialism and classism as the root of that shame. It had such a huge impact on my upbringing. My actions, my parents’ daily choices, and even my siblings’ interactions with the world were colored through the lens of these experiences. Instead of being burden and controlled by them, I decided to channel these personal experiences into meaningful conversations and through the best form I know how—my visual research. But I don’t want to romanticize poverty (or the position of the Other). It’s a condition that amplifies the worst aspect of a person and continually tests their virtue. I’m interested in being real, unapologetic, and brazenly present in my work. I’m interested in facing the issues in a poetic way through the visual art. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such stimulating multidisciplinary feature, and your art practice includes installations comprised of still and moving images, crafted and found objects, and performances: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://altimablossom.net in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme?
It relates to necessary adaptation and exaptation, or rather of survival. Under strict limitations, I learned to be creative with my resources. When I was ripped from my native Vietnam and transplanted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I could only count to twenty in English and say, “My name Giang.” I had to sneak past teachers to use the bathroom because I didn’t know how to task. The first English sentence I strung together by myself was, “Can I use the bathroom?” It came from being in ESL class for two weeks and learning conjugation, and after an embarrassing incident in the second grade when I wet myself in front of all my classmates after the teacher caught me trying to sneak off to the bathroom. That experience changed the way I thought about navigating the world—I can only survive if I understand the system and make choices that are right for my circumstance, which is then brought into my art practice. I take what is available and make the best use of it,
Loss and Leaching Field. Preparation work for installation.
Loss and Leaching Field â€“ Conclusion.
Women Cinemakers even if it’s not done correctly sometimes or not used for its designated purpose. It would also explain my interest in a wide range of materials and processes. Part of surviving is being adaptable by having a wide range of skills and continual learning. Each material, process, and art medium has what Paul Crowther termed in Phenomenology of the Visual Arts as . When I choose a medium to explore in my work, it’s from this understanding that I could tap into the phenomenological depth of that medium or material and use it in conceptualizing and formulating the idea. For this special edition of we have selected , a stimulating experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://youtu.be/nZP0Aef8wNg. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the conflict of internal needs with external demands is the way you have provided the results of your artistic research with such multilayered quality: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell how did you develop the initial idea? Most of my work started out as an urge to do something. I don’t ignore these urges because there’s usually something important hidden underneath. During a walk at the I-Park Artist Enclave, I came across these patches of really long thin grass that reminded me of hair and I had the urge to comb them, which was wild because I don’t even like combing my own hair anymore. I used to have past-floor-length hair that I cut off during my sophomore year of undergrad. I grew out my hair for that length because long hair is still seen as beautiful by Vietnamese standards, and my dad encouraged me. I didn’t realize how silly it was until I cut it all off, but the motion of combing and grooming, which took years to master and was such a huge part of my daily routine, were still so ingrained in me. Much of the content in my work isn’t fully developed until I’m working on it or till after I’ve completed it. At the time, I was trying to gain some summer muscles through exercise and training, which
Training a Parting – Day 1. Site at start of performance. is still an important part of undoing a lot of the damage from childhood malnourishment. I wanted to do something that combined my need for physical exercise and art making. As I raked and combed the grass at IPark, I was also reminded of my dad’s daily habit of grooming our yards. Instead of using our lawnmower, he would wake up daily
and trim our yards with a pair of scissors. I grew up helping him weed the yard and helped with daily yard trimming while listening to his stories of being in reeducation camp after the war and the undercurrents of his struggle to adjust to life afterward. It wasn’t until after he passed that I realized it his way of dealing with PTSD.
Training a Parting – Day 1. After 200 strokes of raking—100 strokes per section is a meditation on discomfort, pain, and
person. But I love it! I’m a staunch believer in being boring in my
the futility of daily rituals: how do you consider the
daily life in order to be extraordinary in my work. I wake up
relationship between direct experience and your creative
everyday being thankful for having the power to delay hunger,
process? Does daily life fuel your creativity?
escape pain, and find solitude in my home and at work. This is a
My current daily life would seem utterly boring to the average
relatively new space for me—the space of having basic needs
Women Cinemakers met in order to reflect on and process more psychological needs. During my formative years, my daily life was a struggle. I didnâ€™t have the power to improve my situation. All I could do was ignore these issues by studying my way out of poverty and escape through video games with my brother or read an inordinate amount of books. Simply surviving at that time was more important than analyzing and processing the situation. My now boring daily life makes the space necessary for me to focus on that difficult work through my visual research. So I hold onto this order and control as a necessary condition to be innovative in my work. While inquiring into the nature of rituals, reflects a conscious shift regarding performative gestures: how would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your practice? I frame improvisation under problem solving. It happens in the moment of making. The best way for me to describe how improvisation manifests in my specific art practice is to again compare it to wet rice farming. The discipline and diligence required for a successful harvest is something my parentsâ€™ children learned through observation and practice. Even with strict discipline and a clear path, there were still problems that cropped up and we had to solve it. There were weeds that required continual maintenance. Our neighbors stole our crops one season so we had to find other ways to tough it out, such as cutting down forest trees to produce charcoal or subsidized losses through our cashew orchard and the various other crops we grew. There were also continual disagreements about fence lines and who had been inching over whose rental field. This is in addition to battling pests and the elements with no guarantee of a bountiful harvest. In order to survive, we had to learn to deal with disappointments daily and recover from it quickly. One season my parents grew purple yam and a neighboring family came to our field the night before harvest and stole the entire crop. It was morally and physically devastating, but we survived that disappointment by picking the little thumb-size yams the thieves left for larger ones.
Training a Parting â€“ Day 1. After 300 strokes of rakingâ€”100 strokes per section over 3 sections
Training a Parting â€“ Day 2. After 300 strokes of raking in the rain.
Women Cinemakers If something doesn’t work out in my art practice I problem solve it very quickly and move on. Sometimes this is so second nature that the improvisation seems a part of the work. Also as an artist and educator, I often think about the creative process from multiple approaches so that I could fail in the most wonderful way necessary and improvise fluidly. When I take the bottom-up approach to plan out via brainstorming and conceptual research, I build up an idea from scratch. This usually involves lots of free association and bad sketches that eventually get refined into a better idea; this is also the approach I teach students in my foundations art courses. It’s great for when I begin a body of work or something new. When I’m confident in a general idea of what I need to work on but need more variety in execution or just to jazz it up, I take a top-down approach. In this instance, I’m limited to the topics and materials pertinent to the current body of research, and from there I experiment with different technical applications to see any other possibilities. This is the approach I teach students in my more advanced art courses, who have better directions but need more variety. It also sounds pretty simplistic, but I employ both approaches during the creative process as well as problem solve many issues that crop up. Using a naturalistic style, your performances draw heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way in you created such insightful between the environment and performative gestures: how do you consider the relationship between environment and your performances? I grew up being all up in the environment and the environment trying to get into me. I climbed cashew trees in the orchard around our mud-walled house in Vietnam, dug up little fishes in muddy rice trenches, fought ants that climbed into my ears, and dodged leeches when playing in the floodwater of rain season. All of these forces were frightening yet fascinating. I loved to observe the little big events in the environment. When I was five, I flipped over these large bark pieces my dad placed under each pillar of black pepper vines so I could watch tiny whitish-yellow baby snails slowly move around to get away from the burning light. And then I had to fight the urge to
Women Cinemakers touch them or not touch them—to learn through the tactile experience that may crush these little creatures or to just observe their slow toil for survival. I ended the internal debate by giving them the avocado paste my mother made that was too rich for my unrefined taste at the time. I flipped the bark pieces back to hide my crime of wasting food from my mother. Being in and interacting with the environment was how I first learned my relationship to the world. There are things that are threatening to me and there are things that I am a threat to. I seek gestures and forms that reflect this relationship, and how my experience mired in trauma forms an undercurrent and becomes a metaphor through these relationships. For , I was trying to negotiate my family’s work in the rice fields of Vietnam, contradicting beauty standards for porcelain white skin, and my relationship to the environment. So I groomed and braided these nine rows of growing grass for three days during the hottest time of the day. I documented this process to share through a stop-motion and a fast-tracked video. I didn’t realize why I was doing it until after I completed the installation. We have been highly fascinated with the way you involve the viewers to such multilayered experience and we daresay that you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? How open would you like your work to be understood? Most of my works come from a very personal place, sometimes a bit obscure even to me and from very specific experiences. I’m driven to create work by those experiences which comes out as urges, but I don’t seek to illustrate them in the work. Rather these experiences are abstracted through gestures and forms. This abstraction is important in order to reach beyond my individual compulsion. I’m interested in distilling my personal experiences into a general and universally relatable issue. It is through ancillary means such as my artist statement, artist talk and lectures of my work, even this interview that I get a chance to tell the background story or specific experiences that fuel the work. All of it is important, just not all at once or in one form.
Training a Parting â€“ Day 4. Training under dappled lighting.
A still from Training a Parting â€“ Conclusion. Site arrangement to compensate for camera angle distortion.
Women Cinemakers We have appreciated the originality of your works and we have found particularly encouraging your unconventional approach. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I’ve continued to be excited to see what unfolds for and from women in interdisciplinary fields. The voice of half of the population have either been dismissed and unacknowledged or outright oppressed into obscurity. It is this knowledge that emboldens me to make work that appears unconventional or uncommon. If I don’t use my voice and contribute to these conversations, it will be lost. But this way of operating has been difficult. Most everyone I meet wants to put me into a box so their cognitive dissonance wouldn’t be too demanding. I once went to a professional development workshop that trained participants to come up with an elevator pitch in groups. My group kept on asking me to be more specific with my materials and methods and less on concept and approach, but that would have defeated the exercise. Most professional development is one-size fits all, which is frustrating for outliers. Heck! Most of the world is one-size fits all. And part of not being a neat package is also how often I get rejected, which is a lot more than my peers. I don’t make sellable work so I’ve contend with being an educator as my main source of income (to be fair I love teaching), and kissed being collectable good-bye. I could make really derivative work just to get in the scene and then break out, but that feels hollow and the urgency isn’t there. I think it’s going to continue to be difficult for women to pave new paths in interdisciplinary fields. Despite the difficulty, there’s no other way for me to function but be this outlier. You actively collaborate with other artists and it's no doubt that interdisciplinary collaborations as the one that you have established over the years are today ever growing forces in
Women Cinemakers Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? My approach to art making and conceptual training allow me to fluidly move between disciplines, especially in a collaboration. For me, it’s about finding similarities and a worthwhile common goal for all involved, and making something new or different out of it. When I make my individual work, it’s the same approach except I do everything. I don’t even believe in studio assistants for menial tasks or even friendly help from peers. It’s part of my fiercely independent nature and the necessity of processing tough issues through my work. But when I collaborate, it’s very much a two-way street. There has to be fair division of labor and value. I use collaboration as learning opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to have had training in grad school to ensure successful collaborations. In my art/science collaborations, I spend an inordinate amount of time just talking—learning with my science collaborators. Being in different fields require us to talk out our predispositions in order to get somewhere worthwhile. This is the part I love! It very much reflects my formative experiences adapting the life in the United States. Once we’ve arrived at a point of mutual understanding of our disciplines—that art is not all emotional, irrational, and beautiful illustrations of concepts or that science is not all just rigid and logical operations with clear-cut answers, each discipline has its own way of offering a different understanding of the world. A successful collaboration taps into the strength of each discipline as well as the strength of each collaborator, that is in addition to the usual variables and problems we juggle in an art project or science experiment. It’s like teaming up with someone who speaks a different language and navigating new terrains together. Even my collaborations with artists also present similar challenges. Instead of having a whole different language to learn, each artist
Training a Parting â€“ Day 7. After 2100 strokes of raking over 3 sections.
Training a Parting â€“ Wrong site day 3. After completing the third day on the first try, I had to restart due to incompatible site.
Women Cinemakers has to put aside goals that benefit the individual. We must look at what a team could accomplish together. If I could accomplish something by myself what a collaboration would be able to do together, then it’s a one-way street and I won’t participate. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Giang. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Currently I’m working on embroidery paintings and drawings. I’ve been thinking a lot about labor, specifically women’s labor and work done by people of color, and how language has shaped our world views even when we’re suffering. I’m using the words and phrases related to class issues and abstracting them to the point of being barely legible. The repetitive labor involving the whole body in my performances is distilled into small repetitive movements with hand embroidery. These repetitive movements are important because it relates back to that rice farming background of my family. As I work on these compositions, I’m reminded of all those Martha Stewart and PBS shows on craft and embroidery, and how they have helped shape my can-do attitude toward visual art making. I’m also seeking a negotiation between craft and fine art in relation to labor by women and people of color in this new body of work. I’m very excited about the direction of my work in general. I consider it a gift to continually be excited in this way. I may look back and realize how horrible the idea was, but in this moment I’m working out some important stuff, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
Myrna Renaud Sharon Lomanno Prologue
my recurrent dreamscape blossomed into a
profusion of color and texture, bodies and
Since last Friday I have been carrying my list of
languages, sound and movement. It touched and
questions to be answered and topics to be addressed
shaped the signifiers of that scandalous
like a charm. Challenged and motivated alike with
monumental site-specific non-ending event where
Women Cinemakersâ€™ requests, critiques, catch
sensations of extreme pleasure and delight
phrases, allusions to our statements and texts
transposed by way of action into multiple
regarding the aesthetics of
choreographic outdoor urban scores. It was
L A P S U S, and all the theoretical references; I welcome my Self into their / your realm.
libidinous visual beauty. I saw site managers, dancers, facilitators, artists, technographers, movers,
A good friend once said that I hatch my ideas before
scenographers and observers deciphering
allowing them into fruition. I impart the warmth of
perimeters and the all-encompassing ambiance. All
conscious rendering and protect the unborn from
this action developed in a scale so grandiose I had
shameful parroting and from spilling superfluous
to displace and migrate for lengthy periods of time
niceties through unforeseen cracks.
in order to grasp the full scope of the composition, as in Life.
So last Saturday and Sunday I paid attention to the quotidian, in order to dispose momentarily the task at hand, knowing all too well that I was simply hatching it. Turning nocturnal attention to the art of dreams,
*** MR L A P S U S has a long standing process.
For twenty years (1997-present) I have conducted in Puerto Rico, Barcelona and Lisbon a movement-sound laboratory to research and test the healing and creative empowerment of humans through a non-contact partnered system of intuitive improvisation. LetÂ´s break it down. The system is titled La Voz Que SanaÂŠmrm1997-2018 which translates literally to
practiced and discoursed in four levels of proficiency and has a strict technical foundation of fundamentals in contemporary dance, body-mind centering, Chi Gong, experimental and post dramatic theatre, vocal, sonorous and conscious breathing exercises of my design, spatial awareness development through improvisational games that run the gamut in intensity, tempo and change of levels, and a broad spectrum of afric-centered rhythmic and movement structures from the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean. Experience in dance or vocal technique is not required for the practice of levels 1, 2 and 3. The desire to delve head-on is the only pre requisite. Each person is tasked with the composition of a vocal sound phrase. This
composition will be taught
to his or her partner and vice-versa. It will be directed to the specific point of the
body that is targeted for
A still from
Women Cinemakers healing for the duration of the lab. The content of this sound phrase can be sourced from anywhere in terms of style and epoch in history, or truly composed for the occasion. It should be brief and easy to teach and assimilate. Needless to say, the couple goes through a meaningful encounter in this process. As trust builds, histories, intimacies and traumas are disclosed. The main premise in the experiment is that the group work (a true cacophony when you have 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 couples working simultaneously) creates a sonorous mass which inhabits the space, energizing and reverberating through the input of movement, sound, breath, presence and time. There shall be no touch or physical contact. Space is the medium or binder. In the committed intent of giving to the , each participant will nourish and trustingly be led by his or her intuition into an improvisation that is clear and honest, fuelled by the repetition of the composition which produces harmonic passages through spontaneous convergences. Once the couples are formed, either by choice, chance or the direct intervention of the facilitator, the experiment of â€œgiving and receivingâ€? (axiom of
the method) commences, rigorously conducted by the facilitator in a highly choreographic system of real time transitional silence/stillness actions making way for a reversal of roles in order to complete the “giving and receiving” respectively and respectfully in a cycle.
In Level 2 “receiver” responds with movement. Again the duo performs the silence/stillness transition twice in order to fulfill a cycle. In Level 3 “receiver” interrupts the “giver” randomly and the roles are instantly reversed. This process of interruption goes on until the facilitator calls to the
In Level 1 “receiver” practices absolute stillness. The
silent/stillness transition. In this level the technical
duo performs the silence/stillness transition twice in
order to fulfill a cycle.
in quartets and the efficacy of the method vis-à- vis
the ensemble is sub grouped
its resulting composition is collectively observed,
serendipitous soundscape! Level 4 is exigent in every
analyzed and reviewed.
way. It needs a minimum of sixty four hours of lab
In Level 4 participants learn everybody´s (
composition). The scheme of vectors,
work and at least fourteen participants. It becomes public, site-specific and an outdoor performance
possibilities, odd encounters and queer
event. In twenty years it has been produced,
consequences enters a multi dimensional quantic
presented and performed twice: 2009 and 2014.
portal as duos-turned-into-ensemble multiply
movement/sonorous relationships in all their
La Voz Que Sana©mrm1997-2018
possible variables given the amount of participants. A
«Nivel 4/Umbral 2014»
*** I visited Montserrat twice in the course of the summer of 2005. My visual impression of the gorgeous landscape was indeed breathtaking. One has to literally stop and acknowledge the fact that the mountains speak of a time underwater thirty five million years ago. The environment in Montserrat commands attention, offering monumental shapes and variant hues of terracotta, green, and blue. One must observe as far as the eyes can see and immediately close them in order take in the beauty of stillness, of being present and the joy of breathing healthy air and oxygen. By means of disciplines and systems, scientific research informs our intellect of proven facts, yet our sensory awareness fathoms the topography and conditions of the Earth during that age by paying attention to the collective unconscious and the symbolic script and imprint of semiotics in our daily practice of constructing and deconstructing art as we inhabit our pinpointed processes. Time is inasmuch a reduction to the core, atom or cell of perceptual reality as it is a compilation, juxtaposition or conglomeration to infinite degrees of imaginative constructions. Time can be made and not seen. It can determine form from its invisibility.
Scale, what a gift! I foresaw my concept for L A P S U S then, but I had to wait for the right moment. As the obdurate Portuguese writer JosĂŠ Saramago said: I returned to Montserrat in the summer of 2017 with Sharon Lomanno. *** SL I see Montserrat as the body, soul and intellect of a woman. Lying in stasis underwater, she arises huge, powerful, larger than life-size, awe inspiring and eternal. After that prolonged and forgotten existence, hidden from view and undergoing timeless abuse and wrong doing, woman decides to bear witness of her subjugation and share her knowledge. Women are like the huge stones of Montserrat, with tough skin scarred from struggle and exposure to hardships, jagged shards of underground ruins that although recessed and deeply buried will timely explode and surface at any and all costs. In L A P S U S, the imaginative historical path I established in order to observe the primal movement in the dance of life was created through a sequenced
Women Cinemakers edition. Henceforth: ascension / the clearing sun,
within the aesthetic strategy established at the onset
breath and sky / rocks, earth and stones / from
of production. I repeat: ascension / the clearing sun,
amoeba to woman / unveiling / peeling off layers / in
breath and sky / rocks, earth and stones / from
sobriety / now.
amoeba to woman / unveiling / peeling off layers / in
Our scouting visit to Montserrat (my first, although I
sobriety / now.
had previously spent five years in Barcelona) was a
tour of wondrous fascination. To be nestled in the
The movement phrases I performed for the shoot in
grand womb, the sacred container, the meta-uterus
the sites scored and revisited in Montserrat by
of Mother Nature furthered my awe. We spent the
Sharon were not choreographed or rehearsed. They
best part of the morning understanding the
purposefully emerged from my original idea of the
luminosity, organic forms, clearings and spots in the
tiny fly reposing in the crevice of the rock. The
pathways, keeping in mind that for a short video-
concept elicited the movement. The body was
dance piece we did not want an excess of content.
centered in the idea and triggered to physicality by
The afternoon was ingratiating as the sun and
the weather conditions, ambiance, heat gradations,
shadows exposed another view of the landscape.
texture of the terrain on my bare arms and on my
We returned a week later to shoot with Jordi Arqué, a faithful collaborator from my Barcelona days, new in the terrain of Myrna Renaud´s style, timing, improvisation vocabulary, sonic architecture, kinetic experience and minimalist tendencies. Jordi, dancer and videographer, has vast experience working with Butoh creators and many contemporary dance choreographers and companies in Spain. L A P S U S’ visual consistence is a combination of spontaneously selecting and shooting content
clothed torso on the ground; texture, color and graphic patterns of my garb, sounds of visitors in proximity and the sounds of my feet shuffling, scrambling and sliding on the different surfaces. In the state and time of the fly’s moment of repose, I sought to be closer to her physical smallness and very distant from a representation of her form. Scale determined the movement content through sense memory. ***
In 2012 in Barcelona, I met Sharon, who was working
videoperformance L’Estaca was post produced, with
with the great Tai Chi - Chi Gong martial artist and
Sharon’s videography/edition. Later that year we post
performance artist, Ayako Zushi, and she immediately
committed to a tangential six month experiment of
my direction we co-edited her videography and co-
Levels 1, 2 and 3 of La Voz Que Sana©mrm1997-2018.
composed/designed the soundscape.
Halfway through that residency in 2013, the
En Blanco where under
In the summer of 2017, Sharon and I coalesced in
research/performance spaces of the city, Espai La
Barcelona for the production of L A P S U S as
Tregua and La Blanca Performing Arts Lab. Sharon
culmination and closure to the two week mixed-level contemporary dance technique & improvisation/composition/sound/rhythm intensive
was a full time participating mover and of course, Montserrat was on our minds.
workshop I conducted for the dance/movement community at large in two fantastic
A still from
MR & SL
Women Cinemakers The balance between sound and the flow of moving
racism, and all the phobias of the contemporary
images in L A P S U S derives precisely from the
practice aforementioned. It is an aesthetic motor well understood and assimilated both intellectually and physically. Furthermore, we can translate and transdiscipline that knowledge into the moving sound of image for as we have experienced, in life, everything is movement and sound and it stems from stillness and silence. Voice is the body empowered. The comingling, conjunction and conjugation of sensory
We are of different generations (Myrna 64 years old, Sharon 35 years old) yet we sustain that the very definition of art making is the affirmation and crafting of personal and collective ownership as well as research and practice of the distinguishably different, self sustained, uncompromising and uncensored work. Are we unconventional at all? Yes by certain standards, and definitely not by our own or by the
awareness research is learning and comprehension
standards of the artists whom we gravitate towards
beyond logic. We consciously strive for the
synergistic practices of networking, collaboration, co-
equilibrium of the ethereal and subtle bodies by
authoring and co-production within the vast
grounding the tangible experience of presence in the
geographic periphery and the entrenched intimacy of
physical world and thus in performativity. Teaser
our ideas and aesthetic desires. We are women in the inter/multi/pluri and trans disciplinary field of contemporary art. Present as
Are we unconventional artists because our respective and collective approaches are singular, rare, original or uncommon? Or are we unconventional artists
exemplified by Marina AbramoviÂ and as the uncontested beautiful and uncanny Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector said:
because we strive to disengage from and contest the shallow, complacent, mass produced, institutionalized
patterns and molds of so-called artistic and cultural
In my work, across media, collaborative structures,
practices that permit and encourage misogyny,
diversity in settings and circumstances of exhibition,
Women Cinemakers performance and installation - the relationship with the
a sit-down screening, yet having chairs available for
audience (or viewers) is by design, one of engagement
those who need them or want them.
from the onset. I aim to invite their participation
through their physical proximity to the players,
My grandfather was an illusionist by trade practicing
elements or scenography. More often than not,
his craft in Florence in a theatre house called
spectators are willing to accept the reality of being
Exiled from the north of Italy by Mussolini he ended up
inside the piece. In a wisely designed and carefully
in the south, malcontent and bitter. He was rough and
negotiated public space, for example, passers-by can
callous and generally cruel with his offspring. His father
choose their degree of distance, proximity, or
had been an unconventional cinematographer whose
integration to the piece.
films had been censored and in 1910 was banned from
the Catholic Church due to his polygamous practices. Varying degrees of this disposition can trigger viewersâ€™
My father is a classical guitarist by profession, a talent
perceptual parameters into constructing personal
inherited by one of my siblings who cut short her
interpretations that are factored into instant non-
career as a concert musician, remaining active in her
verbal reactions or more protractedly, feedback.
local and innermost circle.
Sharon and I are looking forward to the outdoor public installation of L A P S U S in the Festival social TUDANZAS in Barcelona on April 28th in Plaza Pou de la Figuera. A one and a half hour loop of the piece on
As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandfather listening to his stories and witnessing many of his yet as all illusionists are want to, he never disclosed the secrets of his masterpieces. With this familial constellation, how do I not assert the
an adjacent wall in a scale of sixteen square meters,
role of cultural influence in my craft as an artist?
approximately thirteen repetitions. The concept is to
My permutation of this legacy is the choice of a
install an ephemeral mural with stereo audio playback
liberating reaction in a constant search of the
as people stroll, stay, leave, react, move, talk (to each
one who is very different from me. Art is always an act
other and to us), by all means avoiding the formality of
In my current collaborative research with the female
the perfect human being, using of course all the
poet Siham Mehaimzi, a nomad artist of Saharaui
genotypes: African, Indigenous American, East Asian
origins, we are writing
on the skin and
videographing the results. The medium we use is an ordinary and inexpensive magic toy, a pen that writes
The HG00737 individual, a Puerto Rican woman,
“invisibly” with an integrated lighting feature. It has a
resulted as very close to perfect. Refining his result,
charming effect on human skin for when the light is
Pachter then concluded that this individual would not
applied to the scripted area typography-as-symbol is
be human, for its defining genes would dilute within
made into words and comes to life. Poetry will arise
the population. My point is that our genetic imprint
from the screen of skin, filter through the lens,
determines our proclivities but also our mysteries. The
transform in edition and permeate into other surfaces
fabric of culture is a mixture of our molecular structure,
inventiveness of the mind in call and response mode, in action and reaction, in history over time. My future is
sustained in crafting into production the next site-specific
The racist comments of James Watson, winner of the
installation-performance of Umbral, anywhere in the world,
Nobel Prize for psychology and medicine in 1962
and to continue the experiment.
provoked indignation and disappointment among
many. Watson was obsessed with the “betterment” of the imperfect human via genetic engineering.
In 2014, the computational biologist, Lion Pachter,
And I spotted Takehisa Kosugi. He also was
published his findings regarding his experiment to
whimsically installed flexing metal sheet with the pickup,
determine the origin of the perfect human being.
propelled by the energy-producing water filled punching
He incorporated the SNPedia data base which
bag, droned a tune in
investigates human genes in accordance to magnitude and medical conditions, integrating an analytical component in order to determine the provenance of
Women Cinemakers meets
Athene Greig Lives and works in London, United Kingdom
My work takes the form of painting, installation, film, sound and sculpture. Fluctuating between these mediums I aim to continually challenge what my studio practice is and how the work takes form. Taking influence from contemporary culture and literature, I use fragmented and re-assembled imagery and words to evoke feelings of playfulness and the poetic.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Hello Athene and welcome to : we would like to invite our readers to visit in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we will start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training
and you hold a BA (hons) of Fine Art in Painting, that you received from the Glasgow School of Art: more recently you took part on the Turps Studio Programme, London: how did these experiences influence the evolution of your artistic sensitivity? Moreover, how has your cultural background directed the trajectory of your artistic research? Answer this question. Write it before the oven timer goes off because I am hungry and tired.
From London to Gloucestershire to Edinburgh to Glasgow to Edinburgh to Glasgow to London to Glasgow to London. From drawing and painting to installation back to painting then experimenting a lot then using any medium then back to painting. Stop. Art school sets the discipline of going to the studio. Gap from art ..Go back to it a bit later. Traditional foundation course in painting and drawing from life. Glasgow was four years of developing a painting practice, finding who you were. All my year group painted on canvas apart from a few people. Tried to be a good girl. In the final year, started making things using material and furniture and did an installation for degree show. It all went in a skip afterwards. At Turps I flung everything out of my head, heart and hands and tried to play as much as possible when in the studio. It is a course for painters run by painters but I did not physically paint much until the second year once things came together. It is where I first used film as a medium.
Mum is a painter so I have grown up around her work, and seeing her go to the home studio. She is part Chinese so we have an interesting collection of things from the Far East that has shaped my eye for objects. Eastern philosophy, minimalism with feelings, everything has it place. History. My parents love classical music and books, both things are a big part of my research at the moment. Reading is a big aspect of my research and I have let it influence my work more and more as I enjoy language and using words, feeding them in. Let the things you love come in to your work. Push and pull. Don’t forget to have fun. I have answered these questions the way it feels right. If they seem (un)edited it’s because they maybe are. Take a risk, even if you feel you are it still seems safe, not risky enough a constant challenge. I don’t like talking about myself let alone writing it down. It’s not about you it’s about the work, it’s about everything else. “Beep beep beep beep” good timing.
Women Cinemakers For this special edition of we have selected ,a stimulating performance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can . be viewed at What has at once captured our attention about your work is the way it invites viewers to recontextualize the idea of home, providing them with a multilayered visual experience. While walking our readers through the genesis , would you tell us how of did you come up to the initial idea? I made this video near the end of my first year on the Turps course. I had bought a pink comb from my local shop just because I liked it as an object and took it in to my studio. You can see it in Image ? wedged behind a pipe on the studio wall. It must have ended up back at home somehow as I canâ€™t quite remember why I used it in the video. It was an instinctual thing.. Reflecting on it now I think I was using it as a tool to connect to my surroundings and create a tactile and personal image without including my whole self in the video. I think the comb was replacing the
Women Cinemakers paintbrush in some wayâ€Śas if the comb is painting the living room and everything in it. I filmed this piece on an Ipad as at that point of the Turps course I was interested in just doing and making in a lo-fi way without over-thinking stuff or worrying about the outcome. That is why it is also unedited and made in one take. There is one point in the film where you can see my reflection in the mirror; this was very purposeful - so that the viewer can make the connection back to a sense of person and place. Home and out with the studio being a part of how I make work and where to draw ideas from. Comfortable. I had only just begun using film as a medium so I felt very amateur in terms of equipment and how to do it so I used my Ipad or small camera and just filmed stuff without thinking about it too much. I used my own home as the setting as I wanted to make something with a personal connection and because I felt comfortable filming in privacy..Iâ€™m quite shy ;) I had only lived in the flat for a few months, my boyfriend and I had moved in together so I think I was exploring that feeling of a new home and time in my life. I am using the comb to physically connect to the furniture and our belongings. Mapping of a personal space.
Women Cinemakers Delicate/subtle, hint of aggression? Domestic A very familiar object used for beauty being used out of context but still in a domestic setting. Funny. Life revolves from mostly being at home, workplace or the studio. Subtle performance. I am not a performer. Music plays a crucial aspect in your video: why did as the you choose the song soundtrack? What did you aim to trigger in the viewers? The song is written by Lee Hazlewood and recorded with Nancy Sinatra. I used it to add another layer to the video and also set the pace to comb to. I liked that it is a duet, two lovers talking with and teasing each other. Its humour suits my work well as I want it to have an element of wit and playfulness running through it. I wanted to use their voices to give another human presence in the video that wasnâ€™t me. The lyrics are cheeky and suggestive.. Hazlewood once said. I can really indentify with this. My work is rarely about one thing, it is unfixed.
A still from
By showing the record playing in the video helps show that is shot in real time. I wanted the music to be in the room with me and not added over the top afterwards. The length of the song also helped set a time scale â€“ the video is the length of the song. Elements brought together and make up parts of a whole thing. Humour. Narrative and language. Lyrical. Music set the rhythm and movement of the comb and hand. I leave it up to the viewer to respond to it however they wish. Another stimulating work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled : this work can be viewed at . German art critic and historian Michael Fried once stated that 'materials do not represent, signify, or allude to anything; they are what they are and nothing more.' What were the properties that you were searching for in the materials that you
Women Cinemakers include in your artworks? Scrunches like a maquette, a mini set on the studio workbench. A film in a film. Subtle colours. Probably to contradict and work in parallel with Fried’s quote. Simple materials can be used as a red herring when actually there is a lot hidden within them. Of course they are just what they are but also they are not. Once they have been chosen and used. Give significance to something otherwise quite ordinary. Connotations of something. Crude. Properties – immediate, ready to use, throw away, lo-fi, raw, familiar, everyday, Things that are to hand. fuckity hhhm Materials! Language, words. Colour. My use of materials is varied it can include paint, fabric, clay, cardboard, objects, text. Lots of things working together simultaneously. Intimate. With familiarity comes a sense of intimacy. Appear casual but are used in a controlled way. Examples
Egg trays from local café Cardboard Table cloths from the Pound shop Photocopies rather than expensively printed photographs. Office quality everyday copying. Paper from a childrens scrapbook Off cuts of canvas Balloon found in the street Make a lot of notes Read lots You draw a lot from everyday life's experience and we have appreciated the way you bring elements from daily life to a new level of significance, as in Polish/Chalk/Comb, that can be viewed at . How do you consider the relationship between direct experience and your creative process? Does daily life fuel your creativity? Video work very much so. Experiences into ambiguous Letting them soak in and then come out. Don’t know it at the time. Things pop up or repeat themselves.
I have tried to let daily life in to my creative processes as much as possible as for me this is the most fluid and ‘easy’ way of working – this can happen by accident or intentionally. I allow myself to be influenced by both my surroundings and day to day experiences, from the mundane to the personal to the emotional. I am not the kind of artist who can detach or wants to separate my work from my life. Even though I think I am quite a private and internal person… The every day is something anyone can relate to and that sense of familiarity appeals to me as a way to involve viewers with my work.
My need to be creative comes from that unexplainable urge within. If I haven’t been in the studio for a while I start to feel frustrated and have a clogged up head. Being creative for me is a way to release and explore things I can’t put in to words through making and doing. It is a difficult pursuit. Daily life is fuel for thought. Things I see around me, hear or come in to contact with go into a memory bank or becomes notes on a page to start ideas with.
Women Cinemakers My watercolours were made from writing down stuff and colours seen around the city, I then used these words as prompts to start paintings with. Rather than attempting to establish any univocal sense, you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations: would you tell us how important it is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you conveyed in your work, elaborating personal meanings? How openly would you like your work to be understood? Itâ€™s very important to me that a viewer interprets things through own perspective and feelings. This is out of my control. You can set it up but how it is taken is completely up to whoever is looking at it. I am ok with my work creating questions that may or may not be answered. I think my work is layered in meaning but is also simple..in that sense I hope that it is encourages thoughtfulness. One of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to establish direct involvement with the viewers: do you consider the issue of
audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of artistic language is used in a particular context?
In terms of decision making when I am in the
think a lot more about the audience. Of course,
studio playing around then I donâ€™t think much
it needs them to exist.
about audience reception. Iâ€™d rather work
The solo exhibition with Dolph Projects that I
spontaneously without worrying how it will be
presented at Sluice Art Fair last year really
received. Until it is time to exhibit then I will
helped me concentrate on thinking about this. I
Women Cinemakers slowed down for a few months and considered the works and how to present them to an audience. What should be included, how to present it, how much to reveal or not. The individual visitorâ€™s involvement was going to be what made the piece come alive. Their ears and thoughts. How it made them feel or connect to what they are looking at and listening to. This exhibition can be listened to here As the work was to be looked at the same time as listening to an audio guide I had made, every aspect had to be considered by the minute. I was trying to combine a lot of my works in the same space and the audio tied them together. The use of either voice, music, photography, object, painting â€“ now I think about this a lot more, it is very important to choose. Be decisive. Which mediums are used to convey what and how and why and to who? We have appreciated the originality of your works and we have found particularly encouraging your unconventional approach. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something
'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I have found that the more free and playful I can be in the studio then the happier I am. I to my desires to tend to hold on be a painter. It is not a romantic pursuit. Most difficult and rewarding thing I do. Everything I make stems from the view and thought process of a painter (colour, composition, marks, surface, material) and reflects on the history that come with (the act of) ‘painting’. Recently I have felt more open to thinking about myself as an artist as this means that I don’t have to define my work and instead it can be anything. Or rather painting can be anything you want it to be. The future for women artists to me is looking very bright, we are bright, in all senses of the word. I am grateful to the generations before me that have voiced their opinions and struggled a lot more in order to be seen, heard and valued in their fields. There still exists an
imbalance in terms of representation ETC but I feel confident this is improving. Audre Lorde – is written on my studio wall at the moment. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Athene. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Editing, editing, editing. Collaborating with my fellow artist Sandi Hudson-Francis. We took part on the Ferrara residency in Italy last year and worked together to make some films. We’re screening a selection of these as part of an exhibition at the Copeland Gallery, Peckham in June. I am working on another audio guided exhibition, I want to include moving image as part of it too. The over all plan is more ambitious so I am taking my time to develop the new pieces, read and think. . A description of loss via a musical score. I am hoping to find a curator to work with and space to show it. Support.
Women Cinemakers I would like to make a publication of the last audio exhibition so the images and text can become a paper based object. Look at old work. Connecting things together. floating my continual boat both the Agnesâ€™ (V and M) Chantal Akerman Blues and Pinks Carson McCullers Ana Mendieta Spring Summer Autumn Winter Window blinds Octavia E Butler Opera singing walks in Brockwell park Thank you so much for asking me to do this interview! Did you ever? Not so much, that you could notice Could you estimate how many? 8 or 9 Will you do it anymore? As soon as you walk out the door Well I just wondered, did you ever? All the time
Could I fix you once more? No thanks I just had one Then how about a nice big.. That would be just fine Is there any special way No, whatever you say Well I just wondered, did you ever? All the time Does he look like NO he taller and more handsome Yeah but he is old Oh no he's young and he's in his prime Does your father know? I'll bet Uh huh.. I haven't told him yet Well I just wondered, did you ever? All the time But just for old times sake That will be much harder Then how about Well are you sure you don't mind Hey, I know just thing for us No, I'm afraid I'll miss my bus Well, I just wondered, did you ever? All the time
Women Cinemakers meets
Amber Tutwiler Lives and works in Lake Worth, FL, USA
“Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself…” -Foucault, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, 1984 I am an interdisciplinary artist who works across oil painting, sculpture/installation, audio, and video. My work is a meditation on interface; specifically, it is concerned with the interface between our physical, corporeal world and the heterotopic spaces arising from the world – what Foucault described as “placeless places” in his essay, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias (1984). These places are so assimilated that our bodies have become symbiotic with them, becoming invisibly dependent on visibility. From a feminist perspective, female bodies are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, as they are fetishized in the anonymity of Internet spaces. Even in the most common interfaces, at the very least, we become two-dimensional reflections. Luce Irigary explains, “… Privileging the flat mirror, a technical object exterior to us, and the images which it gives back, can only generate for us, give us a false body, a surplus twodimensional body” (“A Natal Lucana,” Women’s Art Magazine, 1994). I am concerned with how the body becomes integrated into this voyeuristic digital melting pot, oriented as landscapes that are not concise in their place, time, or consent. Though the viewer is inclined to believe there is something real about what is seen (at least at some point), the method by which this information is delivered is very un-real. Translucent color, warped planes, optical portages, and fringe interference patterns intersect the body; consequentially, there is a tension between what feels like a moment of intimacy between the viewer and the subject, and the reality of the subject’s digital infidelity. This transaction moves as quickly forward as it does away, revealing nothing but an interface: a surface to which mediates multiple points of contact. Ultimately, my work traps this transaction, bringing body, space, time, and interface into suspension. As Omar Kholeif said so well, “This is all the product of an ongoing symbiosis between life and technology. We have come into an age of ongoing digital preservation; the unending documentation of the human self has become one of the primary affective experiences of day-to-day existence…” (“Navigating the Moving Image,” Moving Image, 2015).
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Amber and welcome to : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about
your background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your MFA in Painting from the University of Miami, you nurtured your education with an MFA in Visual Art and Mixed Media, that you received from Florida Atlantic University: how did these experiences influence your artistic evolution? Moreover,
Women Cinemakers how does your due to your previous studies of Psychology direct the trajectory of your artistic research? First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity. I appreciate all of the thoughtfulness that was put into these questions, and the hard work your team continually puts forth into this magazine. Just a quick clarification: I only received one MFA in Visual Arts (Mixed Media) from Florida Atlantic University. I did begin my studies at University of Miami, but left along with a couple other artists to boycott the curriculum’s traditional approach. Florida Atlantic University accepted me under the conditions that I would work in an interdisciplinary manner. The chair of my committee, Julie Ward, was a huge influence as she thought in terms of materials and feeling; she studied under Ann Hamilton and her research was fluid in Deleuze and Guattari. Coming from a school that put pressure on single medium disciplines, I was relieved to see the flexibility between mediums, and what each medium brought (or sometimes dragged) to the table. In my studies, my first understanding of medium specificity, popularized by Clement Greenberg, left a huge footprint on my thoughts. My early schooling (pre-psychology degree) was very classical, highly influenced by hyperrealism and the Atelier. When it dawned on me that painting served to convince the viewer that it was something that is it not, the lie was all I could see. It was an object meant to deceive the viewer that it was something other than an object. The paintings I was doing at the time lost their meaning; they made more sense on the floor than on the wall. This is out of no disrespect for painting or painters; my love for the medium and my respect the action (and the process) will always be remain. But the result from painting – and object with an image on it – seemed like a cheap trick. Two-dimensionality was nonexistent. When people say, “Painting is dead,” I think they are referring to a shift from believing the two-dimensional illusion of the painting, to recognizing that a painting takes up space, has
Women Cinemakers time, and is more than an illusion. It has an influence on a room. That paint itself falls when you drop it. It has agency. This was cathartic. My interest in psychology was always geared toward perception, and how that perception holds an “identity” within it. It is miraculous to me that our brains process complex information, store memories, create emotions, and generate logic that is consistent with a lived world – that a whole world is housed inside of my head, and that my head can manipulate a world outside of it; that the world outside of me and the world inside of me are linked by the interface of my skin and my senses. What the brain uses (chemicals, neurons, synapses, etc.) to process this lived experience is a miraculously coded to a world of science, math, art, love – anything we can think of. I remember thinking to myself, “the brain is a pen that can write on itself.” The brain can change itself, and if it changes itself, it changes our lived experience. It happens inextricably and instantaneously. The science behind our perception, and the fantasy of pursuing neuroscience in conjunction with other theories, is what led me to get the degree. But the reality of me being in a lab coat with the patience to perform tests all day in a clean and sterile environment was just not there. So, back to art. Needless to say, I think the way we process information, and the role our bodies and experiences play in that information, has always been a point of focus. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with feature, that allows you to such stimulating range from oil painting and sculpture/installation to audio and video: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating approach?
How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? First, I am aware that each medium carries with it both the benefit and the weight of the medium. For instance, painting is a natural heterotopia, or a “placeless place” as Foucault coined. The benefit of that is, as long as we recognize that it is an illusion, we can exploit the illusion (because the painting “knows” itself to be deceptive). Digital video also knows itself to be a mirage; it is convincing you that something is there that is actually not – it is fragments of light, and it is using a digital place, a digital code, to generate “content.” The beautiful thing about sculpture is that is . It doesn’t fake a shadow; it has a shadow. It is tangible. It is the real world. The medium is made from something that lives in the same physics that we do. Knowing the characteristics of
each medium is a huge platform for my work to rest on, and to a large extent, this aids in the choices I make about how I select each medium. In a more superficial way, I recognize that my need to be multidisciplinary has to do with my fluctuating preferences on a day to day basis. Painting, shooting/editing videos, and creating sound are private acts. Painting, however, requires a ton of materials, and I am a notoriously messy. So, I recognize that there are days where I crave that, and there are days where I don’t. My current studio is in a fairly public building, so it is common for someone to enter my studio when I am there – which is something I contend with while working. The sculpture community is an atmosphere that I adore because of the sense of collaboration. Most of my wood-
working is done in a woodshop where others are present. If I am cutting a large sheet of plywood, I need a receiver; that even if I’m lost in my own world, I make sure someone else is in the room for safety reasons. Making work, especially larger work, requires a team. Despite being a natural introvert, I work very well in collaborative settings. I am genuinely appreciative of all the hands that have helped me, and that I have helped back, in the making process When it comes to filming, editing, and creating sound, I love the silence of the room, the focus of the process, and the intimacy of working from home – and that I am truly alone, since I live alone. It also lends to the development, or the awareness, of the media I work in: that I am alone in a room, using my body for source imagery and video, which will eventually be broadcasted into a “public” space. As you can
guess, all of my work starts from this place: my body, alone, with a tool that has an interface to “capture” it. It is very much in the likeness of Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room.” My body has parameters, both within me (skin) and outside of me (the room), and a new parameter is introduced - the screen which brings my body outside of my current physical parameters, while displacing time, or co-creating a new sense of time. It is all very magical, mysterious, and even terrifying to me. we have For this special edition of , an interesting experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once impressed us of your video is the way it chalenges the
Women Cinemakers viewers' perceptual parameters and we have appreciated your unconventional approach, to provides the audience with such a multilayered visual experience. When walking our readers of , would you tell us through how did you develop the initial idea? It occurred to me that, like the parameters of painting, we ignore the edges and surfaces of our digital screens to see into the illusion of what is being delivered to us. These interfaces were really places to “see through” to something else. If we happened to be looking at a photo, there are qualities about that photo that we ignore to capture the whole of it: that is was taken at an unknown time in a place that has space around the photo that is invisible to us; that at the surface of it, the surface is both emitting and reflecting light; that if you magnify the image, it is made up of DPI, or dots per inch, and other code. We assume to know what happened to the subject in the photo, just before or after the photo, based off what little information we know about the photo, like the turning of an exposed female back in a dark room (which ). I wanted to use this is the source imagery for information about how we perceive photos to create a subtle narrative about that photo, while undermining it’s “wholeness.” I wanted the photo to admit it was a photo, while also making aware that even a photo has “time” for the viewer. If you put a photo up on your screen and leave it there, the photo doesn’t move; you - the viewer - are experiencing it in a linear time-based manner. That is something that the subject of the photo is unable to do. Filming these two photos, emphasizing the limits and vulnerability of being a subject of a photo, and the agency that the viewer has over the photos, was my intention. was As you have remarked once, the goal of to record photos of photos, with the intention of undermining the quality as well as the spatial/temporal location of each image. How did you structure your process in order to achieve such stimulating results?
Women Cinemakers The process for this work was highly organized, and needed to be. Labeling photos and videos correctly to keep track of my process was integral to the making of this piece. I began with two high-resolution photos of my back: one with a slight turn, and another with a dramatic turn. I then took a photo of each photo, leaving bands of light and dark, a fringe interference pattern, over the image. I took the resulting photos and gradually lowered their DPI to 1 pixel per inch, saving each step between, resulting in 24 photos with various degradations. The fascinating thing about this degradation is that each photo, from various distances, appeared intact, despite the close-up observance of pixels. I then filmed each of these photos from 30 seconds to a couple minutes, capturing this wave interference pattern. In some cases, I filmed very intimate details of my body that you could get from “zooming in” to a photo - details like freckles and scars and moles. I wanted to allow the viewer to feel this intimacy; that my body and their body are in a shared space, despite the screen. , to be I allowed myself, as the “viewer” in present in the film by including my hand touching the screen, though this was accidental at first. I adjusted the screen for a better filming, assuming I’d edit my hand out later. But it occurred to me that making a viewer presence known, and emphasizing the tension between subject and viewer, was fundamental. The implication of this, of course, is that we generate narratives from photos that serve our own purposes, and that sometimes, these purposes are sexual in nature. There is an agency that the viewer has over a photo; the photo is to the viewer to use, so to speak. So, when the viewer touches the screen, he or she is in effect touching a version of my skin. This is implied not only in the interaction with the screen, but also how much the viewer “moves.” There are shots that are nearly violent with how much movement there is in camera, which is the assumed vantage point of the viewer. This
is, of course, confusing for the actual viewer, because he or she is forced to assume a first-person perspective. Like VR, the hand in the film becomes the viewers hand. He or she may not even enjoy it, but the viewer becomes the voyeur. As for the editing, I layered the photos in my editing program from back 1 (slight turn), hi-res to low res, to back 2 (dramatic turn), low-res to hi-res. In part, I wanted the viewer to lose themselves. But I need the viewer to come back to reality: they are interacting with a digital body. It was always a digital body. Not that the experience is any less real, but it does question the nature of intimacy and agency in these kinds of interactions. We have highly appreciated the way you addresses the viewers to explore the ambiguous point of convergence between the real and the imagined. As an artist particularly concerned with the interface between our physical world and what Foucault once described as “placeless places”, how do you consider the relationship between everyday life's experience and the digital realm in our contemporary media driven age? “We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-byside, of the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skin.”—Michael Foucault, (1984): When I first read this quote, it gave me chills. Written in 1984, it poignantly addresses what happens when we have multiple points of intersecting identities. If I take a photo of myself and upload it to the Internet, I capture a moment; but I am also giving a piece of that moment (and my identity) to anyone who views it - which happens at various points in time
Women Cinemakers (perhaps even years later). It does feel like an “ambiguous point of convergence between the real and imagined” because the . am real; my photo becomes Internet is because it is a perceptual reality to the viewer. I become there, imagined in the same room as the viewer, irrespective of distance or time. This virtual space with public sharing the imagined moment. And we experience it constantly. Photographs are instantaneous methods to deliver information, and we scroll through them, one after another, subconsciously remembering bits of information about each one, creating mini-narratives. These photos digest into our memories and become inextricable from our own experiences. As I sit in my bed, am I experiencing the sheets under my legs, or a distant online acquaintance laughing at dinner via an Instagram story? Is there a difference between the two experiences? If we are given information in this way, and become attached to it (even addicted to it), where are our bodies and identities located? Are we present, or are we somewhere else? And what happens to that moment – does that become a memory of my own, or am I invisible in that memory, a ghost, which was imagined from the moment it was consumed? As you can imagine and deduce from my tone, I am concerned and ask a lot of questions. It was odd enough that we could point to a mirror and say, “I am,” and mean both here and there. But now, we have a much more complicated mirror and heterotopia – the Internet – and we choose what we mirror into it as much as we choose what it mirrors back to us. And by “we choose,” I don’t mean to say that we have complete personal control over it. There is an illusion of agency over the Internet; I know there is data about the Internet version of myself that is being scanned and updated constantly, feeding back to me what it thinks I may want, like, or buy. What I mean to say is, what we feed into it becomes a loop for what it feeds back to
us. I find this particularly frustrating because identities become data, pieces of code. I am already concerned with imagined memories between human to human digital contact, but I also worry about essences of “me” becoming fragments of computer memories, as well. For someone who spends the majority of my time thinking about new media and new media theories, I land on the skeptical side of it. I am, perhaps more than others, concerned about how information I place on the Internet is used at the hands of unknown viewers (and computers). That being said – I use it. I can’t ignore it. Platforms are built on it. Sound provides your video with a mesmerizing quality, as well as with such enigmatic and a bit unsettling atmosphere: how do you consider the role of sound within your practice and how did you structure the relationship between sound and moving images? Sound, to me, enigmatic. My dad was, more or less, a sound engineer. He built musical equipment for recording, playing, and amplification; I spent my whole childhood around sound, either watching him build it or listening to his products. While he was always focused on music, I preferred the sounds that no one noticed. My appreciation for subtle sounds, or white noise, is deeply ingrained. I’d exchange loud music for a quiet landscape any day. (still one of my Conceptually, I am inspired by John Cage’s favorite pieces of all time), and Brian Eno’s . Both made it clear that to experience sound is to experience atmosphere. Sound and atmosphere are co-created, inextricable. My experience with sound is to emulate the atmosphere, or tone, I am setting. It much easier for me to do this if I can become aware, phenomenologically, of what sounds I am making, isolate them, and then match them with my intended mood through various adjustments. For instance, at
this moment, I am typing on the keyboard of my computer, and I hear the steady sound of an AC unit working too hard against the heat outside. These sounds by themselves might be soothing, but if I were to raise their pitch and slow the speed down, you would hear a haunted sound – one that is a ghost of what it used to be. This sound will have an authority over the visual; it will give reference to an external experience, but it creates an internal landscape. I divide the relationship between sound and moving images into two categories: compatible or asynchronous. If the visual is in likeness with the sound, it is compatible; the sound becomes an extension of the visual. If the visual is in contrast to the sound, it is asynchronous. In this case, the viewer has to form a relationship between two seemingly unrelated sounds and make sense of it , I took advantage of the conceptually. In the case natural sounds that were created in the filming, isolated them, and digitally manipulated them, so I’d consider my relationship between the sound and visuals be mostly compatible. I wanted to imagine a mood that the visuals would set, implying something both sterile and primal, attached and impersonal. It was definitely important to me that, like the construction of the video, that there was a sense of audio degradation. I used sounds from my bedroom: a chime, my hands on the table, the sound of the camera moving, a metronome, and my own voice, and layered it in a way where each layer was re-recorded, allowing some feedback and distortion to enter back into a new layer. I also wanted to insinuate a “climax,” or a place where the human element becomes most recognizable, bringing the viewer back to their own body – and making known their complicity in being a viewer. establishes a We have appreciated the way channel of communication between perceptual reality and the realm of imagination: we find this decision particularly
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interesting since it seems to reveal that you aim to address the viewers . Are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to ? In urge the viewers to elaborate particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Exactly: I want viewers to to responsible agents. The anonymity of the computer screen provides a façade of security – we feel both invincible and invisible in our moments alone, witnessing others’ lives. But in that moment, there is an exchange happening; it is not passive. I cannot witness something and not be responsible, to a certain degree, for that witnessing. My presence, just in looking, creates more than a perceptual experience; it creates an imagined moment. Personal associations are inherent to our imagination. That imagined moment sustains other moments like it; it builds. It becomes routine. The culture of looking behind a cloak or interface makes us all numb to what we are extracting from what we see, because we assume we are safe to just look. And while we are “safe,” perhaps physically, there is a psychological and phenomenological component that feels irresponsible. We are being shaped by what we see, and we are shaping it. We participate by looking. To elaborate on the “imagined moment,” I am going to bring an example of a studio visit from a passerby. The viewer, in this case, was an older male, and he was looking at a painting of mine, The conversation went something like this: Him: I like this painting the most. It shows the most skin. Is this a girl? Me: Maybe. What do you see? Him: I hope it’s a girl. I think she is naked. Me: Maybe it is a girl. But what if it isn’t? Him: I’d be uncomfortable.
This conversation established a few things to me: 1) That he finds females sexually attractive. 2) That he is imagining her naked. He has undressed her. 3) That he is comfortable communicating his sexual preferences to me, a female, and a stranger. 4) That a male body would make him uncomfortable; that he doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable. I am inclined to ask why we automatically associate “skin” with “female,” even when no indication of gender is showing – but I think I know already. I’d like to see a synopsis of John Berger’s written on every image, indicating we’ve been trained to see. In terms of openness, the moment the content is released publicly, I let go (much like an image in social media). I may try to predict how it is seen, but once it’s made, I know I am no longer in control of the imagined narrative surrounding it. I suppose I analyze my work scientifically in that every response or interpretation becomes part of the “data” of that work. When I get feedback, I will try to work out conceptual kinks, of course. Should someone look at my work and think, “you want to see more women naked on the Internet,” I’d probably backtrack and see what I did wrong. But, for the most part, I believe that the moment you release something to the public, you stop owning it.
dealt with some unfortunate circumstances surrounding unwanted and unwarranted sexualization. It is rare that I even post a photo of my face anymore. I’ve been told that I should – that it would help me “promote” myself. But I can’t buy into that. My parents installed the Internet when I was roughly 13. It was dial-up, and the Internet was limited by that phone line – the moment you received a phone call, you got “kicked off” the Internet to receive that call. The time pressure established a culture of getting to the basics first: A/S/L? In any chatroom, it was always the first introduction. Not even your name was asked first. When we think of sterile, we think of hospitals – something cold, impersonal, and functional. But even at the doctor’s visit, you are always asked your name first. I’d say that the digital realm more sterile than spaces we associate with sterility: first, are you of the type that I could talk to and have sexual interest, and second, what is your name. I do think we are getting better – especially with the #metoo movement. More is still to be done, but I do see progress.
We have particularly appreciated the way your video highlights the unstable relationship between the sexualization of the female figure and the sterile quality of the digital realm: do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?
We daresay that new media will make stronger in our media driven contemporary age: do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new sensibility created by new media? Moreover, as an artist particularly interested in , how is in your opinion technology affecting the consumption of art by an ever growing spectatorship?
I absolutely do. There are experiences that have exclusively happened because . I can analyze when, all conditions being equal, an outcome occurs specifically because of my gender. I am perhaps overly aware of what I post on the Internet, and who I allow to take photos of me, because I have
When Duchamp signed a toilet with R. Mutt in 1917, he liberated the artist. Conceptual art became a cultural conversation at large, not so much about the individual, or what that person was seeing, but about ways in which are trained to see and think.
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This is important because I absolutely think that new media makes stronger the bond between art and technology. I don’t think our roles have changed so much – I think Duchamp opened the door for what our roles are – but I do think new media, and media itself, is exponentially increasing the rate in which this visual, aesthetic, and conceptual conversation happens. And social media is increasing this (a low technology): the artist can’t ignore that either. Like Pop Art, there has to be some integration between what we experience every day and academic, technical training. The role of the artist was always to keep up with trends, respond, or create new trends and thought patterns; . But I’ve been primed to accept quickly moving, flashing images since I acquired Internet at 13. That is nothing new. The only new thing is the constant acceleration and divergent paths it creates. I have to know what conversation I want to participate in, what my tone is toward it, and whether I’m willing to accept it, compete with it, or let it pass me by. To a certain extent, even if you’re purely a formalist, you have to reckon with technology. “Art today is a new kind of instrument, an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility… artists have had to become self-conscious aestheticians: continually challenging their means, their materials and methods.” -Susan Sontag, One Culture and New Sensibility, 1965 To answer the last question, I think technology has obviously increased art spectatorship. The issue is, we are consuming art (via social media) seems to encourage the kind of art we make. If we consume art quickly, we are more likely to make art that is quick to impress – it will appeal more to a flat screen than an in person rendering. This isn’t every artist, obviously. The increase in art spectatorship has made me aware of some really wonderful work, and some really (subjectively) terrible. My favorite media artists either exploit these trends (Ryan Kuo, Sam Cannon) or contemplate them (Rachel Rossin).
Women Cinemakers The historian E. Gombrich, writing in , talked about the importance of providing a space for the viewer to project onto, so that they can participate in the illusion: What are you hoping will trigger in the spectatorship? I think it is fundamental that the work provides space for the viewer to project into; but also think it is important to have an exit – some place that returns the viewer back to the present and out of the frame. I’d rather someone not get lost in the illusion, but more aware of the illusion upon that exit. In , I employ various distances and resolutions of the body in order to emphasize both the intimacy and distance between the viewer and the subject. The viewer is left on an intimate note, but it ends abruptly – and only after bringing the viewer through a rollercoaster of distances. It leaves the viewer wanting more, but also highly self-aware, uncomfortably so. So, by stating “finally together,” I am asking what togetherness means – are you together with the subject? Is the subject together? Are you together, with yourself (the projected self in Internet space and the actual self in physical space?) “Finally” suggests some sort of obstacle to get there, but there isn’t much of an obstacle. Perhaps some need is finally fulfilled, but it lacks integrity. We have appreciated the originality of your works and we have found particularly encouraging your approach to digital manipulation: from immemorial ages women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experiences as an artists? And in this interdisciplinary what's your view on field? My personal experiences vary quite a bit. For one, I came from a privileged education. I was very fortunate to attend an art program from middle school through high school (and then of course college later on). Having mentorship in the arts from an early age has
definitely shaped my experiences; I have felt encouraged. That worry that I was doing something uncommon never occurred to me, because all of my peers were doing something ‘uncommon.’ Though neither of my parents were visual artists, and we struggled financially, I was not held back either. I got a job at 16 to pay for my art supplies; my parents built me a shed in the backyard so I’d have a studio. I feel very lucky to have had these experiences, because my natural tendency is to shy away. It has do what I do. cultivated a sense in me that I That being said, I have obviously had some very discouraging experiences related to being female. I’ve been told, “just make pretty paintings” from a respectable teacher. I’ve been confronted by multiple students, in an uncomfortable way, for being an attractive woman. I’ve been told to use my looks, not my talent, to sell my work. I’ve worked harder than some men I know for less money and less recognition. But, despite all of this, I feel hopeful. I see more women now in the field now than I ever saw as child. I am very fortunate to have had many powerful women figures who have nurtured my skills. It’s a beautiful thing that most of my favorite contemporary artists are women (when you scour the art history books, you’d think women just didn’t exist by the lack of presence). I’d like to see a greater balance in academic institutions – but, with the rate we are progressing, I believe that the old, patriarchal praxis will filter out. Balance is the future. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Amber. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Future projects: what a fun question. I’ve made so much this past year that I am just now finally sitting back and thinking, Not in a bad way - but in a way where I realize my studio is completely over flowing (I can’t even walk on the floor),
Women Cinemakers and it’s starting to impede on my ability to make. Perhaps my not wanting to clean has something to do with it, but lately I’ve been working with performative projects, and I’m beginning to take lessons on coding (so I can see “inside” the work I’m doing). I’ve always relied on my body and a computer to make my work, but I’ve felt protected by the paint, the screen, or some transfer of material, so that my body becomes another, surplus body – an extension. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit: why the fear of using my actual body in real time? So, I’m cultivating a series of performances that are installation, sound, and video based, but I am also using my body in a physical way. Conceptually, I still consider this work to be part of this series, at least in that interfaces and digital heterotopias remain essential to the work. But the movement of the body in real-time, interacting with video projection, becomes the focus. I am very excited about collaboration and immersive work these days, as well. I just recently finished an immersive dance performance with Lauren Carey, Choreographer and Director of Ballet Florida (West Palm . As creative designer (narrative and Beach, Florida), called installation design), it was completely invigorating, and made me all the more aware of the element of narrative (either explicit or implied) in my work. I’m also in progress of starting the first artist collective in West Palm Beach, Florida, called H/OURS Collective. We have a wonderful group of artists here with little to no representation. Finding a way to realistically make a career in a county that gives very little support to artists is challenging, so we are carving out a niche for ourselves. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but I feel a calling to make a difference for emerging contemporary artists in my local community. Regardless of the projects I am up to, I am very excited about the future. There is a lot to look forward to. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com