WomenCinemakers, Special Edition, Vol.37

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w o m e n ALBA MORÍN KRISTEN BROWN ADALI TORRES SARAH BETH WOODS DASCHA ESSELIUS PAULINE PASTRY HEIKE SALZER FUMI GOMEZ CRISTIANA FORTE HLUMELA MATIKA

INDEPENDENT Hlumela Matika

WOMEN’S CINEMA


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Contents 04 Hlumela Matika

138 Dascha Esselius

The Strong Black Woman

The Brainstorm

32

168

Cristiana Forte

Sarah Beth Woods

SHE.TEMA.OH

Hear The Glow of Electric Lights

54

194

Fumi Gomez

Adali Torres

80

222

Box

Heike Salzer

Partir

Kristen Brown

Krummi

Modoc

104

248

Pauline Pastry

Alba Morín

La limite élastique

TrAuM


Women Cinemakers meets

Hlumela Matika Lives and works in Syracuse, Upstate New York

Hlumela Matika is a Fulbright Graduate film maker from South Africa who now lives and studies in Syracuse, Upstate New York. She obtained her undergraduate Degree from the South African School of Motion Picture and Live Performance (AFDA) in Cape Town and has working experience in both the South African and International Film Industry. She has also worked as a Stage Manager for the Isango Portobello Theatre Ensemble. Her passion lies in investigating and cultivating the African aesthetic in Cinema. In approaching the project her interests lied in topics that are often dehumanized because of one sided political and economic stigmas, often perpetuated by the media. As an immigrant in the USA herself, the topic of displacement and assimilation to a new culture was a natural gravitation and interest. She has also worked closely with the Syracuse Refugee community, talking to locals about their experiences in the USA. These conversations meant unravelling and discussing on a personal level the global discourse and political challenges the USA is experiencing in the current times but also maybe even most importantly what that means on a day to day basis for an immigrant currently in the country.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Hlumela and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after having

earned your undergraduate Degree from the South African School of Motion Picture and Live Performance in Cape Town, you started your career in both the South African and International Film Industry: how did these experiences influence your evolution as a creative? I obtained my BFA at AFDA (The South African School of Motion Picture and Live Performance) in



2008 and went on to work in the film service industry in Cape Town. I worked as a runner, driving negatives from set to the lab, which led to a production assistant position (PA) for a TV drama, which meant a little more responsibility. I was adamant on being a producer, so I stuck with it, exploring the different departments. I learned as much as I could and the opportunity taught me discipline, alongside patience with my own growth and development. It was invaluable access to International and local productions, I could witness the inner working components of industry projects. I became interested in how everything came together. After a few years of that, my focus took a shift towards theatre, which offered the possibility to explore a very different medium of expression. This interest led to work with an opera company, Isango Portobello, as a stage manager. In the two years I worked with the company, I was given the unique opportunity to explore theatrical lighting, set design, and even performance with the company at the Globe Theater in London, my first professional experience performing for a paying public! This was the first time where I felt creatively activated, the company worked as a collective in writing and producing their South African story lines. They encouraged everyone’s creative voice and I felt inspired by this communal way of working. I think compared to my initial experience in the commercial film industry, where I felt like a cog in a machine that was much larger than me, with this theatre company I could comment on the direction of the work and those comments would be

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Women Cinemakers taken into consideration. The director of the company remains a great inspiration and a valued mentor. After working with the company in this way, I knew I wanted to continue in this creative direction and produce my own work. I applied to the Fulbright Program and I am now at Syracuse University –the school of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), where I am currently undertaking my MFA in Film. The program is within the transmedia department and encourages cross-disciplinary works, I work predominantly with film, video and performance. In particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum dued to your South African roots and your current life in the United States inform your current practice? Being a Xhosa woman from the Eastern Cape of South Africa, born in the late 80’s and raised in the 90’s I experienced both the apartheid and the post-apartheid South Africa. Witnessing a country redefine its trajectory and redesign its future, this allots me a specific perspective, that influences my experience of the world and how I approach my work. I moved to the USA, in 2016, during a time of turbulence around border control and immigration. I felt foreign; like I didn’t belong. The move reminded me of the history of migration, how things have or haven’t changed. Though, it also reminded me of why migration is forward progression. Being a mother to a 6-year-old, who now lives with my mother, back in South Africa, puts this into perspective.




I needed to go study but couldn’t take her with me for many reasons. I thought about that specific situation: what it means to leave a country to obtain a better future for your child. Similarly, this same dilemma had existed with my mother. I think back to when she was my age; we lived in the outskirts of the town, a distance from her work, she worked as nurse, during the apartheid era, working 12-hour shifts. I remember only seeing her on some weekends, because she’d be away during the day. Sometimes she would take the

night shift which meant she’d only see us briefly in the mornings before we left for school. This is my childhood memory of her. I find myself now wondering, how have circumstances changed for women today? Displacement takes on so many forms, women for the longest of times had to leave their families to provide; leaving the kids with the grandparents, to go study, to go look after other families to earn money to raise their own families. I


think this is where my thought stems from; these situations of adversity that are masked as strength. This experience influenced the exploration of displacement through the woman’s point of view. That exploration informed my films The Strong Black Woman and Lalibela. It is, to some degree, a collective narrative representing the present and historical experience of immigration and displacement.

For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected The Strong Black Woman, an extremely interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the stereotypical assumption that Black Woman are strong is the way you have been capable of combining commitment with aesthetics: while walking our readers through the


Women Cinemakers genesis of The Strong Black Woman, what did address you to focus on this theme? The work started as a self-documentation project. I was interested in observing the physical distance between myself and my child, the emotional toll that distance took on my body and my spirit in addition to the longing I felt for her. I was consumed by loneliness and felt I couldn’t express that feeling of vulnerability. I couldn’t speak to my mother or sisters about the feelings I was experiencing without getting the response “Nyamazele” which means “endure.” This word “endure” is of interest to me because it means to withstand pain. This initiated my interrogation of the situations in which women are encouraged to endure. I think of how strength and endurance is synonymous with the history of women’s struggle to be seen, heard and treated equally. How adversity itself is used to perpetuate the role of Black women seen as “the mules of the world”. How the Black woman is not afforded the space to be vulnerable. I am inspired by thinkers and social shapers like bell hooks who writes in Talking Back; Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black - “It is not that black woman have not been and are not strong; It is simply that this is only a part of our story, a dimension, just as the suffering is another dimension- one that has been most unnoticed and unattended to are black woman’s human vulnerabilities.” Tamara Beauboeuf- Lafontant opens with this very same quotation in her book Behind the

Mask of the Strong Black Woman and questions the role strength plays in isolating, oppressing and further silencing the black woman. In reading these works I was moved to make this project, find ways of cinematically represent these ideas in exploring my own relationship with strength and vulnerability. In regards to the aesthetics and composition of the film, I was inspired by the early 1900 paintings of Vilhelm Hammershoi (Interior In Strandgade), who documented a portrait series of women at home, in the living room, in the kitchen, sitting near a window. I was fascinated by these women seemingly mysterious, in that they faced away from the artist, though, I was taken by how all the women depicted were white. I wanted to challenge the image and representation of those moments, by showing the complexity and internal struggle that exist in those moments of solitude. I wanted to show how strength can be a halftold tale in that the person portraying strength is also suppressing other human emotions. We have deeply appreciated the way The Strong Black Woman urges the viewers to question the inner complexity and human vulnerability: do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? Being a woman definitely adds to the work, in that I’m speaking of complexities and vulnerabilities that I’ve personally experienced. In making the work, I am, first and foremost, having a dialogue with myself. Then



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actively having an ongoing dialogue with my mother, my daughter, my sisters, my female friends and my immediate community of women who identify with and experience this struggle. As a woman I am looking into the social construction of womanhood. I inspect its origin, question femininity, reject it and reconstruct it to better suit my values and to better serve how I exist in this world. I believe we’ve lived in a world where men (white) have defined what woman is, what femininity looks like, how women should behave and how we should be seen and when. I think for women this conversation goes deeper, in that, White women - also felt that they could oppress the Black woman. It is important for women to see each other and create their own narratives on how they would like to be seen, by escaping or inspecting the performance of strength and allowing for vulnerability to exist in the way we express ourselves. To emphasize the need of a point of convergence between direct experience and creative process, British artist Chris Ofili once remarked that "creativity's to do with improvisation - what's happening around you". How would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? I value the balance of planning and spontaneity in how I work. The idea starts in my mind’s eye, usually the idea is influenced by something I’ve seen, heard or experienced. In that way I think the initial idea itself is spontaneous. I


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nurture the idea with research, and the idea changes and takes on a fuller conceptual existence. There comes a point where I need to transfer the concept into reality; this depends on a lot of planning. For example, the Strong Black Woman project was shot by myself first, because I felt I needed to play around with the concept physically to understand how best to make the work. I would sit and film myself in many positions and experiment with different choreographies to express different ideas. After I had pinned down exactly what the actions would be I called on my collaborator Marianne Barthelemy, a talented female cinematographer, together we sat and planned the lighting design and how we would technically achieve the look of three women in one space. The performance, however, is all subject to the physical space I’ve created, even with the endless planning and plotting the performance is spontaneous, so I try create spaces that will induce the most honest performance. Chris Ofili also says, “There is a magic to playing entirely to who you are” and the performance is just that; it’s the moment I unravel the perceived self in search of the truest self and I aim to capture that in my work. We would like to introduce our readers to Lalibela: a captivating hybrid documentary/fiction short that can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eERU-vAcau0. We have appreciated the essential and at the same time effective shooting style, marked out with

sapient use of statics: were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, how did you structure the storytelling for this interesting project? The film started as a narrative. I had worked on the script for months, gathering research from the community and writing a piece of work that I thought encompassed the immigrant experience, in Syracuse. I wanted to show the hardships in displacement and relocation, how language can act as a barrier. I also wanted to change how immigrants are represented. I wanted to empower the subject and create dialogue around the complexity of that experience. These were the objectives I set for myself. I worked on the film with Habiba Buro who relocated over 10 years ago. She now works at the Bantu Community Centre which assists with welcoming and helping resettle immigrants in Syracuse, New York, she is also looking at opening an Ethiopian restaurant in Syracuse. She plays Soria in the film, a fictional character. When I first spoke to Habiba about the character, she immediately resonated with the experience of looking for work and not being able to speak the English language. The feeling of not being heard is isolating when you are trying to express the most desperate part of you. She is Muslim and we spoke extensively about what that might mean for her family at work, in public and at home. A lot of these conversations molded the aesthetic choices in the film. We see Habiba (Soria) in a job interview, an





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Women Cinemakers uncomfortable scene, where she is decoratively displaced, surrounded by white porcelain dolls, and she struggles to speak the English language. We never see or hear the interviewer. Soria is put on the spot; she is alone. She finds work at a bar/restaurant, she is very pregnant, and there is something simultaneously hopeful and desperate about that moment. Similarly, here we hear the crowd/restaurant-goers but never see them. The focus is on her experience, how she sees herself in these moments of victory, failure or opportunity. I wanted to focus on three elements of the immigrant experience; the English classroom as a space of opportunity, finding work as sense of victory, and the home experience as space of change. The second person is Yusuf Mohmad, whose character evolved organically in that his part was never scripted. He originally had a supporting role and during the production we developed a friendship. He spoke about the bullying he had endured at school. He asked me if I thought he was beautiful and this broke my heart, because I thought he was the most beautiful kid I’d ever seen. After much consideration on how I could have him be more of a central figure in the film, I decided on exploring his story of belonging, where he considered home to be. I wanted to show him in his new home and have him reflect on his old home. In doing so, I wanted him to watch the film and see how beautiful he was. So, I was very intentional in the close ups I framed him within


and the complimentary lighting. I wanted him to see himself as a super being, which explains the last shot of him in silhouette with a bright light from behind. I wanted him to be proud of his journey, his culture, the way he looked, I wanted him to understand that he brings part of the world with him, that this has real value and that he should celebrate his background. Your artistic inquiry is committed to social themes and you have had the opportunity to work with the Syracuse Refugee community, talking to locals about their experiences in the USA: 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 a political system and an artist's creative process? Moreover, what could be in your opinion the role of artists in our everchanging, unstable contemporary societies? For me the political is very personal; it influences the way I see and how I am seen. I cannot escape it so I face it. When I moved to the USA I realized how I was identified and categorized; I was a Black, South African immigrant on a J-1 visa. The visa has an expiration date, I can’t outstay this date, my time here is limited. These are the classifications on my passport. This is how I am seen by the passport control before I set foot on the country. This is how borders work everywhere. Access depends on which passport you hold. I am not seen as an individual, with a history, with a people, I’m not seen as my mother’s child, I

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Women Cinemakers am part of a systematic breakdown. These are just some of the thoughts I had about my social and political standing; I am against this way of being seen. I am drawn to the social and political dialogue because I can begin to talk about these issues with my community, and my community is where I am located, my immediate surroundings, though foreign to the country there is always a shared experience that binds people together. It stems back to the philosophy of “Ubuntu” meaning humanity. The term is a Nguni philosophy and the phrase is often roughly translated as “I am because we are” this philosophy encourages a communal sharing and connectedness. I believe the artist cannot escape the socio-political because it is the role of the artist is to serve as an advisor, mediator, mirror/reflection, a healer and even a visionary in building this sense of connectedness in the community. I am not sure where my practice lies at the moment and maybe I am trying to find that answer here and now. That’s the journey I am on, discovering how I can best serve where I am. How I can use my films as a voice, like speech, like words, like feelings to express humanity. Moving from the relationship between the personal journey and social themes, your works often address the viewers to a wide number of narratives: rather than attempting to establish any univocal sense, you seem to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations would you tell us how much important is for you that the spectatorship rethink the concepts you convey in


your pieces, elaborating personal meanings? How open would you like your works to be to be understood? It is important that I engage the audience in a journey, one that they have authorship on. In “Strong Black Woman” I am a vehicle; my physical body is split into three, I physically react and enact discomfort, self-judgment among many other emotions. The moments are silent, and the viewer has only the vehicle and themselves to fill in the gaps. The work hopefully gives them enough to go on, enough to create what they need to connect with the message of the work. It is very specific, and in its specificity, people are able to find themselves, in small and large parts of the presented narrative. I don’t believe in an absolute, as there are many nuances in experiences that make each experience different. I focus on my experiences in hopes that someone will recognize that within themselves. There’s something interesting in emotion because we can arrive at a universal emotion in many different ways, I aim to transport the audience to an emotion through their own, willing participation with the work. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Hlumela. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Currently, I’m working on a short narrative film “TAB” that is set to shoot in June/July of 2018, in my home country.

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Women Cinemakers The film is being sponsored by Panavision SA and the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa. The project is based on my personal journey; a memory of my childhood, growing up with a father addicted to horse racing. The story follows two sisters at the brink of womanhood, when they realize they can only depend on each other to survive their father’s addiction. The topic of womanhood seems to be a topic I feel most excited by and I aim to explore it further. My films have been well received by the film community; “Lalibela” was screened at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival in 2017, at the African International Film Festival 2018 in Lagos, it was shorted listed for the Meraki Film Festival 2018 and I hope to keep the film in circuit as to reach as wide an audience as possible. Similarly, “The Strong Black Woman” has shown at group exhibitions in Syracuse and I would love for it to continue reaching diverse audiences in different exhibition spaces. I think a lot about how I would like my work to evolve, and ideally, I would like to create work that can exist both in cinema’s and in gallery spaces; works that can be viewed in community halls and simultaneously exist under academic discourse; narratives that are both socially impactful/moving but also narratives that open space to talk about issues existing in our contemporary societies. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


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Cristiana Forte My career as director is just starting and the film you saw was my graduation thesis in the University of Tallinn, Baltic Film and Media School, Estonia. Since this is my first and only film I guess I still don't have a style or a subject that can define my work. Even though I believe that films have to be made for people and about people. They have to show us how is to live in other people shoes and make you more empathetic to their decisions, actions and problems. So if you want to tailor the interview I guess you can focus more on the experience of making the film about and in a foreign country. The film was based on my first impressions of how it is to live and grow in a country like Estonia, more particularly Tallinn. I liked the ideia of transforming something that doesn’t belong to us in something that could. In the film case it was not only about the list of affairs of the lady but also their country, their way of living.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Sapiently constructed and marked out with brilliant cinematography, SHE.TEMA.OH is a captivating work by filmmaker Cristiana Forte: shot in Tallin, Estonia, it tells the story of a 14

year old girl who lives with her alcoholic dad in the Russian suburbs, who is confronted with a beautiful woman on her way to Tara. Shot with elegance and inventiveness, SHE.TEMA.OH offers an emotionally complex visual experience, demonstrating the ability to capture the subtle depths of emotions and creating effective intimate narration: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to



Forte's captivating and multifaceted artistic production. Hello Cristiana and welcome to WomenCinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would ask you some questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you graduated from the University of Tallinn, Baltic Film and Media School, Estonia: how did this experience influence the evolution of your practice as a filmmaker? Moreover, could you tell us what are your biggest influences and how do they affect your artistic research? Thank you, it’s really nice to be featured in your magazine. Well, I started my degree in Portugal at The Catholic University of Porto, where I completed the first two years. Then I felt that the school wasn’t really fulfilling my needs so I found out about the Erasmus program that they had with BFM and I applied there. I was there for only one year and I graduated with this project. This year was one of the most important years of my life so far. I learned so much about filmmaking, teamwork and engaging with other cultures. I met amazing people there who helped me with the project like it was their own. Two of those people were Arvo Iho who started as my teacher and later became my supervisor and Kertu Viira, the producer of the project,

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Women Cinemakers someone who is very responsible for the success of our project. Regarding my influences, I guess I’m still very obsessed with social realism in European cinema. When I first started to watch films I fell in love with Goddard and later on even more with Truffaut because of his Antoine Duhamel Adventures. Eventually, I watched one of the Dardenne Brothers’ film and a whole new world opened up before me. I was so amazed with the themes, the narrative, the cinematography, the way they build the emotional pact with the viewer… basically everything in every film. In Estonia I met the work of Veiko õunpuu, which was also a very big influence for the film. When it comes to Portuguese cinema, I guess “Mutantes” by Teresa Villaverde and all the work by João Salaviza really inspired my work, specially the way their characters are built, being intensely dramatic with their actions rather than dialogue. Nowadays, I am fascinated with Lucrecia Martel and her complex narratives full of details. Her movies are masterpieces in which every sound and gesture matters. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected SHE.TEMA.OHA, a captivating film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://youtu.be/dVErbGMT3sI. What




has at once captured our attention of your clear approach to narrative is the way it provides the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience. While walking our readers through the genesis of SHE.TEMA.OHA, could you tell us what did attract you to this particular story?

your own. With the help of a classic narrative and the stimulation of what surrounded me, I started to build this story in which a girl would live in someone else’s shoes during a whole day. This multilayered visual experience was also necessary to have the viewers feeling themselves in someone else’s shoes, even though they are conscious that

The film started with the idea of taking something personal from someone else’s life and making it

they are the audience and that this is just a film.


From a visual point of view, SHE.TEMA.OHA is elegantly composed and features sapient cinematography and keen eye for details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? When I was planning the film, I was very inspired by the way the Dardenne Brothers shoot - the way the camera walks with the character like a

shadow. In this film, I wanted that to happen when we were alone with girl, so we could get to know the girl better and better throughout the narrative. Whenever there were more characters I felt the need to step back, let the image breath and see how the audience interacts and reacts to it. Just like I said before, I pay a lot of attention to gesture, even though gesture is just a complementary element in many films. Since there is not a lot of dialogue, I wanted the small


gestures and reactions to speak for themselves. Technically speaking, we used the most flexible gear adjusted to shots with a lot of movement that was lent to us by the school. We have deeply appreciated your approach to narrative and the way you have balanced analytical research of your characters and the emotional aspect of the storytelling: what was your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticolously schedule every details of your shooting process? After casting Teele, we started rehearsals right away. We almost had two months of rehearsals, about times a week. We focused more on rehearsing the main scenes (without props) in which there were a lot of details. This period gave us time and space to build the character and her smallest details, creating all her idiosyncrasies. Through the repetition of the scenes Teele found herself comfortable in the character, making her memorize every move so that when we were shooting, she had space to be more spontaneous. On set, I barely gave her any directions, and I was amazed with the way she dived in the character and gave so much to her without my intervention.

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Women Cinemakers As you have remarked once, SHE.TEMA.OHA was based on your first impressions of how it is to live and grow in a country like Estonia, more particularly Tallinn. Would you tell us something about your being a foreigner has influenced your writing process? In particular, how important was for you to make a personal film, about something you personally experienced? Tallinn is a very special city and I was very lucky to end up going there. I wrote the script in my first couple of months living there. Being a foreigner in the city and not understanding what people were saying gave me the opportunity to observe more and interact less with what surrounded me. Basicly the film is based on my first impressions of how it is to live in that city. I saw how different people were from the Europe that I was used to and how two different cultures live parallel to each other (Russian and Estonian). This parallelism inspired me to write about this identity crisis which impacts an adolescent that is trying to find her place in society and living between this two worlds. Through the naiveness of her eyes I builded a metaphor where not only her is passing by a identity crises but also the country and city where she lives. SHE.TEMA.OHA has drawn heavily from the specifics of the Russian suburbs of Tallinn and we have highly appreciated the way you have created




such powerful resonance between the intimate qualities of ordinary locations and the atmosphere that floats around the story: how did you select the locations and how did they influence your shooting process? Considering I wrote the script in the first couple of months I lived in Tallinn, I wrote imagining the only places I knew, the places that I visited first. I chose this area (Lasnamae) because it is located in the borders of the Russian suburbs and the Estonian capital. Most of the locations were in the center of Tallinn, where people pass by everyday when they go to work or to school. I think when people from Tallinn see it they may have some kind of emotional bond because it’s a place they deal with on a daily basis. Addicionaly I chose this two different scenarios, where she lives and the city center, to make a contrast and to highlight the parallelism that I mentioned in the previous question.These days, it is nostalgic to me to see those locations on the film. We like the way your intimate close-ups created entire scenarios out of psychologically charged moments to communicate effective empathy: in SHE.TEMA.OHA you leave the floor to your characters, highlighting their mutual interactions and finding such brilliant ways to create a channel of communication between their epiphanic journey

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Women Cinemakers and the viewers’ emotional sphere. What are you hoping SHE.TEMA.OHA will trigger in the spectatorship? First of all thank you that is one of the best complements I got about the film! Compassion. My main purpose in filmmaking so far as been showing that people always have a reason to be like they are by showing them the character background. I guess all the close-ups lead the audience closer to character and with help of her naive gestures, it shows that she like anyone else was just was trying to escape of her life for one day. We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation 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? I think its bright! I thank everyday to be born on this century, I think women are gaining power bit by bit, not only in cinema but in every other place or job in the world. We live in the age of image, were image


takes the place as as the main form of communication and I’m glad that women are finally coming through with another point of view, the feminin point of view. I know that know we are a small percentage of that but if women keep on doing audiovisual material for the media other women will empower other to do it. Of course I’m talking in a positive way, because I’m white and I had the possibility to pursue my dream. But I believe that films should not be directed or done by white privilege women but by all that consider themselves as one, and this is a much bigger struggle that just being born a woman. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Cristiana. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Well, I’ve been working mainly with this young director called Tomás Paula Marques. I’ve been assisting him for his next short film called “Cabra Cega” that will be shot in January. It’s an amazing film full with questions about how young girls deal with the activist nowadays. And also I’ve been working on my next script. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers meets

Fumi Gomez Lives and works in London, United Kingdom

Trapped in a room. There is a box inside the room. The box is theroom. Inspired by "Shoredinger's Cat" thought

An interview by Francis L. Quettier

you tell us what are your biggest influences and how do

and Dora S. Tennant

they affect your artistic research?

womencinemaker@berlin.com

I’m mixed race, and I come from a diverse background. All my

Brilliantly constructed and marked out with captivating dreamlike cinematography, Box is a captivating short film by London based director Fumi Gomez. Inspired by the well-

cultural references, TV, films, literature, represent people who never look like me, or like my family. Growing up, I would spend hours watching films and television and feeling as if I

known thought experiment Schrödinger's cat, this captivating

were a spectator of a world I didn’t belong to. People and

short film triggers the viewers' perceptual categories with

families like mine seemed like they didn’t exist. When I was

such a stimulating tapestry of images and sounds, to inquire

older, living in either of my parents’ home countries, I realised

into the thin line that links fantasy to reality: we are

that being mixed race made it impossible for me to fit in with

particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Gomez's

the local culture. I learned to fill in the gaps and to adapt. I

captivating and multifaceted artistic production.

ended up thinking that I played with an advantage: I know

Hello Fumi and welcome to WomenCinemakers: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we

their stories but they don’t know mine so there’s space for the unexpected and unpredictable!

would ask you some questions about your background. Are

My love for French films took me to ask for a scholarship to

there any experiences that did particularly influence the

study in Paris, where French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) was

evolution of your practice as a filmmaker? Moreover, could

born. Truffaut, Godard, Rivette... I was finally there. However, I



wasn’t... I was living at the campus of Nanterre University, also known as the University of the Immigrants. There was no French New Wave, there were people who were just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. I lived in the “banlieue” outskirts of Paris with foreign students and French 2nd, 3rd generation who constantly suffered discrimination. Eventually this frustration would be visible during the Paris riots of 2005. I am a theatre director and, for the past decade, this is what I’ve mainly done. I love spending time with my actors, brainstorming ideas with my creative team and cast. In theatre, there is always a sense of being part of a working family. The company becomes more than a team, and everybody works really close to each other. I try to bring in those dynamics into film, and make the set, and the production meetings, a creative family. My experience as a working class immigrant in London inevitably defines my work. Because I do not have a budget and all my work is shot on a zero budget I have to counterbalance the lack of money with creativity and gathering extremely talented people for my projects. I usually shoot everything in one day. It’s intense, but professional filmmakers and actors often embrace this type of challenge, and give their very best. I choose stories that do not require expensive locations but that are worth telling for their relevance, diversity, originality and innovation. My biggest influences are Björk, Yayoi Kusama, Maya Deren, Ridley Scott, Katie Mitchell, Tamara Rojo, and Maya Angelou for their insatiable hunger for creating and discovering new narratives, and for surprising us and making us question reality. When I get stuck or when I’m not sure about what the next step is I become audience. I allow myself to visit other universes, their minds,

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers

their narratives. Travelling since I was child has made my creative process all about travelling around different universes. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Box, a captivating experimental short 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 clear approach to narrative and your inquiry into the nature of human psyche is the way it provides the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience. While walking our readers through the genesis of Box, could you tell us what did attract you to this particular story? I have been working with writer/actor Juan Echenique for a whole decade, both in theatre and in film. One of the things that draws me to his work is that he is always looking for new storytelling formats, for unusual sources of inspiration, and for ways to break traditional narrative structures. Back in November 2017, we started a new path in our work together, with the film

. He approached the script

with one single condition in mind: the protagonist was not to be seen until the very end. I immediately felt captivated by the story and the characters: two incredibly shy followers of a crazy UFO cult, who can't gather enough courage either to confess their love to each other, or to honour their suicide pact, all under the attentive gaze of their invisible and very real alien deity. The film was cute, original, and unique. It combined the best of both world: the writer's nuclear idea, and my creative vision of that idea. That film put us in a whole new artistic path. A few weeks later, Juan came to me with a new script:

. It is

probably the shortest script we've ever worked on. Barely half a page. A genuine headache in about twenty lines. The more I read those lines, the more I got trapped into the story itself. A box in a room.


Women Cinemakers

The box IS the room. What I had in front of me was the chance to do something new, and that's one of the most exciting opportunities any director can get. The idea was to create an impossible space, a room without windows or doors, where the only exit is a small box, that happens to contain that same room. The main character is divided in two, a man and a woman. They are the same person, as the box is the same room, only they look, sound, and feel different, the same way the box and the room don't look alike. All dressed up as a "Quantum Horror" story. I started thinking about

, and in the

saga. A very strange marriage. I knew from the beginning that this was not meant to be an "easy" film, and that explaining and underlining the story would only detract from it. The goal I put in my mind was to create a memorable piece, full of inspiring images and tense pacing, where the audience could experience the same uneasiness and the same curiosity I felt when first reading the script. At some point in the process, I realised that my greatest challenge was going to be taking a very intellectual and abstract concept, and transforming it into something emotional, visceral. A story you need to feel with your skin, rather than analysing it with your head.

shooting? In particular, what was your choice about

That was the moment I understood I was trapped inside

camera and lens?

the box. That's when I decided I really wanted to make this film.

The film talks, at some level, about the dualities of the human being. The idea of the Yin and the Yang popped into my mind

Brilliantly shot with sapient use of whites, Box

very early on during the pre-production stage. Black and white.

features essential cinematography and a keen eye for

But the world inside the box is different from our own. Things

details: what were your aesthetic decisions when

get muddled there. The character is male and female, and they


can interact with their two natures in many different ways. The

Many films focus on telling the story by showing the audience

neat divide of the black and white is muddled, blurred. That's

details, objects, facial expressions, and other clear and concise

why I started working with a palette of different shades of grey.

pieces of information. In this case, however, that was bound to

The story gave me something else, an intrinsic weirdness,

be a challenge. I could only play with a featureless white room,

something deeply uncomfortable.

a cardboard box, and two actors with identical costumes. The

With that in mind, we twisted all the desaturated colours we

only solution here was to take a different approach; instead of

had, and shifted to green, looking for an alien, unearthly

playing with "content" (props, locations, and wardrobe, for

atmosphere.

example), I decided to play with angles, with distances, with


framing. Whereas in a traditional story I could show a detail of

to research about the gear our DOP had so I knew our

the location, here I decided to show the action from different,

limitations. It gave me the perfect degree of dynamism and

unusual angles.

freedom to experiment on set, and to decide when I needed to follow the plan I had in my head, and when I needed to

Using the Sony A7S II with a DJI Ronin stabiliser and Sony 28-

improvise.

135 F4 and Sigma Art 20mm F1.4 was what we had to work with. I don’t always have the luxury to choose the camera I want,

With its elegantly structured storytelling Box imparts

however, I adapt my vision to what is available. In this case I had

unparalleled psychological intensity to the narration, to


Women Cinemakers In this case, the structure is mostly the writer's concept. Juan Echenique is obsessed about structure, and about destroying it. His script, even though it was remarkably short, was detailed to the letter, explaining clearly what was happening at every twist and turn. We had quite a few conversations about this during the process, and one of the ideas that appeared most frequently was about Russian dolls. A doll that contains a smaller doll that contains a smaller doll, until there's an incredibly small doll at the end. The problem with that idea is that it becomes predictable, and that disengages the audience. The question here was how to tell a cyclic story, one that involves a degree of repetition, keeping it interesting and fresh. That's the point where artistic expression diverges from science: where science tries to approach experimentation with an identical clean slate every time, art needs irregularity, diversity, and certain degree of chaos to be interesting. In other words: We had to break the neat structure apart, in order to rebuild it in a more effective way. I worked very hard on finding ways of making the repetition contained in the story look like something new, even though it isn't. That way, the twist at the end becomes more shocking, as the audience is more engaged with what's happening in front of them. unveil an ever shifting internal struggle. We have

There's something I always want my audience to take away

particularly appreciated the way the ambience of your

from my films and my plays: questions. I feel like I've achieved

film seem both natural and surreal: would you tell how

something when I hear the audience discussing the film after

did you develop the structure of your film in order to

watching it, asking each other different questions. There's

achieve such powerful results? What are you hoping Box will trigger in the audience?

nothing more satisfactory than knowing that you've awakened somebody's curiosity.




We like the way your intimate close-ups created entire scenarios out of psychologically charged moments: in Box you leave the floor to your characters and your inquiry into their personal spherez seems to be very analytical, yet your film strives to be full of emotion: what was your preparation with actors in terms of rehearsal? In particular, how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a scene and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your practice? With a background of theatre, I think rehearsals are essential for actors and for myself. I usually schedule a day or two for rehearsals with the actors so we can be clear about intentions, plot, character development, etc. I come into rehearsals with a few ideas to throw at the actors and they share their ideas about their character. We think “outside the box” and try different things. The majority of the times, they are so familiar with their character they come up with brilliant ideas that end up in the film. For

there was this idea of both actors being the same

person. I didn’t want to go for something literal. Your vision of yourself is completely different from the vision people have from you. The actors have different genders and ethnicities, which is something that is clear, but they are dressed exactly the same. We searched for movements that were similar in essence but not identical. They came from identical emotions but not identical gestures. I also do rehearsals because actors have 100% of my attention during the session. They’ve been able to ask questions, suggest

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers new ideas, talk about the film, and are clear about what I want them to achieve during the shoot. This way during the shoot I can dedicate more time to my crew. I think there is always space for spontaneity. During a shoot things can constantly go wrong or just in an unexpected way. From issues with the weather, lighting, cast, crew, anything can happen in a way you weren’t prepared for. I know what shots are essential to telling my story, but I like to allow some space for “magic” to happen. For

, the day we

arrived to the location there had been a concert and the space was in “post-concert” mode. I was planning on using all the space but ended up only being able to use a corner. On the spot, I made the decision of making the narrative more claustrophobic, closer to the horror genre. That genre had been there since the beginning, but I decided to fully embrace it the moment we arrived to our set. I had to adapt all the lighting, and the camera angles immediately. That resourcefulness is something that becomes second nature, when you work the way I do. During rehearsal we do a lot of improvisation, I love what actors can bring to the table! If I see an idea I like during rehearsal we transfer it to the shoot. However, not all scripts leave a lot of room for improvisations, and some improvisations, no matter how brilliant they are, don't really contribute to the story. Even though they may look great as something independant, my job is to keep my eyes on the big picture. Does this scene contribute in any way to the story or the vision? Often, the greatest sacrifices I do in the rehearsal room are the ones that have the biggest pay off when shooting the film. It's a constant balancing act, trying to get the best out of everybody's creativity, while being level-headed enough to evaluate what I receive in the context of the whole story.


Marked with captivating minimalistic quality, the soundtrack by Fraser Maitland provides the footage of Box with such enigmatic and a bit unsettling atmosphere: how do you consider the role of sound within your practice and how did you structure the relationship between sound and moving images? Fraser did an amazing job with the brief. We had so little time, and I wanted an original soundtrack. Initially, the brief I gave him was more electronic-classical but after shooting at location I asked him to turn it all into horror which he did very well. Sound is as important as the camera work, actors, lighting; composers are at the nucleus of the team. In my theatre work I use a lot of live music, so actors and audience are in constant communication with the musicians and feed from it. The majority of my films have original soundtrack. I work with composers, so they can make something specifically tailored to the story, they receive the same mood board as the DOP and are one of the first ones to receive the very first draft. We build the story together. The music and sound can heighten an emotion, or slowly reveal a plot twist, or it can be a key instrument to shock your audience. The relationship between sound and moving images should complement and enhance each other. Box was inspired by the concept of SchrÜdinger's cat: French anthropologist and sociologist Marc Augè once suggested the idea that modern age creates two separate poles: nature versus science and culture versus society. As an artist interested in the theme of perception, how would you consider such apparent dichotomy that affect our contemporary age?

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers We live in the era of the contradictions and the paradoxes. Politically, the world hasn't been this polarised for decades, yet the opposites are set in obtuse angles. Not fifteen years ago, young liberals were marching on the streets of London, protesting against globalisation and its impact on working class people's economy. Conservatives, on the other hand, kept on talking about the global market, and how it benefited us all. Fast forward to the present time, and we have a new batch of conservatives who preach nationalism and localism in the name of freedom, and a new wave of liberals who advocate for global trade as the solution to all of the world's problems. I've seen Catholic bishops marching on the streets of Madrid against the government, and Tory leaders in the UK madly pursuing an independence process based on a fantasy of a better future, rather than on facts and figures. There's contradiction between the people who rule the world, and the labels they have on their sleeve. The most important elected leaders in the world can blatantly lie on social media, in the press, and anywhere they see fit, yet their image as trustworthy men of the people seems unscathed by any fact checker. The dichotomy is more present than ever. We have evolved socially to the point where we are starting to see gender as something irrelevant, still we have to explain over and over again why gender inequality is one of the greatest failures of our society. We see over and over again how some of the most brilliants intellectuals of our time fail to grasp why the salary breach between men and women is a problem, and why it needs to be changed now. It's like seeing an Olympic runner exhausted after a walk in the park. Our everyday lives are now plagued with contradictions and dichotomies. Take for example our phones. They are computers I can hold in my hand. It gives me access to more information than what I could find in the greatest library on Earth. However, our writing skills decrease as we use them, replacing full words with abbreviations, and


Women Cinemakers complete sentences with just verbs or nouns. How can all the knowledge in the world be a source of ignorance? While scientists have been trying for a long time to get closer and closer to nature, to understand how we are a part of it, instead of being an external influence, the effects of the scientific advances of the last two hundred years are having a devastating impact on our environment. There's a beautifully tragic story right there, about people destroying the source of their sustenance just by trying to understand it. That ties directly with Schrödinger's thought experiment: the observer is always a part of the experiment. That's one of the fascinating things about

. The audience is another

character of the story. The film changes depending on how you perceive it. Your work offers a female, diverse perspective, in a way that is clear, political and most importantly, entertaining: do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? The industry is starting to become aware of the lack of representation and female voices. There is an interest in watching films made by women which is a step forward.

mother, grandmother role? Is gender relevant at all to the story

However, being a working class, non-white, immigrant, female

I’m telling?

in this industry reflects on all of my work.

I like stories that break pre-conceptions, probably because what currently exists doesn’t represent me. Each of my films is, in one

My work is, in some senses, charged with this frustration,

way or another, a way to give the middle finger to people who

anger, energy, unconventional tenderness and sense of

don’t believe there is a space for filmmakers like myself.

humour which translates into surrealism, magical realism, and punk. I pay special attention to how female characters are

We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research

portrayed. Do we have a classic meaningless girlfriend,

and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this


occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of

As an unconventional filmmaker I make films in insane

women in cinema. For more than half a century women

conditions. Zero budget, one day shoots, final cut in a month. I

have been discouraged from producing something

don’t do it this way because I want to, or I think it helps my

'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs

creative process, I do it because my only other option is just

that something is changing. How would you describe your

complaining about not having funding, and not telling my

personal experience as an unconventional filmmaker? And

stories.

what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field?

A few years ago I really wanted to start shooting films on a regular basis. I bought a DSLR camera that would shoot in 4K


and started making films. However, I found a lot of people who

me understand why some big budget productions have such

kept on telling me that the first step was to look for a producer,

huge issue. There’s no emphasis on original storytelling.

secure funding, hire a great camera, start raising funds so I

This lead me to a period of being incredibly angry and

could recruit people and pay to take part of the festival circuit.

frustrated about the absolute lack of opportunities. Being a non-white immigrant woman was already limiting my chances

The amount of information was overwhelming and basically all

of being able to share my vision.

the paths required a lot of money: there was barely any

Now, being broke was apparently the greatest problem. One

emphasis on storytelling, and that was just shocking. This made

more thing to add to the list!


Women Cinemakers The uniqueness of our challenge is that actors and crew pitch directly to the writers. If they want to be part of the short film as an actor/director/camera/etc. they have to pitch why and how they will make the short film in a month. Writers decide based on who can actually get the project done. This gives a lot more power to everyone and it becomes a collaborative project, it’s all about of completing a film. Instead of the standard structure of having everyone waiting beside the phone. If you want to make a film you just make it! Making Films has become a bi-monthly film festival. What was initially supposed to be a small group of filmmaking friends has grown overwhelmingly. Since November we’ve curated and screened over 30 short films. We organise a networking session at the beginning of the challenge in London and once the challenge is completed we screen them. We do not make any profit out of this, but we’re stronger as a collective than as individuals and it’s a statement we make about filmmaking. Making Films has a 50% of films made by females and non-binary, 30% are made by BAME, 90% of the filmmakers consider themselves working class. Just by opening the door to more people diversity comes naturally. My experience as an unconventional filmmaker has made me create I created a Facebook group called Making Films where filmmakers are challenged to make a film in one month on a zero budget. If they reach the deadline I screen their short film no matter what. All the films we screen can be shot on a

an entire festival and recruit over 1000 members to be able to screen my work because there was no place for people like me. Sometimes it’s been a frustrating and angry path, some other times it’s been inspiring and magical.

mobile phone, a digital camera, a tablet, or an Arri Alexa,

The more female filmmakers we have reaching the top, the more

anything really. Our focus is original storytelling.

visible they become, the more opportunities will be made. I hope

Unexpectedly we’ve already had international collaborations

that the generations after mine will see filmmaking as something a

happen within our challenge. This is all organised by two

lot more accessible than what I’ve experienced. I hope they are

people, Juan Echenique and myself.

treated equally as their male colleagues. I hope they feel free to


Women Cinemakers express their vision without the worries of failing because their

In 2019 we will re-start Making Films. We’ve had to pause for the

work will be judged based on their gender.

summer as we were working and this whole festival is run by just two people. We’ll looking to bring in more partners and

Being a women in the industry makes you be a lot more persistent, and forces you to think outside of your comfort zone. The very few women who are making a path for themselves are incredibly driven and self-sufficient. The industry hasn’t given

collaborations with institutions to continue our work so hopefully we can help make more films and showcase their work. If any potential partners are reading, get in touch! I’m on social media @fumigoation

them space so they have just created it for themselves and have become so visible they can’t be ignored anymore. I can’t foresee the future, but I can talk about the present. Women are challenging standard storytelling. Fairy tales are

Until then, I’m directing mainly theatre: a piece for East 15 Drama School from September and I’m working on a show for the Gate Theatre that will open in spring 2019.

sexist and some classic films we’ve been brought up with are

I don’t really think of my work as a whole. I go step by step and

racist, misogynistic and homophobic... we have no option other

think about trying new things in each film. I am never in my

than to break with these stories and come up with something

comfort zone and I challenge myself in each film to do

different, incessantly make films and not load our shoulders with

something I’ve never done before. Each film is a universe, and

the weight of representing the female voice. It’s too much of a

when I’m finished with one project I’m on to the next one as

burden to carry. We should have the freedom to create things

soon as possible. Ideally I’d like to be able to do theatre and film

without any other responsibility than original, relevant and

side by side and solely focus on directing. Instead of directing

groundbreaking storytelling.

and producing. I know how to make a film on a zero budget, my

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Fumi. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

much of my creativity and storytelling has been determined because of always adapting and working with what I have without even thinking of what I could have. I would love to have that range of opportunities, I dream of what it would be like to

I’ve just shot a feature film in one day on a zero budget. It’s my first feature film and it’s called

next challenge is to make a film with a budget. I wonder how

, we’re currently

editing it and hopefully we will be able to screen it in autumn. We had a cast of 11 actors and 8 crew team members, now we’re in post so there’s a lot of professional filmmakers involved who

not have to carry all my gear, props, wardrobe, on the bus and just be able to concentrate on directing 100%! To be honest, I just want to be able to make films full time, every day.

have worked with us before and have agreed to make this crazy

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant

dream come true.

womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Heike Salzer Lives and works in the South of England

Krummi is a video installation based on the Icelandic poem Krummavisur-The Raven’s Song. The Nordic story tells the hard life during the cold Icelandic winters. Flying high above the landscape against the crisp sun, the ravens float above ice, rocks, steam, and bubbling geothermal water; a poetic visual dance.

Choreography from the University of Leeds (GB) /

An interview by Francis L. Quettier

Fontys Dance Academy (NL), how did these experiences

and Dora S. Tennant

influence your evolution as an artist and a videomaker?

womencinemaker@berlin.com

Moreover, how does your Hello Heike and welcome to

: we

would like to invite our readers to visit in order to get a wider idea about the multidisciplinary nature of your practice and we

direct

the trajectory of your artistic research? My training as a dance artist has taken place in several countries, in vocational as well as academic environments.

would start this interview with a couple of questions

This exposure to different aesthetic perspectives and a

regarding your background. You have a solid formal

range of practical skills have allowed me to develop a

training and after having graduated as a certified Anna

practice that draws from many sources.

Herrmann Gymnastic teacher in Germany, trained in

A key element for me is space and place, and the

dance at ArtEZ-Dance Academy (NL) and received an MA

interchange between myself and the environment. Growing


Photo: Ingi Jensson Heike Salzer, Hellisheidi, Iceland 2014


up in the rural South of Germany and spending my youth outside, in the woods and fields has shaped my relationship with nature. There is a dialogue that takes place between ourselves and the place we are in, and ultimately this engagement informs most of my practice. In that sense, I consider myself a nomadic artist, not only from the point of view of spending time in different geographical locations, but also as somebody who is fluently moving between different practices, finding ways to communicate via interdisciplinary investigation and collaboration, for example the fusion of dance making and cinematography. From my formal training, I see that traces of the German Ausdruckstanz tradition and Gymnastik education with their humanistic perspectives and focus on authenticity and the belief that body, mind and soul are an interlinked unity are always apparent in my work. No matter if it is live or on the screen. we have

For this special edition of selected

, an extremely interesting a videodance

installation that you created in collaboration with Ingi Jensson and that can be viewed at . What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the hard life during the cold Icelandic winters is the way it offers to the viewers a heightened and multilayered visual experience, to create an unparalleled vision of past and future. When walking our readers through

of

, would

you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The idea originated when I received an invitation for an artist residency to create a piece for Merge Dance Company, at Texas

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers State University in San Marcos, USA. I wanted to choreograph a live performance including video projection. San Marcos has a humid and sub-tropical climate, it gets very hot and the Icelandic Nordic winter, an absolute contrast, felt an exciting theme to explore and bring to Texas, where many might have not experienced such cold or seen these amounts of snow. We travelled for one week through Iceland during February in the arctic winter, and filmed the moving elements of this untouched landscape, sometimes by temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. was our guide for capturing footage: it

The poem

talks about the harshness and difficulty of survival during wintertime, and we wanted to capture this sense of existential fear that overcomes us, when nature is very demanding. Although the poem served as the initial inspiration we did not expect to be able to capture ravens, however we were very lucky when we encountered a group of them spiralling around a church tower. Inspired by the Icelandic poem Krummavisur-The Raven’s Song,

sapiently intertwines elements from tradition

and contemporary sensitiveness: how do you consider the relationship between tradition and contemporariness? Do you think that there's a conflictual relation or is there a synergy between this apparently opposite aspects? In particular, how important was for you to make , about a theme that you know a lot about? I think that the contemporary and tradition can be an enriching partnership. In fact, I often find elements of folklore very inspiring to the making of art.

, which is a poem by JĂłn




Thoroddsen from the early 19

th

century, communicates the

exceptional situation of winter via illustrative nature metaphors. The ravens in the poem are searching for food in the snow-covered landscape, a task that has little hope for success, however finally they find a dead sheep which they can scavenge on, securing their survival. This is a strong symbol that I found intriguing. It provides an image

on his own experience when viewing this impressive landscape. Audience members have told me that they became aware of the vulnerability of the earth, thoughts about climate change and ecocriticism occur. In that way I believe, more than it being about my own connection, the work offers a surface to the viewer to reflect on their individual questions that arise.

of the absolute desperation we can find ourselves in, when

Elegantly shot,

life circumstances are exceptionally testing.

cinematography and a keen eye for details, capable of

For me

orchestrating realism with

does not necessarily portray a personal

experience, but offers the viewer an opportunity to reflect

what were your

features gorgeous landscape : when shooting? In


particular, how did you structure your editing process

American tectonic plates meet and form the Mid-Atlantic

in order to achieve such brilliant results?

Ridge which runs across Iceland from the southwest to the

Iceland has the largest area of untouched wilderness in Europe which means that you can still find landscape that lacks human interference, such as buildings, electrical posts, road networks etc. which usually are constructs that

northeast. The island is new compared to other areas of the world and is still forming. The steam and hot water that can be seen in

are movements of this active

nature. There is a big contrast between the freezing ice

need to be negotiated when framing landscape. There is

where almost no movement can be seen, and the bubbling

an expansiveness of the views which is most impressive,

of the extremely hot springs that are coming directly from

and which we tried to capture via long shots, and subtle

deep within the earth. This underlying power is hidden

panning. Furthermore, Iceland has strong volcanic and

beneath the calm snow landscape, and yet there is the

geothermal activity; here the Eurasian Plate and North

possibility of geothermal forces exploding at any moment.


Oppositional states of calm and turmoil. It is this unimaginable strength and unpredictable activities of nature that are fascinating and I tried to portray via the contrasting features of the expansive and still landscape, to details of the moving elements of nature. For example, the long one frame landscape shots of the snow-covered field with very little movement in the beginning scene, which almost looks as it is a still, to the gradually increasing dynamic by overlaying footage with movements of the landscape in different directions, for example the clouds and the ravens. To then climax the ‘volume’, by using a triptych split screen with oppositional directional moving elements of water, steam, clouds and rocks and kinaesthetic camera movement, in addition to an ever-increasing development of the sound. When composing the edit, I use the memory of my embodied feeling of the places we filmed, the kinaesthetic awareness of being at the place. This sensitivity informs the way in which I compose the frames in relation to each other, and the dynamic and the overall structure. Deviating from traditional filmmaking, we dare say that your artistic research

the notion of

elaborated by French anthropologist Marc AugĂŠ, to highlight the ubiquitous instertitial points and between human interaction with environment. In this sense,

draws heavily from

the specifics of environments and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such powerful

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Women Cinemakers


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between the location and the atmosphere that pervades the film: how did you select the locations and how did they influence your shooting process? The process that I use to develop my screendance work, is what I call the

. We go on a journey without a

pre-formed agenda, and stop at places that catch our attention, for example a view, expansiveness, light, colour, movement or simply an intuition. We were filming at places that viscerally intrigued us. That means that the choices for

were

driven by our emotional responses to landscape rather than rational decision making of ‘getting a good shot’. Although we travelled by car, and we were not wandern (hiking) by foot, our expedition felt like a hiking trip; spending time in nature with the chance to ponder about ourselves and world. This kind of self-reflection echoes themes of the Wanderlust movement of the Romantic era in the late 17

th

th and early 18

century in Germany, which describes the strong desire of artists to explore the world. The experience of nature and the subjective emotional responses formed the stimuli for German romantic art, which was a reaction to the industrial revolution, and the concerns for humanity in that new technological era. Furthermore, the enlightenment period with its rationalisation had left little space for the transcendental and unexplainable. Romantic art today seems to me as relevant as it was then. These themes of the longing for deceleration and space for the unexplainable is something I am interested in. Also, today we live in a busy digitized environment, in socio-political


frameworks that are driven by rational judgement, productivity, and success. There is little space for contemplation and calmness in our lives, and spending time in nature is a way to re-connect and get grounded. Austrian-British historian E. Gombrich, writing in , talked about the importance of providing a space for the viewer to project onto, so that they can participate in the illusion: how much important is for you the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to ?

address them to elaborate

The personal association and the ‘placing of the viewer’ is indeed a key element in my work. Being in nature allows me to be in dialogue with a place, finding ‘myself’ in the world. Framing landscape in such a way that positions the viewer into the frame and editing the film rhythmically that suggests the dynamic of the movement of the space, the viewer might be able to connect kinaesthetically, feeling as being there himself, and through this embodied experience reaching moments of self-reflection. As much as the film is a work that portrays our experience, it also offers the viewer to enter his own imagination. There is a three-way dialogue here: We as artists encounter a place, the viewer of the art encounters our experience being in that place, and the viewer has an individual encounter with the landscapes in the artwork. Sound is a crucial component of

and we have

appreciated the way the sound tapestry that you created in collaboration with Jack Laidlaw provides the footage with

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A still from


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Women Cinemakers such an

and a bit

atmosphere: how do

you consider the role of sound within your practice and how ?

do you see

Sounds play an integral part of my work. It communicates a sense of space in a direct sensory way. Rhythm is inherent in images and in sound, and this interlinked dynamic play between image and sound enhances the other. Jack Laidlaw and I worked closely together to develop the accompaniment. He used the harmony of the traditional song for the composition and the dynamic development of the whole is inspired by the above mentioned subtle quietness with the underlying forces of nature; from a serene calm atmosphere to a powerful chaos, and a gloomy yet hopeful end, when I imagine, that the lonely raven continues flying above the landscape. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established under the name of

are today ever growing

forces in Contemporary Cinema 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 " ": what's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? I have experienced the collaboration with artists from other


disciplines or cultural backgrounds as a very enriching one. The exchange of ideas and practices, which sometimes can be a challenging process due to different vocabularies or approaches, ultimately pushes my own boundaries further and the work becomes more than I could have achieved on my own. It demands a detailed reflection on my practice, which in one way helps to identify priorities and ‘musts’ but also questions the elements that might only be there out of habit and can be lost. Screendance, under which I like to categorise my films, aims to merge choreography and cinematography and as such the synthesis of different disciplines searches for new ways of making. When working in teams, it is important to me to identify working practices of openness, honest dialogue, curiosity and respect for ‘the other’, empathy and general positivity towards the process. Then I think collaboration can be an inspiring and satisfying experience. Under the name of Salts she collaborates with international artists and her screendances, installations and choreographies have been invited to numerous international venues and festivals such as the International Videodance Festival Burgundy (FR), Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema (US), Bang-VII Barcelona Videoart Festival, (SP), Athens Video Dance Project (GR), ATLAS Institute (US) among others. Over the years your works have been exhibited and screened in a number of festivals and venues, including the International Videodance Festival Burgundy (FR), Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema (US), Bang-VII Barcelona Videoart Festival, (SP). We have really appreciated the originality of

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Women Cinemakers your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on

n the contemporary art scene.

For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something '

', however in the last

decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on

in this

interdisciplinary field? I think women have always had strong voices, especially coming from a dance and movement background, such as the early Movement and Gymnastik practitioners Elsa Gindler and Anna Herrmann in the beginning of the 20

th

century who were

standing for equality and feminist ideas within their practice in Germany where I come from, or modern dance icons such as Mary Wigman, Pina Bausch or Martha Graham. Personally, I have never been discouraged and always been able to ‘do my thing’. However, I think in our current political and socio-economic environment, art in general is discouraged and under attack with less and less space and financial support been given. Networking and collaborating seems to me key for any art form now, to not lose ground and to build greater acknowledgment. I would hope that the arts, for example in schools instead of being cut, are going to be recognized more, since it is creative skills, the ability to look outside the box which will help to solve many problems that society and the earth as a whole will be facing in the future.


Women Cinemakers Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Heike. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I like to continue collaborating with the inspiring artists that I have strong relationships with and plan new expeditions to places that I have never been. It is rewarding to be able to sophisticate a shared practice which has grown over years and is based on common understanding and aesthetic vocabulary. Furthermore, I am about to collaborate with an artist I have not worked with before. We each will make a piece with the other as the dancer. I am looking forward learning about somebody else’s screendance making practice from an experiential perspective. I am also interested to explore technology further, recently we have worked with a drone which was very interesting as choreographic parameters completely change. Equally, as attractive high-tech filming with a drone was, I am interested in exploring spontaneous ways of capturing material, by for example using small gadgets such as a steady cam for my iphone and see how technological possibilities can offer new ways of ‘dancing with the camera’. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant

womencinemaker@berlin.com


Photo: Ingi Jensson Heike Salzer & Ingi Jensson, Hellisheidi, Iceland 2014


Women Cinemakers meets

Pauline Pastry Lives and works in Angouleme, France

Pauline Pastry is a French artiste living and working in Paris. Her work is between documentary and experimental, and questions the place of the contemporary working class. She uses mainly photography, video and recently started sculpture. She graduated from l'EnsAD in June 2017. Since several years, I have been interested in the industrial environment and in particular in the evolution of the work of the contemporary worker. I mainly use distant and technical imagery, which can make one think of commercial brochures used by companies as a means of communication. I connect this imagery with the technical vocabulary of the industry and with the body of the worker who tends to industrialize and optimize him too. Notions of gesture and choreography are present in my work, I use video for its handy character, it allows a reactivation of the gesture. Whether in my photographs or my videos, I combine the organic with the mechanic, without putting aside the social character in my work.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier

ing your background. You have a solid for-

and Dora S. Tennant

mal training and you graduated from the

womencinemaker@berlin.com

prestigious , in Paris: how did this

Hello Pauline and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regard-

experience influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your direct the trajectory of your




Women Cinemakers artistic research? Hi WomenCinemakers and thank you for inviting me. I started with a BTS in photography at Auguste Renoir high school, in Paris. It is a technical certification which taught me solid skills in photography and gave me the will to enlarge my practice in video making, and sculpture. It's mainly while I was studying at ENSAD that I could go deeper into video work. A teaching crew was guiding us through with advices and personal thoughts about our practice during the whole program. We also had theoretical courses which allowed us to develop a critical eye on what we were doing and what we were studying. Thanks to this school I got a wider and stronger artistic knowledge. For four years, we were inquired to make some long-term personal works, which lead us to build our own thoughts so as not to rush ourselves. There, I chose to go more in depth into video. I's during my graduation year that I put traditional photography to the side to orientate myself more into the body language and the industrial area. I wanted to escape classical

photography and not be related to it anymore. I did not want to be seen as a photographer. I started to do sculpture after my graduation in 2017. I wanted to give another materiality to my work and consider it differently. I wanted to see objects, shapes, and work with my own hands. I began two sculpture series that are still in progress, and . is a series of three sculptures that I conceived in 3 dimensions from industrial curves/charts/technical drawings found in magazines. Theses drawings represent the evolving states of materials depending on the temperature or pressure that they are exposed to. It's more for me a way to morph the change or the attrition of a material, leading me to which means We could say that my work declines into itself through different aspects (video, photography, editing, sculpture) towards a same subject. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting video that our readers have already started to get to know in


Women Cinemakers the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once captured our attention of your brilliant storytelling is the way it provides the viewers with such an intense visual experience, by a sapient composition. While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? My interest in the industrial area started through photography in 2011. The more I would go into this path, the more I wanted to approach the worker’s condition without going to the documentary aspect. The body naturally came into my work. Also, because I practiced ballet for many years and have always been interested in dance since then. Before I had already made a video mixing dance and factories. It was a first draft that I wanted to follow for my graduation. I really wanted to enlighten the worker’s body and the way it is conflicted by working conditions, such as multitasking.

Obviously, Modern Times from Chaplin was at the back of my head, mechanical gestures, working routine, Fordism, work at the chain etc.… But I also wanted to approach new technologies and the cohabitation between the bodies and the engines, which are more and more present and have the tendency to mimic and replace the worker’s gestures. This is where the title of the piece came from, that I explained earlier on. It is a way to give importance to the body attrition as would be a material or manufactured object. It is at first a technical term, I found some poetry in it. This title is evoking. Most of my titles come from old factory magazines. The willing to go deeper into video making was also supported by the writing of my thesis, , in which I approach the perception of gestures through video. I think that video has some kind of behavior that has the power to « reactivate » the movement of the body. I had also made my researches on Pollock, Jean Rouch, and Yvonne Rainer’s work, where the body operating is really present.





I wanted to show industrial moves, or these two dances (my dad’s and the robot’s one) as performances. Collaborating with a modern orthopedics school also made clearer my intention to work with the body. There is, to my opinion, in ortho-

pedics, this same vision of a utilitarian and technological body. It is made to support or replace a missing or damaged body part. This will of optimization of the body is also a kind of performance.


This collaboration allowed me to link prostheses, orthotics, with robots and exoskeletons. Even in the design (aesthetics, and shapes), I found some resemblance to the mechanisms, they both aim at humanity in some way. It was also interesting to work with students

that perceive the body on a scientific and technical side. I built with them my first torso in overalls as a worker effigy. As we can see in my book then chose to destroy this resin torso.

,I


Women Cinemakers Featuring such stimulating enriched with references to the real design process, balances captivating storytelling and refined editing: how did you structure the editing process in order to achieve such brilliant results on the narrative aspect? I had already recorded and collected a lot of industrial pictures for a few years. I edited them and recorded new images. I got into contact with a factory in Nantes which sells some exoskeletons, robots and cobots. I had the chance to sit in factory meetings that were working on exoskeletons conception, by following the marketing agent. It is from a dialogue recorded during one of these meetings that I built the narrative line of my movie. Thanks to this dialogue, I could clarify my purposes and intentions. I was looking for a representative and universal conversation in industry and modernday factories. Then I worked on sound and dialogues to make a logical following. I kept the parts dealing with investments, time and movements and I put my images together according to these conversations but also according to the track that I built myself. I wanted three screens interacting with each other. I already had an idea of the industrial area at this time, I read some books, articles and magazines but




Women Cinemakers

this meeting really focused on all the elements that I needed to elaborate the bases of my video. We appreciated the way you combined images from the digital realm as the screenshots from computer aided applications and footage marked out with such a surreal quality: in this sense, we dare say that seems to walk the viewers to the point of convergence between reality and imagination: how much important is for you in order to address them to elaborate ? I found this as a way to go out from the classical documentary narration. I wanted to make my own fiction, my own vision of this subject with fake or staged images. I simplified explanations, it is almost a synthesized and analytical movie. For example, to understand that I scanned my father in order to get a 3D material, I put some red lasers on him as if it was actually the process that I used. I actually used several techniques to scan him. I created images to simplify the path to the




Women Cinemakers

viewer’s mind, so it could click more easily and go faster to the purpose of my research. Due to the different types of images and their many origins, the interpretation stays open and variates through the viewer’s background according to the way he/she perceives the images. The different possibilities to approach technologies, robots and industries are fascinating to me. We all have an idea from what we see from movies or television. It's important to remark that was also inspired by your father's experience as a worker, that you have sapiently interpreted, capturing both the banalization of robotization and the of vulnerability of the body in contemporary chains: how important was it for you to make , about a theme that you know a lot about? And how did your personal experience as an interpreter of your father's daily one's fueled your creative process? It is, a really personal movie, I start from something which is close to me then move away from it to widen my subject. I see the factory as a micro society. It is always evolving, and it is the

first in line concerned with society changes. I take this microcosm as an image of our society. I have always been skeptical towards the status of the labor in daily life and how the human body becomes a strength as a human capital. I don’t know if I agree with the working area as it is now, I know that there are some problematic elements that will cause trouble in a few years and there is also an issue with unemployment. I come from a worker and farmer’s family, so I have been raised into an engaged environment, I have, of course, been influenced by my family’s experience. Industry is a real target into movie making. I think of movies that I loved such as from Lars von Trier, or from Laurent Cantet, from Pedro Pinho. These three movies are really different from each other but what I liked about them is how the workers are involved in their job. , I wanted a poetical movFor ie from the structure to the image aesthetics. I wanted unexpected elements such as my father’s dance or the robot’s one, while still keep-



A still from


Women Cinemakers ing the documentary look of the film. It was my way to highlight my sensibility to the worker’s body and its social condition. I learnt and saw the state of the industrial area. I don’t make things up, I just create my own interpretation through books, conversations or movies. I also looked over some factory reports and the magazine called . Then, it has been a lot of talking with my father. He has been the first model in my photography and in video works, it was difficult at the beginning, bashfulness I guess. The camera is always scary, we always want to show ourselves from the best angle while I was looking for sincerity and authenticity. It took a while for him to understand and accept what I wanted to say about the industrial area. He really understood while he saw the actual movie. I made an edition relating to my movie called . It is an object that brings together the creative process of but also some private conversations with my dad and I. We find in this book some web, archives pictures, and some that my dad shot himself, portraits, mails and text mes-

sages. It is like a sketchbook that I split in five different parts leading to the construction of a working body. I start from the fact that the factory was a furnace for working bodies, mechanical bodies. We have really appreciated the way engages the viewers to question Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once remarked that "

": as an artist particularly concerned with the industrial environment and with the social conditions of contemporary workers, how do you consider the role of artists in order to raise awareness about social issues in our unstable and globalized contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to ? I think the engagement in an artistic work must be overriding even if it is transparent or unconscious. There are no less important sub-




Women Cinemakers jects than others to me, we just need to feel how the artist is involved and sensible about his/her work. We have the chance to be able to express our vision of the world as we see it freely and with different manners, no road to stick on, we still have this freedom. The subject that I deal with in my work is really actual, it deals with the erasing of the worker’s human body to the robotized one. Technology is our daily topic, I feel that my generation is sensitive to it in a way or another. I wanted the format to fit the content of the subject. I am fascinated but also a bit scared by technology, but if we could have a robot that could replace us to go work for us, I would not be against it. It would be a good way to enjoy our hobbies but moreover to live and work for ourselves. But it is quite a utopic vision. Not to mention that these days almost everything, from Maurizio Cattelan's ' to Marta Minujín's ' ', could be considered : do you think that your artistic practice could be considered , in a certain sense? In particular, do you think that your being a

woman provides your artistic research with some ? I wondered my vision as a woman changed the view I had on the industrial area. I have been asked this question many times and I think I am well-grounded to be concerned through my familial context. I had some readings that comfort me in these thoughts, women that have been involved in workers labor or factories, such as Simone Veil or Leslie Kaplan. I think it helped me to be a woman in a mostly male environment. The workers that I met were less suspicious, I could quickly establish relationships and explain to them what kind of information I was looking for. Of course, I had some remarks, but it was never serious. Now when I come back to my father’s factory they tell me « You again! You’re working here right? ». The workers helped me quite a lot for my last sculptures. They are maybe more sensitive to what I do since they are understanding more my intentions. Marked out with sound plays a crucial role in

qualities,




Women Cinemakers , providing its footage with such an capable of challenging the viewers' perceptual categories: why did you decided to include such audio commentary? And how would you consider ? As you said, sound plays a major part in my work, it must come from my ballet practice. I have trouble to discern what I hear from what I see. The musical parts of my movie bring some kind of dynamics that I was looking for in the gestures, they come at very specific moments. The music has been made by Jules Cassignol, a musician that I appreciate the work of very well, he understood straight away what I was looking for. Nowadays, we have a really oldish vision of French factories. I have the feeling that our generation is not as involved into the worker’s condition as it used to be. It is fair because it is so far from us now. The youth coming from a modest background used to go work in factories, it is less common now. The sound base of the movie was made from captations in the factories, or noise made from my own body and objects. I wanted to mix mechanic and organic together, these are essential terms in the movie, since I am dealing with a body always in pro-




Women Cinemakers cess, that must be more and more effective and technological, I had to give this feeling through sound. I really looked for the immersion of the viewer into this environment from the interpretation that I had from this experience. We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century woman have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I don’t know if I am or not conventional, I just want to stick to my thoughts. I did not want to do something to please people, or do something beautiful, at least it is not my first goal. I think that we should do something that moves us, be true to the viewer and they will feel it, as a woman or not. I think that there are more and more women artists that assume their work, and




Women Cinemakers more and more institutions, festivals dedicated or open to women and I think that this is really positive. I am quite optimistic concerning women in art in the future. We are lucky to be in an openminded and sensible area in a lot of things. My work is quite masculine. All my models are men, I did not start with the easiest way, but I did not feel uncomfortable about it either. So yes, I had some thoughs because I am a young woman, but I think it comes more from the audience. I am often asked why I have so much interest in the industrial area. We just need to believe in what we do and impose ourselves. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Pauline. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am currently working on my new movie called ÂŤ Opus Âť. It will be a 20-minute-long video installation on three screens. This will be a dance video between fiction, documentary and performance.


Women Cinemakers The movie’s speech is: « Three employees from a foundry end up in a lost stone-pit in the Charente region. Marked by their work, they recall themselves the routine moves that they used to do on a daily basis ». On the side of this I just made my first solo exhibition at the in)(between gallery, in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. My movie was projected there and so were my last sculptures ( and ) and some photographies ( ). Once my movie is done, I want to focus back on photography for a bit. I feel that this medium starts to miss in my practice, then I am going to continue working on my sculptures, I already made some sketches: cf 3D pictures. I am also thinking about new ways to show my movie and photographies. Focus more on the setting, how my sculptures and movies can interweave more between one another. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Dascha Esselius Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden

I am a multidisciplinary artist. My artwork consists of films, photographs, paintings, sculptures, public art and video installations, the last of which are almost immaterial, created by ever changing projections on layers of thin transparent veils all around the spectators. My first film, which was in 16 mm and commissioned by Swedish Television in 1984, was based on the first of these cinematic installations, at that time created with animated feeds of slide projections of handmade images. I strongly believe in the visual language which moves me and is the starting point of all my cinematic creations. I see my films as paintings or sculptures build with compound time flows of colour, shape, light and sound. They are not, therefore, narrative stories in the traditional sense. I want the audience to open their minds and regard the films as projection screens for their own inner worlds or as stimulants to emerge their own stories. I use the ambiguity of perception to fill the objective reality with parallel meanings in the field of tension between the fantastic and the realistic documentary. In my work I often refer to different art historical periods. It’s my way of saying hi to the artists who have acted before me

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Dascha and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You began your artistic career as self taught painter: you later studied Sculpture at the University College of Arts Crafts and

Design and then you nurtured your education in the field of Stage Design at The University College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre, and you later had the chance to attend further courses: how did these experiences influence your evolution as a multidisciplinary artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? To me, art is a tool for managing and understanding life.



Women Cinemakers The advancement in the various artistic techniques and the use of them is directly linked to my life circumstances. It`s doubtful if I had become a visual artist if my life had developed differently. It`s more likely that I had become an actor. As a child I danced classical ballet, was a member of a children's theatre group and was a child actor in movies. These experiences still affect my artistry. In particular, the different scenographic environments in the film studios in Prague, in which we children played during the long breaks between takes. It was as a member of youth theatre group I managed to leave Czechoslovakia, one year after the Soviet invasion of the country in 1968. When the group traveled to a youth theater gathering in France, I took advantage of the opportunity to escape and I did not return to Czechoslovakia. Fifteen years old I ended up in Sweden as an unaccompanied refugee child and was taken care of by the child welfare committee. One of the relatives of the manager in the youth home where I had been placed had just died. He had been an amateur painter and I inherited his paint box, pile and brushes. This gift had arrived at the right time. I had a lot of emotional turmoil to process and lacked verbal language to convey those emotions. That's how I became a self-taught painter. This, my new career that I initially pursued besides my high school studies under a pseudonym , developed surprisingly well. Before I had reached the age of 23, I had been represented at the National Museum and in the Swedish state collections. I also had a separate morning chronicle program in the Swedish Radio P1. But in 1976, due to an accident, my studio burned down and everything was gone. I took it as an omen. I left my pseudonym and the related career behind me. From that point on, I used my real name Dagmar Jerabkova. I also wanted to change the direction of my life. What would I do instead? I had published a poem collection and I had written a short story that had been published in several reputable literary magazines. Should I become a writer? No! It was far too painful to write. I decided to study sculpture. It felt handy and stable and slightly more fireproof. Ha, ha. The first course I registered for at




Women Cinemakers was welding. Working with open fire, like gas welding, made me so scared that my hands shook so much that the iron parts that I tried to weld together beat against each other. That gave rise to a metallic sound, which caught my interest. I started welding mobile sculptures that, through their movement, induced different sounds. I created an entire mobile sculpture orchestra whose movements I ruled through a program mechanism that I had mounted out of a washing machine. In parallel, I became interested in the task of how little material that was necessary for creating figurative sculptures without loosing shape, volume, balance and proportion. The sculptures, which I welded with round bars, reminded of computer graphics that was also a new phenomenon at that time. Depending on how these sculptures were illuminated, they gave rise to different shadow formations. To explore the shadows, I used the sculptures as actors in a mechanical shadow play theatre. I graduated 1983. We were 20 students who were assigned the space for the final exams exhibition in the school's 1000 sqm garage which was currently empty. As time went by, one by one, my fellow exhibitors disappeared. All of them were afraid that their works of art would not be exposed properly in such an odd place. Without my knowledge, everyone had gotten a new showroom in the main building. Suddenly I stood in the garage alone. When I had recovered from the shock, I had to figure out how I could fill such a big space. The solution was to work with moving light in relation to my sculptures. At that time there were no courses in lighting at but I have snapped up one thing and the other by observing light designers when they worked in the film studios in Barrandov. I also recalled in Prague which was the world's first multimedia theatre combining film projections with stage performances and that used UV-light in their stage sessions. I picked up four Kodak carousel projectors from the school's media store and I filled their magazines with a total of 324 images that I made directly in the slide frames. I went to the


store and begged for pieces of discarded theatre veils which I

projected the handmade slides on. I hung up the screens

mounted on welded sculptural shapes and in that way turned

everywhere in the garage so that the constantly changing light

them into artistically designed projection screens which I

projections filled the entire space. I created two mechanical


shadow plays with my figurative sculptures and I added the mechanical sculpture orchestra. Because at that time no personal computers existed I controlled all this consistently

through a program mechanism from a washing machine. I let the audience become part of the artwork by moving freely in the space. I gave the installation the name s


Women Cinemakers which was a form of invoke that has proven to work. Even today, I continue to further develop this art form. The installation was a big success. No one had seen anything like that before. I have to say, that neither had I. One of the visitors was a professor at and he offered me a spot as a special student at the scenography department. That's how I ended up there. By participating in the education, I became more aware of where I was pursuing my artistry and that it was not stage design based on a manuscript. What I sought was to create some kind of ever changing virtual reality environments that the audience influenced with their own presence just as the living world changes in line with our actions. I was invited to participate in a cultural program in TV2. But I did not want to sit in a TV studio and describe my art as an additional talking head. I wanted the art, which I mean possesses a visual language, to speak for itself. So I got 16mm film, a cameraman, an audio recording guy and a movie editor at my disposal to create a movie with the art as an actor. The film , signed with my maiden name , can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVWlvomHnk. This, as my first film, lays the foundation for my pursuit to create movies that are not based on storytelling but mediates artistic experience in itself. Initially, I created films in collaboration with , who I married in 1993 when I also changed my name to . Since I have become tired of appearing under different names, I have retained the name even after the divorce that came into force in 2003. You are a versatile artist and your pratice is marked out with such stimulating feature, that allows you to range from Installation, land Art, Photography and Painting, to Video, Computer Graphics and Sculpture: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? It's curiosity that drives me. I am a restless person who easily gets bored. It amuses me to turn my eye and look at the world from different angels than the usual ones and allow myself to marvel as if I was a newborn child without any previous




Women Cinemakers knowledge. Actually, I do not change topics very often. I only process them from different input angles. When it comes to the realization of the work the function determines the matter. The medium chooses itself based on practical needs. I'm just thinking about what works best at the given moment, how a mission can be performed in the best way, a task explored. The answers come to me in the form of practical solutions and those are the ones that guide me. Each project grows new branches just by working on it. However, these new branches can wait a long time, sometimes for years before they are realized and that also has practical excuses. Some project ideas are so big and costly that they cannot even be tested without receiving an order and a financier. Others must wait for the technology to catch up. Plenty, already started projects have to wait until I get a time slot. My artistry moves in elliptical lanes that overlap and cross-fertilize each other. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of has at once captured our attention for the way your practice deviates from traditional video art form to pursue a sensorial richness rare in contemporary scene. In particular, we would start from , a stimulating video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . Taken in one shot on the helicopter apron on the icebreaker Oden on her way to Wrangel Island in the Artic Ocean, this work challenges the viewers' perceptual parameters, inviting them to a multilayered experience when walking our readers through of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The film

was shot in 2005 during the polar research journey to Greenland, Alaska, Chukotka and Wrangle Island arranged by the , which is part of the . I was invited to accompany the expedition as a researcher. Both the Artic and the Antarctic are connected to myths about strong adventurous men defeating nature and discovering new continents. It was therefore important to me to stand free from these heroic and colonial visions and find out my own approach to the subject. I asked myself a question: what happens to a person while passing through time zones and travelling to unknown places, which few have visited? What sort of mark does it leave on the surface of the inner self and how can this be expressed?


Women Cinemakers My point of departure was in the reality I met, but the places we visited were so odd and at the same time so familiar in an archetypal way, that after a time it was hard to decide what the inner and what the outer reality was. A science fiction feeling took over and grew stronger and stronger inside me, as if we were travelling not with an icebreaker but with a spaceship to the beginning of time. The rapidity of the weather changes with the shifting light and the moving mists and fogs sweeping over the landscape, hiding and uncovering details and displacing perspective reminded me of my video installations. It was as if my inner world suddenly became the real one and surrounded me. I realised that I have travelled to the Arctic to see my inner visions, my daydreams and my nightmares materialised. And there I was. My camera began to shoot my inner worlds. My fellow travellers, the researchers and the crew were so used to watching me walk around and shoot and photograph that no one cared. One day when I passed the helicopter apron on the icebreaker, I noticed two of my fellow travellers being deeply involved in a discussion. Their movements were markedly synchronized, as it usually happens to people who are in agreement. I sat down nearby, fixed the camera between my knees and began to watch them through the mirror filter in my camera, which reinforced the synchronized impression of their movements and merged their bodies into one. In the eyepiece, they became one form which during its multiple transformations reminded me of a multi-armed Hindu god which emerged from and disappeared in a horizontal line. That gave me an idea of a synopsis. I tried out different shooting angles to figure out how to keep the camera to achieve the desirable result. Then I pulled a deep breath and I captured the movie in a state of full concentration. It was important to keep the camera very still, but at the same time constantly change the shooting angles to create new imaginaries, which must happen almost unnoticed. I had to synchronize myself, and my camera, with the movements of the researchers as well as the boat. In the state of flow I was in, my body knew exactly how. Of course, my previous studies of movement coordination and anatomy have been helpful in this task. The researchers, the main characters of the film, watched the movie that very night in the icebreaker's cinema. I have to admit that I was nervous about how they would take the humorous side of the movie. Could they possibly feel offended? No! They were amused. We have highly appreciated the way

explores , and we dare say that it seems to



A still from


Women Cinemakers reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that : are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Yes I agree with Gursky, whose work I appreciate. And I thank you for your insightful conclusion. One can look at the same aspect of reality in many different ways. By clarifying viewing parameters, the artist can reveal a new world for the spectator as Gursky does. I wish my works could be meeting points with everybody's inner self. And if they are, they have been understood, even though the interpretations can be infinite in number. , an experimental We have particularly appreciated the way video that can be viewed at , features such rigorous sense of geometry and at the same time conveys the idea of prehistoric monsters, showing the resonance between apparently opposite concepts: how did you structure the editing process in order to achieve such brilliant results? Thank you for appreciating the geometry of the movie: I have made the editing instantly in place by watching the subject through the camera's mirror filter while rocking my body in line with the waves. One could say that I was dancing the movie. By watching the movie the spectator at the same time takes part in the film's creation. To explain more closely the movie is taken during the same expedition as . The icebreaker Oden reached Barrow in Alaska that is a little Inuit settlement housing Arctic Research Centre. As usual I was moving around carrying on my cameras. On the beach I noticed a steep sloping iron grid, probably used to pull up boats on, which the ocean waves threw up jellyfish on. I picked myself up on the top edge of this construction that ended steeply in the ocean and I watched the event through the ocular in my camera's mirror filter. The image I saw reflected a feeling that had fulfilled me for a long time, a sense of being in the beginning of time when the first organisms came out of the sea. Transformed through the mirror filter in the camera I saw the Arctic Ocean spitting up ancient beings on the geometric structure of the iron grid. In order to create an illusion of newborn offspring coming up from the sea, I had to change the camera angle many times.


Women Cinemakers How should I do it so that it appeared natural or not even noticeable? The only way was to change the shooting angle at the same moment as the waves hit the iron grid. This was only possible to do, so to say, freehand without the support of camera stands. I put my body in motion and I crashed in tune with the waves while shooting. Had I lost the balance, the risk was great that I had fallen in the ice-cold sea. Austrian historian E. Gombrich, writing in , talked about the importance of providing a space for the viewer to project onto, so that they can participate in the illusion. As an artist particularly interested in exploring the tension between the fantastic and the realistic documentary, how do you consider the creative potential of direct experience? In particular, how does your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? I grew up at the place in the world ruled by a single truth, namely, the communist doctrine. Nothing else was allowed. Even a child, as I was, could not help but see that this truth in reality was a lie. As a tool to be able to orient myself in life, I practiced a technique to constantly search for the opposite pole of all given truths and doctrines in order to search for the reality in the field of tension there in between. This approach to life has become a habit. Accordingly in my artistic practice I want to put the spectators in a state of mild uncertainty. So that, when no answers are given, they are forced to seek answers and interpretations within themselves. In their efforts to interpret the work without instructions, they may catch a glimpse of themselves. Many, but not everybody will be happy when that happens. Assuming that we look at the world through a frame created by our expectations, we can change our experience of the world just by changing the expectations or the viewing angle in the same way as we change a camera filter. To do so is widening the perspective. To switch between ways to look at the world amuses me and brings me new ideas to explore in order to understand the world better. Rich of allegorical qualities and reminders to Nordic symbolism, is another piece that we are pleased to introduce to our




Women Cinemakers readers. This captivating video a be viewed at https://youtu.be/6NrkbfGJvcI and provides the viewers with an immersive experience: how important are metaphors and reminders to traditional imagery in order to create an evocative work of art? movie, the use of Nordic symbolism was part of the mission As for the itself. The film was created on behalf of Umea Municipality for the video installation in the Arrivals Hall at Umea Airport as part of the municipality's application to become the . The purpose was to focus on the Swedish nature in relation to ancient history and especially on Sami culture that has been reduced, on the verge of denied in Swedish culture. The reason I got the commission is due to the fact that I, in an innovative way, have done a number of works that refer to art history from many different epochs and parts of the world. In my research, I have been taken by how expressions of native cultures around the world are similar to each other and that I wanted to highlight through my work. Art history inspires me a lot. I do not know how it could be otherwise, possibly in some state of blackout. In all I do, I see glimpses of previous artists' works. Everything they have taught me by their personal endeavors. And I feel grateful. I do not refer to any particular work of art, not to any particular artist, not even to any particular art period and yet all of that is included in the works I create with the help of all the artistic techniques I have learned during life. French anthropologist and sociologist Marc Augè once suggested the idea that science and culture modern age creates two separate poles: nature society. Since you are particularly involved in the search for points of convergences between different art historical periods, how do you consider the relationship between traditional heritage and contemporary sensitiveness? Sweden, where I live, is a modern country focused on the present. An average person does not give much importance to historical knowledge. But I, raised in Central Europe, am deeply aware of how historical events, if we don`t deal with them, on an unconscious level affect the present, that is not always in a positive way. Another aspect is that the art of indigenous peoples have been diminished and exempted for imperial reasons and have the need to be restored. The art reflects its time and speaks to us throughout the ages because we belong with those who have


Women Cinemakers

gone before us. We are reached by the message in the same

and no cross-fertilization, just a romanticized retrospective. I

way that we are reached by the starlight of the already extinct

think it is important that we grow a sense of belonging; not

stars. But we can only answer the appeal with our own voice

only with the planet earth, but also with the human race to

shaped by our own time; otherwise there will be no exchange

protect them both and in that work we must embrace the


history to understand ourselves as a whole. I use allegorical references to art history because they already carry embedded explanatory models. This does not mean that you have to know them in order to experience the work, but in case they

are familiar and conscious you can include the hidden symbolism embedded in the work in the experience, which adds a value. Each work contains several interpretative layers


Women Cinemakers that can be read in parallel. Sound plays a crucial role in your artistic practice: through techniques of manipulation, you mutate authentic sound recordings to create ethereal and often enigmatic atmospheres that provide your artworks with a captivating sense of ambiguity that force the audience's perceptual process to continuously subvert their initial sensations. How do you consider the relationship between sound and the flow of the images playing within your practice? I work with the sound the same way as I work with the movies. Often I use authentic sound recordings already embedded in the film. I try to capture and develop what's already there behind the surface, but maybe not directly audible at the moment of recording because it is overwhelmed by noise. The interesting sounds rarely lie in the foreground of the sound image. I �wash� the sound free from slag until the interesting sound layers begin to appear. I have no prior idea of how the final result should sound. I simply listen and let the sound carry me on as I did in my youth when I created sounding mobile sculptures. The sculptor Michelangelo has said that he carries out the form that already exists in the stone block. It's a suitable allegory for how I work with the movie sound. I can amplify or mutate different audio channels so that the sounds that are barely audible in reality come to the forefront and the dominant sounds come in the background or I change the tempo of a soundtrack or mix them in different order, but I never change the rhythm that is associated with the image flow because this rhythm is an integral part of the film work, created in the identical now. Here's the main difference between working with the movie sound as I do and composing music for the movie. Digital technology can be used to create innovative works, but innovation means not only to create works that haven't been before, but especially to recontextualize what already exists: 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?




Women Cinemakers The biggest achievement is all communication that has become possible across borders. A while ago, I watched in real time an artist talk at LACDA in Los Angeles, which is on the other side of the globe from Stockholm, where I live. This is amazing. It is not always possible to travel here and there, but nowadays you can take part in events despite the distances. You can easily stay informed about various art directions and find like-minded people across the globe. This adds a new dimension to art. The balance of power has been shifted. The artist can take on the initiative much more than before. A new freedom has entered the art scene and changed the artist's role. Artists can send their digital works via the internet to galleries in different places on earth. The galleries can in turn present the work on a screen or print and mount it without time-consuming and costly shipping. The most exciting thing is that we are at the beginning of this development. On the other hand working with new technology is no guarantee that artwork that is created will be innovative, that depends entirely on the individual artist's approach. Over the years your artworks have been internationally showcased in a number of occasions, including your recent participation to the group exhibition LACDA Electron Salon, Los Angeles. One of the hallmarks of your practice is the ability to establish with the viewers, who urged to from a condition of mere spectatorship. So we would like to pose a question about . Do you consider ? And what do you hope to in the spectatorship? I am genuinely interested in the psychology behind the spectator's involvement in artistic processes and the impact they may have on the spectator. I have even developed an interactive portrait photography method for people suffering from dementia with the aim of improving their self-awareness and ability to attend. The method has shown surprisingly good results. Some patients who lacked a language have started to speak. For those interested in this project visit http://www.dascha.nu/dementa_e.htm. My basic starting point is that we are all interested in ourselves and that we need to be able to reflect




Women Cinemakers

ourselves in the artwork to get involved. So to say, that the spectator himself must find his own space in the artwork. It is this space that Gombrich describes in . In the field of tension between the work of art and the spectator, an additional world is created by the spectators’ own mind. My videos are based on the same mirroring principle as used by psychologists to examine the emotional ability of patients. was a Swiss Freudian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst that were artistically educated as well. In my video installations I go even further. The process of overlapping image projections woven into each other and transformed by the motion of the veils creates new and unexpected imaginaries appearing and disappearing in a constant flow all around the spectators which by their own behaviour had an inevitable impact on the transforming process. No one of the momentary appearances can exactly repeat itself and the installations remains in some case unknown even to me, so even I have to constantly renew my paths of associations. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Dascha. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? What I currently know with certainty is that I will complete an order for a in permanent sculpture installation called and in connection with the opening of the work; my videos will be shown in the culture house theatre hall. In addition to this, I have a number of already initiated projects that are just waiting for me to get time to complete them. Which one of them gets in goal first and what direction the work will take is impossible for me to know in advance. My artistry moves in elliptical courses in which I continually return to previous works to carry them on hoping that I still can surprise myself.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Sarah Beth Woods Lives and works in Chicago, IL, USA

Sarah Beth Woods is a Chicago-based visual artist working in sculpture, performance and film. Woods’ background as a painter and critical cultural worker has led to an interest in the aesthetics and political implications of modern surfaces and the body, specifically skin and hair, saturated color and shine. Cultural influences derived from formative years spent on the Southwest side of Chicago continue to manifest in the content and aesthetics of Woods’ work, specifically black material culture, and women’s conceptual spaces. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Sarah and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cum Laude, from Northern Illinois University, you nurtured your education with a Master of Fine

Arts, that you received from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: how did these experiences address your artistic research? Moreover, does your address your artistic research? I left the Southwest side of Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I studied Hip Hop Feminism with Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, author of Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy and Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood. Dr. Brown’s courses


Sarah Beth Woods


had the most radical pedagogy on campus. This is where I began material explorations that connected me back to black material culture and the cultural landscape of the South side. I found a beauty supply shop near school that carried the most incredibly vibrant braiding hair. The synthetic hair was taken back to the studio and braided into other found objects in Afterwards I the series realized that there was a literal material connection, the braiding hair and the bath poufs were made from the same nylon material. I spent the most formative years of my life living and teaching on the Southwest side of Chicago at a parochial school in a Black-middle class neighborhood. 98% of the students were African-American. I identify as German, my Grandmother was first-generation. The school had a highly revered music teacher, Dr. Cynthia Nunn. During the time I was planning lessons the hallway was filled with the sound of kids singing the most incredible gospel music, while Dr. Nunn banged out these incredible melodies and harmonized. I always felt that spiritually it took me to another place. I was taken by surprise by the myriad of rules surrounding adornment and the black body, this was most pronounced in hairstyle. Specifically, there were rules about how ones’ hair could be worn. A few strategically placed barrettes were permitted, but an entire head of small, white pony beads warranted a phone call

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers home. This was my first hands-on experience with respectability politics, a demarkation, a deliberate separation from “Otherness.� There was one occasion where one of my third grade students came to school with her hair half braided. It was picture day and they asked me to step in. I was highly aware of the cultural boundaries that I was crossing but also felt grateful that I was trusted to the task at hand. Most of my work points back to these personal and profound moments. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such stimulating : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we invite our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to approach? such captivating How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? I’ve always been interested in collage and bricolage, even as a child. The immediacy, the texture, the layers, all resonate with me. The subversive history and qualities of Dada, specifically the way collage can be easily reproduced and distributed. There is an emphasis on process and material, similar to craft that excites me.





Women Cinemakers

While attending the San Francisco Art Institute I studied film with Ernie Gehr, and Janis Lipzin and Interdisciplinary Collage with Carlos Villa. Villa’s mixed media work is featured in by Lucy Lippard. We watched a lot of early Soviet Cinema, and Stan Brakhage. My major was Interdisciplinary so I was able to easily traverse disciplines. During this time I was immersed in diy/punk culture, George Kuchar’s campy, lowbudget movies, and experimental film. When I eventually returned to Chicago I started studying abstract painting, which is evident in the content and formal aspects of my work. I feel lucky to have had such a broad range of experiences between art schools and state universities. In my work content comes first, an initial idea, a spark followed by material decisions. Generally the process is quite intuitive. Some of my initial questions are how can I deconstruct this? How can I push the limits of this material? Do I conceal or reveal? I want to pronounce the importance of a subject that relies heavily on surface, temporality, and the body. (Concepts often intrinsically linked to the feminine.) How do I do this earnestly, within the context of the groups, which are frequently negated for their associations with fluff and artifice? The surface is

as important as the content, both in the film and the ways in which we intellectualize these groups. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way it provides the viewers with such a captivating : when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us what attracted you to this story? I’ve been fascinated with girl groups for as long as I can remember. I was looking at early choreography, early girl group appearances, and was transfixed by some of the groups’ first television appearances, essentially these moments in history where girlhood had a visual and sonic presence, a conceptual space. The synchronicity made them appear larger than life,


expanded through time and space. Movements became more isolated and pronounced. During my last project BRAID/WORK I worked with Fatima Traore, a Malian- American professional hair braider. The goal was to create links between our practices, gestural iterations of race, and crosscultural identities. We were invited to show our work at Rootwork Gallery, a space in Chicago run by Tracie D. Hall. Hall had a collection of glossy 8”x10” girl group promotional photos. I pointed to one of the shots of The Marvelettes and said, this is my next project. I formed a fictional girl group that summer with Alexis Strowder, Anya Jenkins and a third woman, Yahkirah Beard, who is a professional dancer and lead in Our weekly rehearsals/filming was done at Prosser High School in the Belmont- Cragin neighborhood of Chicago where Strowder, Jenkins and I attend church on Sundays. We had two public performances, one at Silent Funny, a music and art venue on the Far West side and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on the city’s Near West Side. I consider these performances part of the process rather than finished work. We have highly appreciated the way your film challenges the audience's perceptual parameters to explore

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers , your film provides the viewers with a unique multilayered visual experience: how do you consider within your process? For me, the groups represent the intersection of high artifice and femininity combined with authentic, lived experience. They teach us about girlhood as an appealing and multifaceted identity. Groups were often formed with friends in school or church choirs, which seems so grounded and unmediated. Producers changed their names, their looks, the way they held their bodies, their image, the songs they sang. They chose whether to include or exclude certain group members, some remaining in obscurity because they weren’t given proper credit on records. Beneath the shiny, glowing surface of those groups there were a lot of hard realities. There is this in-between, otherworldly space that these groups exist in. I wanted the imagery in the film to have a graphic quality, layers, and texture. I chose Double-X Negative film for its adaptability to a wide range of lighting conditions. There are some really wonderful moments when the women’s movements create tracer-like effects. Those moments feel the most successful to me. The dream-like quality of reversal film is the perfect aesthetic, keeping the work from being too legible, too




Women Cinemakers quick of a read, too fact-based. If its too literal you shut down entry points for your audience and for me that is also connected to expansive legibility. I read a lot of Luis Alberto Urrea’s works, specifically, I always return to

It’s an

incredibly rich account of the author’s distant Aunt, Teresita who is suddenly sainted at the age of 16. Urrea researched the content of the novel for over twenty years and then folded in all of this intensely visual magical realism to form something new. The girl groups are intrinsically linked to Teresita, they share the same kind of magic. With its minimalistc yet powerful visual structure, seems to reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that : are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? In particular, How open would you like your works to be understood? Moreover, we really appreciate the way you explore the expressive potential of a wide variety of materials, and more specifically textiles, as you did in the interesting



A still from


Women Cinemakers German art critic and historian Michael Fried once stated that ' .' What are the properties that you search for in the materials that you include in your works? Initially I search for materials that hold both personal and broader cultural meaning. Once the materials/content is deconstructed there is space for broader interpretations. That’s one of the reasons Hear the Glow is so stripped down and minimal. Materials have the potential to detach from their original meaning and purpose but are also capable of coming back to it full circle. I believe in multiplicity of thought, and I’m not interested in specific works being overly didactic. I want my audiences to have different entry points and experiences. People often think of hair weave as a material strictly used by African Americans or as a material that reinforces westernized ideals of beauty. Some of this holds true, but I think we enter into dangerous territory when we fail to look at the entire picture. Remy hair (the most popular) is imported from Russia and India. Pilgrims in India sacrifice their hair at temples, where it is collected, cleaned and processed by low wage workers, generally women. The hair is then exported to other countries.


Women Cinemakers In the States there are a lot of First-generation Korean families that settle in segregated sections of inner cities who are owners/proprietors of beauty supply shops that sell the premium hair. Customers who purchase the hair weave come from a myriad of ethnicities and social classes. In fact, Africa has become a major importer of Remy hair. What’s fascinating to me is how many hands and cultural barriers the hair passes through and the blurred boundaries between the real and artificial. I apply these ideas to materials, even things that are believed to be essential qualities like feminine body comportment. Courtney Bradshaw, the choreographer for nd I had many conversations about Maxine Powell. Powell had a finishing school at Motown Records, which taught her groups etiquette, poise, and social graces. Another conceptual link back to my early experiences in Chicago with respectability politics. To answer your question more specifically, the materials for were purchased from a giant bin of bath poufs at Walmart. The poufs had vibrant, saturated colors that are found in other products marketed directly towards girls and young women. My research pointed me to labor politics at Walmart, which often targets minority women through very

strategic marketing. There’s an interesting triangulation of labor taking place as well: the women consumers, women workers and the offshore labor of the women who construct the bath poufs. Most of my research pointed to exploitative practices but these kinds of neoliberal practices aren’t limited to Walmart, its wide spread. There’s also this inherent contradiction or polarity because the poufs are beautiful. The plastic binds color incredibly well. So I’m forced to dig beneath the surface, look at what’s behind, that’s the link to Gursky and the conceptual spaces of the girl groups. How is in your opinion online technopshere affecting by the audience? Do you think that today is easier to a particular niche of viewers or that online technology will allow artist to extend to a broader number of viewers the interest towards a particular theme? I’m enamored with Vimeo. I can click a button and send almost anywhere. Since a lot of my work is material in nature the process of getting work from point A to point B is usually much more involved. Clicking the button feels too easy. As far as broader viewers I’m finding the film is getting a lot of attention overseas which is




Women Cinemakers made possible through platforms like Vimeo. It makes the work more accessible so I suppose the question is, does the accessibility change the art’s inherent value? There’s a lot of art online, an infinite amount, so there’s risk of anonymity and saturation. There is something to be said about looking at art in person. I think that’s important for sculpture and painting. With film the experience is going to be really different every time the work is screened because there are more variables. That potential is exciting. There are a lot of people who wonder why I use 16mm with todays advanced technology. When it comes down to it you cannot replicate the grain, the light, colors, and imperfections that celluloid holds. 16mm film pronounces itself first and foremost as a material, I find that incredibly interesting. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ". As an artist concerned with current issues and universal human experiences, what could be in your opinion in our unstable contemporary age? Does your artistic research respond to cultural moment? I’m always carving out . That's a thread you'll see running

through a lot of the work here in Chicago.The support from different communities on the West Side of Chicago allows me to ask difficult questions and take greater risks. Its important to be continually evolving as an artist, working toward something even when the process feels abstract and uncertain, signs that tell me I’m on the right track. I am aware of the stories we don’t hear, the performances we don’t see, the ways we think we understand black materiality and culture. I want to disrupt the paradigm. As far as the cultural appropriation debate goes, culture isn’t static here in Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter. Segregation and separatism tells us that it is. Humans aren’t static. Culture transgresses boundaries and still maintains its original importance and meaning. *The term Otherwise Worlds of Possibility was termed by Ashon T. Crawley in Black Pentecostal Breath: an investigation of aesthetics and performance as modes of collective, social imaginings otherwise. Published with Fordham University Press. 2016. We appreciate the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to take this occasion to ask you to express your view on in


Women Cinemakers the contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I think women have always had voices in art, and created art but haven’t always been accepted or nurtured in these environments by those in positions of power. We acknowledge those who have and continue to work tremendously hard to level out some of those power structures. Culture at large has been catching up with inclusive ideas about art making, but there’s a lot of work to be done. The important conversations being held about the Me Too movement and contemporary debates about separating art and artist is gaining a lot of momentum and that’s exciting. I think that opens up a lot of opportunities for female and femaleidentified makers in the future because we are collectively thinking about their experiences. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sarah. Finally, would you like to tell

our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Film is in my future. For I had one single image in mind, gleaned from popular culture and there wasn’t much variation in movement. I like the idea of using something that produces multiple images to slow down and focus on one long, drawn out image. Yahkirah Beard, the lead dancer in the film, and I talk a lot. She’s an incredibly talented dancer. feels like it should have multiple components, we’re currently making plans to shoot some solo footage. I have a stock-pile of glow-in-the dark objects, and reversal film. Check my website for updates, new work, and to join my mailing list. In addition, is part of the group show, Yellow Book at the CICA Museum, Gyeonggi-do, Korea. September 21October 7, 2018. I’ll be screening the film in-person at The Other Art Fair Chicago, September 28-30, 2018 at Mana Contemporary. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Dascha Esselius Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden

I am a multidisciplinary artist. My artwork consists of films, photographs, paintings, sculptures, public art and video installations, the last of which are almost immaterial, created by ever changing projections on layers of thin transparent veils all around the spectators. My first film, which was in 16 mm and commissioned by Swedish Television in 1984, was based on the first of these cinematic installations, at that time created with animated feeds of slide projections of handmade images. I strongly believe in the visual language which moves me and is the starting point of all my cinematic creations. I see my films as paintings or sculptures build with compound time flows of colour, shape, light and sound. They are not, therefore, narrative stories in the traditional sense. I want the audience to open their minds and regard the films as projection screens for their own inner worlds or as stimulants to emerge their own stories. I use the ambiguity of perception to fill the objective reality with parallel meanings in the field of tension between the fantastic and the realistic documentary. In my work I often refer to different art historical periods. It’s my way of saying hi to the artists who have acted before me

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Dascha and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You began your artistic career as self taught painter: you later studied Sculpture at the University College of Arts Crafts and

Design and then you nurtured your education in the field of Stage Design at The University College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre, and you later had the chance to attend further courses: how did these experiences influence your evolution as a multidisciplinary artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? To me, art is a tool for managing and understanding life.



Women Cinemakers The advancement in the various artistic techniques and the use of them is directly linked to my life circumstances. It`s doubtful if I had become a visual artist if my life had developed differently. It`s more likely that I had become an actor. As a child I danced classical ballet, was a member of a children's theatre group and was a child actor in movies. These experiences still affect my artistry. In particular, the different scenographic environments in the film studios in Prague, in which we children played during the long breaks between takes. It was as a member of youth theatre group I managed to leave Czechoslovakia, one year after the Soviet invasion of the country in 1968. When the group traveled to a youth theater gathering in France, I took advantage of the opportunity to escape and I did not return to Czechoslovakia. Fifteen years old I ended up in Sweden as an unaccompanied refugee child and was taken care of by the child welfare committee. One of the relatives of the manager in the youth home where I had been placed had just died. He had been an amateur painter and I inherited his paint box, pile and brushes. This gift had arrived at the right time. I had a lot of emotional turmoil to process and lacked verbal language to convey those emotions. That's how I became a self-taught painter. This, my new career that I initially pursued besides my high school studies under a pseudonym , developed surprisingly well. Before I had reached the age of 23, I had been represented at the National Museum and in the Swedish state collections. I also had a separate morning chronicle program in the Swedish Radio P1. But in 1976, due to an accident, my studio burned down and everything was gone. I took it as an omen. I left my pseudonym and the related career behind me. From that point on, I used my real name Dagmar Jerabkova. I also wanted to change the direction of my life. What would I do instead? I had published a poem collection and I had written a short story that had been published in several reputable literary magazines. Should I become a writer? No! It was far too painful to write. I decided to study sculpture. It felt handy and stable and slightly more fireproof. Ha, ha. The first course I registered for at




Women Cinemakers was welding. Working with open fire, like gas welding, made me so scared that my hands shook so much that the iron parts that I tried to weld together beat against each other. That gave rise to a metallic sound, which caught my interest. I started welding mobile sculptures that, through their movement, induced different sounds. I created an entire mobile sculpture orchestra whose movements I ruled through a program mechanism that I had mounted out of a washing machine. In parallel, I became interested in the task of how little material that was necessary for creating figurative sculptures without loosing shape, volume, balance and proportion. The sculptures, which I welded with round bars, reminded of computer graphics that was also a new phenomenon at that time. Depending on how these sculptures were illuminated, they gave rise to different shadow formations. To explore the shadows, I used the sculptures as actors in a mechanical shadow play theatre. I graduated 1983. We were 20 students who were assigned the space for the final exams exhibition in the school's 1000 sqm garage which was currently empty. As time went by, one by one, my fellow exhibitors disappeared. All of them were afraid that their works of art would not be exposed properly in such an odd place. Without my knowledge, everyone had gotten a new showroom in the main building. Suddenly I stood in the garage alone. When I had recovered from the shock, I had to figure out how I could fill such a big space. The solution was to work with moving light in relation to my sculptures. At that time there were no courses in lighting at but I have snapped up one thing and the other by observing light designers when they worked in the film studios in Barrandov. I also recalled in Prague which was the world's first multimedia theatre combining film projections with stage performances and that used UV-light in their stage sessions. I picked up four Kodak carousel projectors from the school's media store and I filled their magazines with a total of 324 images that I made directly in the slide frames. I went to the


store and begged for pieces of discarded theatre veils which I

projected the handmade slides on. I hung up the screens

mounted on welded sculptural shapes and in that way turned

everywhere in the garage so that the constantly changing light

them into artistically designed projection screens which I

projections filled the entire space. I created two mechanical


shadow plays with my figurative sculptures and I added the mechanical sculpture orchestra. Because at that time no personal computers existed I controlled all this consistently

through a program mechanism from a washing machine. I let the audience become part of the artwork by moving freely in the space. I gave the installation the name s


Women Cinemakers which was a form of invoke that has proven to work. Even today, I continue to further develop this art form. The installation was a big success. No one had seen anything like that before. I have to say, that neither had I. One of the visitors was a professor at and he offered me a spot as a special student at the scenography department. That's how I ended up there. By participating in the education, I became more aware of where I was pursuing my artistry and that it was not stage design based on a manuscript. What I sought was to create some kind of ever changing virtual reality environments that the audience influenced with their own presence just as the living world changes in line with our actions. I was invited to participate in a cultural program in TV2. But I did not want to sit in a TV studio and describe my art as an additional talking head. I wanted the art, which I mean possesses a visual language, to speak for itself. So I got 16mm film, a cameraman, an audio recording guy and a movie editor at my disposal to create a movie with the art as an actor. The film , signed with my maiden name , can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVWlvomHnk. This, as my first film, lays the foundation for my pursuit to create movies that are not based on storytelling but mediates artistic experience in itself. Initially, I created films in collaboration with , who I married in 1993 when I also changed my name to . Since I have become tired of appearing under different names, I have retained the name even after the divorce that came into force in 2003. You are a versatile artist and your pratice is marked out with such stimulating feature, that allows you to range from Installation, land Art, Photography and Painting, to Video, Computer Graphics and Sculpture: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? It's curiosity that drives me. I am a restless person who easily gets bored. It amuses me to turn my eye and look at the world from different angels than the usual ones and allow myself to marvel as if I was a newborn child without any previous




Women Cinemakers knowledge. Actually, I do not change topics very often. I only process them from different input angles. When it comes to the realization of the work the function determines the matter. The medium chooses itself based on practical needs. I'm just thinking about what works best at the given moment, how a mission can be performed in the best way, a task explored. The answers come to me in the form of practical solutions and those are the ones that guide me. Each project grows new branches just by working on it. However, these new branches can wait a long time, sometimes for years before they are realized and that also has practical excuses. Some project ideas are so big and costly that they cannot even be tested without receiving an order and a financier. Others must wait for the technology to catch up. Plenty, already started projects have to wait until I get a time slot. My artistry moves in elliptical lanes that overlap and cross-fertilize each other. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of has at once captured our attention for the way your practice deviates from traditional video art form to pursue a sensorial richness rare in contemporary scene. In particular, we would start from , a stimulating video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . Taken in one shot on the helicopter apron on the icebreaker Oden on her way to Wrangel Island in the Artic Ocean, this work challenges the viewers' perceptual parameters, inviting them to a multilayered experience when walking our readers through of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The film

was shot in 2005 during the polar research journey to Greenland, Alaska, Chukotka and Wrangle Island arranged by the , which is part of the . I was invited to accompany the expedition as a researcher. Both the Artic and the Antarctic are connected to myths about strong adventurous men defeating nature and discovering new continents. It was therefore important to me to stand free from these heroic and colonial visions and find out my own approach to the subject. I asked myself a question: what happens to a person while passing through time zones and travelling to unknown places, which few have visited? What sort of mark does it leave on the surface of the inner self and how can this be expressed?


Women Cinemakers My point of departure was in the reality I met, but the places we visited were so odd and at the same time so familiar in an archetypal way, that after a time it was hard to decide what the inner and what the outer reality was. A science fiction feeling took over and grew stronger and stronger inside me, as if we were travelling not with an icebreaker but with a spaceship to the beginning of time. The rapidity of the weather changes with the shifting light and the moving mists and fogs sweeping over the landscape, hiding and uncovering details and displacing perspective reminded me of my video installations. It was as if my inner world suddenly became the real one and surrounded me. I realised that I have travelled to the Arctic to see my inner visions, my daydreams and my nightmares materialised. And there I was. My camera began to shoot my inner worlds. My fellow travellers, the researchers and the crew were so used to watching me walk around and shoot and photograph that no one cared. One day when I passed the helicopter apron on the icebreaker, I noticed two of my fellow travellers being deeply involved in a discussion. Their movements were markedly synchronized, as it usually happens to people who are in agreement. I sat down nearby, fixed the camera between my knees and began to watch them through the mirror filter in my camera, which reinforced the synchronized impression of their movements and merged their bodies into one. In the eyepiece, they became one form which during its multiple transformations reminded me of a multi-armed Hindu god which emerged from and disappeared in a horizontal line. That gave me an idea of a synopsis. I tried out different shooting angles to figure out how to keep the camera to achieve the desirable result. Then I pulled a deep breath and I captured the movie in a state of full concentration. It was important to keep the camera very still, but at the same time constantly change the shooting angles to create new imaginaries, which must happen almost unnoticed. I had to synchronize myself, and my camera, with the movements of the researchers as well as the boat. In the state of flow I was in, my body knew exactly how. Of course, my previous studies of movement coordination and anatomy have been helpful in this task. The researchers, the main characters of the film, watched the movie that very night in the icebreaker's cinema. I have to admit that I was nervous about how they would take the humorous side of the movie. Could they possibly feel offended? No! They were amused. We have highly appreciated the way

explores , and we dare say that it seems to



A still from


Women Cinemakers reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that : are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Yes I agree with Gursky, whose work I appreciate. And I thank you for your insightful conclusion. One can look at the same aspect of reality in many different ways. By clarifying viewing parameters, the artist can reveal a new world for the spectator as Gursky does. I wish my works could be meeting points with everybody's inner self. And if they are, they have been understood, even though the interpretations can be infinite in number. , an experimental We have particularly appreciated the way video that can be viewed at , features such rigorous sense of geometry and at the same time conveys the idea of prehistoric monsters, showing the resonance between apparently opposite concepts: how did you structure the editing process in order to achieve such brilliant results? Thank you for appreciating the geometry of the movie: I have made the editing instantly in place by watching the subject through the camera's mirror filter while rocking my body in line with the waves. One could say that I was dancing the movie. By watching the movie the spectator at the same time takes part in the film's creation. To explain more closely the movie is taken during the same expedition as . The icebreaker Oden reached Barrow in Alaska that is a little Inuit settlement housing Arctic Research Centre. As usual I was moving around carrying on my cameras. On the beach I noticed a steep sloping iron grid, probably used to pull up boats on, which the ocean waves threw up jellyfish on. I picked myself up on the top edge of this construction that ended steeply in the ocean and I watched the event through the ocular in my camera's mirror filter. The image I saw reflected a feeling that had fulfilled me for a long time, a sense of being in the beginning of time when the first organisms came out of the sea. Transformed through the mirror filter in the camera I saw the Arctic Ocean spitting up ancient beings on the geometric structure of the iron grid. In order to create an illusion of newborn offspring coming up from the sea, I had to change the camera angle many times.


Women Cinemakers How should I do it so that it appeared natural or not even noticeable? The only way was to change the shooting angle at the same moment as the waves hit the iron grid. This was only possible to do, so to say, freehand without the support of camera stands. I put my body in motion and I crashed in tune with the waves while shooting. Had I lost the balance, the risk was great that I had fallen in the ice-cold sea. Austrian historian E. Gombrich, writing in , talked about the importance of providing a space for the viewer to project onto, so that they can participate in the illusion. As an artist particularly interested in exploring the tension between the fantastic and the realistic documentary, how do you consider the creative potential of direct experience? In particular, how does your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? I grew up at the place in the world ruled by a single truth, namely, the communist doctrine. Nothing else was allowed. Even a child, as I was, could not help but see that this truth in reality was a lie. As a tool to be able to orient myself in life, I practiced a technique to constantly search for the opposite pole of all given truths and doctrines in order to search for the reality in the field of tension there in between. This approach to life has become a habit. Accordingly in my artistic practice I want to put the spectators in a state of mild uncertainty. So that, when no answers are given, they are forced to seek answers and interpretations within themselves. In their efforts to interpret the work without instructions, they may catch a glimpse of themselves. Many, but not everybody will be happy when that happens. Assuming that we look at the world through a frame created by our expectations, we can change our experience of the world just by changing the expectations or the viewing angle in the same way as we change a camera filter. To do so is widening the perspective. To switch between ways to look at the world amuses me and brings me new ideas to explore in order to understand the world better. Rich of allegorical qualities and reminders to Nordic symbolism, is another piece that we are pleased to introduce to our




Women Cinemakers readers. This captivating video a be viewed at https://youtu.be/6NrkbfGJvcI and provides the viewers with an immersive experience: how important are metaphors and reminders to traditional imagery in order to create an evocative work of art? movie, the use of Nordic symbolism was part of the mission As for the itself. The film was created on behalf of Umea Municipality for the video installation in the Arrivals Hall at Umea Airport as part of the municipality's application to become the . The purpose was to focus on the Swedish nature in relation to ancient history and especially on Sami culture that has been reduced, on the verge of denied in Swedish culture. The reason I got the commission is due to the fact that I, in an innovative way, have done a number of works that refer to art history from many different epochs and parts of the world. In my research, I have been taken by how expressions of native cultures around the world are similar to each other and that I wanted to highlight through my work. Art history inspires me a lot. I do not know how it could be otherwise, possibly in some state of blackout. In all I do, I see glimpses of previous artists' works. Everything they have taught me by their personal endeavors. And I feel grateful. I do not refer to any particular work of art, not to any particular artist, not even to any particular art period and yet all of that is included in the works I create with the help of all the artistic techniques I have learned during life. French anthropologist and sociologist Marc Augè once suggested the idea that science and culture modern age creates two separate poles: nature society. Since you are particularly involved in the search for points of convergences between different art historical periods, how do you consider the relationship between traditional heritage and contemporary sensitiveness? Sweden, where I live, is a modern country focused on the present. An average person does not give much importance to historical knowledge. But I, raised in Central Europe, am deeply aware of how historical events, if we don`t deal with them, on an unconscious level affect the present, that is not always in a positive way. Another aspect is that the art of indigenous peoples have been diminished and exempted for imperial reasons and have the need to be restored. The art reflects its time and speaks to us throughout the ages because we belong with those who have


Women Cinemakers

gone before us. We are reached by the message in the same

and no cross-fertilization, just a romanticized retrospective. I

way that we are reached by the starlight of the already extinct

think it is important that we grow a sense of belonging; not

stars. But we can only answer the appeal with our own voice

only with the planet earth, but also with the human race to

shaped by our own time; otherwise there will be no exchange

protect them both and in that work we must embrace the


history to understand ourselves as a whole. I use allegorical references to art history because they already carry embedded explanatory models. This does not mean that you have to know them in order to experience the work, but in case they

are familiar and conscious you can include the hidden symbolism embedded in the work in the experience, which adds a value. Each work contains several interpretative layers


Women Cinemakers that can be read in parallel. Sound plays a crucial role in your artistic practice: through techniques of manipulation, you mutate authentic sound recordings to create ethereal and often enigmatic atmospheres that provide your artworks with a captivating sense of ambiguity that force the audience's perceptual process to continuously subvert their initial sensations. How do you consider the relationship between sound and the flow of the images playing within your practice? I work with the sound the same way as I work with the movies. Often I use authentic sound recordings already embedded in the film. I try to capture and develop what's already there behind the surface, but maybe not directly audible at the moment of recording because it is overwhelmed by noise. The interesting sounds rarely lie in the foreground of the sound image. I �wash� the sound free from slag until the interesting sound layers begin to appear. I have no prior idea of how the final result should sound. I simply listen and let the sound carry me on as I did in my youth when I created sounding mobile sculptures. The sculptor Michelangelo has said that he carries out the form that already exists in the stone block. It's a suitable allegory for how I work with the movie sound. I can amplify or mutate different audio channels so that the sounds that are barely audible in reality come to the forefront and the dominant sounds come in the background or I change the tempo of a soundtrack or mix them in different order, but I never change the rhythm that is associated with the image flow because this rhythm is an integral part of the film work, created in the identical now. Here's the main difference between working with the movie sound as I do and composing music for the movie. Digital technology can be used to create innovative works, but innovation means not only to create works that haven't been before, but especially to recontextualize what already exists: 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?




Women Cinemakers The biggest achievement is all communication that has become possible across borders. A while ago, I watched in real time an artist talk at LACDA in Los Angeles, which is on the other side of the globe from Stockholm, where I live. This is amazing. It is not always possible to travel here and there, but nowadays you can take part in events despite the distances. You can easily stay informed about various art directions and find like-minded people across the globe. This adds a new dimension to art. The balance of power has been shifted. The artist can take on the initiative much more than before. A new freedom has entered the art scene and changed the artist's role. Artists can send their digital works via the internet to galleries in different places on earth. The galleries can in turn present the work on a screen or print and mount it without time-consuming and costly shipping. The most exciting thing is that we are at the beginning of this development. On the other hand working with new technology is no guarantee that artwork that is created will be innovative, that depends entirely on the individual artist's approach. Over the years your artworks have been internationally showcased in a number of occasions, including your recent participation to the group exhibition LACDA Electron Salon, Los Angeles. One of the hallmarks of your practice is the ability to establish with the viewers, who urged to from a condition of mere spectatorship. So we would like to pose a question about . Do you consider ? And what do you hope to in the spectatorship? I am genuinely interested in the psychology behind the spectator's involvement in artistic processes and the impact they may have on the spectator. I have even developed an interactive portrait photography method for people suffering from dementia with the aim of improving their self-awareness and ability to attend. The method has shown surprisingly good results. Some patients who lacked a language have started to speak. For those interested in this project visit http://www.dascha.nu/dementa_e.htm. My basic starting point is that we are all interested in ourselves and that we need to be able to reflect




Women Cinemakers

ourselves in the artwork to get involved. So to say, that the spectator himself must find his own space in the artwork. It is this space that Gombrich describes in . In the field of tension between the work of art and the spectator, an additional world is created by the spectators’ own mind. My videos are based on the same mirroring principle as used by psychologists to examine the emotional ability of patients. was a Swiss Freudian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst that were artistically educated as well. In my video installations I go even further. The process of overlapping image projections woven into each other and transformed by the motion of the veils creates new and unexpected imaginaries appearing and disappearing in a constant flow all around the spectators which by their own behaviour had an inevitable impact on the transforming process. No one of the momentary appearances can exactly repeat itself and the installations remains in some case unknown even to me, so even I have to constantly renew my paths of associations. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Dascha. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? What I currently know with certainty is that I will complete an order for a in permanent sculpture installation called and in connection with the opening of the work; my videos will be shown in the culture house theatre hall. In addition to this, I have a number of already initiated projects that are just waiting for me to get time to complete them. Which one of them gets in goal first and what direction the work will take is impossible for me to know in advance. My artistry moves in elliptical courses in which I continually return to previous works to carry them on hoping that I still can surprise myself.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Sarah Beth Woods Lives and works in Chicago, IL, USA

Sarah Beth Woods is a Chicago-based visual artist working in sculpture, performance and film. Woods’ background as a painter and critical cultural worker has led to an interest in the aesthetics and political implications of modern surfaces and the body, specifically skin and hair, saturated color and shine. Cultural influences derived from formative years spent on the Southwest side of Chicago continue to manifest in the content and aesthetics of Woods’ work, specifically black material culture, and women’s conceptual spaces. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Sarah and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cum Laude, from Northern Illinois University, you nurtured your education with a Master of Fine

Arts, that you received from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: how did these experiences address your artistic research? Moreover, does your address your artistic research? I left the Southwest side of Chicago to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I studied Hip Hop Feminism with Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, author of Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy and Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood. Dr. Brown’s courses


Sarah Beth Woods


had the most radical pedagogy on campus. This is where I began material explorations that connected me back to black material culture and the cultural landscape of the South side. I found a beauty supply shop near school that carried the most incredibly vibrant braiding hair. The synthetic hair was taken back to the studio and braided into other found objects in Afterwards I the series realized that there was a literal material connection, the braiding hair and the bath poufs were made from the same nylon material. I spent the most formative years of my life living and teaching on the Southwest side of Chicago at a parochial school in a Black-middle class neighborhood. 98% of the students were African-American. I identify as German, my Grandmother was first-generation. The school had a highly revered music teacher, Dr. Cynthia Nunn. During the time I was planning lessons the hallway was filled with the sound of kids singing the most incredible gospel music, while Dr. Nunn banged out these incredible melodies and harmonized. I always felt that spiritually it took me to another place. I was taken by surprise by the myriad of rules surrounding adornment and the black body, this was most pronounced in hairstyle. Specifically, there were rules about how ones’ hair could be worn. A few strategically placed barrettes were permitted, but an entire head of small, white pony beads warranted a phone call

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers home. This was my first hands-on experience with respectability politics, a demarkation, a deliberate separation from “Otherness.� There was one occasion where one of my third grade students came to school with her hair half braided. It was picture day and they asked me to step in. I was highly aware of the cultural boundaries that I was crossing but also felt grateful that I was trusted to the task at hand. Most of my work points back to these personal and profound moments. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such stimulating : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we invite our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to approach? such captivating How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? I’ve always been interested in collage and bricolage, even as a child. The immediacy, the texture, the layers, all resonate with me. The subversive history and qualities of Dada, specifically the way collage can be easily reproduced and distributed. There is an emphasis on process and material, similar to craft that excites me.





Women Cinemakers

While attending the San Francisco Art Institute I studied film with Ernie Gehr, and Janis Lipzin and Interdisciplinary Collage with Carlos Villa. Villa’s mixed media work is featured in by Lucy Lippard. We watched a lot of early Soviet Cinema, and Stan Brakhage. My major was Interdisciplinary so I was able to easily traverse disciplines. During this time I was immersed in diy/punk culture, George Kuchar’s campy, lowbudget movies, and experimental film. When I eventually returned to Chicago I started studying abstract painting, which is evident in the content and formal aspects of my work. I feel lucky to have had such a broad range of experiences between art schools and state universities. In my work content comes first, an initial idea, a spark followed by material decisions. Generally the process is quite intuitive. Some of my initial questions are how can I deconstruct this? How can I push the limits of this material? Do I conceal or reveal? I want to pronounce the importance of a subject that relies heavily on surface, temporality, and the body. (Concepts often intrinsically linked to the feminine.) How do I do this earnestly, within the context of the groups, which are frequently negated for their associations with fluff and artifice? The surface is

as important as the content, both in the film and the ways in which we intellectualize these groups. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way it provides the viewers with such a captivating : when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us what attracted you to this story? I’ve been fascinated with girl groups for as long as I can remember. I was looking at early choreography, early girl group appearances, and was transfixed by some of the groups’ first television appearances, essentially these moments in history where girlhood had a visual and sonic presence, a conceptual space. The synchronicity made them appear larger than life,


expanded through time and space. Movements became more isolated and pronounced. During my last project BRAID/WORK I worked with Fatima Traore, a Malian- American professional hair braider. The goal was to create links between our practices, gestural iterations of race, and crosscultural identities. We were invited to show our work at Rootwork Gallery, a space in Chicago run by Tracie D. Hall. Hall had a collection of glossy 8”x10” girl group promotional photos. I pointed to one of the shots of The Marvelettes and said, this is my next project. I formed a fictional girl group that summer with Alexis Strowder, Anya Jenkins and a third woman, Yahkirah Beard, who is a professional dancer and lead in Our weekly rehearsals/filming was done at Prosser High School in the Belmont- Cragin neighborhood of Chicago where Strowder, Jenkins and I attend church on Sundays. We had two public performances, one at Silent Funny, a music and art venue on the Far West side and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on the city’s Near West Side. I consider these performances part of the process rather than finished work. We have highly appreciated the way your film challenges the audience's perceptual parameters to explore

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Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers , your film provides the viewers with a unique multilayered visual experience: how do you consider within your process? For me, the groups represent the intersection of high artifice and femininity combined with authentic, lived experience. They teach us about girlhood as an appealing and multifaceted identity. Groups were often formed with friends in school or church choirs, which seems so grounded and unmediated. Producers changed their names, their looks, the way they held their bodies, their image, the songs they sang. They chose whether to include or exclude certain group members, some remaining in obscurity because they weren’t given proper credit on records. Beneath the shiny, glowing surface of those groups there were a lot of hard realities. There is this in-between, otherworldly space that these groups exist in. I wanted the imagery in the film to have a graphic quality, layers, and texture. I chose Double-X Negative film for its adaptability to a wide range of lighting conditions. There are some really wonderful moments when the women’s movements create tracer-like effects. Those moments feel the most successful to me. The dream-like quality of reversal film is the perfect aesthetic, keeping the work from being too legible, too




Women Cinemakers quick of a read, too fact-based. If its too literal you shut down entry points for your audience and for me that is also connected to expansive legibility. I read a lot of Luis Alberto Urrea’s works, specifically, I always return to

It’s an

incredibly rich account of the author’s distant Aunt, Teresita who is suddenly sainted at the age of 16. Urrea researched the content of the novel for over twenty years and then folded in all of this intensely visual magical realism to form something new. The girl groups are intrinsically linked to Teresita, they share the same kind of magic. With its minimalistc yet powerful visual structure, seems to reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that : are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? In particular, How open would you like your works to be understood? Moreover, we really appreciate the way you explore the expressive potential of a wide variety of materials, and more specifically textiles, as you did in the interesting



A still from


Women Cinemakers German art critic and historian Michael Fried once stated that ' .' What are the properties that you search for in the materials that you include in your works? Initially I search for materials that hold both personal and broader cultural meaning. Once the materials/content is deconstructed there is space for broader interpretations. That’s one of the reasons Hear the Glow is so stripped down and minimal. Materials have the potential to detach from their original meaning and purpose but are also capable of coming back to it full circle. I believe in multiplicity of thought, and I’m not interested in specific works being overly didactic. I want my audiences to have different entry points and experiences. People often think of hair weave as a material strictly used by African Americans or as a material that reinforces westernized ideals of beauty. Some of this holds true, but I think we enter into dangerous territory when we fail to look at the entire picture. Remy hair (the most popular) is imported from Russia and India. Pilgrims in India sacrifice their hair at temples, where it is collected, cleaned and processed by low wage workers, generally women. The hair is then exported to other countries.


Women Cinemakers In the States there are a lot of First-generation Korean families that settle in segregated sections of inner cities who are owners/proprietors of beauty supply shops that sell the premium hair. Customers who purchase the hair weave come from a myriad of ethnicities and social classes. In fact, Africa has become a major importer of Remy hair. What’s fascinating to me is how many hands and cultural barriers the hair passes through and the blurred boundaries between the real and artificial. I apply these ideas to materials, even things that are believed to be essential qualities like feminine body comportment. Courtney Bradshaw, the choreographer for nd I had many conversations about Maxine Powell. Powell had a finishing school at Motown Records, which taught her groups etiquette, poise, and social graces. Another conceptual link back to my early experiences in Chicago with respectability politics. To answer your question more specifically, the materials for were purchased from a giant bin of bath poufs at Walmart. The poufs had vibrant, saturated colors that are found in other products marketed directly towards girls and young women. My research pointed me to labor politics at Walmart, which often targets minority women through very

strategic marketing. There’s an interesting triangulation of labor taking place as well: the women consumers, women workers and the offshore labor of the women who construct the bath poufs. Most of my research pointed to exploitative practices but these kinds of neoliberal practices aren’t limited to Walmart, its wide spread. There’s also this inherent contradiction or polarity because the poufs are beautiful. The plastic binds color incredibly well. So I’m forced to dig beneath the surface, look at what’s behind, that’s the link to Gursky and the conceptual spaces of the girl groups. How is in your opinion online technopshere affecting by the audience? Do you think that today is easier to a particular niche of viewers or that online technology will allow artist to extend to a broader number of viewers the interest towards a particular theme? I’m enamored with Vimeo. I can click a button and send almost anywhere. Since a lot of my work is material in nature the process of getting work from point A to point B is usually much more involved. Clicking the button feels too easy. As far as broader viewers I’m finding the film is getting a lot of attention overseas which is




Women Cinemakers made possible through platforms like Vimeo. It makes the work more accessible so I suppose the question is, does the accessibility change the art’s inherent value? There’s a lot of art online, an infinite amount, so there’s risk of anonymity and saturation. There is something to be said about looking at art in person. I think that’s important for sculpture and painting. With film the experience is going to be really different every time the work is screened because there are more variables. That potential is exciting. There are a lot of people who wonder why I use 16mm with todays advanced technology. When it comes down to it you cannot replicate the grain, the light, colors, and imperfections that celluloid holds. 16mm film pronounces itself first and foremost as a material, I find that incredibly interesting. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ". As an artist concerned with current issues and universal human experiences, what could be in your opinion in our unstable contemporary age? Does your artistic research respond to cultural moment? I’m always carving out . That's a thread you'll see running

through a lot of the work here in Chicago.The support from different communities on the West Side of Chicago allows me to ask difficult questions and take greater risks. Its important to be continually evolving as an artist, working toward something even when the process feels abstract and uncertain, signs that tell me I’m on the right track. I am aware of the stories we don’t hear, the performances we don’t see, the ways we think we understand black materiality and culture. I want to disrupt the paradigm. As far as the cultural appropriation debate goes, culture isn’t static here in Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter. Segregation and separatism tells us that it is. Humans aren’t static. Culture transgresses boundaries and still maintains its original importance and meaning. *The term Otherwise Worlds of Possibility was termed by Ashon T. Crawley in Black Pentecostal Breath: an investigation of aesthetics and performance as modes of collective, social imaginings otherwise. Published with Fordham University Press. 2016. We appreciate the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to take this occasion to ask you to express your view on in


Women Cinemakers the contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I think women have always had voices in art, and created art but haven’t always been accepted or nurtured in these environments by those in positions of power. We acknowledge those who have and continue to work tremendously hard to level out some of those power structures. Culture at large has been catching up with inclusive ideas about art making, but there’s a lot of work to be done. The important conversations being held about the Me Too movement and contemporary debates about separating art and artist is gaining a lot of momentum and that’s exciting. I think that opens up a lot of opportunities for female and femaleidentified makers in the future because we are collectively thinking about their experiences. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sarah. Finally, would you like to tell

our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Film is in my future. For I had one single image in mind, gleaned from popular culture and there wasn’t much variation in movement. I like the idea of using something that produces multiple images to slow down and focus on one long, drawn out image. Yahkirah Beard, the lead dancer in the film, and I talk a lot. She’s an incredibly talented dancer. feels like it should have multiple components, we’re currently making plans to shoot some solo footage. I have a stock-pile of glow-in-the dark objects, and reversal film. Check my website for updates, new work, and to join my mailing list. In addition, is part of the group show, Yellow Book at the CICA Museum, Gyeonggi-do, Korea. September 21October 7, 2018. I’ll be screening the film in-person at The Other Art Fair Chicago, September 28-30, 2018 at Mana Contemporary. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com



Women Cinemakers meets

Adalí Torres Lives and works in Lima, Perù

Amador explores his identity through a journey in which she looks to challenge the definition of gender. She is afraid to become man o woman. The film is a tour through her city, family, hair, her body and her fears. A "little goat" (fag) from Lima that interacts with our own fears. An interview by Francis L. Quettier

particularly influence your current filmmaking practice?

and Dora S. Tennant

Moreover, does your cultural background address your

womencinemaker@berlin.com

artistic research? Thank you very much for this space you’ve given me to share

Captivating and refined in its balanced and effective storytelling, Más amor por favor is a stimulating documentary film by Adali Torres: inquiring into our perceptual process and the relationship between the inner sphere and the outside reality, she demonstrates the ability to capture the subtle depths of emotions. This captivating film offers an emotionally charged visual experience, inviting the viewers to unveil the ubiquitous beauty hidden into the details of our everyday life experience: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Torres's captivating and multifaceted artistic production.

my thoughts. Hopefully, you enjoy it, liking or disliking, it’s

Hello Adali and welcome to WomenCinemakers: to start

energy. The decision to make that person visible and what it

this interview we would ask you a couple of question about

brings to my day to day life has become one of the subjects

your background. Are there any experiences that did

of the exploration of my creative projects.

ok as long as you feel something. The main thing I want to say is that I’m a woman. Despite it being uncomfortable for me to say it, I have been thinking about why I will describe myself as such in this interview. I find it important to stress that the use of this is so as to let everyone know that I’m within my right and my pleasure to break it. I’m not a woman all of the time, I’m a faggot and a lesbian, I’m androgynous and pansexual with a constant transgender feeling. I am a person with a body and mutant



A precedent has been the construction of strong collective hugs that make me feel comfortable enough to let go these gay fears. Hugs that serve as a protective barrier that has been created by strong people, sensitive and brave souls, notions that nowadays try to seep in the general conscience thanks to an upright feminist movement. What I want to express is a part of this social fight but with a deeper regard that is the same with which I look at myself and my own human contradictions. Another experience worth highlighting is having questioned the TRANSformation when the binary normative was stricter and more rigid. This TRANSformation remind me of how necessary it is to adapt. This is something that I’m trying to pursue in my audio-visual practice, as well as knowing the multiple treatments that you can give to an image and to a sound, to connect with the non-static component of cinema. To play with the sense of bringing a constructed truth. My truth. My body and language adapt because the transformation is unending. It is really difficult to openly identify as a lesbian faggot in Lima. I live in a city of infinite colours and flavours but despite its cultural richness I find it hard to feel other than what I feel for Lima today. I feel that I live in an insecure, male chauvinist, violent, lying and selfish city. To live in Lima is to me, to try to win. But I still ask myself, to win what? I enjoy being stimulated by the streets in Lima. It is in my 27 years that I can find harmony in such a chaotic place. But this harmony goes hand in hand with knowing the fear of overstimulation that I feel living here. My fear resides in how defiant it is to perform androgynously, in presenting myself in a way that others don’t understand. My fear resides in digging so much into me that I won’t be able to present what is happening to me because it changes every day. I find the self-portrait useful because it allows me to look at all the ways that I

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Women Cinemakers want to experiment with myself and I find it healing. It is to find respite within so much chaos. The sensation of fear and the scenarios that I imagine that stem from that fear are useful to me when exploring the creative process. When I ask myself what I fear and why I fear it I search for confidence expressing myself. The need to connect with the world starts with visibility. Something that influenced me was having to keep a message to give for so long. When I was 24 I decided to make Más amor por favor with an intent to loosen the knot in my throat. I wanted to talk about gender and the unending voyage of one’s identity. I didn’t know when I would do it, I thought it had to come out soon and it came when I couldn’t hold it in any longer. A wise friend with whom I learnt a lot about love died, he had to let us go. At that moment I had the need to feel alive. To feel alive meant to yell, cry, let go, breathe. Juanma taught us that all cycles end and start again, even if we don’t always know how, and I can’t help but relate my immense desire to know myself with this idea. I studied audiovisual communication to obtain a tool that will help me narrate what I have stuck in me. I didn’t just want to question gender but also to have another view of life. Even though I thought that this film had some student-film mistakes and that I lacked the movie world experience, I used my instinct to search for a new direction and it was then that the film got known. What is hidden falls by its own weight. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Ma s amor por favor, a captivating 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 insightful inquiry into the representation of the hybrid is the way your sapient(sabio) narrative provides the viewers with such an intense visual experience, enhanced by elegant composition.


While walking our readers through the genesis of Ma s

people on the team, the actors, the producers, the advisors. I'm

amor por favor, would you tell us what did attract you of

curious to know what questions have stuck with them after

this story?

getting into the world of Amador, the protagonist. Making films and developing this story with such devotion serves as therapy

I was drawn to the experimental treatment of all the edges that make up a film, the cinematographic language, the changing and indefinite story and my constantly altered emotions.

for freedom. It was fundamental for me to talk about my body as a space, as a stage, as a location. To ask ourselves about harmony in a space and the tension that comes with it.

Something elementary is the game against myself, to prove what I am capable of directing my identity journey and the

I wanted to create a rhythm of inconsistent coherences by

journey of those who are dedicated to the project, as were the

experimenting with the audiovisual. I would like to apply to my


life some situations described in the movie such as

does it in front of his family, his friends, his streets. Her

confrontational conversations with my mother, working in

coherence exists as she is a unique person that searches for

the “dream room�, watching a symphony of kisses and hairs

freedom that he and she can only give himself. That love that

that are personal experiences that I allowed myself to boost.

we can grow to make us feel comfortable. My way of doing it

What is it to enlarge a truth? Is it to make it plausible? Is it

was to tell it subtly. I wanted it not to be necessary to talk

real? I don’t have an answer, only that I choose to believe in

about labels, of men or women, of cis or trans to allow the

that construction.

spectator to identify with the sensations abstractly. The senses in their essences, like the touch of two hands,

In the story, Amador is a person that performs

touching hair stuck to the skin regardless of who the skin

androgynously in Lima, sometimes is he, others is she, he

belongs to, closing our eyes and try to lose control.


In many scenes like the one in the Morro Solar, we partially controlled the couples and drag performers in a technical aspect, whilst their performances were minimally controlled. We all got together to “see what happened”, and every aspect of the process was soaked in it. To diffuse the limits between documentary and fiction allowed me to talk about existential doubts through gender. To give space to what’s versatile makes it a consistent hybrid. I think that the richness of the visual experience comes from the universe that was created for Amador. Every area of production was crucial for this to come to fruition. Despite it being a very intimate story, there were many perspectives involved, so I decided to mix them and shape them. In the end that is how identity is built, is it not? How could I not be astute with a story that I embody. Elegantly shot, Ma s amor por favor features stunning cinematography and from a visual point, with keen eye to details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? The use of various types of cameras was fundamental for allowing the spectator to identify with the different stimuli that came from the different image formats. These formats represent the versions that we create of ourselves daily to connect with our interior world and with others. I chose to use them in this way because we live in contemporary times and spaces where we stay conscious of what we see and that we are being watched by people, digital technology and social media. Thus, the cameraman’s job was not restricted to a professional, any person can be in front of and behind the camera. We thought that it would be important to give Amador the camera to get to know what he proposes and how le looks at the details of his story. Together with Jean Franco Tinoco, our devoted director of photography, we agreed that what Amador would propose was a sensory search, sloppiness, dirty frames. We gave the actors the camera to see what

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Women Cinemakers they could register. The gaming system with the cameras consisted in differentiating three parts. The first one was the main character’s selfexploration where we used three cameras. We used a 7D mark II that allowed Amador to obtain a high quality resolution and its DSLR function allowed him to vary the object’s distance according to the space where he was. Another one was the 2001 HandyCam that could make the image dirtier, the zooms more violent and it created a stark contrast with the quality of the image that the 7D mark II gave, which manifested the difference between an amateur regard with a more professional one. The third camera was a GoPro hero 3 that we fixed on Amador’s body so that we could feel his movement and have a more unstable close-up so as to transmit his emotional unstability. For the second part, we used a 7D Mark II and a 70D to have more control on the takes. We wanted it to look as if Amador was always filming himself. However, in reality, it was Jean Franco and Amador who manipulated what they would see together. Both of them would play with the empirical side of the situation: a professional like Jean Franco with an amateur like Colores Castillo, who played Amador. Lastly, the experimental scenes like the drag queens and kings one, the one in the Morro Solar and the couples’ kisses were shot from a point of view of a scenic montage that integrated the spontaneity of the characters with a professional studio shot. We used mainly a BlackMagic camera that brings a fantastic sense to the image due to its extreme high quality. In general, we wanted a dream-like aesthetic where it is difficult to discern what is really happening. That a search is regarded a such, since the camera movements up until the observations of a body from up close. In this film you leave the floor to your characters, finding a simple still effective way to walk the viewers to develope a bridge




between their own inner sphere and the epiphanic journey of Amador. Moreover, it's important to remark that you openly show the mistakes that take place during the artistic production process: What was the most challenging thing about making this film? What did you learn from this experience? Showing vulnerability, having to be all connected with our sensitive side and using frustration to go forward is quite challenging. We knew that the path we had to follow was the scariest one because it would bring a brand new result. We had until the end of the semester to finish the film, we were under pressure to finish it and not everyone was there 100%. As the director, I really wanted to, but it was hard to keep a crew of nine motivated and enamoured of the project by arguing that the more sensitive they were, the better they would be at their job. Not everyone wants to be that sensitive, or be empathetic, nor try to connect to whatever is beneath the anger instead of getting angry. For me at the time, being a lover was to connect with my sensitivity and motivate my team to come forward defiantly with the project. I found it difficult to defend the documentary aspect of the film within the docu-fiction hybrid. To be consequent with not having to be in front of the camera in order to tell my story. Colores Castillo, the person who portrays Amador, shares my fears and fixes her eyes on my eyes because she knows what I’m talking about, and she has the same need to find a way to our identity. Finding her gave me extreme confidence and that is where I can say that I learned the mot. If this similarity exists between us, I think that it was what justified the documentary point of view. I don’t think it is necessary to force the process of construction of an identity in order to keep creating. I learned that whatever I have to tell, be it with mistakes or the feeling that something is missing from it, is enough to allow me to create because the rest comes along the way,

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Women Cinemakers and that I don’t have to inject testosterone so as to make another important work. As a director, I learned that to direct the actors it is necessary to reach an emotional balance. It is also important to be careful not to pressure others when trying to get them to show me that mix of their human side and their wild one. What’s perfect for me will come when the shades exist and the imperfections arise, when doubt is settled, especially when we are dealing with the certainty that it exists. I think that this is what we have to show, this trying to get out of the comfort zone, otherwise we would fall in the trap of monotony and get bored with ourselves. The theme of identity along with an interest the concept of transformation are central in your artistic research and we have particularly appreciated the way you draw the viewers into a constructed reality that conveys a consistent sense of truth: could you explain this aspect of your filmmaking practice? I am not sure if I can explain it properly, but here we go. What comes to mind first is the documentary practice and its realisation. With it comes the constant question of whether it’s truth or fiction. Why do we want to know if something is real? Why is it important? I know that we need to trust something, but do we only need to trust on what’s a certified truth? These questions surge in the realisation of a documentary and in any moment of existential doubt. I don’t have an answer for it, except for just keep thinking about it like egg or chicken, fiction or documentary. On many occasions we limit ourselves when we are, act and perform, and our exploration becomes lazy, as if we couldn’t/wouldn’t find that favourite shade. I think that we are constantly fictionalising ourselves in order to adopt a necessary attitude in certain contexts. If you ask me to deal with a job interview I prepare myself mentally to sell my best speech on what a good worker I am. Does that make me


false? If I decide to always be the woman who keeps her calm and one day I lose it completely, will I stop being me? Where can I find my reality, in the multiple profile pictures and Facebook covers that have my face smiling on them? Every time we fictionalize ourselves we are motivated by something other than the evident which makes us create a sense to what we propose. If I’m aware of what I, as an individual, want and make my way towards it, I’m making my own world right there. It is up to each one of us to decide what we want to take as real in this world. What we have within us and what we get from others. I think that the film is perceived as a truth because many times I live in a limbo, and this is my natural approach towards my projects. I don’t have another way of looking at it and I don’t like it when I notice that it is too rich. I already bought the idea, so I’m not surprised when others believe it. My creative proposals are related to transformations because I respect it in the body, in thinking and in feeling. From my trans perspective, I can understand that it is inherent to human beings and I don’t pretend to play from the static side because I don’t know it, I don’t embody it. There is certain visual and narrative subtlety when we tell about what’s confusing and in a confusing way. The images become unintelligible because we come so close to the detail that we are introduced to it by its own magnetism. We live so stunned by our day to day life that we find it hard to fix our gaze on something; it requires patience. Listening to the silence is despairing, it happens to me a lot. I would expect to keep away from that desperation but I decide not to do it, and it is that contradiction that I try to translate into my projects. A social exercise occurs when the routine breaks in those visits that Amador makes to those in their jobs. In one scene, Amador asks Angelica, the lady hairdresser, to put a long hair wig on his male

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Women Cinemakers cousin Cris. I don’t know what Angelica feels, despite her behaving understandingly, but I’m sure that it is not something that she asked to every day, and the singularity of the situation contributes to the normalisation of this fact. Angelica never asked us if Cris really wanted to put on the wig nor why did he wish it, she just believed us and played with us. Cris is a character interpreted by an actor. What was really there? We daresay that your film could be considered an effective allegory of human experience: how does everyday life experience fuel your creative process to address your choices regarding the stories you tell in your films? My films are few, I only have Más amor por favor finished. This project and others that I’ve done in still photography search for an artistic representation with a symbolic sense of life. The idea of life as a cycle and as a search for liberation in it has not been proposed as such from the beginning. I think that they can be interpreted as such because they surged in very motivational moments where I was trying to understand energy in general, the universe, time, the duration of the moments, matter and how they coordinate to exists in a cyclic way, as circles. That way I was less afraid of the ending. My thinking is exhaustive and anxious in many themes, trascendental or not. As commonplace as they may seem, I give them the weight that I want to because I believe in the importance of the absurd for getting rid of the rigid and square. To approach my ideas as if they were tangible or visible actions is only a goal within my creative projects. It is a struggle to me not to apply the weight that I wish to my ideas every day and to my relationship with others because I don’t live alone in my head, even though I wish I did sometimes. Allowing myself to feel and to stop regarding vulnerability as weakness is a difficult task for me. Openness to feel with all my senses, to be conscious of my days, of my whys. I don’t always




defend the organic in thoughts, actions and emotions, but I try to understand where it comes from. The work I do in Gestalt psychology, listening to my present, is something that guides me. Being attentive to the male faggot person that I am always breaks the heteronormative structure of gender. I want to be a challenge for the gender, but, afraid of the expectations that I have of myself, my imagination starts to roll. Then, I realise that what I imagine can be represented by images and that maybe others feel the same way I do. Would someone else dare to do what I don’t do? Yes, and that’s where I find Colores Castillo. To document, to rearrange myself, to cut and paste… me. Taking distance from myself and being my own material. I see myself and -see- more deeply and objectively at the same time. What’s behind what’s seen? What stories can be told by what we don’t see? These ways in which I relate to myself make me notice the way in which I build my own identity. In doing and undoing the selection of episodes that I want to tell about me. I think that that is where we find the trascendental in the ordinary and its self-representation. We like the way you created entire scenarious out of psychologically charged moments: what are you hoping Ma s amor por favor will trigger in the audience? Mainly, I wanted the spectator to feel something, and I was worried that for many it would be necessary to understand what was happening on screen. To share just the feeling, to invite them not to worry about defining themselves by labels and asking about the conflict that self-exploration is. To expose the shapes that gender adops while playing with the identity. I was interested in being visible within my close circle and my family, for they are my audience too and I wanted them to find out what I felt without

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Women Cinemakers having to talk about it. I don’t know how unknown people think of or feel about the film; I thought it was an open window for them to inquire about being. For them to ask themselves why I keep talking about love. To propose the audience the perception of the confusion about the body as if it were a contemplative space. To motivate them to take action not just for what they understand clearly but also for what is not. How much importance has for you the feedback that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel previewing a film before an audience? I haven’t had the chance of seeing the film before the audience yet. I haven’t experienced that exclusivity. I think that it is because I’m not a filmmaker, and so I haven’t been to many film festivals. Maybe my distance to filmmaking makes me move it towards a more organic space, besides the potency of such an intimate story. Más amor por favor has been screened in more than 10 festivals worldwide, an accomplishment that I never expected because I did not know the film’s true potency. It started to move since I contacted a distribution agency in Lima. My interest in film festivals was more like me being a sheep in the herd than to having a clear motivation. I wanted to know if my film would be seen, if other people would care. I thought that if it was accepted in film festivals it would show me its true potential and it would give me the confidence to believe it. It surprised me how that happened. The most meaningful feedback that I received was as simple as having heard a genuine thank you from someone I did not know. Satisfaction is the most accurate term for that feeling. However, this feeling comes from over a year ago, now I’m more interested in getting feedback that enhances my tools for me to work on new projects.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Kristen Brown A rugged, agrarian landscape on the California-Oregon border bears witness to the region’s violent past. This cinematic essay, narrated by Stephanie Foo (from This American Life), meditates on the landscapes that tell, reinvent, and obscure the history of the nineteenth-century Modoc War. Refusing to continue living under squalid conditions on a remote reservation in Oregon, several hundred Modoc people, led by Kintpuash, also know as Captain Jack, returned home from forced exile in 1870. This move aggravated European-American colonists who had moved into the Modoc homeland, resulting in armed conflict between 52 Modoc soldiers and the U.S. Army. At the beginning of hostilities, the Modocs retreated to the safety of an otherworldly lava fortress. The Modoc held off a well-equipped army of Civil War veterans for seven months, embarrassing the Army in what was an international media sensation -- though the war is now largely forgotten. Eventually succumbing to dehydration, low morale, and political infighting, Modoc leaders struggled to preserve unity among their ad hoc confederation. The agrarian landscape of contemporary Modoc country is a physical byproduct of the region’s conquest. This landscape is inhabited by markers of primordial, ancient, colonial, and modern history. Hidden within its wildlife refuges, ancient obsidian mines, abandoned trains, war memorials, and even a former Nazi POW camp, is a more complete history, which tells of more than just battles and assassinations. This is as much a film about the displacement of Modocs from their homeland as it is a story about memorialization, remembering, and forgetting. Directed and Produced by Kristen Brown and Matthew Harrison Tedford Narration by Stephanie Foo Music by Joseph Genden Fiscally Sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society Support provided by the Puffin Foundation

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant

readers to visit in order to

womencinemaker@berlin.com

get a wide idea about your artistic production

Hello Kristen and welcome to : we would like to invite our

and we would like to start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You



have a solid formal training and after having earned your B.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Saskatchewan, you nurtured your education with an M.F.A. in Painting, that you received from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? I have been interested and involved in the arts since I was young, and all types of creative and artistic visual expression have always seemed very natural to me. While in college I studied a wide range of studio practices including photography, painting, video, and printmaking. Nearing the end of college, I started to develop my own style and conceptual ideas, but it was not until graduate school that they became more clear and defined. Because of my technical training through private art classes growing up, I wanted to attend a school where I could keep honing these skills while developing my conceptual ideas further. Since finishing graduate school, I have had the opportunity to keep evolving the foundation that I have built. While Modoc is the first feature-length film I have worked on, I have always been interested in film and visual storytelling, and it was an amazing experience to collaborate on a project like this. For this special edition of we have selected , a captivating film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once

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Women Cinemakers captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way your sapient narrative provides the viewers with such an intense visual experience. While walking , would you our readers through the genesis of tell how did you develop the structure of your film? In or do you prefer particular, do you like of your shooting process? The idea for Modoc grew out of a road trip my husband and I took to northeastern California, an area we had not previously been to. The Modoc War was an armed conflict between the U.S. Army and the Modoc people, the original inhabitants of this region that were being displaced. Being from Canada, there is much that I do not know about American history, but we learned during this project that most Americans, and even Californians, have very little knowledge of the Modoc War. We are still always surprised when we talk with someone who knows this history. Even my husband, a Californian who has been interested in history all his life, had not previously been aware of this conflict. When we visited the region, we were immediately fascinated and taken with the land and its history. The landscape is beautiful, spacious, and rugged— filled with natural elements like lava caves, obsidian mines, and lakes. We came across very few people and encountered almost an otherworldly deserted emptiness in certain places. The lack of people also gave space for encountering wildlife, particularly many different types of migrating birds, as the location is along the Pacific Flyway.




My husband wrote the script, I did the photography, and we developed the structure of the film together. Before returning to the area for our first shoot, we created a long list of places we wanted to document that were historically or visually important to the story. Although we had very specific locations in mind, each time we went to shoot, there was always plenty of time to make an unplanned stop to film spontaneously. This happened many times, as the natural beauty of the landscape was everywhere. One

morning, just after sunrise, we were driving around when we heard a massive flock of geese and were surrounded by the howls of several coyotes. In this moment, we had to jump out to capture it as soon as we could, and we were able to film the whole flock landing. Elegantly shot, features stunning landscape cinematography and each shot is carefully orchestrated to work within the overall


structure: what were your when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? Prior to beginning work on Modoc, we had been interested in Slow Cinema, particularly experimental films and documentaries, and we saw ourselves working in a similar style. Because my training is primarily in painting and photography, I was very concerned with and brought a lot of intention to the

composition of each frame. Placement, color, and lighting were major priorities with each shot. The slow, still, and methodical shots are meant to be meditative and to create space for viewers to think more deeply about the past and its influence on the present. Most frames are not directly tied to the dialogue—they are intentionally disjointed in order to create a juxtaposition between the contemporary landscape and the history of the land. We


encountered very few people while filming. This was beneficial in some ways since it reinforced the importance of the landscape in the story, but sometimes the absence of people also made it difficult keep certain shots engaging. We produced the film with a very small budget, but we were able to purchase and rent all the equipment we needed to get the job done. Having access to a variety of different camera lenses was necessary for many of the shots. We have particularly appreciated the way you use specific locations as inspiration for larger emotional and philosophical inquires into the themes of memory and especially to shed light the history of the nineteenth-century Modoc War. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ". Not to mention that these days almost everything, from Maurizio Cattelan's ' to Marta MinujĂ­n's ' ', could be considered : do you think that Modoc could be considered a , in a certain sense? In particular, does your artistic research respond to cultural moment? We do envision this film as political, and while we strived for historical accuracy, it was certainly created from a political perspective. Although we do not explicitly argue

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a specific position in the film, we know that the history of colonialism cannot be addressed neutrally. For example, rather than discussing the war as an unfortunate but unavoidable conflict, the language used makes clear that the cause was European-Americans moving onto Modoc land. To fail to acknowledge the Modocs’ inherent right to their land is a political position, and so is acknowledging that right. In fact, when we premiered the film at a festival not far from where the war took place, we wondered if some locals would feel like the film was an attack on them (and this was a group of people who would know the history of the war). The response to the film was very positive, but there were some individuals who seemed to think that not all sides of the story were told, and I think this points to how any historical narrative has a political dimension. Displacement and entitlement are not things of the past, making this history still relevant to contemporary times. This is demonstrated by the Japanese-American internment camp that was built nearby during World War II, but is also seen in the news today. People are still defending their land against displacement, exploitation, and destruction. We saw this most visibly with the Standing Rock pipeline protest, but it is happening all over the world where corporations or powerful groups put their interests above others. History repeats itself when we fail to recognize the connection between our histories and our daily lives, and


we hope to call attention to this disconnection by pairing the seemingly different but actually related visuals and narratives in the film. the notion of elaborated by has drawn French anthropologist Marc Augé, heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way it questions the nature of our perceptual process, and its with the outside world: how did you select the locations and how did they influence your shooting process?

Much of the story of the Modocs’ resistance to the U.S. Army took place in a natural lava fortress that is now called “the Stronghold,” which is featured prominently in the film. We made sure to film other historically important places, like the lake many Modocs originally lived near, places where battles occurred, and war memorials. But there are many other layers of history in this landscape that we wanted to capture, including history that predates the Modoc War, like numerous petroglyphs. We spent a lot of time in nearby wildlife refuges, forests, and even on a volcano in order to present the natural beauty of the region. But we wanted to illustrate how conflict, agriculture, development, and drought have shaped the current landscape, so we also focused on places that had contemporary significance. This included

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Women Cinemakers farms, grain elevators, towns, and a restaurant named after a Modoc leader, as well as other modern landmarks that nominally reference the region’s past. During World War II, this landscape was also the site of a German POW camp and a Japanese-American internment camp. Though this history is not discussed in Modoc, we filmed the POW camp and what remains of the internment camp to show the continued conflict and displacement. Alongside the stunning nature, quiet towns, and a national monument, there is also pollution, damage from wildfire, and drought, as well as abandoned business and houses. The overall mood and atmosphere of this landscape is complex and, like anywhere, highlights its complicated history. unveils the details of reality and the hidden tracks of history: we have appreciated the way you of human perception show that raises a question on the role of the viewers' viewpoint, inviting us to going the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to such unexpected sides of reality, urging the viewers to elaborate ? The unhurried and reflective pace of the film is designed to create a space where viewers can ruminate on the dialogue or specific locations. We tried not to force too much direct meaning on particular shots, instead relying


on the viewers’ own thoughts, opinions, and personal connections to the story. features effective use of has reminded us of Tsai Ming Liang's work's work: could you tell us your biggest influence and how did they affect your work? Documentaries about historical events like the Modoc War are often told in a very specific format that includes images of maps, black-and-white photographs, reenactments, actors reading old letters, and interviews with historians. As we began to develop the idea for Modoc, we thought about how we might visually tell this story relying instead solely on the contemporary landscape. The area has been transformed but still holds so much concealed history, and the disconnection we created between the story and the visuals parallels how we are often detached from our own histories. We were drawn to aesthetic styles of filmmakers that allow viewers to contemplate a scene or story element. After visiting the region, we thought that both this landscape and history would be well served by this visual approach. For example, James Benning takes this approach to an extreme with entire films without a single pan or tilt. John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind is similar, and maybe even more minimalist, with a series of shots of gravestones that tell the history of resistance and activism in the United States. While we were working on Modoc, filmmaker Jenni

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Women Cinemakers Olson released her documentary The Royal Road, which is about love, the Mexican-American War, and classic Hollywood. It was refreshing and inspiring, at that time, to see someone else doing something that was both similar and entirely different than what we were working on. is the result of the collaboration with your husband Matthew Harrison Tedford: could you tell us something about the making of this video? How would you consider of your work? Matthew is a writer, and I am a visual artist, so our different roles in the film came together very naturally. He researched and wrote the script, and together we decided what locations, geographic features, and historical sites were important for me to film. After each shoot we went through all of the footage together and decide what was both visually and narratively important. Because we considered both the narrative and the footage to play equal parts in telling the history of the land, editing the film needed to be a collaborative process. We spent countless hours together comparing shots, talking about the historical or geological importance of certain places, and thinking about the ambiguously linear flow from one shot to the next. A particular aspect of your artistic research that has particularly fascinated us is your inquiry into : do you think that there's an elusive, still between


personal experience and universal imagery? In particular, how does your artistic research?

fuel

We focused a lot on commonplace scenes because we wanted to represent the area as closely to the way we experienced it. This means that we included everyday, almost universal, places like diners, gas stations, and farms. Even people who have not been to this region will have some experience or familiarity with these kinds of places. This helps create connections for the viewers in a story that might otherwise be unfamiliar or distant. We also wanted to avoid making the film spectacular and mythologizing and mystifying the events. It was important for us to reinforce that this war was real and had lasting effects. I also take similar concerns into consideration in my painting practice. Even though my work uses some abstraction and distortion, I depict everyday, unspectacular scenes in order to ground the paintings in more universal experience. We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than from half a century women have been getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing: as a passionate advocate of women in film, what's your view on ? Do you think it is

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Women Cinemakers harder for women artists to have their projects green lit today?

Film and visual arts, as a whole, are still very maledominated fields, and film festivals generally show more films by men than women. But it is inspiring to see that so many great films made by women are gaining visibility and being produced. Even though women are still underrepresented, lead creative roles are filled by women in more and more films, even blockbusters. The more people continue to expect all types of inclusion, the more diverse and equal the industry will become. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Kristen. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I do not have anything film related planned right now, but I hope to do more collaborations with my husband in the future. With me being a visual artist and him being a writer, film makes for a great place for us to meet and collaborate. And although we are in no rush, we are looking forward to the creation of our next film. I am currently focused on my painting practice and developing a body of work that deals with transience, memory, and truth. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Alba MorĂ­n Lives and works in Madrid, Spain

Alba Morin is a multidisciplinary artist based in Madrid, Music therapist and Bachelor in Philosophy. She improvises with violin and voice, playing different styles, from post-rock to free improvisation. For 10 years she has been exploring many ways of dialogue between music, dance, photography, performance art, poetry and video art, blurring their borders and seeking to experiment with the limits of the expression so as to find new ways of encounters with the Other, in multidisciplinary openness contexts, bearing in mind the body-instrument relationship and the connection between the sound space and the movement. Some of her video pieces have been selected at the exhibitions of experimental short films 'Unseen Zinema' and 'Zumo de Video'. During the projections of these videos she plays while improvising in order to complete the audiovisual experience. She has improvised at many venues with great musicians including performers, dancers, poets or painters. She always carries her camera as part of her process of identifying art and life, so as not to miss unrepeatable moments that can acquire another meaning according to the visual idea that she will choose to mix it with at any time. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

Hello Alba and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You

have a solid formal training: you hold a Bachelor in Philosophy and you have earned a wide experience as a Music therapist: how did these experience influence your evolution as a muldisciplinary artist? Moreover, does your cultural background direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Everything I experience influences and reflects on my



work, of course, but I think I have always had the need to improvise, and that improvising is the only time I can stay fully focused. I'm interested in vital approaches to philosophy and I need to connect it with action. When I started studying music I realised that rather than playing the violin, what really thrilled me was improvising, like an ecstatic moment to artistically recreate reality. As a music therapist I also have all the senses set to listen carefully to the other person's expression, and react to it. And I live it partly as an art form too. I don´t want to separate art from my life. For me shooting, as well as playing, is therapeutic; it is a way of moving on to action and surprise myself expressively taking part in it, in that very moment, here and now. It might even be a kind of art therapy. It's a way of being there, creating reality while watching it, and doing it in an intense way, showing it and interacting with the small details that go unnoticed and spontaneous, and unexpected elements that just happen. Listening to the other person, and myself, with all my senses. You are a versatile artist and your pratice is marked out with such stimulating multidisciplinary feature, that allows you to create a stimulating dialogue between music, dance, photography, performance art, poetry and video art: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? I’m really interested in the multidisciplinary dialogue, that’s why I took an interest in philosophy, since is the cornerstone for of any discipline of knowledge, of making, of art… I like

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Women Cinemakers finding the connections, in the same way that I find them in my short films. I don´t take a position of search. Rather, I´m on the lookout. I usually carry my camera with me and that makes me walk wide awake, so that I suddenly find images that I may not see if I didn’t have the camera there. The temporality of my process of creation dialogues with each person, with everyone’s own time. It’s my world and my life in that moment: the filmic time is my living time. The sensorial aspect of the images gets then intensified, with a heavy pictorial influence that aims to connect the emotions in an almost synesthesic way. Those sensations are also recorded by my hand, my camera. I film the images as if traces of sound. The difference is that, when I play, no one asks me what I wanted to say with the notes I used. In fact it feels a little strange trying to explain or set the basis for what I do. My short films could be considered as visual poetry. They are the folds and creases of the reality that they evoke, of a symbolic and unthinking universe. They show a poetic space where everything is possible: it expands at the moment it is shown, and the connections flow metaphorically, as if writing a poem that springs from a tear that writes itself at the moment it falls on to the paper (we discover the sense in any case only after the ‘writing of it’, since the rhythm is the sense, the rhythm has a meaning itself). You normally won’t see subjects, characters, in my films (there is no narration); not even a body (although in TrAuM it does appear a human image, drawn on a window, that gazes at us, as if trapped in a dream, in the film, in a




prelinguistic universe). There is no anthropomorphic point of view. It’s more like a dissolution and a prolongation of the self takes place within the images: it’s a walk without a subject. My body is not looked at, but felt, connected to the body of the person that looks, and the Other takes part in that intimacy that way. Forgetting about the experience as an “I”, and this character of reality or action and non fiction, makes a connection with performance art.

experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/214738375. We have particularly appreciated the way your insightful deconstruction of perceptual processes walks the viewers through such a captivating multilayered experience: while walking our readers through the genesis of TrAuM, would you tell us how did you develop the initial

For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected TrAuM, an extremely interesting

idea?


It consists of fragments recorded in different moments that get freely associated during the edition, creating new relations between the fragments, from which new universes without limits are born. I do not intend to impose anything, I just relate globally the pieces, in spite of the temporary nature of the ensemble, and I connect everything forming a collage. It evokes nature that opposes any kind of rule and whose immensity,trapped inside of a screen, overwhelms. Maybe what this short film makes present is the idea of the fight between nature and culture, idea

that I am also interested in developing in the performance art. For example, with the shot of the snow in a cage of geometric forms, or in those shots with tree branches that resemble veins, you can see how their figurative aspect gets transformed. What is truly happening is that they are getting reflected on the surface of a car, as is the building in movement. I wasn’t sure about modifying the colors of the river though, whose transformation is more powerful in the“raw� part, but the artificiality of it shows this idea of dissonance between the natural and the artificial.


Then, another world is created, which is an extension of my corporeality. I can see my life through the camera as a dance between splitting and fusion. How I relate to the world and to my body will be transformed into my own world (the world that I show to the world). The camera, as extension of my body (as the violin would be of my arm), acts through its receptivity, with infinite possibilities of movements, collecting objectively my subjectivity. The subjects consist on the subject that watches the artwork TrAuM reveals exquisite eye for the details and breathtaking editing style, to walk the viewers into a visionary adventure. We daresay that this video attempts to unveil the invisible that pervades our reality but that cannot be detected by our sensorial experience. Do you agree with this interpretation? Moreover, how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination within your process? I totally agree with your interpretation, it is a journey through time with moments of sleep and wakefulness, in which the outside and the inside appear indistinguishable. You can see a surrealistic dream space which breaks; for example, a car in motion that passes through a neighborhood cafÊ, or a drawing of a boy locked inside a window (from the Faculty of Fine Arts, by the way), who is at the same time locked in a dream within a short film. What it’s seen is the image of one's own imagination: a poetic space where everything is possible, and which, when expressed, it materializes. I defined it as 'Experimental rhythmic-nightmare'. A transit over the imagination creating (a link with) another subjective world (my world?).

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The movements are words that show the unrepresentable, what they can not name. It is a silent discourse that demands accepting the enigma, the mystery, and suggests that the absolute does not allow itself to be captured or contained by the limits of representation. It is not about representation, but about vision: it expresses the idea of confusion, not as it is represented, but felt. It shows the life that flows and escapes any attempt to capture it (maybe that's why there are no bodies, I do not like to capture them, nor be captured myself). What it may be expressed by a close-up of a face, a look (I use the zoom a lot), in this case is the water: the self dissolves into a play of reflections. The landscape -the distorted nature- is the body where sensations take place, where the energies and the impulses flow, materiality that is touched when seeing it. Seeing, as a tactile experience. I try to create my own universes with their own lives, works that exhibit their own universe of affirmation, and impose themselves by showing their world openly. Sound plays a crucial role also in your videos and we have really appreciated the minimal still effective sound tapestry that provides TrAuM with such an ethereal and a bit unsettling atmosphere: how did you conceive the combination between sound and the flow of images? The background sound in my short-videos, which is usually everyday noises -but sometimes it is cut, silenced-, it merges with the viewer's own background noise while




watching it. The image speaks as it is silent; that silence plays when not interpreted, and the sound clearly shows the confusion between its reality and apparent unreal images. For me, the images are music, they are an improvised composition. Causal links are broken when the material is edited, actions and images are reconstructed turning around their coherence, creating a new composition based on sound. When improvising, I do not interact with them as a representation, but as a dance. One of the improvisations that I enjoyed the most happened while playing live for the public screening of Maya Deren's film “Meshes of the afternoon�. To be able to express the emotions coming from those powerful images with sound without making it look like a simple translation, but instead trying to let them talk or dialogue among themselves was quite an experience. One of the qualities of your works is the fact that they engage the viewers to draw from their memory to elaborate personal interpretations, addressing them to evolve from a condition of mere spectatoship. Are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? It is an open piece of work, it is exposed to mix with any interpretation without that it breaks its sense, because it is already broken. But at the same time it is alive so that others can connect with that vital impulse of creating. I

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Women Cinemakers leave traces, open lines to hold on to, loose ends, like in a haiku. I do not expect it to be understood because I do not intend to tell anything. If I compose music nobody asks me what I want to tell, and it would be difficult to talk about its genesis: different elements are created and later they are going to connect. It is ready to be linked to different subjectivities, creating spaces of communication if I´m improvising live over the screenings, being always different, and another set of perspectives emerges. The meaning is the picture itself, the sign itself. Also the sound itself, or the sound patterns. They refer to what is happening in my life the moment I am filming, the rhythm of my life anchored in the moment. Feeling that no meaning is needed can be astonishing: the meaning is the sequence set by intuition while creating. I would say you have to watch it the way you watch a mandala. Over the years you have had the chance to improvise with great musicians: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How importance does improvisation play in your process? The uncertainty of random marks the guidelines under a horizon of freedom and opening to the unpredictable, which allows imagination to flow. In that horizon there are also necessary connections between the parts, and




discovering them is a certain way of investigation, of experiment...also a kind of game (in which the only rule is to play). It is a free and active way of letting yourself be, in which the unconscious free activity burst out at any time. I'm not sure to what extent the process of improvisation is similar to shooting and editing (and that goes for music as well): the relationship between free improvisation and free association. A live concert shows the uncertainty of not knowing where that discharge of energy takes me, or takes you. The limits to spontaneity are only respect and to listen to the other person. In my films maybe could be compared more to improvised music the images transforming of the rough cuts than the edited ones (that ones are probably more similar to composed music). Listening and reacting are both enhanced at the same time. Probably a greater amount of decisions are made –in a more or less unconscious waywhen improvising with music or when filming, compared to editing, because of the inmediacy of the moment, but that is a different topic... When you edit, you distance yourself, you have a more global vision that makes it possible to link and understand the possible dialogues between the parts. In both areas it's all about associating the parts in a creative way and making decisions all the time, and each choice implies restructuring. As I said before, that brings a certain flow which is incompatible with the rational order of things.

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Women Cinemakers I like to work with what I have in the moment, with what I find; as well as with ancient and heterogeneous materials, and, through the happenings, find their structure, put together the pieces/traces of a personal story and give them a new life. (Sometimes I record pieces that already exist, but only if I find them, I never look for them). Some of my short films, such as Viaje a Vitoria (Trip to Vitoria), have a bit of a documentary or diary aura over them. I have also several unpublished shorts created from what I recorded one trip alone. The spot on my camera shows somehow this way of working: at that moment the lens of my camera had a spot, and I was not going to stop myself from filming from the train just because of that. Moreover, does a birthmark make a face less beautiful? It is what it is. Sometimes the lack of meaning allows for imagination to develop. My film Resumen de un corto (Summary of a Short film) shows my hand playing with the light (in fact, what I am recording is a lamp in my own living room.) I did not change the order of the elements I used, I just moved my hand to record its reflection on the glass. When I recorded it I was not using any editing program, so I found an ending in a single shot. Sometimes endings are found in an improvised way when you are recording or editing, like at the end of a music improvisation. Sometimes you can hear the end coming and you just stop playing and sometimes the music simply decreases little by little. What really interests me is an organic and authentic work. The sense is defined by the here and now of immediacy. Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovi once remarked the importance of not just making work but




ensuring that it’s seen in the right place by the right people at the right time: how is in your opinion online technopshere affecting the consumption of art by the audience? Do you think that today is easier to speak to a particular niche of viewers or that online technology will allow artists to extend to a broader number of viewers the interest towards a particular theme? Well, I agree in part with Marina Abramovic's phrase. But the relationship that may or may not have the visibility of the works by the audience, the chance to see them, I think is already another topic. I shoot for me, not to be seen (except some short film also devoted to who comes out in it). The truth is that I have never registered my shorts in a payment platform for contests. In fact, many improvisations have not been recorded, or several shorts I have not brought to light. Of course It's great if people find it inspiring; It would be also great if I could make my living form art and unpaid proposals would stop being the usual ones. I mean, in free improvisation, at least in Madrid, the internet does not influence much in the small audience we have despite the fact that there are very interesting performances. I get a little scared also the lack of privacy of this time, and it is easy that your work isn’t understood properly (which I do not care too much). For example, it changes a lot to watch a video of an improvisation interdisciplinary than to witness it live: the energy can be totally another, in the same way that someone can think that knows you after seeing a picture of you. For example a profile picture of Facebook, which is not you, but an image of you. You see

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Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers everything without a filter (but with the filters of the cameras). Today, the important thing is to talk about the Today, without even considering that it may be unethical to share certain contents, because everyone does it. It scares. But attracts a lot the immensity of knowledge and connections that also has to do a lot with the contradiction between the need to hide and to expose my self. We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in the contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? My mother and my grandmother have lived under their own rules and dared to be themselves. This must have had an influence on me. Since I consider crucial to let imagination run wild, it is vital for me to stop being afraid of looking ridiculous, to stop fearing the unknown. It seems to me that we must get rid of those fears, in order to be able to experience. Ultimately, these fears have to be with being judged and criticised, and women have been and are still being judged more than men are. As a matter of fact, women´s aspect is the talking point all too often, while men are not a conversational target in terms of whether their clothes fit them or not.




I compose weird music, I make weird shorts, I guess‌ I´m weird. Societies have not made it easy for women when it comes to the subject of letting us be weirdos. That is to say that women have not been allowed to seek our own vision or to display our most particular and unique singularity. Just as images are not adapted to any kind of representation in my shorts, I struggle to adjust myself to any imposed role. There is still such a lack of respect for the difference‌ In the last decades Western societies are letting women be weirdos, because we are letting ourselves be, in general. I hope that the situation changes for those women who live in societies with less possibilities of expressing themselves. They should have access to creative spaces. In that sense, new technologies can play a significant role regarding art projects. Since new technologies make easier to record, edit and distribute, they can give women great opportunities to make and experience art. Furthermore, I would like to think that the fact that women can show our art through the internet, make us less dependent on those traditional mechanisms of art distribution, which are mostly run in a sexist way. Coming back to the importance of providing a space for the difference, I am quite surprised by people who, in spite of having a long career in performance art, have dogmatic reactions in terms of art innovation. From my point of view, this is totally against the basis of performance art, which is experimentation. Even if a

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers piece of art is not exactly “performance artâ€?, who cares? The remarkable fact is not to clasify something as performance art or not, but to make art, to make something good. Of course, women are more criticized when we open new ways, artistically and in other areas. I guess we need to make even more what we feel so as to be more free. This does not mean that we do not need criteria in order to distinguish if something is good or not. However, if there are not some risk in order to discover something different in the action, if this does not happen‌then, personally, I am not so interested in that process. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Alba. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you very much for this opportunity to give me a voice. If I'm looking for something, it's my own desire to surprise me (although it is not surprisingly to look for surprising and do it) I like to work as a music therapist with people with language disorders, to help them with their emotional expression. I think that in general I like to connect with a level outside of words. I want to continue exploring the link between everything that interest me, and work and perform abroad more often. In short, I hope to keep surprising myself, trying to do what I want in every moment, discovering new worlds. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


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