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WOMEN’S CINEMA VOL IX
cINEMAKERS W O M E N
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Contents 04 Camille Wainer Thou Art: Dublin
30 Clare Chong
Dark Triptych: MIITA
132 Annique Delphine Plethora
148 Liberty Antonia Sadler I Feel Femme
Edyn in Exile
We Are All Leaving
Katia Scarton-Kim & Nadia Jandeau Lou Watson Switch off
Section of I-705
Renèe Helèna Browne
Camille Wainer Thou Art: Dublin is a documentary that attempts to paint an intimate portrait of the creative life of Dublin. Set in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, the film documents the efforts of five artists as they communicate the vision of their work amid the difficulties of the recession.
Camille Wainer An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Camille and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? Are there any experiences that did influence your evolution as a filmmaker and a creative? Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in Women Cinemakers. It is a great honor to have my work appreciated by your creative community. There is a long history of artistic pursuit in the family and it is through visual art that I came to filmmaking. My father trained as an art educator and was working throughout Germany when I was born. My childhood was filled with art activities and an emphasis on the plastic arts â&#x20AC;&#x201C; particularly painting, drawing, printmaking and architecture. In addition, both of my parents were avid photographers so I was encouraged to explore the world from behind the lens of a camera and eventually introduced to developing my own photography at home with their darkroom equipment. From many trips to movie theaters with my father, I grew to transfer my understanding of visual thinking to encompass film. However, it was not until I moved to New York City to attend
school that I had the opportunity to be introduced to more direct experiences with filmmaking. In regards to my creative education, I was fortunate to participate in one of my first life drawing classes as a teenager through an art school adjacent to the studio of acclaimed German sculptress Elisabet Ney. This early exposure to the legacy of a talented and successful female artist strongly inspired me to pursue my passion for a career in art. Through university courses I discovered the wider landscape of video and performance art but the most significant transition occurred while studying communication design and its dynamic relationship between image and text. It was this interaction and collaboration between the words and the visual narrative that opened the doors for me to a greater interest and understanding of film I am indebted to the artists, photographers and filmmakers who have influenced and inspired me: Venetian painters like Titian and Tintoretto, movements like the Vienna Secession, Russian Constructivism and Mexican Modernism as well as the work of photographers like Robert Frank, Ansel Adams, James Nachtwey, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange and Cindy Sherman. Interestingly, the filmmakers who made the most powerful impact on my imagination tended to have strong visual storytelling styles and a sensitivity to art/design vocabularies such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Jane Campion, Lars von Trier, Matthew Barney, Alexander Sokurov, Jan Svankmajer and Federico Fellini. My first film was compelled by the World Trade Center attacks when living in New York and later by the London Underground
bombings after I relocated to the UK. It was the tragedy and shock of these events that stimulated in me much examination (through making art) but eventually lead me to explore film as an avenue for further expression. It was after I acquired a background of working separately for a war photojournalist and a documentary filmmaker that I was able to merge all these experiences and try to respond to questions about the role of art in society and the impact of large scale tragedy. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process, would you like to tell our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works? My process in film could be simplified into four stages: inspiration, observation/research, improvisation and production. First must be present the seed of an idea that reflects the tension of contemporary conflicts but holds the capacity to bear the fruit of a creative solution. Once an idea has captured my imagination, I observe the environment for patterns that highlight the unique culture and landscape but bear the mark of the local creative thinkers and visual artists (architecture, public art, graffiti, etc). When the project is begun, there is a significant amount of research on the history and visual themes surrounding the locations. This is combined with an exploration of new technologies that can be applied to elucidate greater insights and recreate particular atmospheres. Finally, in order to protect the originality of the idea and aid its successful completion, the strategy of guerrilla conflicts is mimicked with the assembly of a small crew who work independently during the production phase. Throughout this process I try to approach each stage and problem uniquely with an emphasis on some improvisation that will allow for unguarded moments and happy accidents. The evolution of my style in film would vary somewhat from the rest of my art. Though I began with the desire and training to be a classical artist, out of an interest in examining contemporary social issues, I gradually expanded into other forms of visual storytelling. This tendency toward art advocacy was influenced by the political inclinations of artists like Diego Rivera and Frida
Kahlo from my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birthplace of Mexico. The first documentary was much more experimental in nature but my style has mellowed with Thou Art: Dublin and moved toward a more realistic approach. My film style would differ dramatically from the rest of my art work due to the impact of modern news journalism. It was necessary for me to spend a great deal of time studying various news sources in order to stay informed on current issues related to my professional assignments as an editorial illustrator. After the World Trade Center attacks, I began to be influenced by a distinct shift in the visual coverage of urgent issues toward that of a more improvised and citizen journalism style. This approach intrigued me for its innovative nature in capturing urgency, authenticity and intimacy - and its impressionistic capacity appealed to my training as an artist. The importance of art and creativity is always a paramount concern in my process. Art is the one activity that differentiates us from machines and other species - this holds the key to truly understanding and appreciating our unique place in this world. In this journey to understanding ourselves, I am interested in examining how we resolve the conflicts between old and new, tradition and innovation while still leaving room for vulnerability and human dignity. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected Thou Art: Dublin, an interesting documentary that our readers have already started to admire in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your inquiry into the creative life of Dublin is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of Thou Art: Dublin , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? I am not entirely confident that I made the argument for the autonomy of art in the film. With a premise that art was in danger of obsolescence, there was a necessity to justify the relevance of art in our society. For that we relied heavily on the argument that it served several necessary utilitarian functions that were an indispensable tool in the employ of collective identity such as documenting our history and facilitating collaboration.
As previously mentioned, the decision to make the documentaries grew out of a response to the terrorist attacks in New York and the UK. Thou Art: Dublin is the sequel to another documentary Thou Art: Williamsburg that was originally envisaged when I lived in Brooklyn during the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. There was a lot of disruption after 9/11 but it was clear that the optimistically creative nature of artists in NYC shone through to uplift the spirits of the community and provide a source of healing and vision for moving forward. I saw this first hand in the developing bohemian neighborhood of Brooklynâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Williamsburg and wanted to try to capture the atmosphere in an experimental documentary format. To emphasize the strong visual nature of Thou Art: Williamsburg, it was decided to present it as a silent film with the incorporation of video art elements that mimicked the techniques of painting such as layering, enhanced textures, etc. It also challenged the use of subtitles and text in relationship to the cinema image - we really played around with layout and fonts to present selections of each artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s words but also to reflect and integrate the way grafitti was displayed throughout the streets of the neighborhood. Though I started filming Thou Art: Williamsburg in 2003-2004, the film was not completed until 2010. It was at this time that I received an invitation to consider Dublin as the next film location for the sequel. Thou Art: Dublin was in-part inspired by the countless obstacles to creative expression that are increasingly evident in budget cuts to arts organizations, art programs in schools and individual artists who have found their livelihoods deemed irrelevant in the recession. In the face of this disparity, Thou Art: Dublin attempts to communicate the necessity for the visual artist as a positive and integral component in the expression of community life and essential in creating solutions for a brighter future. Escaping from traditional documentaristic form, Thou Art: Dublin features such elegantly structured storytelling. What was your process like? In particular, how did you develop the editing? Thank you for your generous praise. In Thou Art: Dublin there was an aim to weave an escape from oppression throughout the development of each aspect of the process. This started with exploring visual storytelling unconstrained
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
The structure of the film is divided into five vignettes designed to act as stand alone short films. Each vignette is composed of alternating scenes of the daily life of Dublin that highlight art and historic sites interlaced with interviews of a featured artist at work in their studios. The narrative is constructed around the premise that a small film crew is covertly exploring Dublinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cityscape with an aim to retrieve the art community from the isolation and oppression of the recession. In keeping with the model of guerrilla strategies, we explored styles of combat and mobility for the structure and editing of the film. Starting with the equipment, using a small hand-held camera, we eliminated the bulk and clutter that could have hindered the informality and agility of filming during the brief time allotted inside cramped studio spaces. This also aided us in remaining inconspicuous and fleet footed for exterior filming in busy city streets. During improvised filming sessions with each of the artists, we were limited to recording bursts of footage between 30 seconds - 12 minutes. From this collection of short fluid spans of film, we then chose a very kinesthetic style of editing. In contrast to the traditional approach of filming artist's at work in quiet, contemplative and extended shots, the editing style of the documentary favored quick, active edits reminiscent of the choreographed fight scenes in action films. To enhance this mood further, the tone of each artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sequence was given an association with a particular martial art that captured the process of their work and the tools or materials they used: the impact of hand-to-hand combat, the regimented cadence of marches or drills, the precision of a sniper or military surgeon, the ruthless grace of swordplay, etc. Using the visual theme of journeys, the introduction and conclusion of the documentary are intended to mirror each other showing a trip approaching and departing the city via rail transport. This theme is repeated in the entire documentary with images of city buses threading through all of the exterior Dublin footage. In part, this was intended to simulate continuity and movement in harmony with the active editing style of the artistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; interior footage but it was also a way of expressing the idea of public transport as a symbol for responsible civic planning reinforcing the argument being made for the necessity of art's role and integration in city planning.
by a preexistent script - to free the image from servitude to the word. An especially appropriate exercise for a project concerned with visual art.
Much praise is due to our talented cinematographer who had a wonderful eye for composition and capturing the delicacy of natural light. At the urging of some of the artists, it was a popular decision to take a more traditional approach to capturing the city. It is also important to note that the film was conceived with the idea in mind that the city of Dublin itself was the sixth artist whose creative spirit expresses itself in the works of her artists. The motifs of imprisonment and flight were explored to develop the characterization of the artists and city zeitgeist as prisoners of conscience or POWs confined by the adversary of the recession. Compositions, locations and subject matter were favoured that would capture elements of this relationship. Examples of flight imagery in exterior shots selected to frame the ideas of freedom and inspiration would be imagery of birds, winged figures and wind through fabric. To recreate the mood of imprisonment, we selected obstructions and confined spaces such as grills, gates, prison bars and linear reflections. To investigate the dynamic between freedom of expression and the invasion of privacy, we incorporated allusions to some contemporary issues like the Snowden scandal and applied effects such as CCTV and spycams to recreate the tone of paranoia associated with surveillance. This reflected the interest in experimenting with newer technologies but also the desire to contrast the sympathetic perception of the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision with the indifferent gaze of machines. Other effects included elements reminiscent of war journalism and combat film making such as helmet cams and night vision in an attempt to communicate a mood of urgency and isolation suggestive of the tribulations of conflict. Unsurprisingly, color played an important role throughout the film. Using color enhancements, the film contrasts the full color interior studio footage of each artist with a gritty desaturated exterior view of the Dublin cityscape. The exterior footage of Dublin used in each artist's vignette was cast in black and white with selective color enhancements. This effect was used to create a tonal mood of bleakness for the setting of a city ravaged by the tragedy and suffering of the economic recession. However, we incorporated subdued green highlights in the domes and architecture to establish a color identity for the city in continuity with ideas of the full Thou Art series (a color identity of red
We have been really impressed with your medium shot, as well as with your clever attention to details: what were your aesthetic decisions? In particular, how would you describe your cinematographic style?
was chosen for the prequel Thou Art: Williamsburg). Public artworks in exterior shots such as graffiti and sculpture were also highlighted in full color with rotoscoping tools. This effect was incorporated in order to link the vibrancy of the creative activity occurring in the artist's studio with the beauty and significance of the art works that decorate, inform and enhance the city's public places. As might be seen from the descriptions above, my style could be characterized by an emphasis on visual storytelling and painterly viewpoints that accentuate the independent personality of light as a character in the narrative, explore the intimacy of human forms in oppressive spaces and de-emphasize the word through elimination or reapplication. Your inquiry into the efforts of artists amid the difficulties of the recession seems to be pervaded with a very subtle, still effective socio-political criticism. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role differs depending on which part of the world youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in. It depends on the political system youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, could be considered political. Do you think that Thou Art: Dublin could be considered political in this way? What could be in your opinion the role of a filmmaker in our ever changing, unstable contemporary societies? Art surrounds us everywhere: it expresses who we are, enhances our private and public spaces, informs society of our history, as well as the possibilities for our future, and inspires us to heights of beauty, innovation and collaboration. Thou Art: Dublin was in- part inspired by the countless obstacles to creative expression that are increasingly evident in budget cuts to arts organizations, arts programs in schools and individual artists who have found their livelihoods deemed irrelevant in the recession. In the face of this disparity, Thou Art: Dublin attempts to communicate the necessity for the visual artist as a positive and integral component in the expression of community life and essential in creating solutions for a brighter future. There were some social issues we attempted to place before the gaze of the audience. As there was a distinct component of the film that focused on the relationship between Christianity and the arts, it was very intriguing to encounter a recently published work by the Irish theologian Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman titled Underground Cathedrals that attempted to make the case that in destitute times we have to rely on art
In relation to guerrilla warfare, Ireland had a unique place in connection to its struggle for independence. As the filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s completion coincided with the centenary commemorations of the Irish Republic, some consideration was given to how our filming methods might offer a reinterpretation of guerrilla warfare by presenting a social ideology using guerrilla warfare techniques in a creative, respectful but nonviolent fashion. In my experience, each place has a unique tonal character that must be observed and understood. Though the film made some social commentary, I would see the political system as only an organic layer within the culture of a place but not necessarily the primary concern of the artist. There would be some responsibility by the artist to attempt to transcend those temporal concerns and lend their gaze to more abstract or universal realms unique to the craft itself. As one of the most visible and commercially influential storytellers, the filmmaker has some responsibility in crafting their message for the sake of art advocacy. Film is still such a new field, that there are many possibilities still to explore for the contribution that can be made to culture and society. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? Film is still a very new field of expression within the arts but the representation of women seems to be lagging behind that of men. This is changing but more progress should be made to mirror the advances in other areas of society. Luckily, there is still ample time for women to play a significant part in its development. Hollywood has been in the spotlight more recently with investigations into claims of discrimination. There is evidence that removing sexism from the equation would be very beneficial to the creative culture and
to show us the way forward. He expressed the belief that the Spirit was not being as effectively transmitted in Western Europe by politicians or institutions and that the ones â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;carrying the torchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; were mostly artists. Having some of this sentiment in common with the film, Abbot Hederman offered an inspiring message of how things might be if only we all listen to the voices of artists in our midst.
the economy. This would include a reevaluation of hiring practices as well as stereotypes of appropriate work for the female perspective. Whether gender should be overlooked entirely is still a question in my mind. It is important to judge a work for its own integrity and not by the gender of the filmmaker but the viewpoint of a female director can be very unique and should not be overlooked. Through a sensitivity to different experiences, women filmmakers have a wonderful chance to present new new ways of looking and create innovative facets to storytelling. There are so many womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stories and dimensions to female characters that have not been given attention or fully developed in the film genre. This creates a massive untapped market and a wonderful opportunity for explorers who want to blaze new trails and navigate through uncharted territories of creativity. There appears to be a trend in society that favours validation to the strong and most resilient. It is encouraged within our sports and business models but is also being increasingly applied in the creative arena with the effect of drowning out the voices of those who are weaker or less fortunate. This diminishes the role of vulnerability and overlooks the duty we all have to protect what is fragile. I believe women in the arts are in a unique position to sympathize with this and other demographics that do not have a voice in the stories we are currently telling through film. Filmmaking is a very demanding craft and the lack of openings for women in the industry adds even more pressure to this challenge. This makes it all the more important for society to make the effort to nurture these talents in women and for women to transcend competition and differences to support each other in overcoming barriers and limitations. This is not intended to demonize or minimize the contributions of previous innovators and leaders in the industry. All creativity takes tremendous courage and discipline - everyone who endeavours to take the road less traveled through the arts should be honored. There is much to explore, much to learn and great opportunities for collaboration that will open new vistas of creativity for the future. Your artistic practice seems to stem from noticing the world around you: how would you consider the relationship between everyday life's experience and your artistic practice? Does in your opinion direct experience fuel your creative process? I think artists have a certain obligation to witness the interplay of life as much as possible and this entails being aware of their surroundings and
It is fair to say that all of the film projects I have worked on so far do bear some relation to my own direct experience whether it is living through terrorist attacks, struggling through the recession, being an artist or, through disability, living with oppression and human frailty. It was the first hand experience of residing in cities during terrorist attacks that lead to my two documentary projects - and through years of working for a non-profit organization devoted to the conservation of lemurs in Madagascar that I was inspired to create an animation about the urgent crisis impacting their survival. The first hand experience of these events helps to provide sympathy and truly inhabit the narrative so that greater accuracy and insights may be gleaned. In the end, it is important to remember that it is an artwork but these experiences are irreplaceable in refining creative choices for more nuanced storytelling. Your cinema provides the spectatorship with a multilayered visual experience. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship 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? As the film was not created primarily for its entertainment value but for a more educational function, the demographic of the audience envisioned was fairly specialized: artists, arts organizations (museums, galleries and performance spaces), arts educators, city planners and local historians. Though the style could be easily applied to a more commercial project, the ideal audience was seen as being art and film connoisseurs whose interest and influence in contemporary art advocacy issues would be stimulated and swayed. There was a responsibility to consider the artists, crew and community within this demographic. The film pivoted on a
learning ways to be sensitive to how different environments influence mood and culture. My background is firmly rooted in traditional art and the importance of mastering your craft through the use of direct observation. Documentary film lends itself to this practice because of its emphasis on facts and accurate detail. Despite this, I do appreciate the role of imagination in artistic practice as it is essential to innovation.
sympathetic understanding of the artistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and crewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work and how it would become a significant milestone in the development of their own careers. Tying their work to the public realm required sensitivity and compassion for the exchange of ideas that would take place and the potential for engagement and empowerment in the community. Audience reception was crucial and there were certain intentions that we desired to accomplish with the project in order to make the case that art was in need of urgent rescue from the possibility of near extinction. Two of the primary motivations were urban renewal and historical contribution. It was the hope to promote the visual arts by attempting to communicate the necessity for the artist and creative thinker as a positive and necessary component in the expression of community life and, through the film, make a determined contribution to a community that nurtured the development of the artistic spirit. It is difficult to quantify the impact of the film but by the time the project was completed and screened in Hollywood, there were subtle but noticeable differences in the artistic atmosphere of Dublin. The city was lifting its head out of the recession, there was hope and optimism for the future and new government initiatives were implemented in favor of the arts. In addition, the artists themselves were advancing in opportunities for their work at the local and international level. Even if there was not a significant box office result for the project, the impact in the community and in the lives of those who participated has been very positive. That represents a successful outcome. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Camille. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Nurturing and protecting creativity is a priority in my work and I have recently begun to more highly value an environment of privacy when working on projects. Due to past experience, I have become increasingly concerned about the negative impact of plagiarism and the threat it poses to creativity both personally and in a wider context. Original creative thinkers are essential to finding solutions to the problems we face in our times. The rampant intellectual
property theft in our entertainment and business industries, combined with the elimination of education models that include artistic disciplines, is an ominous forecast for the future of our societies. A world without creativity being protected is a bleak one...like the gray streets of the city in Thou Art: Dublin. The Thou Art: Dublin documentary was envisioned as one installment in a triptych of films addressing the role of art during times of conflict in society. The symbol of a bridge is used as a signifier in each film to suggest that art is the connection that will lead us over troubled waters and through divisions to finding viable solutions. Bridges are great feats of engineering which require tremendous ingenuity and collaboration to construct and withstand the pressure of time, weight and the elements. I propose that creativity is that bridge between differences and overcoming conflicts. At the moment, I am exploring possibilities for unique but relevant settings and themes for the third and last film in the series but a filming date and location have not yet been set. As it is a time of great upheaval in the world, there are many options and limitations to consider. The documentary genre is an unexplored genre of filmmaking where many variations in style and storytelling have still not been elaborated on the scale of dramatic works. I am looking forward to charting new territory and will continue to explore new technologies and merge them with traditional methods. Though there is a documentary tendency in my work up until now, I anticipate eventually transitioning into more dramatic work while still remaining close in style to the tendencies of the documentary. Working in animation has become very appealing recently after having completed a short animation titled MadagaSCARS in collaboration with the Lemur Conservation Foundation. Due to its reliance upon the craft of drawing and the many possibilities for incorporating direct evidence of the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s handiwork, it becomes another opportunity to explore the partnership between older traditions and new technologies for the purpose of storytelling. Weaving through all these considerations is the challenge of embracing and incorporating the new without discarding the past.
Clare Chong Lives and works in Singapore
Clare Chong’s body of works concerns the minute interactions humans have with one another. She is interested in issues prevalent in mundane life; the quiet moments, the wink of an eye, the slight curl of the lips, the shift in tone that consists of various nuances. Often, her subjects are the quiet outcasts of society we don’t pay attention to. The lonely security guard, a girl dealing with her emotional insecurities, or a person who can’t figure out his or her sexuality. She prefers to portray her subjects through prying, almost rudely, into the intimate. This approach forces the viewer to question the way in which we gaze and observe the subjects - Are we approaching the subject and the subject matter objectively, or with a certain preconception, judgement, and opinion?
Clare Chong An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Dark Triptych: MIITA is a captivating project by multidisciplinary artist Clare Chong: inquiring into the the growing social concerns of child bride, she initiates her spectatorship into an multilayered experience capable of forcing them to question the way in which we gaze and observe the subjects. Chong's research into the dialogue between reality and the realm of imagination encourages a cross-pollination of the spectatorship and we are particularly pleased to introduce her captivating work to our readers. Hello Clare and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you are a versatile video artist: would tell us something about your background? In particular, how does your studies at the Lasalle College Of Arts influence your trajectory as a filmmaker? I started my venture into the creative realm at a very young age, mainly because my mother was a piano teacher, and my father studied fashion. In some sense, coming from a Singaporean society, everything was very rigid and there were certain expectations that every parent places on their children. For me, I was encouraged to learn the piano, violin, and ballet, and definitely at such a young age, I would question why can’t I just enjoy and watch TV instead of spending gruelling hours practicing instruments and dancing. Of course now, I see the immense benefits from it and I’m really thankful for my parents because they enforced these practices on me. Because of my artistic background, my mom once again encouraged me to audition for SOTA, School of the arts Singapore. I was 13 then, and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I got in through classical singing, and studied music for four years. At sota, the community of art students was very small, at 200 people per batch, and we all started from 13 and graduate
Long story short, I became really passionate about film after seeing things such as un chien andalou, the holy mountain, and twin peaks, along with other Southeast asian films such as millennium mambo (hou hsiao hsien) and I don’t want to sleep alone (tsai ming liang), and that’s how I got into cinema. After taking my international baccalaureate at SOTA, I took a gap year to work on my films and work at a few production houses. However, I really hated the commercial film system and couldn’t hold a job any longer than six months. at the same time, I was working on a film titled ‘Toogie’s Trip To Bukuokuka’ which was very crucial as it developed my style of filmmaking in the years to come. I got into CALARTS for experimental film, but decided not to go because it was really expensive. I’m still hoping to go to calarts for my masters, and am going to work towards that after I graduate. Then I decided that I wanted to continue my studies, and thought that lasalle was the best alternative to CALARTS. The education in lasalle is very technical and is based solely on filmmaking, so I don’t get to experiment as much as I would like to, but I think that it is still a crucial education nevertheless. currently, i’m trying to collaborate with as many artists from different art forms, and hopefully create new alternatives to how video can be implemented into various different art forms. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit http://cllrechong.com in order to get a synoptical idea about your multifaceted artistic production: in the meanwhile, would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In
at 18 years old. Ofcourse, we still studied typical subjects like math, science, chinese, english, but we spend a lot of extra hours at our art forms. Through that, we became a very tight knit community, and I started to take interest in other art forms as well. I was going to theatre plays, visual art exhibitions, dance performances and also had the opportunity to try my hands at ceramics. these all created a very good vocabulary of the arts. I also got to study anthropology, which greatly influenced the observational nature of my films, as well as how I create character portraits. It was through media education classes (which was compulsory for every student) that I took an interest in film. I jumped the boat and decided to take film as my arts major instead of music, and that was how it all started.
particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? I don’t often think about how to connect my films, whether it’s visually, thematically or narratively. if it happens, it happens. I definitely started by copying, and in fact I was and still am a huge fan of jim jarmusch. my first ever film titled stranger by night was an homage to him. Then, I started to take an interest in automatic writing which was from the surrealist movement, and started to work that way. I didn’t like how rigid filmmaking was, where everyone had a structured role to play, so when I have the liberty to experiment, I experiment. Often, the way I work is that I just write. I keep writing, with no intention, with no structure. that’s why sometimes my films tend to sound very aimless, it’s all about an emotion that you get from the films. I really like experimenting, so I guess my experimental works aren’t referring to a genre, its simply me trying to experiment and change something in the way I make films. For example, I made SOUND FILM I, which was an experiment to see what happens when sound takes precedence over visuals. What happened was that I covered the camera monitors and let sound guide me. we recorded things based on whether it sounded interesting, but had no idea what we were shooting, and obviously had no idea if the visuals were even in focus. then, in editing, I turned off the visuals, and edited based on the sound. In the end, I had no idea how the film looked like, and only saw the visuals to the film during the first screening to an audience. Another experiment was toogie’s trip to bukuokuka. this was a script that I wrote in an airplane, based off many months of collected dreams. for a long while, I have been asking my friends about their dreams and recording it, and I never knew what it was for. there was no purpose, I was simply recording. then one day in the plane I decided to read all of it and write a script. thats how the film came about. I never changed the structure of it, nor the script, and it was only in the editing process that I tried to make sense of it and make it into a film. These kinds of experiments are interesting to me because it subverts the conventional ways of filmmaking. I also do other experiments, such as investigating how it will be to make a film totally unplanned, and driven purely by instincts. For my series of shorts called ‘what is a rebel’, it is exactly that. All I know is that I want to capture a person on screen, and paint them in a colour. this colour is
Another thing I did is titled ASCENSION, which is a collaboration with dirk stromberg, who was my ex teacher and now collaborator. He creates his own instruments, and was intending to release an EP. I listened to the music and wrote down whatever visuals came instantly to my mind, and when reviewing it, realised that I subconsciously formed a story and an idea. After shooting it, the ideas expanded even more, and now it is going to become a VR experience. I think that these forms of creating art is very fun, and really forces you to just go totally wacky and crazy. its a very different approach compared to my more conventional narrative films such as stranger by night, MIITA, music videos for bands such as sam rui, subsonic eye, and bennett bay. I love both forms of filmmaking, and don’t prefer one over the other, but I think for me to be a creative, I need both in my life. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Dark Triptych: MIITA, a captivating series of shorts that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the growing social concerns of child bride is way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of Dark Triptych: MIITA, would you tell us what did you inspire of this theme? This film actually came about from Seeing Eye films, an independent production company based in Kuala Lumpur. When they approached me, they were looking for young female filmmakers to adapt this story which was written by wong pek mei into a film, but it was too risqué for any malaysian filmmaker to take it on. For me as a singaporean, I felt that it was an extremely important issue to talk about, but didn’t see any concerns on my part about making a film like that. it was simply a difference in culture, and I understood why a malysian filmmaker would not have taken the risk. It is always a matter of whether I feel for the story, and whether I find meaning in it. if there is, i’ll do it no matter what it takes. which I did.
determined by the kind of aura they produce, and the decision of colour is instantaneous. Whatever visuals you see are purely done on instinct, and whatever photographs comes out of it is purely unplanned.
To me, i’ve seen documentaries, I’ve seen narratives in long form and short form about child marriages, rape etc. it’s all been done before. and mostly, overplayed. that was exactly what I didn’t want to do. I wanted to just observe, hence we went through many revisions of the script to get it to what it was today. I knew that there was no point in dramatising the story, and that it wouldn’t do any character justice. I mean, we as viewers of the film are merely observers, absolutely helpless if this was a real story. what can you do? and even if you as a viewer wanted to do something, you can’t, and your concern is absolutely pointless. the only person that can do something about the situation is MIITA herself, and that was what I wanted to emphasise. Often whenever we watch a film, we are manipulated into feeling a certain way. even in MIITA, you are manipulated. but I tried my best to control that manipulation, through the long one takes, through the black and white cinematography. I wanted to distant the viewer as much as possible from the reality of this situation. I think black and white cinematography really strips a film of its vibrancy, and forces us to concentrate not so much on the environment rather than the characters itself, which is what I like about it. I also made it 1.37 aspect ratio, because I wanted to have the viewers concentrate solely on the characters itself and not the environment. in fact, I never liked viewers to take notice of the environment. it doesn’t matter where, when these things happen, to me it is all about the profile of the character. Lets talk a little bit about the music. at first, after the first cut of the music, the EP and most of the crew hated the music, because they felt it didn’t match the film. however, I loved it.my approach was that I told my film scorer - bennett bay - that I wanted him to react and answer to the film through music. what he gave me was a response, whether as an observer, as a musician, or if he took on the perspective of miita or any other character in the film. And that is a very strong thing. an honest reaction through music. Hence I wanted to respect that, and kept it as it is, because I respect genuine reactions and intuition more than rationality in creativity. Also not to mention, I really liked his music and thought that it was a great response to the film. MIITA features unique and nonlinear storytelling, capable of addressing the viewers to a multilayered visual experience: how did you develop the script and the structure of the film? I think for most of my films, it always works like brief encounters, brief dreams and brief memories. it doesn’t matter how you structure each scene, because ultimately they tell the same emotion and same story. and I have always worked like that. I believe that there are too many films out there that serve to create a
strong narrative, a very structured storyline, and I have no need to contribute to that any more. I like a film where a viewer can drift in and out of sleep, that when I view the film, when I fall asleep, i’d dream scenes of something else, and when I wake up and continue watching the film, those visuals I dreamt of feeds my interpretation of the film. That excites me, and I guess that is what I like to recreate in films. its simply a time frame, whether ten, twenty minutes, where you can entirely just dream. My intention is to give a simple storyline, a simple scenario, a vignette into someone’s world, and it is completely up to the audience on how it can be interpreted. We have appreciated your particular care to details and your careful close up shots: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your approach to lighting? Thank you for that! I shot most things in wide shots, because I ultimately believe in the simple fact of observation. however, there were definitely certain portions that I felt a strong intention to manipulate the audience, to heighten the intensity of the situation, simply because it felt true to the scene. To me, my philosophy to camera angles, styles, and editing is simple. as long as it feels true, we’ll do it. as long as I know that it serves the story, and that it serves the emotion best, I will do it. the close ups were a natural instinct, be it to emphasise on emotion, or to emphasise on story. I had very minimal lighting for the entire film. a lot of it was natural light, because I suppose I felt that having it black and white, as well as to have it in long still takes and wide shots was already quite stylized to the audience. I didn’t need to heighten much in terms of lighting, most of it was practical lights in the shot, or it was just a simple arri that filled a little bit of light in the backdrop. Simplicity is best. ultimately, story is king, and I serve the story. Definitely, some shots were more stylised than others, but again, it was an instinctual decision. As you have remarked in your artist's statement, you are is interested in issues prevalent in mundane life: how does everyday life's experience fuels your imagery as a creative? I take john merger’s way of seeing as a truth. and I’m quoting loosely, but my interpretation of his statement about the female gaze is that females
ultimately gaze upon themselves as how they see a man’s judgement on them, and then disassociate themselves, and observe themselves in the whole scenario in relation to men. I am definitely not feminist, and I believe that women still succumb to certain standards of the male centric society, as much as it is hard to believe. I do observe myself a lot, be it the way I speak to girls vs boys, the way I sit, the way I eat, sleep, walk. I am constantly criticising my actions, and at the same time, observing and analysing everyone else around me. everything I do and observe can be put into a film, and every single experience is very precious to me. I take note of the way people think, sleep, eat, I take note of the way someone idly stares into space when they smoke. I take note of the way I dream, what I dream about and what it says about me. essentially, every living moment, I am trying to memorise, process and understand why things happen. I think it is this curiosity that fuels me, and it is this constant need to learn and observe that influences my art. Ultimately, my art is about the people around me, and I react and respond to my friends, my lovers, my enemies, and the strangers that I see on the street. An aspect of your artistic production is the focus on the outcasts of society, the lone individuals that lives life as a repetition: 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 political system you’re living under". How do you consider the relationship between artists and society? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age? Definitely, I used to think that art was selfish and that it was purely for the artist. I didn’t give a damn about what others thought of my art. but I read andrei tarkovsky’s sculpting in time, in particular the chapter titled art - a yearning for the ideal. I don’t agree with all that he has mentioned, and definitely his idea of what art should be was too idealistic. however, it was through that that I recognise the importance of art in society, and how much art can impact society. art impacts culture and vice versa, art also impacts philosophy, politics, science, and everything really. its amazing how much art can do, and with that, the artist holds a great responsibility. definitely an artist reacts to the society they live in, and so does the society impact the artist.
For me, singapore is a society that is known for its lack of culture. art in singapore goes in trends, especially in film. for a period, it was about nostalgia, now, migrant workers etc. for me, I know these issues are important, but I am not interested in it. I am simply interested in observing the mundane. with the mundane comes repetition, with repetition comes a lack of excitement. my life is turbulent, and so is many others around me that strive to achieve material goals, desires, and some kind of standing in society. it amazes me how some people can live simply, and be completely contented with what they have. such a simple life is something that I wish I could be contented with, and I am somewhat jealous of the simplicity in their lives. of course, I can never live so simply, so I always project my desires into my films. I admire these people, the lone individuals that are living life as repetition without much desire. they might or might not be contented with their situation, but for me, there is some beauty in it. that is what I like to investigate and capture in my films as well. Escaping from traditional narrative form, your works often address the viewers to walk on the thin line that links reality to dreamike realm to such elusive still ubiquitous point of convergence. How would you consider the relationship between the real and the imagined within your artistic practice? I don’t think that there is ever a distinction between the real and the imagined. just like how art influences society, and society influences art, the real influences the imagined and vice versa. I am buddhist, and hence I believe that there is a balance in everything, and that everything in the universe affects every other thing around it, and that the individual has the power to change things around them. hence everything is interconnected, and there is no need to distinguish so clearly what is real and what is not. the idea of real and unreal is a construct that should be abolished, everything is real. your dreams, fantasies, they’re real. To me a dream is real, it is the real subconscious. it is important to acknowledge that, and to understand how dreams affects the way you behave in ‘real life’. Coming from a classical music background, you also produce video art pieces and installations for musicians. According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects contemporary societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye
became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Definitely, in every day society visuals takes precedence over sound. however, I truly believe that the most impactful art form is music. it is universal, no words are needed. music is a language in itself, that can affect a person emotionally. emotions are more important than the intellect, and hence I always start with music. It impacts me greatly, and is still a crucial part of my artistic practice. without music, I would never be where I am today. In singapore, I strongly support the music scene, and I really want to see it grow. in culture it is so important to have music, and without music, a culture can never grow. singapore needs so much more support for music (as with other art forms), and we are on the way to create something that is truly ours. I really admire the tenacity that musicians have, and hence I do whatever I can to support them through making videos and collaborations. As David Lynch mentioned, "Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. I truly believe that as well, sound heightens so much more of a film, it brings life to it. thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the beauty of film, to incorporate so many art forms - theatre, dance, literature, design, architecture, and so on - and that is why I fell in love with film. it is the all encompassing and collaborative nature, especially between visuals and sound that I truly love. For your video art works you have taken on the approach of automatic writing in filmmaking: how much importance does play spontaneity and improvisation in your process? Making an experimental film (i simply mean an experiment in this sense), and a conventional film is so different, and as I have mentioned, I love both processes equally. in terms of experimentation, it is an outlet for me to be completely free, with no obligations whatsoever. itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very healthy state to be in, to just allow myself to ride on my intuition and emotions. I would say it is a form of therapy for me. to shamelessly put up these works for criticism is also another aspect, it leaves me vulnerable, but also pushes me to improve further. I feel like the purest form of rationality is intuition. not many people agree with this, and rightfully so. however, I make it a point to make my decisions in five seconds, and to truly accept that decision and not regret it. it is a very absolute way of living, which also means that my significant other halves canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really
stand me at times, haha. but its just my practice, and it is something I firmly believe it which spurs my craft. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in new media art. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in Art and especially in videomaking? Definitely, film is a very male centric art form. technically, you carry a lot of heavy things, get put in tough environments, women lose out drastically in that aspect. I see that too in my every day life, but it has never really set me back. even right from the beginning, i’ve never seen myself as a female filmmaker. I still won’t call myself a filmmaker, but I am simply a creative. I don’t think that I have ever made a distinction between a male and female filmmaker, and I don’t think I ever will. we’re all human, and it’s all equal. you can choose to believe it is not, but to me, there is really no distinction. I also don’t believe that women and men make different kinds of art. sure, you can read into it and generalize, but is there a need to? I think women tend to empower themselves by thinking that this is a new future for women, we are gaining more authority, independence etc, but I think women are strong enough to just act autonomously on their own and not have to rely on such thinking to spur them on. there is no need to prove anything, just work hard to get to where you want, it is as simple as that. the moment you try and prove yourself to do something, it’ll backfire. the most important thing is to trust yourself, be honest, and intuitive. that’s for me, at least. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Clare. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m very excited for the years to come, and I am working on a couple of projects now. I’m trying to put my works up in more unconventional settings, I don’t believe that film should just be screened in cinema spaces. I’m constantly experimenting, and i’d love to collaborate with anyone from around the world, as long as it is something interesting. to me, for now, I’m contented just having a roof over my head and enough money to eat, so everything else is dedicated to my craft. I am experimenting with more crafts now, so that includes painting, sculpture etc, and I’m hoping to somehow incorporate that into film eventually.
Sarah Lasley An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Using a minimalist still captivating visual style Edyn in Exile is a moving film by multidisciplinary artist Sarah Lasley: inquiring into the notions of alienation and embodiment, she initiates her audience into an unconventional and highteneed visual that encourages a crosspollination of the spectatorship: we are particularly pleased to introduce Lasley's multifaceted and captivating work. Hello Sarah and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would start this interview about a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BFA the University of Louisville you nurtured your education with a MFA in Painting, that you received from the prestigious Yale School of Art: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum addresses the themes of your artistic research?
I’m honored to be included in this issue, thank you for having me. My work is certainly in conversation with the geography and culture of my upbringing. I lived in Kentucky until the age of 22 and was raised with strong conservative Christian values. Growing up in the American south meant an inculcation of patriarchal beliefs, and it wasn’t until I moved to the northeast that I began to see this as an imposed structure and not a universal truth. I entered Yale’s graduate program a representational figure painter. I was making these massive paintings of stereotypically sexualized women reclaiming their over-mediated images. It was at Yale that I began to experiment with video, approaching the camera as a technology of the authoritative gaze. Integrating time into my imageworld allowed for an exploration of embodiment and endurance, themes were important to my thinking on gender. The lush, cinematic visual language of my videos puts my work in conversation with the history of cinema, which has its own patriarchal issues as well. I’m in search of a distinctively feminine film form: one that values non-linear, sensorial experience over analytic, dialogue-based storytelling. While teaching at Yale after graduate school, I met Edyn Panache, my collaborator on this film. She was
Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit https://www.sarahlasley.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process,would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? My work has developed around the concept of looking and the difference of being looked at vs. being seen, specifically as it relates to those who identify as female in society. There is power in looking. I define “looking” as a surface examination that inevitably creates a subject/object relationship to whatever is being surveyed, whereas “seeing” someone as a whole person involves the use of other senses and a slowness of classification. I’m interested in gender as a flattened performance and in speaking to the female experience as it pertains to being “on view”. This connects to John Berger’s theory that a woman is constantly aware of herself as image and therefore watches
the drag persona of a student I had in my Video Art class. Growing up queer in a large Mormon family, they too struggled with some of the issues of sexual repression and shame that I was grappling with. Though our stories were quite different intersectionally, the scars left on the body were similar. I found it interesting how an ideology can live in one’s body and continue to affect them long after the ideas have been intellectually demystified. At the time, we were both using art as a tool for exposing and healing some of these issues. It was only natural that we should collaborate on a project together.
For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected, an extremely interesting video that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that is available at https://vimeo.com/145591105. Edyn in Exile is many things: an intimate and mysterious story, a refined portrait of human alienation and a compellingly critique of contemporary age: what has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the notion of human alienation in ur media driven age is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of Edyn in Exile, would you tell what did draw you to focus on this theme?
herself being looked at. An identification of the self as “viewed” can reduce a person to an image, relinquishing ownership over one’s physical body. This ideological relationship of the viewer to the viewed bleeds into our socio-sexual dynamics as well, sometimes blurring the lines of consent. The inability to accept or to fully encompass a traumatic experience produces fragmentations in our subjective sense of wholeness. It limits our ability to function as integrated human beings. I explore embodiment as a tool for healing trauma and want my films to be an opportunity for those whose sexuality was taken from or denied them to reclaim their image and stand fully in their bodies. There is power in a validated point of view, and my characters are often working out how they choose to be viewed and how they see themselves.
Certainly the proliferation of digital images has changed our relationship to aesthetics and aesthetic value. Social media, with its promotion of visual identity, appears to be connecting us, yet statistics show loneliness is rapidly on the rise. Our news feeds connect us with other like-minded people, but this echo chamber creates an “othering” of those different from ourselves and ultimately inhibits our ability for empathy. It’s possible today to live a rich, supportive life online yet still feel completely isolated and hidden in your day to day existence. This is why Edyn heads to the desert. Utah’s conservative, Mormon environment gives her no stage, so she is forced to seek a backdrop of her own. The juxtaposition of Edyn’s womyn to the supernatural landscape of the Salt Flats prompts the question “what is natural?”, and why do we define it visually? Visual consistency gives gravity to the worlds I build in my films. The visual vacuum is air-tight, and in it, this world and that mountain are real - or as real as anything can be. I intentionally create image-spaces that eschew language and definition. There is freedom in this inability to be labeled. It helps breaks down the boundary between “us” and “them” and mirrors the slippery nature of the superficiality we wear daily. We like the way the intimacy of the shooting environment is reflected with the content of the film and we daresay that Edyn in Exile also explores man’s request for transcendence, his search for an elusive state of calm and inner peace: this video draws heavily from the specifics of environments. How was your process affected by locations? In Christian mythology, the desert is the realm of the unknown, a dangerous place of purgatory for those
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We have appreciated your unconventional approach to cinematography and performance reminding us of Derek Jarman's work: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist involved both in Photography and Dance how would you consider the
considered ill-suited for society. It is “other” to urban life, geographically resting on the fringes of the city, and therefore a perfect home for Edyn. We shot over three days in the Bonneville Salt Flats, a desert on the border of Utah, a very conservative state, and Nevada, a state known for its excesses. Another paradox lies in the arctic aesthetic paired with harsh high temperatures. The land is a sea of white, which could read as a blank slate for Edyn to start over; there is no middle or foreground, only background. We used that deep space to work with scale and intimacy. Edyn’s relationship to the frame mirrors her connection to the landscape and ultimately to her self. Upon arrival, she takes a photo with her phone. She mediates the mountain as a way of saying hello, before performing a playful, free movement in the space - a ritualistic ice breaker to the land. Finally she connects with the land physically. She submerges her feet, removes the synthetic layers covering her skin, and through more intentional movement, uses her body to leave a mark on the mountain. The desert is a place where time and space are frozen, and Edyn’s body becomes its only apparent variable. It is also a place to silence the chatter inside oneself and re-connect to your body, god, God, nature, or whichever direction your belief is aimed. For Edyn, this was a chance to find her person again.
relationship between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act of producing your artworks? I love that Richter quote. It’s very connected to my practice. I have two distinct stages in my process - the pre-production mode of research and conceptual thinking and the intuitive, exploratory shooting mode. Both have to be in balance. With such a small, intimate crew of one or two people where I play the role of cinematographer, producer, and director, it’s crucial to leave space for seeing and responding to the moment in front of me. The conceptual work happens long before arriving to set, and it’s important to trust that I understand those concepts fully enough to let them go and be present with my performer. I direct my subjects mostly by shooting and framing them. The collaboration exists in the space between the camera and their body, almost like a dance where we hand the lead back and forth. While shooting, I try to find what they want to show me and keep it in balance with what I was looking for coming into the shoot. Once I’m in the editing room, I return to a more analytic mindset, spending many months getting familiar with the footage, and often what we’ve shot is a surprise to me. Your observation of social and psychological phenomena seems to be very analytical, yet Edyn in Exile strives to be full of emotion: how would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every details of your works? how much importance does play improvisation in your process? When I was in graduate school, I self-consciously tried to make “intelligent” work, where the ideas were foregrounded to the form. Yet I realized awhile ago that analytic thinking is
engrained in me from my years of training. I don’t need to nurture it - I was trained in it, I teach it, I get it. It will always be a part of my work. What I don’t fully understand, as it is by definition undefinable, is the shifting nature of my intuitive thinking. This is why I enjoy small collaborative projects. The performance and movement in the film is as much Edyn’s creation as it is my direction. The actor who played her is incredibly intelligent, critically and emotionally, so the content arose naturally from our conversations and improvisations. I never plan or schedule my shoots or even worry about whether something is going the way I wanted it to. I prefer to respond to what is actually happening and trust that the content is there inside of each of us. The analysis and formal decisions occur once the shooting is over. In the editing room, I use my art and film training to sculpt an articulate film from our exploration, valuing moments of authentic emotion over narrative clarity. Edyn in Exile plays with parts of the body as well as environmental ambiences rich with symbolic values: how would you consider the role of metaphor within your work? Well, metaphor is a great device for working with ideas that are slippery and difficult to apply language to. In my religious upbringing metaphor was often used as a limiting factor. I recall being told that life is a pizza and God is the crust, so without the crust everything gets messy and falls apart. These concepts were clear to my young mind, so I never questioned them. There was a huge falling out with my community when I learned to think critically. It’s only as an adult that I’m able to return to my spirituality in a non-verbal, more abstract way. My films are in direct conversation with spirituality and belief, yet I use metaphor to liberate, as a release from control. Dance and movement can speak to and for the body in a way that is nuanced and complex, one that values sensorial, emotional states over analytic rationale. Western culture, due much in part
to the spread of Christianity, tends to value the mind over the body and sets human beings apart from Nature, which must be controlled. This thinking has justified the control of womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bodies for millennia. In many western religions bodies are viewed as sinful and all natural impulses should be denied in favor of a conceptual God with strict and specific rules for their behavior. I recognize how Christianityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s use of reductive metaphor is a democratic way for helping all to understand, and I appreciate that sentiment, but many concepts elude this reductive language and categorization. This is where I find metaphor and abstraction to be most useful, when it allows for a larger space to believe and BE within. We flatten people when we label them or restrict their bodies with moral judgement and shame. Your shoots are very small and intimate: as you have remarked once, your films are the typically the result of intuitive collaborations between you and a performer: it's no doubt that interdisciplinary collaborations as the aforesaid ones are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art 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? By the way, Peter Tabor once stated that "collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not": what's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between creative people from different fields? In our narcissistic, identity-promoting culture, where every website has tailored suggestions for what you might enjoy,
collaboration and integration are more important than ever. Entwining one’s ideas with another person is a more effective strategy for sharing and communicating than airing your beliefs online in what inevitably becomes idealogical combat with others. I’ve had the privilege of working with an incredible groups of artists from theatre, dance, performance, and film backgrounds, and all of those collaborations have changed my practice greatly. When I first worked with artist/director Brenna Palughi, she was a graduate student in the Yale School of Drama acting program. Our connection was instantaneous, and Brenna’s background in dance and theatre helped breathe a new emotional life into my characters. Over the past nine years, we have continued to integrate our ideas in everything from one-on-one collaborative films to big budget professional projects. Now we barely use words when we work together. The communication is mostly intuitive, which helps greatly with no-budget filmmaking where the art must be shared and production time is cut to a tiny fraction. This style of collaboration also gives me access to groups I would like to work with but don’t feel comfortable speaking for. I don’t live in a queer body and can’t speak from their perspective, but I can provide the images for them to speak in whatever mode they choose to show me. The soundtrack of Edyn in Exile provides the film with such ethereal atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images?
Speaking of long-time collaborators, I’ve worked with my composer Yannis Panos on many projects over the years. He understands the emotional content of my films in a way that no composer for hire ever could. I trust his sensibility immensely and give him very little direction or explanation prior to handing the film over. Edyn in Exile is fairly timeless and placeless and has a number of long, empty shots, making it tricky to score. The opening sequence felt a little too slow without sound, but Panos placed the musical shifts slightly ahead of the visual edits, effectively retiming and tightening the flow of the film. This brought an incredible groundedness and authority to what were otherwise long, empty shots of Edyn moving through space. We had spoken of Edyn as an alien to the land she is moving through, and from that he created a psychedelic sound that harkens to science fiction films from the 70s. He layered synth combos, samples, and even throat chakra chanting to create a sound space that’s as complex and fleshed out as the visual space. Our brains naturally want to create synthesis between image and sound, and I’ve found that my films don’t feel cohesive until they have passed through Panos’s hands. It’s such a blessing to have a creative partner who uses sound in a similar way to how I use images. Over the years your short films have been internationally screened in a number of film festivals and galleries, including your recent exhibitions at the Around Films International Film Festival, in Barcelona: one of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the the opportunity to become active participants and are
urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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?
camera movement creates a secondary character, that of the viewer/voyeur, who follows our main character. In the beginning of the film, we encounter a Vegas showgirl performing for the camera. As the harsh conditions of the desert weigh on her, she is forced to acknowledge her own physical needs and shift her self-identification from that of a beautiful object to a living being with thoughts, desires, and a point of view.
I always used to say that I make my films for young girls living on daydreams in their parents’s suburban basements… so basically, for me as a teenager. Seriously, though, I don’t think about making my films for a particular context - the gallery, a film festival, etc. In fact, while I’m editing I often tell myself I’ll never show the film to anyone, as a way of trying to stay honest to my own voice. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to show my work, and it often lands in galleries that are open to more cinematic video art and film festivals that value an experimental approach. My work sits nicely on the boundaries of film and video art, and I find that provides more opportunities than limits.
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sarah. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
Since the spectator for a film is engaged in the act of looking, my content uses the audience to finish the cycle of viewer/viewed. In my newest film, The Imagemaker, which I shot entirely alone in the desert of Arizona, I alter the role of the film spectator from that of viewer, to voyeur, and ultimately, predator. The film was shot in 4K resolution as a means to allow for zooming and panning in post-production. This simulated
Thank you! I’m currently touring my latest film The Imagemaker which will be screening in Taiwan and Barcelona next. I’m also in pre-production for a new film about medieval Christian mystic women who took to the desert to convene privately with God. Their spiritual relationships were non-verbal and based on visions and raptures, and their selfflagellation teetered on sadism. I’m doing research on the connection of sadistic pleasure and abstinence in ascetics. The medieval Christian mystic women were also some of the first feminists, escaping the social constraints of the city for a life of their own control in the desert. I’m interested in creating an anachronistic film where this early Christian mysticism encounters contemporary New Age spirituality and am hoping to work with much older actors for the first time.
Katia Scarton-Kim and
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Katia and Nadia deauand welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your backgrounds? Are there any experiences that did influence your evolution as filmmakers? KSK : I studied at the swiss Conservatory of dramatic art in Lausanne. I'm originally an actress and I have been acted for a long time. I even acted in my own film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Swich offâ&#x20AC;? for the role of the elder sister. The Swiss conservatory was a very demanding program. I worked with quite famous directors and playwrights in Swiss who expected us to be very rigorous and disciplined. My training is therefore very literary. I grew up studying the most famous French and foreign classical authors and that helps me a lot today in my work as a scriptwriter. After several years of acting, I switched to artistic direction and it has immediatly been a revelation for me.
NJ : I come from a family who volunteered the cinema in the heart of the small towns of France. My father and my uncles were volunteer projectionists, my mother was selling the candy ... I was watching the movies through the small window of the engine room. It is my childhood, and also my influence, as Cinema paradiso de Giuseppe Tornatore. Naturally, I became an actress, then a writer, then a director. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? In particular, would you shed light the collaborative nature of your filmmaking? KSK : Before making a film, I try to know as much as possible the subject and I do extensive research because I need to know in details the subject I am dealing with. For this film â&#x20AC;&#x153;Switch offâ&#x20AC;?, I worked with my co-director Nadia Jandeau. It's a film we made together. We had already worked together and we knew there would be no problem directing together because we were going in the same direction. I always choose my collaborators very carefully because I sincerely believe that cinema is a collective art. I like to share talent, to gather different persons and minds to generate new ideas. A film is often the result of several combined talents put together at the service of the director and his point of view. Finally I pay a particular attention to the cast and the script. In my opinion a good movie can be resumed to a good cast and to a well constructed script each person of the team can rely to. I often use to make a storyboard but it was not necessary on "Switch off", because our way of working was more based on spontaneity. NJ: I like teamwork. Especially after long periods of writing that are very lonely. Each project is unique. Each adventure requires finding the right ingredients. Especially when making an independent film like Switch off. I like to let myself be
I suddenly had the feeling that it was there, behind the camera, where I belonged as an artist. Today when I make a movie I am very demanding with the actors. I believe profoundly that it is 80 % the actors who make a movie.
For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected the Switch off, an interesting film 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 consequences of child abuse is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous visual unity: while walking our readers through the genesis of Switch off, would you tell us why did you choose to focus on te notion of guilty? KSK and N.J : When we started our researches about child abuse, we were struck by what the brothers and sisters of an abusive family could feel. The guilty that was placed on their shoulders was enormous. The impossibility to act was one of the factors of their guilty. Everyone blamed himself for letting things happen without interfering, whereas in fact it was because they were all terrorized by what was happening. One child of an abusive family told us : "I thought it was normal". Another said : "I didn't speak because I was afraid it would happen also to me." From these testimonies we decided to write our script and make aesthetic choices. We started with the will to be as much as possible close to the actors' faces in order to give the spectator the sensations of being just near them as if he could hear them breathing. That aesthetic choice comes from our will to put the viewer in apnea, and to never let him run away and make sure he feels everything. NJ :When I became a mother, everything about children was multiplied by ten. Katia is someone with who I can talk to about
surprised, I like that the creation appears in front off me. I dread what freezes a movie. I prepare it as well as possible, but everything is made to give life to the film, to be everything is done to be active, jostled, questioned. With Switch off, a mixture of discomfort and exaltation was palpable during the manufacture of the film. Katia and I were the only ones to know where we really were because the film was constructed as a game. We followed a trajectory and adapted the script as we progressed. This method works only in total trust and harmony. This work can only be done because Katia and I know each other well, and we have worked together in the past.
Escaping from traditional narrative form, Switch off features a brilliant storytelling: how did you develop the script and the structure of the film? In particular, how did you develope the characters of your film? KSK and N.J : The film is based on a unusual event that happened in France a few years ago and that shocked us. (c'est quoi le fait divers ?) we began to do research about child abuse and wonder how a mother could come to such extremes. We have gradually elaborated our script from different testimonies. Through the scenario we also wanted to highlight the relationships between mother and daughter and show how abuse can totally destroy the bonds that unite a family. We also wanted to show how it becomes very difficult for the children to rebuild their lives after this tragedy. And especially how deep the future relationships will be impacted by this event. We chose to speak of a family exclusively constitued of women and to voluntarily refer to the Greek tragedy (the gynaeceum) which seemed to work with the same dramatic codes. The family represents at the same time the strongest knit but also what trigger the most ferocious hatreds. Through the different personalities and ages of these 5 womens we tried to create links between them, love links but also hatred and resentment links because they all feel in varying degrees guilty to have let their little sisters die in their mother's hands. The scenario was constructed by successive layers but always keeping the main characters and their feelings. We absolutely wanted to put them at the center of the narrative and to treat them all as the heroines of a big tragedy. Switch off is an introspective film that reveals the darkness of the human soul. That's why we chose strong characters and tragedians roles. In this way this story is not so unusual but simply universal. It talks about our fundamental link : our fragile and human condition.
something that touches me deeply. For several years, we have shared news in the media about children. We wanted to make a film together. Talk about this subject, ultra taboo, seemed to us necessary. We then questioned the consequences of hidden abuse on a family. Guilt is part of humanity. Only the monster can be deprived of it. We are all guilty. We are all concerned.
We have been deeply impressed with your peculiar framing style, reminding us of Robert Bresson's production: what are your influences as a cinematographer? KSK : When I was young I watched all Ingmar Bergman's films. His films impressed me a lot, especially "Persona" and "Cris et Chuchotements". His way of filming, always very close to the characters' faces as if he wanted to explore their psyche fascinated me a lot. Besides, the precision of the frame, the differents camera movements, the light set and every detail is perfectly mastered. That's why Bergman worked closely with Swen Nykvist who is for me one of the best director of photography. Thank to their collaboration they made one of the greatest aesthetic cinema. With Bergman, there is nothing left to chance, everything is thought out and therefore everything is suggested. Bergman would never told the spectator one way of thinking but would let him think anything he wants. It is the prerogative of the great directors to leave a special place for the spectator to think. Later I discovered the films of Theo AngĂŠlopoulos and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Then David Lynch films which totally fascinated me. NJ: My cinematic tastes are totally eclectic. France is the country of the new wave. At that time, the directors explored new methods, they took power. Today, our country, France, is paralyzed by the fear of commercial failure. The films of authors, outside the industry, struggle to find a place. We can not express ourselves, have the freedom to create different films. Switch off is born beacause of a vital need to express ourselves freely, like John Cassavetes for exemple. Flat images, meticulously composed are a landmark of your shooting style: what focal lenght did you use to throughout your film? And waht was your approach to lighting? N.J and KSK : We used long focal lengths of 50 and 85. We wanted the subject to be close. We almost didn't use artificial light but mainly natural light. Actually we didn't want to
In Switch off you have combined clever attention to details and accurate attention to close up shots: what were your main aesthetic decisions in terms of composition and shooting? N.J and KSK : The film has always been imagined to be shot in black and white. In our imagination color never appeared. Aesthetically we wanted a moving camera, a camera who seeks and follows the actors, instead of a static camera which seemed to be a contradiction in regards to the subject. When we prepare the film we thought a lot about Thomas Vinterberg's film â&#x20AC;&#x153;FESTENâ&#x20AC;?. In this film, the frame is jerkily and nervous. We looked for something like that, very crude. And we especially used the close-up because the actresses had to tell long monologues : we wanted their faces to captivate and fascinate the spectator. What is your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? How did you work with the rest of the crew? In particular, would you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your filmmaking? NJ and KSK : At the beginning we talked a lot with the actresses about the issues of the film so that each one knew it's character's features and how to find it. Then we worked a lot using improvisation. The actresses received the script the day before shooting in order to bring the spontaneity of acting out, something completely raw, an acting without artifice, rough and harsh. It is a particular job because it forces the actor always to be at 100% present and at the same time it is a big emotional and physical investment. For the rest of the team, especially the cameraman, we proceeded in the same way. He did not really know what he was going to shoot and the challenge for him was to seize the right moment, so in a way to improvise. The sound of the ambience plays an important role in Switch off: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a
"light" or if we had to do it, it was as little as possible because the film had to reflect a naturalistic point of view.
'sense bias' that affects contemporary societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear: how do you see the relationship between sound and images? KSK : In my opinion sound and picture are intimately linked. The sound brings to the picture what the picture can't reveal by her own. He speaks directly to the spectator's unconscious to his most intimate feeling. KFK and N.J : For â&#x20AC;&#x153; Switch offâ&#x20AC;? we did a very important sound work. We wanted to immerse the spectator in a world to make him feel physical sensations. We wanted to put him in a uncomfortable position. We wanted him to resurrect his own childish terrors. We want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in cinema? In particular, do you think that your being women provides your artistic research with some special value? KSK : I think the future is now open for women. After one century of male dominance, the arrival of small cameras and digital technology has freed us from the constraints of the weight of cameras. I also think that the cultural system in which we were raised have prevented us from getting to that very masculine profession. We always have been rejected and relegated to household chores and children education I think that our society has to carry on with women, even if in France there is still a lot of resistance. Women still can't approach certain themes which are reserved for men, such as war movies, anticipation or horror. Films made
NJ: Today, being a woman means being a warrior. For us, everything is more difficult than for a man. And we also have to face sexism. Men direct cinema in France. I'm not sure the situation is changing. I believe it is a smoke screen to contend public opinion and calm the spirits. Everything remains to be done. Thanks to the American actresses who challenged the Studio about the inequality of the wages. The fight for equality has only just begun. Women will bring to the cinema the look of 50% of the world's population, from actresses with differents physics, subjects never touched, more psychology and less testosterone no doubt. And there, finally, there will be movies for everyone. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Katia and Nadia. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
by women represent only 12% of the national annual production in France, which is a very small percentage. The women filmmakers have made hidden subjects visible. Behind the camera, they explore their society without being convinced by a fixed representation of the world. Women's cinema is a moving cinema, which explores different areas of our lives and cultures, forgotten subjects or sometimes taboo subjects: the first films that talked about rape for example, were made by women. In addition, the filmmakers have got the actresses out of their main roles of tempting women (very sexualized women), by making them active and masters of their own lives. So yes, I really think women's point of view about the world is a singular point of view.
KSK : I just finished a film about the "Basha Posh", these little girls in Afghanistan that are dressed like boys. That's an ancestral custom we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know very well but which persists today. In Afghanistan when a family has only daughters, to overcome shame; they take the youngest of the girls and they dress her like a boy until adolescence. She works with the father and accompanies all the women for the outings. she is a kind of substitute boy. This theme fascinated me. I'm also working on a next script that tells the story of an Afghan family in France. We discover the life of three generations of women who try to emancipate themselves from a very traditional family. My work increasingly focuses on themes related to feminity in a large sense and the woman's condition in the world. I think that today, while the women's rights are falling everywhere and while communitarianism and religious extremism are constantly growing, there is an urgent need to be vigilant. I will end with a sentence of the big writer Simone de Beauvoir: "Never forget that a political, economic or religious crisis is enough for the rights of women to be questioned. These rights are never vested. You must remain vigilant all your life "( Le deuxiĂ¨me sexe, 1949). NJ : I work on 3 projects of feature films of which two are ready to be shot. A romantic comedy and a science fiction black film. Each time my main characters are strong and intelligent heroines. In France it is virtually very hard to finance. I am often told that there are no French actresses to play these kinds of roles. Of course this is not true. But if here, in the United States, I could work, I will be the happiest. Thank you for your kindness about our work. It is an honor for us to participate in this interview.
Renèe Helèna Browne Lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland
Renèe Helèna Browne is an Irish visual artist. Through sculpture, moving image, live work and writing, Browne is concerned with the politics of testimonies and the fragmentation of the body. Recent exhibitions include ‘Redressing Redressing’, a solo exhibition at Outhouse LGBT Community Centre, Dublin, Ireland, ‘Testing’, a group exhibition at Catalyst Arts, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and contribution to Critical Bastards Online Issue ‘Work’. Browne is currently studying on the Master of Fine Art programme at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.
Renèe Helèna B Lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid background and after having earned your Bachelor of Arts in History of Art & Fine Art Sculpture from NCAD, Dublin, you nurtured your education with a Master of Fine Art, that you are currently pursuing at the renowned Glasgow School of Art, Scotland: how did these experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Looking back at my BA education, it helped me understand that the work I produce comes from me the person, rather than me as an ‘artist’. This was an important process of stripping back layers that I went in with around ideas of who makes art, what their role and outputs might be, and how they work. It made me realised the deeply emotional, social and political value of art practice. While the technical and theoretical knowledge I came away with has been invaluable since to my research and making. I think this is was in part quite a natural consequence of being in an art school but also heavily influenced by the richness of the particular education I received there. On leaving I began to understand my own methods, instincts and desires more. These lessons have had a very direct and positive impact on me since and in turn enabled me to produce more meaningful work. Since beginning my Master's I’ve been reflecting on those layers again. It’s early in the programme but I already feel a strong sense of how influential the next two years will be in terms of
Would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? In one way I feel like I’ve been trying to make the same work about the same thing for years and will continue this attempt forever. But also I think the evolution of my practice has been one of the stripping of layers I mentioned previous. A continuous and difficult process of cutting through to what I actually deeply care about, what I emotionally value and feel for, as opposed to embedding work in aesthetic, material or technical impulses. The central idea connecting all my work is that of victimhood and validation. My work to date has been responses to victimhood, ways of understanding it, and giving voice to subjects that I felt have been mistreated. It feels for me an unconscious motif in my practice. But also not a surprising one as I’m very interested in power structures, how these create marginalisation, and particularly how and if a subject’s experiences get legitimised due to those structures. To do with this, I’ve been concerned with the body as a site for misuse. How physical and emotional trauma manifest in combination on it and how objects and their histories can be choreographed into conversations around this as narrative pivots. What has at once captured our attention of this project is the way you have provided the visual results of your inquiry into the notion of objectification with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of R69-32, would you tell what was your initial inspiration?
how I consider and create strategies for art works to exist. I’ve been thinking a lot about this relationship between conceiving and producing work, how my research necessitates intuition and sensitivity, and how this might be carried forward in production and presentation too.
Initially I found the story comical. Schoonhoven, who died in 1994, produced numerous works in series from paper mache which were almost identical in appearance and some very hard to tell apart. But the physical adjustments of the object festered considerably for me. It became important to structure the narrative from the perspective of the painting to position the work as a victim’s experience, rather than how I initially encountered the story as an objective news report. Giving voice to the object, the subject of the name change and 90 degree shift, then fed the narrative as an allegorical one surrounding ideas of value, trauma and power. The sound of spoken words plays a crucial role in R69-32: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? For this particular project I wanted the voice-over to to be primary to the emotional experience of the work. I struggled to write the script for quite a while. Constructing a story that so directly reflects physical abuse, I had to work out a strategy to contain both the experience of an inanimate object and this subtext that wouldn’t be overtly triggering to those watching it. Additionally, I wanted the script to have a texture to it, a liveliness in both its spoken and written form. Writing it in a loose iambic pentameter, a technique I’ve employed in previous work, opened that process up for me and I think levelled out the severity somewhat.
R69-32 was produced over a two-month period while I was an artist in residence at the Hotel Maria Kapel in Hoorn, The Netherlands in 2016. The film is based on true events from 2013, where a white relief ‘R69-32’ (1969) by Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven was stolen from the Museum Van Bommel Van Dam in Venlo, The Netherlands. I came across an article about the robbery in the online archives of an art newspaper. My initial draw to the story was very much heightened by further investigation into the thieves decision to turn the painting onto its side and change the series number from “32” to “39” as an attempt to pass it off as a different work to sell at auction.
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
The description of the eye becoming more essential than the ear is an interesting thing to think about. I’m strongly invested in the emotional potential and details of both sound and the written word, as opposed to moving image. As a consequence the visuals and aesthetics I create are often supports rather than the primary elements of the narratives. Ultimately my interest in audible sound/ language as opposed to what the eye can contain continue to influence my desire for the ear’s attention. Your inquiry into contemporary capitalist patriarchal society seems to be pervaded with a very subtle, still effective socio-political criticism. 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 political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, could be considered political. Do you think that R69-32 could be considered political in this way? R69-32 is a testimony by an object that had until this point been mute, only written about and spoken of. I’m very interested in testimonies and the politics that surround them in terms of prejudice and credibility, both how victimhood can be concocted, and how when genuine can be erased or considered invalid based on systematic hierarchies. I live within a patriarchal system that has conditioned it’s subjects to live in fear. Fearmongering is a divisive political tool that results in
The visuals of the film are in contrast to this, presented sedate, slow and controlled. Their development began with thinking about how to express those complicit in the story. They trace spaces the painting inhabited such as the museum that held the artwork, it’s architecture and floor plans, the human hand, and newspapers documenting the theft. Additionally I included Dutch colonial paintings celebrating male entitlement and power as a means to think about the context of the robbery in the Netherlands, and historical consistency of objectification.
people having an expectancy of emotional, physical and sexual violence, an expectancy of terror and trauma and loss. While there is not enough listening, without conditions of institutional invasiveness, to those that are victims within these expectancies and experiences. Testimonies are powerful devices that challenge these conditions and I believe can enable those affected. R69-32 doesn’t claim these political propositions outright, but an inanimate art work sitting down and telling you about her violent experience is a proposal to think about them. My role as an artist or filmmaker is to make these proposals, to consider how simple and easy it is to reduce a speaker’s word, to delegitimize their experience, and effectively their existence. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with captivating multidisciplinary feature, ranging from sculpture, video, writing, live performance and exhibition making: what does address you to such cross disciplinary practice? And in particular, when do you recognize that a technique or a material has exhausted its expressive potential to self? Sculpture, writing, moving image and live work feel for me core elements of my practice. The majority of which occur as processes for each other, they work together as a team rather than alone in both production and presentation. I need to physically make something as simple as a maquette for a sculpture or a drawing in the studio first as a way to think about and through ideas. In a fairly natural succession this process leads to multiple mediums working conjointly in a works final outcome, feeding, at times housing and always supporting each other. For example, smell and sound have gone inside sculptures such as ‘Prone to Leakage’ and 'A Nose for a Veiled Stone Head' (both 2017), sculpture has become props for live work in ‘Paradox of the Ekkyklêma’ (2014), and writing as narrative for scripts in ‘R69- 32’, ‘With Honeyed Words’ and ‘A Description of the Emotional Labour I Carried Out During Our Conversation, In Which You Spoke 95% Of The Time’ (all 2016). Materials, mediums, and narrative content switch quite often for me based on individual research projects so I rarely get to experience an exhaustion with them. I definitely experience it in the
use of an angle to present the work. I’m not totally sure when I get the realisation, maybe when I begin a new work and think about what else could be done. It’s an important thing I try and think about as often as possible. For me it’s a refining of a craft in sincerity, how to become more and more honest in dealing with one’s own research, ideas, and instincts in the production of work. How important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to urge them to elaborate personal meanings and associations?
It’s very important for me. I make work to communicate and that communication always necessitates a listener and a response. The viewer’s physical and emotional self, a body of senses, emotions, pores and organs is vital to my process of making work and to what happens when it leaves my studio. In that ‘finished’ stage with the viewer, I think the work moulds, changes and articulates itself differently than I could have imagined. And that’s really exciting for me, this process of affecting. As a method or proposal of viewership, ‘R69-32’ asks you to straddle the obvious absurdity of a talking object with empathy and assume credibility. On paper it’s tricky but it’s an interesting one to process as a viewer. I’m relying on their trust to listen to the character regardless of the tropes, illusions and fiction, to let me share sensations associations and understandings with them. Over the years your works have been showcased in several occasions, including your recent solo Redressing Redressing, at the Outhouse LGBT+ Community Centre, in Dublin. A relevant aspect of your art is the capability of establishing direct involvement with your audience, providing the viewers with a multilayered experience. So before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to ask a question about the nature of the relationship between your art and your spectatorship. 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?
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Renèe. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? At the minute I’m experimenting a lot, seeing what new methods of making I can come up with and how they result in art works. I’m writing a song about Drake in terms of performed victimhood and female subjectivity. The song will accompany a large sculpture and either be performed live or as an audio work. I’m also working with casting in soap again, experimenting with smell and texture. In December this year I’ll be beginning research for a commission. I’ll be making a narrative film about a courthouse in the region I’m from in Ireland. Built in 1892, the building itself is now longer able to fulfil its role as a courthouse due to its significant deterioration. For the work I’ll be examining the courthouse as a failed enforcer of judicial rituals in costume, vocabulary, choreography and architecture.
In terms of decision-making, for me it’s a question of accessibility. My research draws on psychoanalytic feminism and philosophy and those inquiries tend to be serious and can be alienating. So it’s important that there is multiple different routes into my work beyond that academic framework of understanding. For example in ‘Redressing Redressing’ I made work that didn’t use written or spoken word as a mediator and spoke purely in a sculptural language. 'A Nose for a Veiled Stone Head', is an oversized nose, it’s appearance that of a sculpted stone carving, so it carries with it associations of ancient stone sculptures and their idealisation of the human form. But in comparison to the human body’s nose, it’s size is comically large and made further ridiculous with a series of very tactile sniffing noises coming from inside it. I’m interested in this layering of associations in works, alternative ways in, and also fucking with those values of classical objects as respectable, refined artefacts.
Annique Delphine Lives and works in New York City, USA
My art has always been intuitive rather than premeditated. Whatever struggles Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m currently experiencing whether they are personal or societal, they are what drives me to create imagery. So naturally as a woman, these usually have a feminist subject such as objectification or gender-based violence. I aim to promote femininity and female sexuality and to break down social norms on how women are expected to express themselves.
Annique Delphine is a multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. She studied at Neue Schule FĂźr Fotografie and explores feminist issues with photography, experimental films and guerrilla street installation. Smashing the patriarchy one female nipple at a time.
Annique Delphine An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Annique and welcome to Women Cinemakers : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training: after having degreed Neue Schule fĂźr Fotografie in Berlin, you worked as a music photographer for many years. How did these experiences influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum inform the way you conceive and create your artworks?
Hello and thank you so much for your interest in my work. My background and training was actually all over the place throughout the last two decades. I started modeling and acting when I was 14 and at 24 I was lucky to be offered a job as a photo assistant to Meeno Peluce in Los Angeles. He taught me so much not just about photography but also how to approach everything with positivity and wonder because I had lost a lot of that through working as a model. After I had worked for him for about 3 years I got into music photography by chance and I followed that career path for about 5 years and during that time I also decided to study photography in Berlin. After I finished school I decided I wanted to stop freelance photography and get into fine art. The photos and films I make now are very much influenced by my time working in the fashion industry and living in Hollywood and also being on tour with bands or shooting music festivals. I like my work kind of glossy and messy at the same time. A sort of organized chaos that I create and then
document. And it’s always reflective of my own personal journeys and struggles. So as a woman I often tell stories pertaining to the particular struggles women of my generation face. Your approach reveals that you are a versatile artist, capable of crossing from one media to another, including fine art photography, experimental short films, installations and performances: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://anniquedelphine.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: so we would like to ask you if you have ever happened to realize that such multidisciplinary approach is the only way to express the idea that you explore in your works. In particular, when do you recognize that one of the mediums has exhausted it expressive potential to self?
My practice has grown from photography to film making, installation and performance in a completely organic way. Whenever I reach the boundaries of how I can express myself with a medium I add something else to it. With film making that happened playfully as I was shooting my series „ABUNDANCE“ I was only planning to do photography but realized that I had to capture the movement of the liquid as it was just too beautiful to only show it in stills. So I started filming on every photoshoot as well and I made my first two experimental films ABUNDANCE and PLETHORA. After that it became my regular workflow to include filming. I’ve also always build all my props and sets myself and at some point they became so elaborate that I found it hard to do them justice with photos or films. So I decided to just build them in public spaces and as part of my exhibitions. Then I noticed how people were interacting with these installations and that let me to explore the medium of performance. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected Plethora, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While walking our readers through the genesis of Plethora, would you tell us if you how did you developed your initial idea?
PLETHORA is about how destructive force or the mass of something can be. It grew out of my own feeling of powerlessness in the face of everything that was expected of me as a woman and a mother. I was
so fed up with the way women are portrayed in commercials, in music videos, in films and in porn. I felt so much pressure to fulfill every gender role and I felt like my own needs/desires as a woman were never really truly represented in media. Female sexuality for instance seems to always only be represented as serving the sexuality of straight men. I wanted to visually express how suffocating that was. I used flowers as a symbol for women and femme bodies and female sexuality and the white liquid as a symbol for patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Plethora accomplishes an insightful exploration of the conflictual relationship between female identity versus the powerlessness women can feel when faced with societal expectations of gender roles that affect patriarchal systems. 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 political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered political, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age?
I think art should reflect it’s zeitgeist and the political system it was created in. And if as an artist and as a person I can recognize that system and where my position in it is: what my struggles are but also where my privileges lie, then I have succeeded. Your inquiry into the themes of feminism, sexuality and female identity provides the viewers with an immersive and multilayered visual experience: how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value?
Sometimes I use public space to make a point so for me it’s become a tool. I use public spaces to confront people with a reality women have to face. Even if that particular reality might not be something I am personally faced with I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak up about it. As a woman I have an insight to issues such as objectification, slut shaming, rape culture, but on a personal level I don’t have an insight into the particular issues
Michael Fried once stated that 'materials do not represent, signify, or allude to anything; they are what they are and nothing more.' What are the the properties that you search for in the materials that you select for your works?
I often use very symbolic materials which are often quiet obvious I think. I like to use something that might speak to most people in the same way, like a thick white liquid in place of male sexuality or a rubber boob or flowers in place of female bodies, but then what I like to do with these materials is put them in a new context. So that the viewer may recognize the object/material but be taken aback as t how I use it to transport a feeling. Your observation of the social phenomena seems to be very analytical, yet strives to be full of emotion: how much importance do have intuition and improvisation in your process? My work is 100% intuitive. It usually starts with a picture I have in mind, then I try to recreate that but though my chaotic and improvisational workflow oftentimes something very different comes out in the end. While I work on something it is often unclear to me what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m trying to express. It is only at the end of a project that I analyze what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m trying to say. I have tried to plan a shoot beforehand, and make it turn out exactly the way I pictured it in the beginning, or even express a certain feeling but this has never worked out for me. I work best when I switch off my mind and just create. And then interpret it after. Another interesting project that we would like to introduce is entitled Girl Disruptive, an insightful inquiry into objectification of female body. It goes without saying that symbols and their manipulations play a crucial role in your art practice: German multidisciplinary artist Thomas Demand once stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead". What is your opinion about it? Morever, would you tell us something about how do you view the concepts of
that women of color face or trans women or fat women for instance. I can only speak from a position of empathy and as an ally and I try to do that to raise awareness.
the real and the imagined playing out within your
sexuality. People see breasts and automatically associate
them with sex. All imagery pertaining to the the female body is sexually charged or charged with female gender
Yes it’s obvious how much I like working with symbolic
roles like „nurturing“ or „decorative“ „pleasing“, etc… I want
imagery. Especially with regards to the female body, which
to break that pattern and for that I need people to first
is one of my main themes, the imagery I use is such a big
recognize the pattern they are attaching to specific images. I
part of how people subconsciously view women and female
think that is why using symbols is important for my practice.
interpret my work. But even though I use stereotypical imagery my work is often so abstract that people have very different reactions to it. I have learned to let go of my own expectations and find beauty in all the different ways in which people interpret my work. Plethora was awarded as best experimental film at the Toronto Arthouse Film Festival and over these years your works have has been featured in several occasions, including your recent participation to the group show Hands Off My Cuntry, curated by Savannah Spirit and to the The Other Art Fair, in London. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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 don’t really consider anyone besides myself or women in general while I create something. As my work is so intuitive I have no plan while I work on something. But then when it’s done and I start analyzing it I definitely try to find a language that explains where I’m coming from. When I create something my aim is mostly to explore my own emotions. And now that my work has moved into interactive installations and performance I want to explore other people’s emotions and their motivations. I try to create work that fosters all kinds of emotions from joy to sadness to making people re think the way they view their roles in society. If my work starts dialogues then I’m satisfied.
We like the way your works also allow an open reading, a multiplicity of meanings: you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations: how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings?
One of my main motivations is to be understood. So I guess I have a specific expectation of how I want the spectator to
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Annique. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
I would like to explore film making further. Possibly in the form of a short narrative. I’m currently writing a script for a short film that’s kind of an intimate play with two protagonists. Besides that I just want to spend as much time as possible at my studio and create new pictures and installations.
Liberty Antonia Sadler An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Hello Liberty and welcome to Women Cinemakers : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You have a solid formal training: after having degreed with a BA[Hons] of Performance Design & Practice from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, you nurtured your education with a MA of Fine Art, that you recently received from the Chelsea College of Arts. How did these experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? And in particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum inform the way you conceive and create your artworks? The combination of contextual knowledge and personal experience is central to my method of practice and this defiantly began to take shape during my academic career. The theoretical focus of Central Saint Martins’ Performance Design & Practice course is thinking about society and the audience; one of my lecturers Peter Bond would call artists “social surgeons” there to dissect and better understand the world in which we live. The approach was to always look outward and ask questions, such as who are you talking to and what do you want to say to them, and to aim to place yourself and your art into a socio-political context, for one’s practice be more than the dogmatic ‘artist alone in the
studio’. This was combined with support to follow your personal voice within your medium; my tutor Andrea Luka Zimmerman, documentary filmmaker, encouraged me to speak in my own visual and emotional language, even when I’ve hesitated due to the anxiety of being visible during my first filmmaking explorations. I began to become less afraid to speak my own words, to claim space on screen, and use my own cinematic voice of poetry & character. I was introduced to the essay collection ‘The Cinema of Me: The Self & Subjectivity in First Person Documentary’, in which Alisa Lebow (editor) describes first person films as having the potential to be “poetic, political, prophetic or absurd…(to)’speak’ from the articulated point of view of the filmmaker who readily acknowledges her subjective position”, and this has helped me override the understandable hesitations many personal-political artists have: the fear of being vulnerable. My method of research became cemented by the concept of how the internal self-narrative works within the world and how it is translated. In my essay ‘Claiming Space’ (2016), I laid out my system of thinking, that process is spilt into three ‘spaces’: ‘Emotional’, ‘Physical’ and ‘Critical’. The Emotional Space being where “we form our memories, our attachments, and our interpretations of the outside World…the subjective playhouse”, Physical Space being ‘The World of The Container (the body), the Environment of Communication, the Zone of Interaction; The Physical Space is where we meet, exchange & experience”, and lastly, Critical Space or “the womb of reason… here we can focus our empathies, the purpose of our affect & examine the possibilities of shared experience”. All the spaces interweave, but in order to create an outcome for an audience, all ideas must pass through the Critical Space. Having a mapped-out approach has helped me pinpoint the stages of my practice,
Your approach reveals that you are a versatile artist, capable of crossing from one media to another, including drawing, text and moving image, and before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://libertyantoniasadler.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: so we would like to ask you if you have you ever happened to realize that such multidisciplinary approach is the only way to explore issues of 21st century body politics. In particular, when do you recognize that one of the mediums has exhausted it expressive potential to self? The development of my multidisciplinary practice stems from quite a personal beginning, with my relationship with drawing, performance and text being rooted in the creation of characters. The act of becoming another self, of inhabiting a different perspective and life for a brief time through character, I find can be both liberating and enlightening; for example, I didn’t realize just how internalized the social construct of masculinity and its privilege was, even in my own mind, until I became a male persona for the first time (‘Andy’ from ‘I Feel Femme’, 2016). From the very moment I saw my face change into his through makeup & hair, my stance became inflated with a sense of entitlement to be listened to and my
inhibitions melted; I became totally confident. There have been female characters that have felt this way also but there is always more of a battle to get to that state when developing them, and the journey towards female confidence is something that is shared with my depictions of the femme body in drawing. This began with life drawing classes in my adolescence which had a profound effect on my practice and personal life; seeing women of all shapes, sizes and ages being proud of their bodies helped me come to terms with the battleground that was my own. I found delight in drawing the larger female body and how beautiful the ‘flaws’ that are so often airbrushed out of public image really are; stretch marks, cellulite, rolls of fat, sagging breasts, the bodies of ourselves, our mothers, should be celebrated. The importance of representation is a driving force behind much of the imagery I explore, whether it be unapologetic depictions of fat persons (in a positive context), female dominant sexuality or exploring traditionally abject female ‘grotesques’. The reclaiming of the agency of non-homogeneous bodies is very important to me, the vast majority of their portrayals in Art are works by male artists (ranging from Quinten Massys’s ‘The Ugly Duchess’ 1513 to John Isaacs’ sculptures today), it perpetuates a culture of exploiting and consuming the ‘Other’ [Lacan, 1968] and this is what I try to avoid. Hélène Cixous in ‘Stigmata’, 1998 said when working with a narrative it is better “to speak of myself…if I’m mistaken, I’m mistaken only about myself” and I agree. My aim to be as close to my work as possible and give the most concentrated version of my thought process through visual outcome; film particularly allows for this as one can edit and cut a work until no second is wasted, this is why I enjoy working in a short film capacity. I find myself following instinct a lot when it comes to medium, as though the project or the
and how this process can be repeated multiple times within a project to keep examining the purpose of the work’s direction. My decision to study Fine Art for my masters was to gain insight into the current climate of the art world and better understand a more traditional perspective on artist film/video art. This lead to a reinforcing of my approach to being an artist and a filmmaker, as I discovered that I do not necessarily fit into the mold of a Fine Artist in a traditional sense and have found that liberating. I am not tied to the any Grand Narrative [Lyotard, 1979] such as the sacred white box of ‘The Gallery’, nor confined to screenings and festivals alone; there is a fluidity within artist film that I believe is only gaining momentum, it does not have to pick a side.
subject matter will inform me and evolve into an outcome. For example, the creation of props or costume within a film (such as the Tampon Tiara and phallic fairytale tower model in ‘Private Theatre’, 2015), I’ll feel the need to form an object with my own hands. I feel it creates an intimate relationship between myself and the viewer, as I’ve built these odd and, at times, uncanny, sculptures of culturally recognizable symbols; but they are full of handmade imperfection and personality. Being closely related to every part of the creative process is very important to me as an artist, it is by doing so that I feel I am giving the most of myself to an audience. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected I Feel Femme, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While walking our readers through the genesis of I Feel Femme, would you tell us if you how did you developed your initial idea? I find when creating a new work its often a collision between automatic writing, research and the observation of social phenomenon, and ‘I Feel Femme’ began very much like this also. My texts always begin life as totally unguarded and unfiltered automatic writing and poetry, that I then cut up and curate into the final transcript. From the text I build the characters, I’ll imagine who would be saying these words and why, they seem to appear in the poems with their personalities craving out their spoken territories within the stanzas. I keep an ongoing sketchbook(s) that acts as a ‘bible’ for the project, full of drawings, references, writing, and a lot of questions; the constant asking of questions even when you can’t necessarily answer them immediately is an important way to keep criticality throughout a project so selfmotivated. Societal frameworks and the use of archetypes, combined with first person undertones, I feel create characters that act as contemporary fables and become the commedia dell'arte of the Art Film present. In ‘I Feel Femme’ particularly, the female characters of ‘Domina’ & ‘Fleur’ were created with the idea of showcasing opposing constructs:
Inquiry into explores male & female archetypes provides the viewers with an immersive and multilayered visual experience: how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space? Moreover, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? I think my being a woman, a larger woman, a queer woman, these all influence my interpretation of the world, how the world has interacted with me, and of course, how I process knowledge, research and society. I’m not sure I would say it gives me ‘special value’, but it allows me to speak from a non-normative perspective that many people experience but don’t necessarily see represented, particularity
the, unfortunately, timeless stereotypes of the Madonna and the Whore. However, these characters provide unexpected twists on this sexist dogma: ‘Domina’ (the Whore) is sexual and strong, her words combine my own erotic poetry and satires on the writings of war (from Winston Churchill to Sun Tzu) and she is unashamed to be a latex-clad, fetish-declaring fierce presence. ‘Fleur’ (the Virgin), on the other hand, is a frighteningly intense persona, I wanted her to feel like the personification of ‘manipulative’. Her soft voice, her white dress, her ‘cult wife’ routine, as though she has been brainwashed into submission but could break out in a fit of violence at any moment. Her innocence is an illusion, a learnt way of demanding attention and holding the, in particular male, gaze of the audience. By combining the female personas with the contrast of the male characters, who’s poem sits between the two women, I wanted to show the ridiculous aspects of gendered behavior and expectation, a critique through comedy which I find the most effective way to break down barriers and begin a socio-political discussion. The ‘male’ section, ‘Baby Pink Bad Boy Blues’, was written in one fully formed session, it arrived in my mind and onto my notebook page after a day surrounded by misogyny and machismo and something just went ‘that’s enough!’ in my mind, and written to the rhythm of Muddy Water’s ‘Mannish Boy’ (the classic “I’m a Man, I spell M. A. N” declaration of “full grown” manhood), the poem formed. Sometimes it can be that way, a total outpouring that becomes developed and honed through visual research and costume improvisation.
in the art and film world. Keeping personal identity, even within the wider social and artistic sphere, I think is vital, but not without continuous reflection and question of purpose. Augusto Boal’s concept of “good empathy” between work and spectator in ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ argues that that performance “needs understanding in order to avoid the spectacle turning into an emotional orgy”, and I think that is true of the balance between personal and public. There was a phrase during my time at Central Saint Martins: ‘Personal Cultural Capital’, the importance of your voice, the context of where it began, and how you as a practitioner exist within the world and the work. One of my favorite directors Pier Paolo Pasolini, in a 1965 interview, explained his “method consists simply of being sincere, honest, penetrating, and precise”; Pasolini described himself as a “a ‘non-professional’ director” who’s creativity came from “the urge to express oneself and the urge to bear witness of the world”, and I understand this feeling completely. One’s Narrative Knowledge [Lyotard, 1979], can be a shared moment with the audience, with the possibility of triggering private sources of memory, common emotional experience or sense of humour. The wholehearted subjectivity of an artist is a very powerful happening to witness, it can be uncontrolled, bizarre and raw, much like experiencing an emotion first hand. Your observation of the social phenomena seems to be very analytical, yet strives to be full of emotion: how much importance has improvisation in your process? The process of improvisation is central to the performativity of the characters, as they really begin to come alive during the costume process and then reveal themselves in front of the camera. When I preparing to film, I work with a very small team, and take on many the production roles, so the act of meticulous planning is the majority of the ‘rehearsal’ process. The development of the personas begins through the designing of their makeup, costume, environments and I place them into their worlds via shot plans, but I don’t dictate each movement or inflection ahead of time. I absorb them
during the curation of the text, which is a strict editing process and research period, then allow the film studio to be like a canvas, and let the characters paint their movements. However, if I am using costume elements that will have a very specific impact on my character’s choreography, such as extreme footwear or fetish accoutrements, I will have sessions wearing the garments ahead of shooting, so that the performance is natural for the role, rather than just myself adjusting to the look. My style of performing is rooted in the idea of claiming the camera and confronting my audience using the simple act of looking directly into the lens, the ‘fourth wall’ is never present, and even though I perform alone on the screen I always feel as though my audience is in conversation with me, right behind the camera. It can be an interesting balancing act between my thoughts & feelings and the characters; particularly if I am playing a personality I disagree with strongly, such as a misogynistic man: I have to become what I despise, and it often takes anger and sadness to do so, that’s partly why I use humour, it’s a coping mechanism. Another interesting project that we would like to introduce is entitled BABY PINK BAD BOY BLUES, a stimulating satire on modern misogyny, examining the rise of ‘Meninists’ culture, featured as part of performative film cycle 'I Feel Femme'. We like the way it also allow an open reading, a multiplicity of meanings: you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations: how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? The characters of Andy & Gilbert in Baby Pink Bad Boy Blues were created as melting pot characters of many real life encounters, and I think that’s partly why they are so recognizable & relatable; they are based on archetypal personas, but of course amped up to a theatrical degree. They display misogynistic micro aggressions that most women & femme persons have experienced at some point in their life, and much like the Bouffon clown (Jacques Lecoq) that laughs at themselves and the audience at the same time, it highlights the behavior that a lot of men see as normal and do not question as unacceptable. It is interesting that the phenomenon of #metoo has penetrated down to everyday events and women are now talking about their experiences of harassment. This has led some men to have their behaviors highlighted and question their past actions. I am always happy when men come up and talk to me after seeing the film and say “I know that guy” or “that kind of behavior needs to change”, by seeing misogynic culture put into a
humorous guise they become unexpected feminists! And I really do think humour is the important ingredient here, it’s a bit of a sneak attack- if they won’t listen to women through our pain doesn’t mean it is over and we’re not going to talk about the problem, men will have to listen eventually, in whatever way women and femmes can get the message across. On the flip side of this, when women see the film, it’s a way of saying ‘you are not by yourself in experiencing this’, I want it to act as comfort and relief, mocking the system of patriarchy helps break down its power base. It’s something I love in other female filmmakers work too, for example ‘I Feel Femme’ was part of Underwire Film Festival in 2017 and part of the opening evening of shorts called ‘Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down’ where I discovered the short film ‘La Madre Buena (The Good Mother)’ directed by Sarah Clift about a Mexican mother whose son wants a Donald Trump piñata for his birthday and she has to travel a long distance back from the manufacturer with the Trump sculpture strapped to her back on her Moped. It was touching, delightfully minimalistic and the Mother (played by Monica Del Carmen) had fantastic comic timing. 7) Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch onced remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? I think the consumption of artwork is becoming much more assessable and it is breaking down the traditional hierarchies of the art work and market, which is very positive. The art world has been a male-centric system, even in art schools, where woman outnumber men substantially; I like the way contemporary art critics The White Pube describe it as “pale, male, stale”, that label perfectly captures how the artistic voices of women, people of colour, trans & non-binary artists haven’t been championed like cis white men, and that needs to change. I feel that the artist can have more direct contact to their audience through social media platforms, in particular Instagram, and curate themselves more autonomously. You change find representation of women, femmes,
feminism, queerness and non-normativity that you rarely find in the gallery. The digital gallery, I think, is a very exciting place to discover new work and see your experiences & emotions embodied. There is also more room to be multi-disciplinary, I’m a hybrid between the festival screening and the gallery, and new media has really helped me to express my political voice in new ways- making film doesn’t need to be a huge budget, narrative, ‘director films actor’, story arc outcome, it can be a no-budget, totally digital playscape of text, character and experimentation; it’s art, no filmschool rules apply. The role of the artist should be ever evolving with society to be able to reflect it, and I think that includes technology and communication, the art world and artists should embrace it fully, and many already have for example the rise of CGI art, GIF art and digital residences/artist ‘take overs’. Marked out with an effective sociopolitical criticism, your works often explore controversial issues such as eating disorders and fetish & body dysmorphia: 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 political system you’re living under". Not to mention that almost everything, ranging from Caravaggio's Inspiration of Saint Matthew to Joep van Lieshout's works, could be considered political, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age? I would love contemporary Art to act as a tool of representation, community and exchange, as well as hold aesthetic and monetary value. Art and business have long been intertwined but I don’t think it should be the focus. On many occasions, in lectures and group crits, the subject has come up about selling and people worrying that their works are too niche/sexual/queer/disturbing in nature to be marketable, and to me, these are the works that are most valuable. The works made by the under represented, the works that are not worried about being beautiful, the works that hit on something that make it more than a commodity; not that I think work that is simply ‘pretty’ shouldn’t exist, clearly it should and does, but it always leaves me a little hungry for something that makes me ask
questions, I am very instinctual with my reaction to artwork. This is probably why I aim for my art to be an exchange with my audience, as it is what I crave from other artists and their artwork. By sharing my thoughts and experiences with body politics, sexuality, food and mental health, I want to encourage people facing similar issues to feel less ‘Othered’, to create a community, and to destigmatize conversations about these topics; this is what I think the role of Art should be in our current society. Over these years your works have has been featured in several occasions, including the Whitechapel Gallery in London, HOME, Manchester, CCA, Glasgow, OXO Gallery, London and a recent collaboration with the London Sinfonietta. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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? When it comes to my choice of language within my work, I always feel like emotions don’t speak with an academic vocabulary, sounding like a thesaurus isn’t my interest, there’s a time and place for that. I am a big fan of the statement and short sentences, for much of the same reasons why they are favored in the tradition of propaganda- they cut through. Every word is a word used for a reason, nothing is wasted, you edit down to exactly what you want to say, you show you are serious in your intent to communicate. This applies to my technique of performance as well by looking directly at the viewer, we engage in a distanced conversation, and by using colloquial language, the work is accessible by a larger audience; I don’t want my work to be a private club, or a classist secret. My use of vulgarities in my work, such as ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’, is a power move however; they are so loaded with social codes, particularity towards women and it is an act of anger, an act of defiance and an act of reclaiming to use them. Though, I think the word ‘fuck’
is my specific favorite, it’s so versatile and expressive! Pretty much every decision I make, whether it be language, performance style, costume, music etc, it has to go through a process where I examine the idea from the eye of the audience, they are an essential component of my practice, after all they are the ones being reflected back at themselves, questioned and/or comforted. I would say that I confront my audience but I don’t provoke them or force them to react, the audience can have so many different responses, I show them a person & a situation and let their reaction unfold in its own time, negative or positive. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Liberty. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m currently working on two new film projects, the first being a combination of my drawing and moving image practice, an animation called ‘Without Shame’(2017/2018). The short film is a playful, raw animated nude self-portrait and text piece celebrating the larger femme body and rejecting fatphobic dietcentric rhetoric; I am currently collaborating with an experimental electronic music duo called Strutt on the soundtrack for the piece, and I really enjoying the combination of sound and image to create an atmosphere of strength and vulnerability. I am also working a new character based film, this time with 5 characters in one film, so its my most ambitious work to date, and I hope to complete the work this year. In 2017, I showed work all over the world, in Los Angles, USA, in Shanghai, China, in Cannes; it was so humbling and exciting, and I would love to keep growing an international audience and having ‘distanced conversations’ with them. My research also continues, and I am now a visiting practitioner at Central Saint Martins, and I find keeping a connection to academia & working with my students very inspiring. I’m also enjoying combining my different practices together, allowing them to inform each other, and hope to include the painful/pleasurable process of animating in my future work as well as pushing the outrageousness of my onscreen personas!
Renee Sills Lives and works in Portland, OR, USA
Renee Sills is a socially engaged performance artist whose chosen media includes entrepreneurship, expanded therapeutic practices, astrology, pedagogy, ritual, online forums, soundscape, video, dance, and writing. She regularly presents in small workshops and intimate gatherings as well as online. She has performed for the Time Based Arts Festival (Portland OR,) the Body-Mind Centering Association Conference (Portland OR), Mutek (Montreal) and the Elektra Festival (Montreal). Renee is the resident artist at Oregon Museum of Science and Technology from 2015-2017. She is currently an MFA candidate in Art & Social Practice at Portland State University, she holds a BFA in Intermedia and Cyberarts through Concordia University, Montreal and is a graduate of the Somatic Movement Education program at The School for Body-Mind Centering in Berkeley, CA. She is the co-founder and co-director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts.
Renee Sills An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Author, educator and multidisciplinary artist Renee Sills explores mindfulness, agency and the adaptive processes of the human body in contemporary landscapes. She works primarily with video, sound, dance, writing and collaborative questioning: we are particularly pleased our readers to her multifaceted and stimulating artistic production. Hello Renee and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid formal training and after having earned your BFA in Intermedia and Cyberarts through Concordia University, Montreal you nurtured your education with a MFA of Art & Social Practice that you re currently pursuing at the Portland State: how do these experiences along with your practice as a teacher and CoFounder and Co-Director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works?
Before I went for a BFA I had a background in somatics and dance. When I studied Intermedia and CyberArt there was always the question for me as to how our bodies and natural/physical environments would be served by emergent technology, rather than destroyed or distracted by it. The work I’ve done with Social Practice and as Co-Director of Sola School was born from this intersection. My research in both spaces focuses on creating contexts for people to connect with their bodies, to introduce or help them remember their sense of belonging in nature and with each other. As an artist and as a teacher I incorporate the use of digital technology as a means to further our human, physical, emotional connections. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.reneesills.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process,would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? Yes for sure. I’ll quote from my bio when I say that the throughline, or central idea of my work is an “ongoing investigation of spirituality, mindfulness, creative agency and the adaptive processes of the human body
For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected We Are All Leaving, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already staterd to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the notions of life as process, and of death as transformation. is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistence. While walking our readers through the genesis of We Are All Leaving, would you tell us how did you develope the initial idea? I had met Renée Poisson (the other body, the one who has the white hair) about a year and a half earlier. I’m good friends with her niece, who for years had been saying that Renee and Renée had to meet. Renée is also a video and audio artist and when we met there was an immediate rapport that felt very instinctual for both of us. Talking to her I recognized many aspects of myself. My mom died when I was fairly young and so being around her provided me with an opportunity to imagine myself as an older woman in a way I never had been able to before. When we talked I kept imagining karma and timelines and how bodies exist for a moment and then transform into other
in contemporary landscapes.” The evolution of my style has definitely been a process of cognitive development and maturation. My priorities have changed a lot since I started making work. I’m less focused now on trying to draw an audience and more focused on creating to support my own (and others’) health and healing. This means that my work is becoming increasingly more personal and less conceptual… Everything now has to be grounded in authenticity: for my body, brain and heart!
Did you conceived Are All Leaving spontaneosly or did you meticolously scheduled every details of your work? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? Improvisation is a huge part of my process. I usually like to have a score of some kind or a loose structure to start from. But almost always I find that I don’t really know what I want until it’s the moment to create it. As I said above, I had had a vision for the basic premise but I didn’t know which shots I wanted or any of the details. The environment does not play a mere role of background in We Are All Leaving, reminding us of the notion of non lieu elaborated by French anthropologist Marc Augé, communicating a sense of displacement: how would you consider the function of environment and more generally - the exhibition space - in relation to your practice? That’s an interesting question and thanks for asking it. I wasn’t familiar with this concept so I had to research a bit… From my understanding Augé’s theory centers on the spaces which exist in “super modernity” such as places of mass transit or refugee camps – landscapes that are backgrounds for comings and goings, but which aren’t invested in, or available to settle in. My sense of the landscape in We Are All Leaving is basically the opposite. That landscape is our bodies, it is our beings: we as individuals arise from it and return to it. What Augé points to is the displacement we sense when we are disconnected from landscape. The condition of modernity
bodies. I just had a vision of us walking towards each other in some kind of vast landscape and then intersecting and dissolving into each other.
The soundtrack of We Are All Leaving sometimes provides the film with such uncanny atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? I love Marshall McLuhon and feel very inspired by his insight! The relationship between sound and moving image is profound. Sound is so visceral. Literally, the resonance of sound moves our bodies. Visual image on the other hand is conceptual, associativeâ&#x20AC;Ś it moves our brains. When they combine we can have experiences that complete a circuit between body and brain, between mind and emotion. The sound in this piece is all composed of field recordings taken from that landscape. But they are cut up, augmented and arranged in such a way that they create their own sensation which is often juxtaposed to the visual image. For me this was a way to provoke a disruption, which could then lead to awareness of the spaces between physical, emotional and mental sensations. have always been fascinated with the potential of the human body, and the ability to express and understand oneself through movement. We Are All Leaving considers the body as temporary material: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the
that creates experiences of coming and going, but never being a part of, never investing or settling in. For me this piece is about remembering and honoring the connection to land, and deeply involving myself in it.
Diciamo che -parlo per me- certe cose avrei potuto gestire in maniera
This is a very existential question you’ve asked! As far as we know, abstraction and concept only exist within our own minds, and the existence of mind depends upon the existence of body. At least for now, or until AI takes over! But even then, cognition, and therefore abstraction, will depend upon materials (whether the material is flesh or circuitry) to exist. So with that said, purely sensate and materialistic existence is, at least for me, quite a boring idea. I prefer to explore abstraction through deepening my awareness of perceptive ability, which happens through processes of increasingly subtle, yet still sensory experience: feeling the fluctuations of my mind that ripple through my body and into my relationships, feeling the way my body and my environment are never separate. If this could happen consistently, and without distraction, then I think true “seeing” would be possible. As it is I get glimpses, and these glimpses are often allowed to be shared and expanded on through making art. As an environmentalist, and as someone who identifies as passionately spiritual but not religious, I think we have to understand that our physical beings can’t separate themselves from any other physical being or materials. But we also have to understand the spiritual essence, or see the subtle vibrations of creative individuality that are expressed in each moment when physical beings encounter each other, or other bodies, or even their own thoughts. This is what I try for with everything I do. For me everything is contained in this question! My body and its physicality, or the
body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist involved into performance art, how would you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act of producing your artworks?
Your work seeks to engage questions of purpose, power, politics, and the inherent discomfort and contemporary crises of the human body in a technologically dependent world: 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 political system you’re living under". How do you consider the relationship between artists and society? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of Art in the contemporary age? That’s a great question. I agree with Orozco for sure. I think artists have a crucial place in society. We are here to push into unknown territory, question assumptions, and facilitate engagement with discomfort in order to expand thinking. What each culture or system needs in order to expand or selfreflect is different. It’s hard to make any kind of general statement about the contemporary age on a global scale since we’re all having such different experiences of it based on citizenship, religious and ethnic affiliations, class, gender, race etc. I can only speak from my experience as an American, as a white, middle-class, queer woman, who was born in the 80’s and is now in her 30’s. So really… that’s quite a tiny slice of the possible perspective. But from my perspective as someone who is part of the “bridge generation,” who was born pre-internet, I think that one of the roles of art in the contemporary age is to help us use technology towards creative, innovative means, and to expand our thinking around consumption. These are critical questions right now. Human population is booming rapidly. We have technology to support decent lives and environmental sanity.
materials I work with: other bodies, landscapes. When I invest deeply in them and really explore the intelligence within them, then I feel like I get to “see.”
But we need to be way more creative and get beyond capitalism and competition if we’re going to do that. I think art, and social practice in specific, has some pretty great ideas to move towards this kind of creative necessity. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch onced remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? Hmmm. I don’t know. I guess the awareness of time has changed a lot. And the issues and ideas of what can or should shift have also changed. Artists definitely have a different perspective now than they did “then.” And of course there are many new platforms and means of creating work now in the Digital Age. But really I think that artists almost always think about the potential of their work to shift and change perspective. I think that’s one of the important elements that makes art art. When there’s a desire to express something there’s an awareness, or at least there probably should be an awareness, of the moment the expression is occurring in, and the possible impact of the expression. Even if it’s just for the artist herself, the knowing that she will be shifted and changed because now she has expressed whatever it was. But to the point of your question – the role of the artist is always to point out the unseen, realize the absurd, etc. The Digital Age is a weird place. I mean there’s so much information! And communications have become really creepy in a lot of ways. Media is psychologically insidious and surveillance is constant. So in some ways I think the role of the artist stays the same in that we are here to point out what becomes normalized or forgotten, and we are
But now the work is different, and just like everyone else our brains have to shift and adjust to accommodate the speed and plurality of now. Artists who work with materials and Earth have maybe an even more important job than before: to keep us tethered in some way to our physicality, and to remember the strength and agency of our bodies when they’re not hooked to wires and screens. Over the years your works have been regularly presented in several occasions, including participations to the Time Based Arts Festival in Portland and to the Elektra Festival in Montreal. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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? Yes absolutely. But that said, I’m not attached to any fixed idea of what that language would be. It will always change depending on the context for the piece and what I’m feeling. For me, when I experience art I want to be moved. I want to feel. If I get angry because the piece provoked me, ok! If I feel sad, ok! But I feel bored and unmoved, for me that’s a waste of time. I think that participation can be energetic as well as action-based. As a performer there are times when I simply want to tell a story, or create an experience. But always I want
here to celebrate feelings and ideas that can’t be communicated linearly.
to move my audience, I want to feel them and the feelings that arise because of our relationship in that moment. When I’m making choices as a creator I’m making choices for myself as audience. What would move me? What do I want to feel? What provokes my response? What would actually make me want to get up and literally move? If I try and make choices based on what I think will move my audience, but I’m not feeling what moves me, well then I think I’ve probably already failed. For me as audience I am moved by performers and artists who really give themselves – they give their questions, frustrations, sensations, passion. So when I am the artist I try to do that to. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Renee. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? That’s a great question! I honestly don’t know. The world is changing so fast that I don’t really know what will be available or necessary in the future. I’m very interested in working with, and supporting young people to be creative and engaged with their lives, and to learn to love nature and take care of her. For the time being I’m quite focused on pedagogical projects – experiential learning that takes many forms, some of which look more like participatory art, some of which look like a yoga or dance class, some of which are sponsored by universities. I’d like to work more with interactive technology! I have a lot of interest in collaborating with tech geniuses and supporting innovation that can create more equitable, stable lives for people and animals, and help reduce some of the harm we’ve done to the planet.
An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant
Lou Watson An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano is a captivating video by multidisciplinary artist Lou Watson: inquiring into the relationship between sound and urban landscape she initiates her audience into an unconventional and heightened visual experience capable of triggering the audiences perceptual and cultural parameters. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Watson's multifaceted artistic production. Hello Lou and welcome to WomenCinemakers: you have a solid background and hold a B.F.A in Intermedia, that you received from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon: how did this experience influence the way you currently conceive and produce your works? Louise Bourgeois says that “You are born an artist. You can’t help it. You have no choice.” But without privilege so many artists are not able to follow through with the reality of being an artist. As a woman and mother I had the idea that to “indulge” myself with an art practice
would be totally selfish. It wasn’t until I turned 40, and my kids were growing up that I finally “allowed” myself to claim some space and focus on art making. I think the time at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) was a step in unlearning some of the bullshit that I’d been carrying around. So when you ask “how does having a degree in Intermedia influence my process today?” I’m not thinking about the techniques I learned, the theory discussed or impactful critiques I had, I’m thinking about why I denied this huge part of myself for 20 plus years. I’m also thinking about why I needed an institutional stamp to give myself license to live as an artist. It is still difficult to call oneself an artist without an art degree and that is a big problem, especially when thinking about the massive part of the population who will never have the break from the grind to be able to study. So I look back on my time before going to art school and I understand I need to make work about that everyday routine life of working jobs and raising children, and also make work with people who are still hoeing the long row. I frame my before-artschool-life fondly but also question the constructs that kept me there. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.louwatson.net in order to get a synoptic view of your work: while walking us through your process,would you like to tell to our readers something about the evolution of your style? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? The theme running through my work is the power of giving one’s full attention to the commonplace. I am constantly looking for ways to embrace the mundane. In
the book 24/7, Jonathan Crary calls us “a society of sleepers trapped in a habitual view.” That is a terrible notion. I want to find ways to break us from those sleepy habits—not by dramatic means, but perhaps by just tilting my head to one side and squinting a little. Some things in life don’t need a contrived way to embrace them, as they are already quite wonderful— like the sunrise, or a newborn baby, or a lover’s eyes. But I’m thinking about when one doesn’t want to get up early enough to watch the sunrise (and it’s probably going to be overcast anyway), when the newborn just equates with sleep deprivation, and when a lover’s eyes are full of questions like “When’s dinner?” and “do we have any more toilet paper?” This is the nitty gritty of my life (and many a person’s life), so it’s a gift to look for the beauty in being stuck in a traffic jam, the poetry of having battles over homework, or the daily ritual of emptying the cat’s litter tray. Let’s call it The Art of the HumDrum Routine Existence... For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano, an extremely interesting 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 this project is the way you have provided the visual results of your analysis with coherent combination between autonomous aesthetics and visual consistency. While walking our readers through the genesis of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano, would you tell what was your initial inspiration? The traffic scoring system itself has a genesis in literally looking outside my front door. I live beside a busy street where there is a constant flow of traffic. My son Finn broke his leg in a bike accident a few years ago and spent several weeks in a wheelchair. In order to alleviate his boredom, I developed a game where he would sit in his wheelchair on our front stoop with a piano keyboard on his lap. We reimagined the lanes of the
road as lines on a music staff so that he could “play” the cars as they passed. It was a form of people-watching meets Rock Band™, with the real-life commuters being completely unaware that they were all vital notes. Each journey they undertook, each trip to the grocery store, or running-late-dash into the office was integral to the emergent, realtime composition being performed. This action was recreated on stage a year later for my show Suite Sandy Boulevard (seen here https://vimeo.com/136569104). Finn (now with fully mended leg) is the pianist on stage. The Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano project began when Rock Hushka and Juan Roselione-Valadez came for a NorthWest Art Now studio visit and subsequently asked if I would be interested in using my scoring system on Interstate 705, a freeway which runs alongside the Tacoma Art Museum in the state of Washington. I filmed the road from the museum roof, then situated the installation in the entrance foyer that leads from the car park (that abuts the I705) into the main building of the museum. Placing the installation in the foyer was exciting because the museum had never positioned any art there, and the foyer is a high-traffic, transitional space, as is Interstate 705. One transitions people from car to art institution, and the other moves traffic from Interstate 5 to the City of Tacoma (Interstate 705 is only 1.5 miles long). The film projects on a wall in the foyer painted “asphalt grey.” A long white graphic runs down the middle of the grey wall, like a dividing line on a road. The graphic is a 25ft length of traditional music score that shows 30 minutes of traffic (specifically on a Wednesday from noon until 12:30pm). From the musical score, it’s possible to read which lane each individual vehicle was traveling in as well as the approximate speed of each vehicle. The music is set in the key of C major, the most basic and neutral of keys, because I wanted the traffic to weave the sounds without personally inserting a more emotive key. C is the elementary key, the key that every piano player first learns, a practical and non-romantic key, perfect for this experiment. For instrumentation I selected the Rhodes Electric Piano; I am a firm believer in the magical potential of words with double-meanings (homophones and homonyms). Wordplay has
often opened investigative doors in my creative practice, and using a Rhodes Piano satisfied my inner pun-maker. The soundtrack of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano provides the film with such minimalistic atmosphere: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Even if McLuhan is right and we do have a Western sense bias toward the visual, I think we often still fail to see a lot of what is right in front of us. We see what we are looking for, or what we expect to see and we don’t see the rest. The relationship between sound and moving image in my work is to help the viewer spot something or bring attention to a moment, like the work of a foley artist. Sound can help us understand the whole or change our understanding of it completely. We appreciate the way your video brings the notion of urban landscape to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere that reminds us of the idea of non-lieu elaborated by French anthropologis Marc Augé. How would you describe the role of the landscape in your work? And in particular, how did you select the location for the initial sequences of Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano ? The idea of non-place is curious. Augé posits that "...a place can be defined as identity, relational, and historical; a space that can not be defined as identity, relational, or historical defines a non-place.” But I don’t agree with naming somewhere a non-place. Every place has identity if we dig in deep enough to look for it, and
For Section of I-705, on a Wednesday, for Electric Piano I looked east from the museum and this view included the Delin Docks, the railway line, Foss Waterway, and several on ramps/off ramps— plus Interstate 705. I wanted to only score the traffic on Interstate 705, but also to show the potential for other songs (that could be either competing or complementary) in the infrastructure around the Interstate. The piece is 30 minutes long, which is time enough for the viewer to become comfortable with the relationship between still, static scene and the motion of the highway and then to start investigating what else is happening, for example what is happening with the container cranes on the left or the apartment buildings on the right; objects and people in rectangle shapes. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with captivating multidisciplinary feature, ranging from painting and performance to video: what does address you to such cross disciplinary practice? And in particular, when do you recognize that a technique or a material has exhausted its expressive potential to self?
surely we cannot possibly know all the relationships, or the personal histories that each place carries. If I trip over my shoelace, fall, and break my ankle on a plain stretch of sidewalk then that place will forever be the “Where-I-BrokeMy-Ankle” place. Endonyms (local nicknames) exist because of local experience and the personal histories of a place. These hyper-local identities may not be found on Wikipedia or Google, but they do exist. Think of all the places that, as of 2016, are remembered as “Where-I-Caught-My-First Pokemon-In-Pokemon-Go.” George Perec talks about The infra-ordinary and what is missed by the traditional notions of significance. I am currently thinking about this in the guise of the Infra-structure-ordinary.
As to whether a technique or material ever really becomes exhausted, I would say that things are cyclical, with tools needing to lay fallow for a while. I’ll give a medium a rest and that also gives my mind a rest from traveling down the well-worn paths, so when I pick it up again a new channel in the medium or technique that has previously been overlooked might pop to the forefront of my thinking. How much important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to urge them to elaborate personal meanings and associations? For me, making work with the viewer in mind is extremely important. I am not making work that is abstract or theoretical. Rather, I see my role more as a re-assembler of what already is. My challenge is to
have the viewer see something consciously that was previously just reflexive. I’m not trying to impose myself on the place or rewrite any histories, I’m trying to allow the place or the action to make itself known in an alternate way rather than just be stuck with the one that our daily view has put upon it. I’m presenting realities which an audience can recognise. Situating a lot of my work within the framework of a “score” (musical or performance) means the work can be reinterpreted by the viewer as they see it. It is in a framework which allows the work to morph depending on the perception of the viewer and their relationship with the piece or the place. How would you consider the relationship between analysis and spontaneity within your work? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every details of your works? how much importance does play improvisation in your process? I have quite a tight grip on the work, but within that, I really like the idea of Controlled Chaos. Chaos is tiny changes that you cannot measure with any defined, discrete measurement; I’d say the most perfect form of chaos is other people, and that by getting out of the known and adding other people to a project you make the project quantum. For example in 1969 Cornelius Cardew founded The Scratch Orchestra. This was an orchestra for both virtuosic players and for people with little to no musical experience, but all members of this new style of orchestra had the desire to make sound. I’m sure that would have been a good example of controlled chaos. Using the same school of thought, when I made the eight-movement Suite Sandy Boulevard I
No place has only one voice, so no one medium can really express all there is to uncover. If I have only used one technique or material in an investigation, then I know that I have much more work to do. Using different mediums allows not-obvious pairings to have interesting and unexpected conversations. I always have to start somewhere and that will often involve video, I just set up a camera on a tripod, hit record, and sit at the space to see what is revealed. Also research, research is where I spend so many of my hours - I want to know as much as I can about everything - the geological make up, the dates infrastructure was implemented, newspaper reports, aerial photos, interviews and conversations, rumours and legends. Denis Wood really knows how to map a place, so if I ever wonder if I have gone down every avenue of research, I stop and think WWDD (What Would Denis Do).
worked with a community performance ensemble. I had set and precise structures, but then asked the ensemble to play around within those parameters.
I am always considering the audience and ways I can
Having a habit of looking, knowing that anything can and will happen right outside your front door, and being ready to act on that awareness skirts the line between analysis and spontaneity. Portland artist Stephen Slappe made an amazing film called OUR PEACE which is created from documentary footage he captured spontaneously from his front porch; it shows a bomb disposal unit exploding a suspect VW Beetle directly opposite his house. He could not have predicted that that would have happened during his morning cup of coffee, but he was aware of what was going on around him and what drama could be unfolding at a moment. Practicing that level of awareness allows me to enfold spontaneity into my practice.
an audience want to come along on the ride with me.
Over the years your works have been showcased in several occasions, including your recent participation with “Live Girls Show” at the Zero to Fierce Festival. One of the hallmarks of your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are provided with of the the opportunity to become active participants and are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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 decisionmaking process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?
bring my fondness of whatever it is I am studying to the audience. I want to create the conditions to make For example, during the Zero to Fierce Festival, I debuted a choral score called Inner Dialogue (for Kegel Choir). It was written for a choir and performed through a series of pelvic floor exercises. The choir was silent, and reacted to my conducting (e.g., lift and contract, again, higher). Afterward many audience members gave me feedback that they had found themselves “singing along” internally with the choir. I believe art can change lives, and with Inner Dialogue (for Kegel Choir), that change is stronger orgasms and better continence. I would wish that all my work could be as beneficial to myself and the audience as that. I make work that builds a bridge to the audience, not a clueless maze. I like people, I want them with me. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lou. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m working on a new show which is part musical and part interactive experience. I’m thinking about infrastructure and I’m also thinking about ants. One of the reasons that ants don’t have traffic jams is because they are equally conscious of the space behind as they are the space in front of them; we can learn a lot from ants.
Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh An interview by Francis Quettier and Dora Tennant Hello Hsuan-Kuang and welcome to this special edition of Women Cinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BA of Drama and Theatre, from the National Taiwan University, you moved to the United Stated to nurture your education with a MFA Video For Performance + Integrated Media, that you received from the prestigious California Institute of the Arts: how did these experiences influence your trajectory as an artist? Moreover, how does the relationship between your Taiwanese cultural substratum and you current life into the United States fuel yourself as a creative? My background in theatre deeply influences the way I see structure. The concept of time is essential to my work. For me, the skeleton of the work is not necessary referring to narrative, storytelling nor time-based art;
While at CalArts, I was more exposed to conceptual art and experimental approaches. And the most valuable thing I got from my graduate studies are critical thinking and to never stop questioning why we do the art we do, and what is the role of artist in our day and age. My work is very personal and takes inspiration from my personal life. My transition from Taiwan to America is deeply reflected in my art work. And the experience also becomes the main subject of my practice. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would suggest to our readers to visit http:// hsuankuang.com in order to get a synoptic view of your work. In the meanwhile, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? In particular, do you think that there is a central idea that connect all your works? To continue my address above, The main focus of my work has been my experience of dislocation from Taiwan to United States. Taiwan is a small country, an island surrounded by an ocean. It has a long history of colonialism, changing hands under five different authorities. Since then, people have been traveling and seeking survival elsewhere, through a better land
instead it is about the transitions between and progression through different phases. While working in theatre, I found myself equally attentive to movement, sound, duration and spectatorship in my artwork. I like the combination of different elements and I think that also influences my multidisciplinary approach toward art.
or a promising dream. In my generation, many of us follow our ancestors, seeking out and pursuing a new life in another land. In modern terms, this could take the shape of studying aboard, obtaining a work holiday or job relocation etc. The history somehow comes full circle in a different way, as the result is that the conflicts of identities and the struggles from diaspora still remain the same. Clearly, the dislocation experience is not only a personal version but a story of my generation and a shadow of history. Another important element in my work is the idea of home. The meaning of home has radically changed in the 21st century. It is not only about geographic location, but is starting to also be affected by many factors, such as capitalism, globalization, technology, immigration policy and politics, even currently the refugee crisis. Through my work, I try to explore different meanings of home and perhaps find different interpretations of feeling home. For this special edition of Women Cinemakers we have selected The Islands, an interesting an experimental documentary 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 exploration of the notion of island as a state of mind is the way you provided the visual results of your analysis with autonomous aesthetics: while walking our readers through the genesis of The Islands, would you shed light to your main sources of inspiration? In particular, what did address you to the inquiry
The Islands took me one and a half year to plan and another year to test and film. The materials and contents span six years of time and space. The original inspiration is sourced back to my travel to Tsushima Island, Japan in 2012. I was traveling on the island for three days. On the last day, when I got to the port (the only place with mobile reception), I got a text from my family saying that my grandmother had passed away. The feelings of guilt and sadness set against the rainy scenery at the port were all captured in my camera. My grandmother was raised under Japanese colonization. Many of my memories of her are of her singing Japanese songs. For some reasons, I thought my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ghost was held up in the Tsushima port for a long time. After that day, every time I visit an island or take a ferry, no matter where, I feel my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ghost is haunting me. What I felt was that I knew I had a home and people waiting for me, but that I was trapped and alone across the ocean. And this conflict is still there in my everyday life in America. From this emotional perspective, I seek out my connection to land, identity and search for the meaning of nation and homeland. On one hand, to understand my personal pain and struggle, on the other, to ask questions and to comfort other similarly dislocated people. The ambience of The Islands provides the viewers with an immersive experience and brings the notion of landscape to a new level of significance, evoking an atmosphere that reminds us of the idea of non-lieu
into your relationship among land, nation and identity?
non place) elaborated by French anthropologis Marc AugĂŠ. How would you describe the role of the landscape in your work? And in particular, how did you select the locations for The Islands? The geographic location and the name of the place is not essential for me, instead landscape and the mindset in the landscape is the most crucial in my work. The physical land is captured through a photographerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective and is then turned into landscape. I believe that at the moment of taking pictures, the landscape belongs to the photographer. Through this action of framing and photographing, we build a special relationship with the anonymous lands. When you look closely at memory or even reality, these can seem dreamlike, full of mystery. After the long journey between different lands and places, the geography starts to make no difference. I think when we start to forget the name of places, forget where we are and why we are where we are, perhaps its the time we are truly live. The sound of spoken words play an important role in The Islands: according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of the alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. How do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? Sound and image are equally important in my work, no matter film, performance or even just still photograph
or sculpture, I always consider sound carefully through my creative process. Image is very direct, usually what you see is what you get; as we juxtapose multiple images, we begin to build structure and logic and tell a story based on these. In my opinion, sound is the opposite. Sound is indirect which creates psychological space for viewers to imagine different images. Sometimes I even think sound brings images to life, it brings motion to images and can help focus our attention within the images. The marriage between sound and image can complete a work of art. I was very lucky to work with my friend Shih-Chieh Lin on the sound for this film. He is also a very talented filmmaker, working on documentaries and experimental film. He understands how sound can strengthen the imagery in films. The sound for The Islands is basically the first version. Your work explores the complexity of multicultural identity from a contemporary perspective: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role differs depending on which part of the world youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in. It depends on the political system youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re living under": what could be in your opinion the role of artists in our unstable contemporary age? I think what artists can do is to create pure and honest work that portrays real life. By this I mean must live in the present and must live honestly; for me, that means to live at a human pace. The biggest difference between our generation and the previous generations is that the overwhelming presence of technology controls most of our judgements and gradually dominates the way we perceive the world. It changes the pace of our lives tremendously. We start to ignore the details of life and eventually lose our sense of self.
In my creative process, I don’t really spend too much time thinking about how to connect my work to the ‘big picture’ (even though sometimes such connections might be easily made.) I am more interested in my voice and personal story. And surprisingly, the more personally I communicate the more globally it usually conveys. I believe the artist’s role is often determined by the viewer. It is not something I can plan for or anticipate. An artist could be construed as politician, activist, as a scientist or as nothing at all. I can’t control how people will interpret my work, but I can control the level of honesty in my work. You are a versatile artist and your work integrates emerging media, performance, installation, film, puppetry and hybrid forms of photo sculpture and text: what does draw you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? And in particular, when do you recognize that a technique has exhausted its expressive potential to self? I usually pick my medium by intuition. If I put too much effort on figuring out my medium and approach, perhaps the work might die in the process. Since the beginning of my artistic career, I’ve told myself not to constrain myself to any genre or medium. I have a background in film photography but am not satisfied with only being a photographer. I believe as an artist, it is important
to free yourself from limitations. There will always be situations where moving images work better than still ones and vice versa. Sometimes, the subject is better presented with performance. What I can consider is how to deliver effectively, honestly and authentically using the tools at my disposal. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch onced remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Do you think that the role of the artist has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media? Yes. New media is good in that it allows people to access art more easily without the limitations of time and space. It remains up to the individual, however, how they choose to appreciate and interpret art. I believe art education needs to catch up with the explosive spread of information. I love to see how artists respond to this phenomenon. My video series From X.X. (all shot and exhibited on iphone) reflects this technology and how it transforms the way we view art; it also challenges the way art is made and the quality of art in technology. Over the years your work has been shown in both national and international venues, ranging from theatres and festivals to galleries and museums, including your recent participation to the Syros Int'l Film Festival in Syros, Greece. One of the hallmarks of
your work is the capability to create direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. 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 have always emphasized spectatorship in my work. I come from a theater background. The immersive element of theater is the most magical thing about theatrical art. The way of viewing has been radically changed due to the way we use new media and the evolution of technology. There are many possibilities and potential nowadays. Our relationship between object and body is changing. We no longer deal with what we see but also how we see and how we are seen. I believe as artists, these are the questions we should consider and explore. Viewing is no longer exclusively visual, but requires gesture and movement as part of the engagement. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Hsuan-Kuang. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
I’m currently planning my next experimental film, Nostalgia for the Future (working title). It, too, explores the relationship between identity, urbanscape and land. The landscape in question this time is Los Angeles, the city where I’ve been living since 2012. When I was five, my family took me to Los Angeles. We visited Disneyland, Universal Studios and other tourist attractions and landmarks. Since I was so little, I can’t recall any of this. However, the memories of this, (me as a kid in the foreground, with Los Angeles as a backdrop), remain well documented by my parents’ camera. Twenty years later, I’m back here as a student and as an immigrant instead of a tourist. The gaps between my memories start to fill in and my relationship with this city begins to transform. I see this film as a continuation of my studies from The Islands. However, this time, it is through an even more intimate and personal perspective that I look at the relationship between land and identity. The figure of artist becomes exposed on the screen. To me, it is quite a challenge. Since I was a child, I have always been uncomfortable in front of the camera. This film is permeated with the idea of “being photographed”, and from there explores how photographs confirm our personal existence and further complete our memories of ourselves.