GIRLS 13

Page 1

MARCH 2022

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5

GIRLS MAGAZINE

WE CAN MAKE MOVIES TOO


VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5, MARCH 2022

GIRLS MAGAZINE WE CAN MAKE MOVIES TOO Letter from the Editor | Page 3 Ayanna Dozier | Page 5 Jeanne Jo | Page 11 Marie Ségolène | Page 16 Jennifer West | Page 22

GIRLS MISSION STATEMENT GIRLS is a revised portfolio of interviews from a nationwide community of real, strong womxn. It's a magazine that is 100% all womxn, which is beautiful in its rarity - the magazine is a safe space FOR womxn ABOUT womxn. Created by Adrianne Ramsey, it serves as a content destination for millennial womxn. Read on for an engagement of feminist voices and a collaborative community for independent girls to discover, share, and connect. The usage of the terms "girls" and "womxn" refers to gender-expansive people (cis girls, trans girls, non-binary, non-conforming, gender queer, femme centered, and any girlidentified person). Front and Back Cover Image: Installation view of Jennifer West: Film is Dead at the Seattle Art Museum, 2016. © Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Mark Woods

GIRLS 13

Page 2


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR BY ADRIANNE RAMSEY The first film that I ever saw that was directed by a woman was Thirteen (2003), which was helmed by Catherine Hardwicke. She co-wrote the film alongside fourteen-year-old Nikki Reed, who also starred in the film. Loosely based on Reed’s early adolescent years, Thirteen follows the life of Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), a vulnerable seventh grader who begins experimenting with drugs and alcohol, sex, crime, and more after striking up a friendship with popular and troubled classmate, Evie (Reed). Tracy’s mother Melanie (Holly Hunter) grows increasingly concerned by the girls’ toxic friendship and the rapid changes in her daughter, but struggles to intervene as Tracy shuts her further out of her life. The movie is fast-paced and gritty, showing a realistic, bare version of girlhood and how women influence one another – positively and negatively. I first saw the film when I myself was thirteen, and recognized many aspects of the character's insecurities and their lives at school and at home in myself and my friends. Thirteen left such a mark on me that I consider it one of my top five films of all time, and try to watch it in full once a year. The fact that this film was co-written and directed by a woman, with a majority female cast, is not lost on me. In a year when the popular films about teenage girls included Freaky Friday (2003) and The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003), Thirteen walked so Euphoria (2019 – Present) could run. The truth of the matter is, there are very few female filmmakers who receive mainstream recognition in the film industry. Some of those names include Andrea Arnold, Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, and Nancy Meyers – and it is not lost on me that only one out of those six names that I listed is a woman of color (DuVernay). At the time of this writing, only two women have won the Academy Award for Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2008) and Chloé Zhao for Nomadland (2020). There is an overwhelming majority of male directors who are constantly revered in the film canon, so much so that their names can roll off the tip of my tongue – J.J. Abrams, Ryan Coogler, Francis Ford Coppola, Ang Lee, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, Sam Raimi, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Guillermo del Toro. (Continued)

GIRLS 13

Page 3


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR BY ADRIANNE RAMSEY And those are just a few names; there are so many more whose commercials for their blockbusters or action flicks we see on television, and who we cheer on at major award shows, not just the Oscar’s. To this day, I am still discovering the plethora of talented, brilliant, and successful female directors and women working in the film industry. While things are changing for women in film, it is so important that more women rise to the top in order to motivate and embolden aspiring female filmmakers. Throughout the course of GIRLS Magazine, I have interviewed participants who are working in film or video: Maria Vera Alvarez (GIRLS 2), Xirin (GIRLS 5), Connie Zheng (GIRLS 9), and E. Jane (GIRLS 12). Once I began outlining the issues for the second volume of GIRLS, I realized that I hadn’t had an issue solely focused on womxn-identifying/femme-centered filmmakers and visual artists working in video. This felt like an oversight, and I am so thrilled to release this issue. Video became battery powered in 1967, and soon many people had portapacks. Portable video cameras quickly grew popular because anyone could use them, one didn't need a camera crew, and you didn’t have to be a professional. In terms of gender roles, a lot of women preferred video because they didn’t have to rely on men. Men controlled the film and television industries (and still do, sadly), but when it came to video, no one knew what they were doing, thus making it an even playing field. Video could be used in the home, meaning that if you were a domestic housewife, you could use it too, although men were favored to obtain video equipment because they worked and could afford it. The biggest thanks goes to Ayanna, Jeanne, Marie, and Jennifer for participating in GIRLS 13. I truly appreciate all the time they took in telling me about their studio practices, recent and upcoming projects, scholarly research, and the changes that they want made in order to make the film industry a more equitable space for female filmmakers. I truly hope that readers enjoy this issue!

GIRLS 13

Page 4


AYANNA DOZIER

GIRLS 13

Courtesy of Lauraberth Lima

Page 5


Ayanna Dozier (PhD) is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, artist, and writer. She is the author of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope (2020), a 2021 Open Call grantee for The Shed, and was a 2018–19 Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Studies Program. Her artistic practice is one of fabulation and moves beyond representation to embrace the creative and affective dimensions of what the moving image and body can manifest about people and history. She is currently a winter workspace artist in residence at Wave Hill and a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University.

GIRLS 13

Page 6


AYANNA DOZIER This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It took place in February 2022. GM: What was your path to becoming an artist and filmmaker? AD: I was a musical theatre student and that extended into ballet, singing, piano, acting, stage direction, etc. I wanted to continue on that path, but realized there was going to be a lot of resistance. I wanted a path that would be met with less financial instability than acting and one that would utilize my creativity. I’ve always loved art history, and I love to read and write. But I also wanted to develop a vocabulary around my peculiar interests in the arts, such as avant-garde theatre. Inevitably, this led me back to artistic practice. As I went to grad school, I got back into doing performance art, and ultimately was able to find my space between the conceptual and the procedural. The process of working in film allows me to retain all of my varied selves that I’ve occupied over the last 15 years of my life. GM: What was your experience creating and shooting your experimental short film, Softer (2020)? AD: It was technically my first artist showing and return to art making, because when I started the PhD, I didn’t make art for three years, and that was very disastrous to my mental health and identity. I got really used to seeing myself as a background singer [because I was] writing about and amplifying other artist’s work, which is great, but I completely forgot that the whole reason why I started [the PhD] was because I was an artist who wanted to develop a more critical approach to why I’m interested in these types of art makings. I was able to do all the brunt work of the PhD [in Montreal] and then came back to New York; [I wanted to] re-acquaint myself as an artist and start making things again. My friends Elspeth Walker, David Armacost, and Jordan Bernier had a gallery at the time in the Lower East Side, Evening Hours, and they gave me an opportunity [to show my work]. I did research on Marjorie Joyner, who was the first Black person to receive a patent in 1927 on the permanent wave machine, which is a monstrous, tortuous device that I have in my closet. (Laughs) You turn it on, curl the hair, you perm it, and you clip on these electrical wired rods that connect to this unit. I was really interested in this device because it looks sci-fi and terrible, it’s just torture. When I found out that it was made by a Black woman, I was shocked, because if you look up images for it, you will not find a single Black woman. You’ll find white women in advertisements [for it] everywhere. It’s completely fascinating that this [machine] began in Black hair culture in the early twentieth century, where in order to get a job, you needed to have a perm. I had also done research at the Schomburg Center on the Pittsburgh Courier, an early Black newspaper that ran in the 1920’s, and encountered a lot of editorials by wealthier Black women to poor Black women, forcing the brunt of respectability upon their personhood. (Continued)

GIRLS 13

Page 7


AYANNA DOZIER

Ayanna Dozier, Stills from Softer (2020) This tension ultimately bled through the installation and turned into a short film. At the last minute, I got an actress together with her sister, wrote out a treatment, and shot it over the course of 5 hours. I just made my research points into a moving image that would be another way to reflect the same concepts that I had talked about in the show. GM: In your opinion, what are some common roadblocks that female filmmakers deal with in the industry? AD: What really plagues women filmmakers as a whole is the fact that it’s not even that people have a bias going into a film that’s made by a woman. It’s rather that people don’t know enough about film history. What I mean by that is if you ask them what their favorite films are, even if they’re a woman themselves, they rarely have a top 10 that is all women filmmakers. Or if you ask them to name some women filmmakers from the 1930’s or 1950’s, they don’t have that awareness. If you don’t know the genealogy by which a contemporary artist is working from, be that an explicit citation or a backlog where you can look at their work, it’s going to be harder for you to recognize what they’re doing and accept the terms and conditions [under which] they make their work. To me, that’s the biggest thing because it feeds into everything else – it affects funding and what gets into festivals, which critically affects distribution, the key point of how a work survives. Festival premieres and winning an award are great, but can someone pick up your film and ensure its longevity, either as a DVD or future theatrical screening? Those are the biggest roadblocks, and again those come from the lack of awareness of how to contextualize the work and how to respond to it.

GIRLS 13

Page 8


AYANNA DOZIER GM: You are also an author and scholar – could you discuss your experience writing your doctoral dissertation, “Mnemonic Aberrations” (2020)? AD: My dissertation was just a beast of mythical creatures that has its own world. (Laughs) When I was accepted into the PhD program, I was initially going to write a dissertation on performance art, based on the fact that I was doing performance art with a lot of underground radical queer communities in New York. When I went to Montreal in 2014, I had a conversation with one of my supervisors, where we talked about the Black avantgarde, and then I stated out loud that I didn’t think that I could name a genealogy of Black experimental filmmakers who are women. I remember going to the library to do research and realized that there was no book or Wikipedia entry at that time that you could take in about Black women experimental filmmakers. And it was a sudden but immediate change of, “Well, there’s your dissertation!” I credit my dissertation for adding onto my artistic practice, otherwise I wouldn’t be a filmmaker. In studying the films across many years of archival research in the U.K., The Camille Billops Archive in Atlanta, Georgia, the LA Rebellion Archive in Los Angeles, to various archives in New York – I realized that these filmmakers were challenging what I knew to be experimental. I didn’t know how a 16mm film camera worked, or understood how their work was experimental in contrast to the “canon” which favors white masculine disembodied work. That’s what led me to learn the material of the medium, and when I realized that this could be a way for me to return to art making. “Mnemonic Aberrations” is a two-part dissertation. [The first part details] a history of Black feminist experimental filmmaking across the United States and the United Kingdom, from 1957 to 2017. The second part is a new philosophical treaty on temporality in film, as well as the heart of the dissertation and why it’s called “Mnemonic Aberrations”. That is to suggest that the way in which these Black feminist filmmakers were making film reorganized temporality outside of coloniality, but that’s based through embodiment. (Continued)

Joshua Bright, Unedited, 2022

GIRLS 13

Page 9


AYANNA DOZIER

Joshua Bright, Unedited, 2022

I wanted to think about the mnemonic of something that is not only passed down, but has a very creative reservoir for Black feminist thinking that allows us to understand that there are other ways of being in society that don’t have to affirm our subjugation. [These films] alter how we see ourselves in the world and deploy experimental tactics that have no previous written origin in the world of experimental film. It’s a lot! I’m proud of it. [I’m working on] several books that are inspired by the dissertation; it’s shaped a lot of what I’ve done. GM: And what about your book “The Velvet Rope” (2020), as part of the 33 1/3 series? AD: I love “The Velvet Rope” (1997). I think we forget about the legacy of “The Velvet Rope”, because “Rhythm Nation 1814” (1989) is so good, and Janet Jackson's brilliant obviously. But “The Velvet Rope” part of me is the one that people always say, “Yeah, I skipped over that [album], I didn’t get into it.” And for me, that [album] changed my life. I’ve just always been attracted to it and I think it’s her most ambitious work on self-actualization, creative ambition, and experimentation (both sonically and visually). The 33 1/3 series was a great way to deliver that, in not just a scholarly and informative way, but a deeply personal way. GM: What are you currently working on in your practice? AD: I’m currently doing a residency at Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center in Riverdale, NY. [The project I’m working on] is a continuation of piece I started at The Shed about cemeteries and the dead. [At Wave Hill] I’m thinking of mass graves and the transformation of the daily ecological landscape of Riverdale, in relationship to the Van Courtyard Plantation that’s nearby. It’s so difficult to find the bodies of the enslaved – we know there’s mass graves there and the city had an acknowledgement of it on Juneteenth 2021 – but there’s no physicality of that. [I’m shooting] a film coming out about that. Next, there’s a continuation of my photographic practice, which primarily works with Palladium-toned Kallitypes. Scholarly wise, I’m working on the biography and manuscript of Camille Billops’s life, artwork, and filmmaking. She was the beginning source for me in looking up Black historical feminist filmmakers, so this [project] is inspired by my dissertation. Following my residency at Wave Hill, I will return to a four-part vignette series of 16mm short films that not only do I star in, but also work through 1970s and 1980s advertising culture, femininity, heartbreak, and misogynoir. My return to artmaking was picking up the camera, and now I’m getting back to performance, dancing, and acting in front of the camera.

GIRLS 13

Page 10


JEANNE JO

GIRLS 13

Courtesy of JJ Dunlap

Page 11


Jeanne Jo is a Los Angeles based filmmaker and visual artist whose award-winning films and artworks have been shown in festivals and galleries around the world. She has an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a PhD from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She currently has a half-hour comedy show in development with her collaborator Keenan Coogler, she is producing a documentary on Redwood tree activists, and she is directing a proof of concept for a feature film for Paul Feig's Feigco/Powderkeg.

GIRLS 13

Page 12


JEANNE JO This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It took place in January 2022. GM: What was your path to becoming a filmmaker and visual artist? JJ: I found visual art very early, but I took a roundabout path into narrative filmmaking. After getting an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, I was living and working in New York City when I got accepted into a PhD program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. I accepted and moved to Los Angeles, truly believing that I would remain in art and academia for my whole life. My new program at USC was called Media Arts & Practice, and it is unusual in that it is a combination theory/practice doctoral program. Meaning that you both write and make media and, ideally, your written and practical work are part of the same investigation. I was not only encouraged, but required to take classes in “practice” as well as “theory.” During my first year at USC, I opted to take a class called CTPR507: Production I, which is the intro class for the Master's students in Film and Television Production. That class changed everything for me. I made a lot of new friends and found filmmaking to be much more collaborative than artmaking; this suited my personality well. After that class, I took every class in Production that would have me. My fellow students are still some of my closest friends and collaborators.

GM: How do you balance having a practice where you make films as art, that can also be shown in a gallery, and narrative films that are screened or streamed? JJ: When I made the decision to study filmmaking, I knew that my artistic practice was going to suffer for a few years while I focused on learning how to be a narrative writer and director. I wanted to do it the right way and really learn how to make films. I knew that it was going to take time and took a break from making art for a few years. But since 2019, I’ve been making art again and it has been wonderful. Film and television work takes a really long time. I like having an art practice that I can always go to whenever I’d like, on my own time.

Courtesy of Alan Michnoff

GIRLS 13

Page 13


JEANNE JO GM: What was your experience creating and shooting your short films Tampoon (2015) and Punch Me (2018)? JJ: Tampoon was my first ever try at making a traditional narrative – something with a beginning, middle, and an end. Before that, my film work was very experimental and designed to be shown in a gallery space instead of a theater space. I loved every minute of making Tampoon. We shot it in a friend’s apartment, and the crew was made up of fellow USC students. Mike Fink, who at the time was the Chair of Film and Television Production at USC, helped us figure out how to do the practical FX – the moving tampon, the tampon string, and the guy getting eaten. It was a blast. Punch Me was filmed in Atlanta. I was working as an assistant on Marvel’s Black Panther and we had one day off, so we decided that we would shoot a short film. All of the Black Panther PA’s became my Department Heads – the Art PA was my Production Designer, the Camera PA was my Director of Photography, etc. I cast my buddies, JoJo Eusebio and Keenan Coogler, and some friends from the Stunts department, Daniel Graham and Niko Nedyalkov. The Special FX guys on Black Panther gave me some fake blood and rigged some furniture so that it would break apart easily during the stunts. Both of those shoots were very low-budget, fast, and gritty. We worked with what we had available to us, we hired our friends, and we had a great time.

Jeanne Jo, Still from Tampoon (2015). HD video, 7

Jeanne Jo, Still from Punch Me (2018). HD video, 5

minutes

minutes

GIRLS 13

Page 14


JEANNE JO

Behind the scenes of Rachel From New York (2019).

Behind the scenes of Go Getters (2021). Photo by

Photo by Adela Tobon

Camille Shooshani

GM: In your opinion, what are some common roadblocks that female filmmakers deal with in the industry? JJ: There are roadblocks, yes, but I don’t think it’s a great idea to get hung up on them. The most important thing you can do is keep making stuff and be ready to pivot. Always have more than one project going at a time so that if one gets blocked or stalled, you can work on the other. GM: What are you currently working on in your practice? JJ: I’m attached to direct two films and am in development on a TV show with my collaborator, Keenan Coogler. I’m also getting ready for a solo show of my performance art and film work at the Southern Utah Museum of Art this summer. I’ve also been directing a few music videos here and there, which is really fun to do.

GIRLS 13

Page 15


MARIE SÉGOLÈNE

GIRLS 13

Courtesy of Jesse Meredith

Page 16


Marie Ségolène holds a BA in Creative Writing and a BFA in Intermedia Cyberarts from Concordia University (Canada). She completed her MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019. Marie has exhibited work in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In 2018, she took part in “Conversations in Contemporary Poetics”, curated by Jeffrey Grunthaner at Hauser & Wirth in New York City, and performed as part of the Performance and Noise Biennial: Tempting Failure in London. Her fifth artist publication, entitled “Dehiscence” (2018), was published with the support of Anteism. Marie’s writing has been featured in The Wine Zine, Dinner Bell Magazine, and Desuetude Journal. Her first poetry manuscript, “Yellow Berries”, was designed and published by Grosse Fugue in 2021. In June 2021, Marie directed a short performance film, entitled Rouge Gorge, that was exhibited at the CUE Art Foundation in New York City as part of “In Longing”, a group exhibition curated by Anna Cahn. Rouge Gorge was awarded Best Experimental Film by The New York International Film Award and was selected for the Berlin Indie Film Festival. Marie is currently based in Montreal, Québec, where she recently founded Maurice, an apartment gallery which showcases the work of local and international performance artists.

GIRLS 13

Page 17


MARIE SÉGOLÈNE This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It took place in January 2022. GM: What was your path to becoming an artist? MS: I completed two undergraduate degrees at Concordia University in Montreal, and then went on to do a Masters in Performance Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Being an artist feels like a constant process of digging and dwelling, failing and starting over, and eventually making something. In times of nonproductivity, I always ask myself if I am still an artist. GM: Your studio practice is comprised of performance art, text, and film. Why do you work in these mediums? MS: Usually my practice begins with a text. The choice of medium is really a choice of strategy to better embody or materialize certain aspects of the questions I am trying to dig at. My practice is research based; the themes that interest me are psychoanalysis, divinity, desire, and trauma. I have always had a very interdisciplinary approach to my work (book making, performance, video installation, film, sculptural installation, and writing). GM: You mentioned that you’re “digging” for something when feeling uninspired – do you know what you’re digging for? MS: I am really interested in cognitive dissonance, gaps of memory, and the mental fragmentation that happens as a result of trauma. My first experience of grief was traumatic and transformed my way of assimilating information. (Continued)

GIRLS 13

Marie Ségolène, Still from Rouge Gorge (2021)

Page 18


MARIE SÉGOLÈNE It simultaneously led me to my methodology. I am not interested in direct linear narratives, but in the multitude of experiences that results when a text is ruptured. Poetics offer that. I approach installations much like poems, [as the] references are collaged together to guide to viewer into the uncanny. I am interested in moments of complete surrender and how we might open ourselves to the divine. Sometimes I think that what I am digging for is honest love, and my work is an archive of my process towards finding it. GM: What was your experience creating and shooting Rouge Gorge (2021)? MS: That was an incredible experience! That film was made for the “In Longing” exhibition at CUE Art Foundation in New York City, curated by Anna Cahn. Rouge Gorge was initially pitched as an installation piece that included a live activation. The work was conceptualized months before the pandemic, so during the preparation of the work, Anna and I were in constant conversation about the possibility of the live piece being presented. Eventually I decided that the best way to present the work would be through a film. It helped that I started working in film [after moving back] to Montreal, and the medium was increasingly on my mind. Prior to Rouge Gorge, my experience in film was video documentation. There was no fragmentation of the actions or narrative, and there was no editing. For Rouge Gorge, I adapted the script, which included, amongst other things, 100 love fragments. Initially I got my close friend, fellow artist, and longtime collaborator, Santiago Tamayo Soler, to co-direct the short. We then put together an incredibly inspiring team, with Hugo Coderre as Director of Photography and Sacha Auclair on sound. (Continued)

Marie Ségolène, Still from Rouge Gorge (2021)

GIRLS 13

Page 19


MARIE SÉGOLÈNE

Marie Ségolène, Still from Rouge Gorge (2021) This text that was written over six months prior to filming, and when I stood naked by the water, guzzling down the wine and spitting it out like a fountain. I really felt out of my body. It is incredible to work with people that respect your vision and share their knowledge [in order] to enhance what you are trying to put out into the world. Performance can feel so surreal since it is so fleeting, but when you are in it, you are so full of life and desire, it feels like a prayer. GM: Could you explain the premise of Rouge Gorge? MS: Rouge Gorge isn’t a linear narrative. Initially, it was an attempt at shaping my own myth of origin through a worm digging to the center of the earth. I was wondering what we might learn about death if we were to embody a worm. Somehow it transformed into a love letter, like most of my work does. GM: In your opinion, what are some common roadblocks that female filmmakers deal with in the industry? MS: The film industry is definitely sexist. It feels akin to any other white male dominated field in that it is a culture of machismo and ego, and there is very little place for sentimentality. Women in the industry learn to be thick skinned quickly. I have so much admiration for women that work on set; they inspire me to develop self-confidence and strength of character. Personally, my experience on set is limited since I am mostly off-set. That being said, I do not consider myself a film maker but a performance artist. Making Rouge Gorge was my first experience directing a team in that capacity. Making Rouge Gorge was incredibly intimate; there was a lot of trust, support, and respect. It was transformative and incredibly challenging.

GIRLS 13

Page 20


MARIE SÉGOLÈNE GM: What has been your experience opening your apartment gallery, Maurice? MS: Opening Maurice is a dream come true. It has been both an opportunity for me to meet new artists and friends, and a chance to open space up for work that pushes outside of what we usually encounter in Montreal. Apartment galleries are a staple of Chicago art culture, so I was excited to approach that concept in my hometown. The second exhibit opened on February 12th; it is Alegria Gobeil's first solo show and curated by Philippe Bourdeau. Maurice is space that is dedicated to performance practices, or practices that are about the body. I am looking to display ephemera, research, or archives of performance work. The intimacy of the space allows for difficult work to be discussed in a more profound way, and I am so grateful for the long conversations that we have been having with visitors around my dining room table every Saturday afternoon. We are open every Saturday from 12-6 PM and by appointment. We can also do virtual visits for folks located outside of Montreal.

Documentation of Rouge Gorge (2021). Photo by Gabriel Veniot

GM: What are you currently working on in your practice? MS: I am currently working on a performance piece. I suspect it will take me a few months to flesh out the idea and source the needed equipment. Hopefully I can submit the proposal to some places in Montreal now that the city is reopening.

GIRLS 13

Page 21


JENNIFER WEST

GIRLS 13

Photo: Ian Byers Gamber

Page 22


Jennifer West (b. 1966, Topanga, CA) is a Los Angeles-based artist who has explored materialism in film for over fifteen years. Significant commissions include works for Seattle Art Museum (2016-2017); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2016); The High Line, New York, NY (2012); MIT List Visual Arts Center (2011); Aspen Art Museum (2010); and Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London (2009). West has had solo exhibitions at Times Square Arts, New York, NY (2021); JOAN Los Angeles (2020); Contemporary Art Museum St Louis (2018); Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China (2017); Seattle Art Museum (2016-2017); Museo d’Arte Nuoro, Sardinia (2017); Tramway, Glasgow (2016); S1 Artspace, Sheffield, UK (2012); Kunstverein Nürnberg, Germany (2010); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, (2010); Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2008); White Columns, New York, NY (2007). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Whitney Museum, New York, NY; Drawing Center, New York, NY; Pompidou Centre, Paris; Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt; Centre for Contemporary Visual Arts, Bordeaux; and ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, among others. Her work is in museum and public collections such as and the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kadist Foundation (San Francisco/Paris), Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Depart Foundation (Rome); Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania; Henry Art Gallery (Seattle); Rubell Collection (Florida); Saatchi Collection (London), Thoma Foundation Digital and Media Art Collection (New Mexico/Illinois), among others. West received an MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and a BA from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Fine Arts at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design in California. Her writing has appeared in publications including Artforum, Frieze, and Mousse Magazine. West has produced fifteen zine artist books, which are in Getty Research Institute Collection (Los Angeles, CA). Upcoming in 2022, a monograph on her work is being published by Radius Books, Media Archaeology, she will show her work at the Pompidou in Paris, France, and is producing a new commission for the LIAF Biennial in Norway.

GIRLS 13

Page 23


JENNIFER WEST This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. It took place in February 2022. GM: What was your path to becoming an artist? JW: I came to art via the process of analog photography, zine making, and eventually working with 16mm and analog videotape such as VHS and Hi8. In seventh grade, I took “Shop Class”, where we learned about the printing press and copy stand photography. This was the first time I experienced the magic of the darkroom, working under red lights in partial darkness with the smell of darkroom chemistry, swishing liquids, and watching an image appear. At the time, xerox machines were hard to access and it was not easy to make an image, which made the darkroom an important tool. My mother is an artist and had her studio in our house when I was growing up, so I was exposed to art making through her. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would help her fabricate her work when she was on deadlines working as a proofreader. I cite her as a big influence on my use of materials later on for my films, as she often made work utilizing unusual materials – painting with nail polish on rice paper in the 70’s, and later working on linoleum floor tiles, postcards using prismatic foil. I started making and shooting 16mm films at Evergreen State College; I used film at that time because it was the most economical way to make a moving image. I studied feminist and world cinema, mostly modes of experimental documentary, such as filmmakers like Trinh T. Minh-ha and Barbara Hammer. I moved to the Bay Area to go to graduate school at San Francisco State University, where Trinh taught, and instead ended up working in the film industry. I continued making films but failed to make more narrative based work. At the same time, I collected a lot of raw stock 16mm film in my fridge. These cans of film moved with me back to Washington State, where I started to make video installations and got involved in the underground art scene. The film eventually moved with me again when I returned to California to attend the MFA Program at Art Center in Pasadena. At the end of my time at Art Center, I started thinking about film negative and celluloid as malleable material, and combining conceptual ideas to filmmaking and in relation to performance, mark making, and painting. (Continued)

Installation view of Jennifer West: Flashlight Filmstrip Projections, at Tramway, 2016. © Tramway. Photo: Keith Hunter

GIRLS 13

Page 24


JENNIFER WEST Immediately after graduating, I was invited to contribute to a group exhibition at the Anna Helwing Gallery called “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, curated by Michael Ned Holte. For the show I made “Marinated Film - the roll of 16Mm I had in the fridge for over ten years (16mm film negative marinated for several months in: Absinthe & XTC, Pepsi & Pop rocks, Jim Shaw's Urine, Red Wine, Coffee & Detox Tea, Aphrodisiacs)” (2005), 9 minutes, 20 seconds, 16mm film transferred to digital video. From there I started making film by corroding, painting, puncturing, cooking, etc., 16mm film negative. I eventually started to shoot images on the film and experiment with 35 and 70mm film stocks. I started showing the films as digital projections, often in pairings or groupings in gallery and art spaces. The early works were about smell and taste in relation to film, everyday materials, products, and local non-monumental sites. GM: What was your experience with your solo exhibition, “Jennifer West: Future Forgetting” (2020), at JOAN in Los Angeles? JW: The exhibition opened on February 28th, 2020 and will forever be marked in time by the beginning of the worldwide pandemic. There were two main bodies of work that formed the show, both of which had been started years prior. They brought ideas to bear that I had been thinking about while reading Norman Klein’s “History of Forgetting” (1997) and connected to the city of Los Angeles – historical erasure, scripted spaces, phantom limbs, preservation, and fiction though film location. This all had to do with the 6th Street Bridge in Downtown LA that was slated for demolition in 2016. I decided to film the last three days that the bridge was open to the public on 16mm, documenting everything that took place as people said goodbye to the bridge. I processed the film with no exact plans for it and put it in a box. I was reminded of the film in 2018 by a friend, took out the footage, and began to plan how to finish it. My films tend to have multiple phases of production and fabrication, which include shooting, processing, and then altering the filmstrips later to complete the work. The reason the bridge was demolished was because it had gotten concrete cancer, which made it erode – this was caused by the Los Angeles River water that was used to mix the cement. (Continued)

Left: Installation view of Jennifer West: Future Forgetting, at JOAN, 2020. © JOAN. Photo: David Matorin. Right: Jennifer West, Future Forgetting Accordion Zine, 2020. Photo: Peter West

GIRLS 13

Page 25


JENNIFER WEST I decided to drag the 700 feet of film in the water of the river, just below the construction site of the new bridge – the process corroded the image and that became the finished film. The second exhibited body of work revolves around broken televisions and flatscreens that had been thrown off bridges (not by me) that I found in the Arroyo Seco Confluence, a cemented riverbed that feeds into the LA River. During my walks over the years, I had noticed many broken screens, and in 2018 began collecting the remnants. Later, I arranged the broken parts into a grid on green screen fabric, and shot 16mm film of them. This work became the basis of a large 9-flatscreen TV and sculptural installation for the show. I collected cast off debris out of the LA River – broken technology, old CD’s, parts of boom boxes, an electric piano, and objects such as an arrow, part of a golf club, and so forth. [Other memories of the show include] doing my first zoom webinar/public program, which seemed novel at the time (with writer/historian Norman Klein and writer/curator Lauren Mackler). During quarantine, the show sat there and I led walkthroughs of the exhibition for a few months. There was a series of sculptures – hand-blown glass mason jars by Becca Chernow that were filled with Los Angeles River water – photos, and objects as the exhibition continued well past its planned end date in April 2020. The water slowly evaporated in the jars, creating rings of sediment (a trace recording of all that transpired during the exhibition) from the pandemic and social justice movement that the show will forever be linked to. GM: What was your experience creating “Painted Cat Hacker Film” (2020/2021), as well as its installation in Times Square that lasted for the entirety of August 2021? JW: Cats entered my work by happenstance – I was shooting a 16mm set up of broken television parts on my front porch, and two of my cats repeatedly walked into the shots. I incorporated the cats into the piece, which was shown at JOAN. For a few years before that, I had researched making a hologram of a cat for an exhibition. I embarked on making “Cat Clone Hologram #1-3” (2021), which were displayed on holofans in order to pay homage to the rich history of the feline as muse in experimental and avant-garde film and video art, and their recent explosion on the Internet in funny cat videos, memes, and gifs. To create the spectral and lo-fi effects in “Painted Cat Hacker Film”, I first compiled 16mm clips of my cat, Munchkin, against a green screen. I manipulated the image by applying brightly colored dye to the filmstrip before transferring it to high-definition video. The resulting piece is a multi-channel work of handmade digitized GIFs that pay homage to the feline’s role across many moving image genres – from the viral video, to experimental film, to the screens of Times Square themselves. […] I had never been to Times Square before going for the opening of the show, and it was a wild experience to have the cats take over so many screens simultaneously to hundreds of unsuspecting viewers – I thought of them as hackers, taking over the advertising apparatuses with their image.

Installation view of Jennifer West: Painted Cat Hacker Film, at Times Square Arts, 2021. © Times Square Arts. Photo: Tatyana Tenenbaum

GIRLS 13

Page 26


JENNIFER WEST

Installation view of Jennifer West: Emoji Wall of Film, at CAPITAL SF, 2018. © CAPITAL. Photo: Jonathan Runcio

GM: In your opinion, what are some common roadblocks that female filmmakers deal with in the industry? JW: I’ll speak specifically about art, experimental and avant-garde film, and video art. I think it’s important for makers to master as much technology as possible and work with as many other womxn identified technicians, dig into the history of the field to find examples, and proliferate their work through lectures, writing, and curating, in order to continually remind everyone everywhere about womxn and other non-mainstream voices out there. Video cameras were a brilliant opportunity for womxn to enter a new field, so thinking of new media and ways to experiment in mediums that don’t yet have a written history. Forming collectives is good and also has a history. In such a masculinist field, [it’s important to be] intersectional in every way possible. GM: What has been your experience with your platform, Infinite Kisses? JW: Infinite Kisses was a one-off pandemic idea born out of lockdown – I wanted to create a space for filmmakers and artists to make artist books, zines, or multiples, and distribute them and be virtually in conversation. I named the platform after Carolee Schneemann's "Infinity Kisses" (1981-1987) as a homage to her filmmaking and work with cats. Jodie Mack, the filmmaker, made a glow in the dark flip book, and we did a black light performance together on IG Live that was a lot of fun and included the artists Casey Kauffmann, Puppies Puppies, and Panteha Abareshi. I’ve been making zines in relation to my work since I started exhibiting in 2007. Mostly it was a way of making a visual catalog to accompany my shows, and it’s in the spirit of DIY to self-produce and distribute outside of publishing structures. [It was also] a space for my production stills – digital snap shots of the material and absurd actions I used to make my films, whether its cooking 16mm in eggs or throwing it into the Great Salt Lake. GM: What are you currently working on in your practice? JW: I am creating a series of works for an exhibition in the fall, using the 16mm footage I collected that documented the destruction of LACMA’s buildings during the pandemic lockdown. The exhibition uses the year without summer (1916) as its theme; my work will be around themes of history, forgetting, archiving for the future, vertical time, and mutated biological and frozen preservation and phantasms.

GIRLS 13

Page 27


MARCH 2022

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5

GIRLS MAGAZINE

WE CAN MAKE MOVIES TOO


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.