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Contents 04 Darae Baek

140 Poppet Portraits

CIRCUMSTANCES

Wash Out

30

158

Sanne Smits & Celine Daemen

Valerie Driscoll

The woman who wanted to be infinite

Smile

58

176

Yasmin Marroum

Romy Yedidia

90

192

Andante

Claire Villacorta

Belly Love

ilvs strauss

city-scape nยบ3

COULD

116

218

Anna Athanasiou

Ilaria Falli

Captiva

Same Mistakes


Women Cinemakers meets

Darae Baek Lives and works in Glasgow and Seoul

My work is based on my memory of an experience I had before coming to Glasgow. It is about my grandmother, who was suddenly hospitalised a few months before I moved. Last July, her health declined and she spent one week in hospital. The room in the hospital was very quiet. I could only hear my grandmother’s groans and the respirator which was helping her breathe. My parents told me that we needed to prepare to let her go soon, although they seemed so unprepared for this. As she was old, I knew this would happen one day. On one occasion, I spent the whole day with her. She slept most of the time. I sat next her and spent time watching her. I suddenly wondered if this would be the last time I saw her. I wanted to capture this moment with a camera, but when I saw her through the lens, I could not take the shot, as she seemed to be in pain. Instead, I filmed the respirator to remember the moment. Fortunately, she was later discharged from the hospital. This memory has remained strong in my mind and has often made me feel anxious in Glasgow. As a result, I decided to make a video to express the personal issues that I brought from South Korea to Glasgow. I wanted a video that could recall these anxieties, influenced by the Glasgow city scene I am currently staying in. I wanted to express the emotion I felt indirectly through simple objects and actions; gelatine, a spoon and a syringe. The gelatine was inspired by the respirator video I filmed in the hospital. I was looking for an object that was transparent, like the water in the respirator. I chose the gelatine as the substitute for the sound it made. When I touched the gelatine, it made a sound like that of the respirator.

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

Hello Darae and welcome to

: we

would like to invite our readers to visit in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training


and after having earned your BA (Hons) in Fine Art from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, you moved from London to Glasgow to nurture your education with an MFA, that you are currently pursuing at Glasgow School of Art: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum dued to the relationship between your Korean roots and your current life in the United Kingdom direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Hello WomenCinemakers! My major in South Korea was Oriental painting but I doubted that I really wanted to express a story on an empty white canvas. When I faced a new canvas, even though there were so many stories I wanted to express through art, I felt a heavy burden when I trying to create something from nothing. I wanted to start with the background of the real world because when starting with a white canvas I did not know how to express my story. I did not know how to start the painting because all the stories that I wanted to express needed a background in the real world. Therefore, for me, video was a breakthrough. I felt more freedom when using the camera than I did when using a canvas. This is because the camera lens contained the real world and I could finally express my story through reality. I do not think I am an artist who can start from nothing when creating new things. However, I do enjoy creating things (B) by transforming what already exists (A). I started to use the video method for the first time at Central Saint Martins in London, when I recalled the memories from CSM; the experiences were really new and free. There were no guidelines for Art but many people were seriously ready

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Women Cinemakers to think about all forms of art work, even video art. It was a place where there was nothing to be ashamed of when showing amateur work, so I had fun as I learned how to be a film maker there. My memories became a good foundation for my video work so far. When I made the decision for my master’s course, I had a strong desire to move to a new place as a place-based artist, and Glasgow was the perfect new place. Glasgow is a city that I had never visited before, but many artists are based there. It is difficult to say exactly what makes it appealing, but Glasgow is a smaller place than London and is certainly a romantic place for artists. I think artists who have been in this city will agree. I try to visit many other places as well as London and Glasgow, such as Iceland, Japan, and Cambodia. I naturally encounter the cultures of the places I visit. These cultures often have an effect on my videos, thus there is a relationship between place-based culture and the culture of my own national background. If I define the characteristics, what I can say for sure is that I appear in my work as an Asian woman and I think it is clear that two cultures coexist in my work. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . Centered on the expression of the personal issues that you brought from South Korea to Glasgow, this stimulating film has


at once impressed us of for the way you have been capable of providing the results of your artistic research with such captivating aesthetics, inviting the viewers to such a multilayered experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? In fact, 'Circumstances' started with a different root from the way that I usually work. A place is the most important resource for my work. The place where I am currently staying usually inspires my work, but the ‘Circumstances’ had begun with a memory that I

experienced a few months before moving to Glasgow, in 2017. It was about my grandmother, who had been suddenly hospitalised a few months before I moved to Glasgow. Her health had deteriorated and she had spent one week in the hospital In July 2017. The room in the hospital had been very quiet. I had been able to hear my grandmother’s groans and the respirator that was helping her to breathe. Fortunately, she was later discharged from the hospital, but I had already learned the fear of death of those who I love. This memory remained strong in my mind and often made me feel anxious. I felt disgusted with myself because I lived


abroad even though my grandmother's health was deteriorating. As a result, I could not concentrate on being in Glasgow, and I felt like I was somewhere else. Therefore, 'Circumstances' was about adopting me into the city of Glasgow in my situation. I had to become accustomed to this place as soon as possible, reminding myself that I came here for a new challenge.

images of the action in the city of Glasgow, which continued to act visually, expressing my own state. features essential, minimalistic still effectively structured composition: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens?

However, inevitably, at that time I was not able to see new things or special things in the new city, so I started my work. I showed anxiety about my grandmother and about where I was, in this city. Directly through the camera lens, I began to shoot

I only use one camera for my work so, consequently, it is quite impossible to pick up various angles at the same time as a self-shooting artist. Therefore, a planning process is really important before shooting my work. To meet my personal standards and to


emphasise elements of my video for detail (title) shots and plan to take the title shots in advance before shooting, and for these title shots, I used the mode to switch the camera screen during the basic and mid-shots. In ‘Circumstances’, gelatine chunks were an important material and it was key point to clearly show the action of destroying the gelatine and observe its changing shape. During the shooting of the video, no scenes were shot more than once. In this video, I wanted to exclude other unnecessary glancing scenes when I shot the gelatine action and the part where I was drawing on the body as much as possible, so I used title shots for those scenes to emphasise the touch of gelatine and the movement of the drawing on my body. Now, I think it was good decision. It's important to remark that is based on your memory of an experience you had before coming to Glasgow, about your grandmother, who was suddenly hospitalised a few months before you moved: how important was for you to make a personal film, about a theme that you know a lot about? And how does your daily experience fuel your creative process, in general? My work relates to the feelings and experiences that I perceive within a place, so past experiences have become good data and the basis for positive inspiration, along with new encounters. Sometimes, when I visit a new place, I recall familiar fragrances and past moments from unfamiliar places, and, within a totally different time and space, I recall unexpected memories that I had forgotten. I believe that this is probably because emotions are based on the experiences I

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Women Cinemakers have accumulated throughout my life so far. This even happens in new places; for example, if I felt fearful in a red room during my first visit, my emotional experience would appear with my past memory and the feelings I experience would be a strange mixture of new emotions and past encounters. This is why I keep data regarding the experiences and emotions in my mind at each moment; I believe that this affects all the directions of my work. Featuring well-orchestrated camera work, has drawn heavily from the specifics of its environment to reflect the entanglement between the concept of place and memories. We have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance between environment and the ideas that you explore: how did you select the location and how did it affect the performing and shooting process? The process of place selection is really important. I try to select places that I usually visit and ones which are familiar to people in the city. However, these places are mostly famous open spaces so that I can shoot a video; I check the details of the place in the morning and in the afternoon, to determine the best time to film. Sometimes when I shoot my work at dawn, I often meet people who are starting their morning exercise and, in the evening, I meet teenagers who are wandering the streets. When I start to film, I really need to concentrate purely on the performance, so I cannot watch the camera or the surroundings, but when people start to gather around me, I become anxious. I try to ignore the situation and concentrate fully on the action of my performance. Fortunately, most people know when I am shooting, and, thankfully, they try to keep a short distance away and watch quietly, so I have not experienced any problems so far.


Finally, the reason for choosing these places is my method of communication with people who are actually living their life in the city, through showing my existence in the most familiar places to them. Would it not be more interesting if the city people met unexpected images of a familiar place? Moreover, it is another pleasure to have conversations with viewers about the places in my videos. The combination between sound and visual is important in your practice and we have appreciated the way the minimalistic sound tapestry provides the footage of with such an ethereal and a bit unsettling atmosphere: as an artist particularly concerned in the connection between sound and moving images, how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? In my previous work, the sound was purely supporting material for my video. Now, the sound has become one of the most important roles in my film. In my recent work, I show a simplified image of actions on the video screen, while I wanted to express various parts of the sound, my exact feelings of the story in the video, the atmosphere of the place, and so on. In other words, if the image expresses the indication of my story as an indirect action, the sound directly expresses the emotion of my experience. I normally decide to improvise instruments to create sounds according to the emotions I want to express at

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A still from


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Women Cinemakers that time. I use the recorded sounds at that place and I try to touch all the instruments in the sound program on my computer and determine the most appropriate instrument sounds that I want to use in relation to the memory. The process of making sounds is separate to the process of shooting video images. Therefore, the length of sounds does not exactly match the length of the video. So, this usually happens through the extra deformation work that cuts or edits the sounds to an appropriate length to match the video. In ‘Circumstances’, I produced many sounds, each of which included a keyword for each emotion, and from the recorded telephone conversation during which I talked with my parents about my grandmother. It was not easy to make it work, but it was a good experience Rich with symbolic value, gelatine is a material that play a crucial role in : German art critic and historian Michael Fried once stated that 'materials do not represent, signify, or allude to anything; they are what they are and nothing more.' What are the properties that you were searching for in gelatine? I try to maintain the view of a third person, in the same position as the audience in a video even if the video is all about my own experience. I also appear directly on the video. So, in my work, I rarely directly express the story of my experience. I indirectly express all stories using a setting object that is connected with my experience. Thus, gelatine was used as a visual object in the work. The images are not of a respirator in ‘Circumstances’. This idea was inspired by the respirator video that I filmed when my grandmother was in the hospital. I was looking for an object that was transparent, to represent the water in the respirator. I watched a jelly-making video, sourced randomly from the


Internet, and, after a few attempts, decided on gelatine as my substitute. The main reason I chose this material was the sound it made; when I touched the gelatine, it made a sound similar to the respirator. For this project, I made two types of gelatine lumps. One was gelatine with a feeling of transparency similar to water, and the other was a white foreign substance matter with gelatine in it. Both the transparent gelatine and white gelatine represented my memory and situation. The white gelatine represented my nervousness about my grandma's situation. The transparent gelatine represented Glasgow, where I am currently living. The appearance of approaching the white gelatine, while gradually decomposing the transparent gelatine against the background of Glasgow city, where I exist seems like clinging to memories of a situation other than reality. This image is not only for the viewer but also for myself; the image clearly shows where I exist. Perhaps the gelatine could just be a chunk of jelly to the audience and I may be seen as a strange person in the city who breaks the jelly. Nevertheless, someone might be faced with a scene in their memory through my strange repetitive act, in which, carefully, one-by-one, the transparent jelly mass was separated. Then, maybe, it could be possible that gelatine is a mass of their memories, not just jelly. I want to create a video that allows viewers to match similar experiences to their memories, rather than a feeling of seeing a personal story.

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Women Cinemakers Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? In ‘Circumstances’, there are two representative behaviours: the action of breaking down the gelatine and the drawing of the lines connecting the lines on my body to the city. The images of the drawing were taken from the middle of the production of the gelatine video. I have repeatedly watched the scenes: for my existence in the city through the gelatine video, I gradually understood my existence in the city. I made the decision to obtain direct evidence of my emerging existence that would make it clearer as the reality of me in Glasgow. The evidence was the image of the direct drawing action, which overlapped the existing lines of the city on my body, arms, face, feet, and legs and placed myself into one part of the city via lines. The interesting point is that the main story is a gelatine video; the drawing video is produced as a sub-story, which shows the gradual change in my mind after starting the gelatine project, but many viewers who watched ‘Circumstances’ in the exhibition felt that the drawing part of the video was the main story. They were persuaded that the act of drawing on the artist’s body seemed more meaningful. Of course, both images have important stories,


but I was very interested in the opinions of the audiences. It may be, because the medium of the body is a great medium that everyone has in common, it was a good experience to rethink about the artist's actions and the visual power of the human body. Maybe the artist's body is the most effective canvas? challenges the We like the way viewers' perceptual categories to create personal narratives: what are you hoping will trigger in the spectatorship? In particular, how much important is for you to address the viewer's imagination in order to elaborate personal associations? The viewer is a precious witness to the fact that my work and I are in reality. I always consider of the viewer 's gaze when I make a dark story work. I want to make sure that the viewer is not burdened by the image, even if the story is depressing. In this intention, ‘Circumstances’ is a video combined with two stories as mentioned above. The first is the story about my previous unforgettable memory and Glasgow, where I am staying, and the second story is about my situation in adapting to Glasgow. Though the second video, I wanted to create a turning point in my video relating my grandmother’s story to the relationship between me and Glasgow. I wanted to broaden the choices that happen to the audience and encourage various emotions through the mixture of

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Women Cinemakers these two stories. In this way, I have my own ending for my video, but I am the only one who knows the actual ending. To be honest, it is not important that the viewers know the actual ending, because, although I am not a kind storyteller who talks about the ending of my story via the video images, I want people to watch my video, then create their own endings to my video as people all have different views of the end of life. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Darae. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Recently, I have worked on a new project. It is another story about myself and someone else. This project starts to doubt my double-sidedness. It is not a complicated story, but a simple ‘I love myself, but I hate myself as well’. The project will be filmed at various venues, and I have already started shooting some parts of the video in artist residencies in Spain and Sweden this summer. It is still at the beginning phase, but the goal is to finish by next year. I am a video artist, who is also interested in installation work. I am going to create a composition in which two videos of this project will be overlapped through the action of the visitor, so, I am currently looking for a way to use a motion technique for this installation. I hope that it is completed successfully. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Sanne Smits Celine Daemen The woman who wanted to be infinite is a captivating experimental short film by Sanne Smits and Celine Daemen: featuring brilliant cinematography and unconventional storytelling, their work walks the viewers through a liminal territory where the boundaries of life and death blend to address us to inquire into the fear of ending and parting: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Smits' and Daemen's captivating and multifaceted artistic production. Celine Daemen (1996) is a Dutch director of theatre and film. She graduated from the Academy of Performative Arts Maastricht in June this year. With a specific interest in visual arts, music and philosophy, she explores themes such as desire, fear and emptiness. Through an inventive use of aesthetics she enables her audience to connect with the emotional undercurrents of which we tend to lose sight so often in our daily lives. Her work is characterised by a deliberate eye for detail and a tense and mysterious atmosphere. Her characters are often trapped in a small world of anxiety and inactivity. They are lonely and have an unfulfilled yearning for greatness, purpose, happiness and love. Daemen combines different art forms, with the aim creating a sensuous experience. Her work varies from plays to video installations and short films. Sanne Smits (1995) is a Dutch theatre and film director. She will graduate at the Academy of Performative Arts Maastricht next year (June 2019). Smits’ work is characterised by its imaginative, radical and rhythmical power. Focussing mainly on the motion of the actor, she places rhythm and movement at the core of her work. She explores dream-like structures and storylines, in which the subconscious plays an important role. The characters in her work have an insatiable appetite for grandiose and meaningful lives, but at the same time are constantly confronted by their own shortcomings. Besides being a director, she is the singer of the Dutch band Pastinaak & de Vergeten Groenten. An interview by Francis L. Quettier

edition of

: to start this

and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

interview we would ask you a couple of questions

Hello Sanne and Celine and welcome to this special

regarding your backgrounds: are there any


experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as artists and creatives? Moreover, how do your cultural substratums address your artistic researches? Celine: I was born in a small, hilly village in the south of the Netherlands. I grew up surrounded by nature, in a Catholic culture. As a young girl, I was fascinated by the greatness and aesthetics of this faith. Despite the fact that I am no longer religious right now, this fascination still influences my work a lot. Sanne: I grew up in Haarlem, a town in the shadow of Amsterdam. Although my family was not religious, I did go to a Catholic primary school and I used to sing in the church choir every Sunday. I also found myself deeply impressed by the great symbols of the Catholic faith. So much that I sometimes embarrassed my mother, when, as a little child, out of sheer excitement, I shouted “look mum, a church!� whenever we passed one. As a child, I already had a strong will. I am the eldest of three children and, during our childhood, I used that position to get my brothers to perform in plays in our living room, even if they did not feel like it. As a teenager, I started engaging more seriously with theatre, film and music. I spent almost all of my pocket money on theatre tickets, I wrote my own songs, and watched all films by Alex van Warmerdam, David Lynch and Lars von Trier. Celine: I decided that I wanted to be a theatre director at the age of 16. Just like Sanne, I started as a student

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Women Cinemakers of the directing track at the Maastricht Academy of Performative Arts. Within this program we got the opportunity to develop our own artistic style, expression and drive. Sanne: After doing Theatre Studies at university for a year, I realised that I wanted to make art myself instead of analysing it. At the Academy of Performative Arts, I developed myself as a director with a strong love for magical realism, who likes to combine visuals and music. When I direct, it’s like I am creating a choreography with the actors. Celine: The Academy of Performative Arts encouraged us to work with and combine all kinds of art forms. In my second year I decided that I want to focus on film. From that moment onwards, I started working right on the crossroads of film and theatre. Obviously, our theatre background influences the way in which we make films too. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected The woman who wanted to be infinite, an extremely interesting experimental short 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/SB4v-qqafnU: what has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the fear of ending and parting is the way you have provided the visual results of your research with such visual consistence, combining spontaneity with rigorous aesthetics. While walking our readers through the genesis of The woman who wanted to be infinite, would


you tell us what did direct your artistic research towards these theme? Our original idea was to make a film about the apocalypse. While we were doing research, a young teacher at our school died very suddenly and unexpectedly. Our school, a small and close community, was deeply impacted by his death. This incident made

us realize that our research for this had to be more personal. It turned out that it was not the end of times that we were afraid of, but indeed death, as a definitive ending. Our main question was then: what would you want there to be after death? We interviewed all kinds of people (young, old, religious, non-religious) about their thoughts on death. “Are you afraid of death? Do you think death is followed by something else? If yes,


by what?” We got the most beautiful answers. One person hoped to be transformed into a bird; another person imagined how he could oversee his entire life. We were struck by the fact that a lot of young people we interviewed, despite not being religious, did hope there would be something after death. Old people, who are closer to death, were less passionate in their fantasies about the imminent end and approached the

matter with acquiescence. And we noticed ourselves that, despite the fact that we are not religious (anymore), we found some consolation in thinking that death does not inevitably mean “living no longer”. At some point in our research, we came across the Buddhist view of life. We grew up with a rather dualistic conception of the world: there is good and evil, black and white, life and death. In Buddhism, these


concepts are not so much opposed to one another. It is believed that everything is moving and part of a larger whole. We read a Buddhist parable about two waves. The one wave is jealous of the other. He wants to be just as big, strong, and beautiful as the other. But at the moment when both splash down again, the wave realises that all this time, both of them were water. This little story struck us so much since it tells us that we are all part of a larger whole. Death could be a surrendering to go back to our source: surrendering to be a part of nature in a very basic sense. Another big inspiration for our film is the Tibetan book of the dead (Barbo Thodol). The book offers a description of the space between death and rebirth; the state-in-between. “Bar do” literally means “between two”. We found the idea of a state-in-between so beautiful and comforting, that we ultimately took it as the basis for our film. In our film, we wanted to consider dying not as “living no longer”, but as the start of merging into something larger. Elegantly shot, The woman who wanted to be infinite features intense colour palette with keen eye to details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? When shooting The woman who wanted to be infinite, we chose for a radical aesthetics. Refined, classic, epic, and detailed images that create a certain strong atmosphere. It is an emotional kind of aesthetics. The images guide

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Women Cinemakers you through an intuitive and associative journey. We found that the aesthetics of imagery and filming had to follow this dramaturgy. Thus we chose to shoot the middle part with a steadicam, but change to wide landscape shots towards the end. We used a small and easily manageable camera: the Sony alpha 7s 2, because of its low-light camera features. Interesting to know is that we did almost no special effects and color grading in post production. We dragged all kinds of lights to our filmset to get the right atmosphere on set. We lit an actual tree on fire, because we refuse to ‘fix it in post’. This way of working might be something we learned from theatre, where we are used to create any world in a black box. There is no post production. There is one transitory moment in which you have to visualize your story. We have appreciated the way The woman who wanted to be infinite walks the spectators through a liminal area where reality blends with imagination to question transcendental questions around the nature of time. How do you consider the relationship between perceptual reality and the realm of imagination? Moreover, how important is it for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? The woman who wanted to be infinite is a film that has to be experienced by the beholder. We invite him or her to form a personal interpretation of it. It is not up to us to determine and fix its meaning. We believe that, when the


spectator has the freedom to have their own interpretation, they will be able to draw the film closer towards themselves, and that in this way the film gains a larger and more personal value. We focussed on shaping an emotional experience, which the beholder will feel right in his heart and his gut. The sequence of images is a direct sensory and associative experience. We guide the spectator on a path of atmospheres. We try to stimulate reflection and meaning, but their content is in the first place dependent on the subjective experience of the beholder. Meaning only emerges in the encounter with the public. The force of the film lies in its subjectivity, immediacy, and physicality. In this respect, we have certainly been inspired by other forms of art. Poetry, dance, theatre, and music. In the process of making this film, we let ourselves be inspired mostly by the principles of music. Its aesthetics, its immediate form. Music moves without reference or anecdote. It reveals a mood. In one of our first drafts of the concept, we described it as follows: theatre and film often show a fight against tears, music constitutes the tears itself. The woman who wanted to be infinite is an attempt to explore a space inspired by music where moods, physicality, and atmosphere form the starting point for a cinematic and theatrical experience. It gives space for subjectivity. Featuring stunning landscape cinematography with well orchestrated camera work, The woman who

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A still from


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Women Cinemakers wanted to be infinite has drawn heavily from the specifics of its environment and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance between the environment and the movement of human body: how was your creative and shooting and performative process affected by locations? The scenes emerged entirely from the location. Dramaturgywise, we selected the location very early on in the process. It has defined the performative and physical actions. The dramatic starting point for our actress is mostly dependant on her reaction to her environment. It's a constant perception and experience of the here and now. She takes in the absurd world that is forced on her. We went looking for ways in which the location could constitute a conflict for the body. By placing her in a certain environment, her struggle arises. A good example of this is the way she flees into the forest at a certain point. By letting her run up a hill, we show her battle in a physical way. One could view her environment as a character. It's not just the location in which something takes place, it is at the same time part of what is happening. It is the use of the location as a theatrical means. 6) It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established together are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about this proficient synergy? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different backgrounds? The team we worked with is extremely inspiring and diverse. Our


cameraman Daniel van Hauten is from Germany and has a background in mostly music videos. Marc, who was responsible for music and sound, is from Syria and works as a musician and DJ. Flemish Yentl and Dutch Heleen both have a background as directors and actresses in theatre. The different backgrounds of our collaborative partners were crucial to the process, certainly because the project was a cross-over of different forms of art. We are both greatly interested in this way of interdisciplinary working. Within our Academy, we worked with multiple disciplines. For example, we studied subjects such as mime, text based theatre, film and opera. The way we see it, making gesammtkunst is our trade. Interdisciplinarity to us not only means that all disciplines have a place in our work. We also look for the principles of these different disciplines that we could use, or be inspired by. Like we mentioned before, we asked ourselves the question: what is the effect of music, and how can we translate this to the dramaturgy of our film and the aesthetics of our image? Cross-pollination. Disciplines may affect, change, infect and inspire each other. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once remarked that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how would you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you explore and the physical act of producing your artworks?

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers In our work as filmmakers we seek to examine the things we cannot fully comprehend, nor put into words, using sensory experience as a starting point. We want to give shape to the swirling emotions within us, to give form to what has no form yet. We try to lock up the elusive and untamed, to contain it in time and space and make it tangible, in image, sound, scent and tactility. In this effort physicality plays a major role. The French avant-garde theatre reformer, Artaud, is a great source of inspiration for both of us. In his Theatre of Cruelty he pleas: "Through his body the actor makes contact with the sensibility of the audience. The sensibility of the spectator must merge with that of the actor, breath with breath, rhythm with rhythm. " Marked with captivating minimalistic quality, the soundtrack composed by Marc Mâhfoud plays a relevant role in your film, providing the footage with such an enigmatic and a bit unsettling sound tapestry: how do you consider the relationship between sound and moving images? And how did the slow rhythm of the soundtrack influenced the gestures of the performers? It's the other way around, actually. The soundtrack is composed after the edit of the images, except the song at the end of the film. The lyrics of this song are the Dutch translation of the poem Vom Ertrunkenen Mädchen by Bertolt Brecht. It describes the death of a girl in the water; she slowly decomposes, fish eat her flesh, and in the end she


disappears. It's a gruesome story, but paradoxically, it also holds a deep beauty. It evokes the famous image of Ophelia drowning herself. Sanne composed a tune to the words; she tried to capture the atmosphere of the poem in the music. In the soundtrack Marc made for us, we have tried to capture the emotions of the main character. Since there is no spoken text in our film, the music is an important parameter for the mood of the film. By using deep, stretched out tones, we tried to create a treacly, dreamlike reality. We made the conscious choice not to use any set sounds, only foley sounds, which should amplify the surreal feeling of the demimonde. We have appreciated the originality of your work and we have found particularly encouraging your unconventional approach. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experiences as unconventional artists? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Luckily we are not experiencing discrimination in the way it used to happen back in the day or as it still happens in most parts of the world. We have, or so we believe, as much chances and opportunities to make art as our male colleagues. At the same time we notice that some people still have prejudices against women, especially against

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers young women, when they work in leadership positions such as directing. We experienced this for instance when we asked a production company for (financial) support to realise this film. Our plans were big, ambitious and unconventional, but they told us in a very paternalistic way that our ideas were unrealistic and that they therefore would not help us. We got the feeling that this reaction might have been different if we had been men. Nonetheless we believe that women in the film, theatre and art world are advancing and becoming more and more visible. The directing students at our Academy for example are mostly women. This is a positive development, because our workfield used to be dominated by men. Our film The woman who wanted to be infinite is not about gender. We see these actresses not necessarily as women, we see them as people everyone can relate to. It is a human experience, which just happens to be depicted by a woman. Simply because of the fact that we are female directors, the view on women in our film is different from ‘the male gaze’. We believe it is important that women are equally represented, not only on screen, but especially in leading positions like directing. In these positions we can inspire and tell our stories from a women’s (or just human) perspective. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Sanne and Celine. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?


At this moment Celine has just graduated the Academy of Performative Arts. Sanne will graduate in June 2019. Sanne has just finished directing a solo about loneliness, which played at the Over het IJ theater festival in Amsterdam. Next year she’ll be directing a theatre play about the resemblance between existential and physical doubt and she is currently working on an EP-release of her band. Celine’s video installation INSIDE, a Panorama of Anxiety, about how anxiety is related to the body, has just premiered and will be playing on several festivals. Next year she will develop several projects investigating the boundaries and crossovers of film, visual arts, theatre and opera. You can find and follow her upcoming projects on www.celinedaemen.com. Next year, after Sanne’s graduation, we will make a new film that will build on The woman who wanted to be infinite. By making this last production we really found each other as creative partners and we very much look forward to work together again. We just started on these themes and would like to develop them further. We are still searching for the right producers and hope to find funding, so we can realise our artistic dreams. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers meets

Yasmin Marroum Lives and works in Amman, Jordan

I am Yasmin Marroum. I was born on the 3rd of June, 1990 on a hot summer day at 2:00pm. I like to produce and direct my own short films. I also like to act on stage where I feel myself the most through body language. I finished studying Media Design in the department of Design & Visual Communication at the German Jordanian University, Amman. I finished a year and a half as an exchange student at the Fachhochschule Mainz, Germany. During my stay in Germany, I completed my graduation project at Mainz and continued on to an internship at Pariser Hoftheater in Weisbaden. In 2015, upon my return to Amman, I pursued a teaching career at the Ahliyyah School for Girls as a Drama and Theatre teacher. Later on in 2016, I was positioned as a Producer/Director for the Jordanian Armed Forces, producing and directing various films that expressed the military culture in Jordan. Throughout my career as both a filmmaker and a theatrical person, I worked on various film projects for local artists. I viewed this as a change for me to spread my ideas and receive feedback on them to allow me to grow in my industry. My main aim, as mentioned before, is to expand my skill set, knowledge, and gain experience in the field of filmmaking, production and theatre. Particularly in turning ideas into profitable films, putting together a creative and talented cast and crew and being responsible for all aspects of a film’s/theatre’s production. Filmmaking and theatre as a career has taught me that without commitment to the idea, putting extra time, and looking for practical ways to solve set issues, will lead to genuine production. It is often difficult to stay true to one’s idea of a script; however, the challenge is in maintaining it and adapting it. Other than my career as a filmmaker, I work at the family business at Henry Marroum & Sons, a chemicals and instruments trading company established in 1950. I am an account manager and handling all the logistics. What I am gaining from this experience is exposure to something not familiar to me. It’s teaching me how to adapt my strategy with people and to always focus on organization. Recently, I was invovled in a visual theatre play that talks about the human condition. The play was demonstarated by the actors bodies. There was no dialogue; the dialogue was spoken through our moevement. The peice talked about the human struggles especially in the middle east. We won three awards: Best integraged performance, Best Director and Best Scenography.

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

Andante is a captivating dance short film by

Jordanian director Yasmin Marroum: exploring a woman's state of mind that shifts depending on where life takes her, this work address the viewers to such heightened and multilayered experience. Featuring brilliant approach to


composition and unconventional cinematography, Andante is a successful attempt to create a captivating allegory of human condition: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Marroum’ s multifaceted and stimulating artistic production. Hello Yasmin and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your artistic evolution as a director? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum due to your Jordanian roots direct the trajectory of your artistic research? First off, thank you for having me. It is an honor to receive such an award and to be recognized as a professional artist. It would be unjust to say that my upbringing in Jordan and the Middle East did not influence my work. It mostly comes down to the society I was brought up in and how my family raised me. While the Middle East is notoriously known for being a closed-minded community, on the contrary, Jordan hosts various artistic performances and features for me to be able to express my artistic passion. First and foremost, growing up in Amman while being part of the Ahlyah School for Girls gave me an opportunity that had to be taken advantage of. The school offered courses and workshops for Ballet, Drama, and Theatre; which I was a part of. The school, as well as my family, helped orient me towards fine arts and theatre in a way that was supportive and pushed me to excel significantly. As I grew up Ballet

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Women Cinemakers was no longer the centerpiece of my life and theatre began to take over. By the time I graduated I was conflicted between choosing design, filmmaking, or production. Eventually by the time I entered the German Jordanian University, I decided to go into Graphic Design. The transition between Highschool and University, played a huge role in shaping my emotions and my overall individual perspective. It was a slight shock to compare my easy-going Highschool life to my University life. Socially it was a difficult time, since the atmosphere I was put in during Highschool was more accepting of arts and individualism. When I started university, the people I surrounded myself with where of a very different background, acceptance and tolerance became an issue. Fast forward into my senior year of university and my major has changed from Graphic Design to Filmmaking; my attitude also changed and my confidence in film grew. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Andante, an extremely interesting dance 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/208294255. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the concept of identity is the way you have provided the results of your artistic research with such refined aesthetic, inviting the viewers to such a multilayered experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of Andante,


would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? Andante was a result from various changes and adaptations of a certain idea. It all started with a back story which turned into a script, which later became a dance film. The idea for the final production was inspired from various dimensions of my life. However, the major inspirations where from music such as Radiohead, Frederic Chopin, and the score from the film “Candy�. The whole story was based on the idea of existence and the various emotions we feel while experiencing life. It all circles

around questions such as; what is the purpose of life? How did this happen?... There is no conclusion to all the sequence of questions from this existential theme. On the other hand, answers to such questions can either instill a great amount of faith or render a person to take life in a negative sense. Depression is the main symptom of such existentialism. The original idea was supposed to be a film which is character driven to do so much more than just tell a satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and an end. It can clarify the essential value of human


existence. Elle, the main character in “Andante”, is depressed which leads her to become an alcoholic to numb the pain of her over analytical mind. Giving focus on the character’s condition with her struggle of presence would introduce the idea of hope when she meets Dann, the second character. By the end, all Elle can see is blue as she realizes that it does not matter if she finds hope or not, because it is what she feels from the inside. In the film she hits rock bottom and loses control over her mind. To me, Elle symbolizes people that reject the idea of life as we know it today. The audience should be

able to identify with Elle’s character from the unfairness of life. She is an empty, lonely, and devoid 23-year-old thinker. After my story and script were written, I decided to develop the script into a dance video, which would illustrate these emotions in a more expressional and flexible way. Initially, the music in the film was supposed to be “All is Full of Love” by Bjork. The music would have worked, but Frederic Chopin was what spoke to me. Eventually “Nocturne in F major, Op 15, and no. 1” Andante Cantabile by Frederic Chopin was the song.


Elegantly shot, Andante features stunning cinematography by Lukas Rauterberg and Kevin Otiam: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? There were two videos which were integrated together, and each video had a separate theme. The two videos were the dance scenes and the outdoor nature clips. Two opposing themes, one to describe the emotion of dance in a void space, while the other showed nostalgic, painful, yet beautiful memories. All was shot by hand without using any additional equipment, and thanks to Kevin and Lukas, the movement of the camera with the dancers was more than perfect. The camera perfectly swayed and followed the dancers according to the emotion set. In the beginning it was smooth then becoming more aggressive as the characters fall into a struggle and conflict. Similarly, the nature videos were made to seem as memories, the camera was not supposed to be steady and clear, but quick in motion and to make the footage seem blurred as if it was a lost memory. The camera played a huge role in the film and the main reason everything was done in handheld was due to the low budget at the time. The camera used was a Canon EOS 5D with a 200 mm lens. As you have remarked in your director's statement, Andante is about a woman's state of mind that shifts depending on where life takes her: would you tell us

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Women Cinemakers how important was for you to make a personal film, about something you knew a lot? This film was most definitely an expression of something i have already experienced and the point of it was to make it personal. At the time, I started writing the script and my thoughts on paper, it was at the time when I was taking a major step in my life by moving from Jordan to Germany to continue my studies. The whole idea started with writing down my faults and what I view as detrimental in my actions. From that, the work started coming on its own and the idea came to life. The emotions that Elle were experiencing where definitely an extension to what I was feeling and what I was jotting down. Sound and visual are crucial in your practice and we have appreciated the way the sound tapestry by Merve Bebek provides the footage of Andante with such an ethereal and a bit unsettling atmosphere: how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? For my dance video, I chose the first Nocturne “Nocturne in F major, Op 15, and no. 1� Andante Cantabile by Frederic Chopin. It starts off with a calm and beautiful mood, ruffled by a sudden storm and eventually it goes back to being calm. The first time I heard this music I thought this will be the perfect tract for the theme of my


project. The first minute is the opening of the story, where I felt the subject of my story should be introduced performing a scene of feelings: a state of melancholia. The second part of the music is calm and serene, where both subjects in the story express hope, love, and happiness. The third part of the music is smooth yet aggressive, where both subjects start by fighting but eventually they end up fighting themselves, which leads the subjects to come to an understanding and dwell in their own affairs. The movement has been choreographed and studied to go along with the tones, highs, and lows of the music. Moreover, Merve was able to capture the sound of the waves splashing and the different noises you would find on a river bank to give the nature clips some life. Featuring well-orchestrated choreography, Andante involves the audience into a heightened visual experience, urging them to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: what are you hoping Andante will trigger in the spectatorship? In particular, how important is for you to address the viewer's imagination in order to elaborate personal associations? Initially this was not meant to be seen by the masses, but it made it through. The emotions and relations from audience were taken into consideration and the emotions that I wanted triggered were ones relating to each person’s life. However, there is a bigger theme, one

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Women Cinemakers that related to women and their own narrative. The audience should feel the ups and downs of this specific character but at the same time relate to a larger social issue we are facing. On an individual level, feelings of anxiety and depression causing overthinking took center stage. While on a larger level, it is the struggle of a woman that should be the center piece. The film is very much subjective to the audience with a general tone of struggle. The viewer’s imagination was not taken into account, since such a film may relate to any person in a society; the emotions portrayed are ones everyone feels. Emotions that make all of us human. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? Body language is universal, it speaks words that we all understand, it is louder than speech. I think the statement “it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable� by Gerhard Richter is an accurate representation for what and how strong body language is. My ideas revolve around feeling of rage, annoyance, sadness, melancholia, and hatred. To exhibit such ideas,


one needs to think a little outside the box rather than doing it in conventional ways. The ideas that I have are more of self-struggles and I always find ways to portray that indirectly in my films. Also, I wanted to make the work as relatable to any person as possible, to leave room for personal reflection. - We have appreciated the way your approach to dance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? To be honest, there was no improvisation at all. It was all practiced, calculated and considered. I tried to avoid making mistakes as much as possible. Camera movement and the dance itself were worked on for more than two months, around 3 times a week. The plan was to demonstrate the dance as a live performance and project the nature video on the dancers. Another idea was to use a split screen to the contrast between the two worlds that we as humans struggle with from day to day life and our inner emotions. The film was to showcase the limited freedom we have, what we struggle with from inside and what we portray in the day-to-day life. After a lot of discussion, we came to the conclusion to have a full dance video using the natural movement of the camera to depict the feeling that we are trying to expose.

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Women Cinemakers Before leaving this conversation, we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary cinema. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional director? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? Frankly speaking, it is quite a roller-coaster ride to be a director with eccentric and unconventional ideas in a country like Jordan. No one would take such ideas in a serious manner. Furthermore, it is difficult for a woman to bring forth new ideas and concepts in Arab Nations; but we still try our best. The best example for such obstacles can be exemplified in my experience at the Jordan Armed Forces where I worked as a producer / director. The position was to produce high quality 3minute films that depict the strength and efficiency of the army, however, I faced many challenges by virtue of being a woman. To be fair, I was the only woman in a male dominated setting where all the orders would come from me. One can only imagine the tension that built up, but that was overcome by encouraging the crew to work as a team. The future of women in the film industry is not as gloomy as explained; there is hope and a future. Many women are part of this industry and not only as actresses, but also as producers, directors, directors of


photography, and much more. Only time can show what the future will hold, but I am very optimistic. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Yasmin. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Again, thank you for having me and making me a part of this community. At the moment, I am working on another experimental short film called “Buried in Space.� It talks about the struggle between the conscious and the subconscious mind. It will be a short film also about a young woman detaching herself from her ego and pride. The young woman goes through a series of emotional lapses using her body as a canvas and her movements as the brush. Eventually during the film, the character would split into two, the duality of her existence. One showing her image from the outside and what people see and the other is her inner state. Both characters struggle to break free from one another and mend back together through a series of contemporary dance moves. I would love to have a feature film in the future tackling similar thoughts on a bigger and deeper scale. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers meets

Claire Villacorta city-scape is an ongoing video, dance, performance collaboration that serves as a linguistic intervention; a stand-in for “city that escapes.” Cruz and Villacorta examine the notion of fleeting identities in relation to cities and bodies within their hometown of Manila – its historicities and contexts respective to the particular spaces they work with. A visible, queer Asian male body (Cruz) is examined through the optic of an invisible female observer (Villacorta) as they maneuver their way around aesthetics and dance as manifestations of resistance. In the light of the global and digital age, their respective identities undergo fluid transitions. This particular body of work explores gestures of the digital – how performances and gestures dissipate through a digital platform. Through digital rendering, the “city that escapes” is explored as both process and dialogue. It posits a counternarrative about bodies and cities in its fleeting nature as well as the inscribed postcolonial and decolonial tendencies of the intent by the two authors (Cruz and Villacorta) and the respective contexts they play with and operate from. Lastly, city-scape explores an interesting trajectory as it valorizes the female optic. Although the subject is a queer male, there lies an operative and transgressive paradox that turns the inherent gestures in the work into a progressive otherwise. It creates a new, contested space for the opening up of new identities and socio-political contexts to reassess in relation to contemporary sexualities. Gian Cruz (b.1987) and Claire Villacorta (b.1975) are two artists living and working in Manila, Philippines. Cruz is an artist/photographer/art critic while Villacorta is a graduate student/videographer actively involved in zinemaking and the archiving of independently printed matter. Their collaborative video project is city-scape. A linguistic intervention for a “city that escapes”, the video explores the duo’s respective identities through their relationships with different spaces in Manila, by way of dance and performance. Since embarking on the project in 2013, they have had exhibitions in Norway, Romania, Spain, Germany, Philippines, Argentina, Israel, Korea, to name a few. Some of their most notable exhibitions include Verbo 2018 Mostra de Performance Arte 14ª edição, Jornadas de Reflexión Analogicó-Digital (in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism of the University of Buenos Aires), Manila Pollination of the London Biennale and the Transart Triennale in 2016 and Performance Art Oslo in 2013.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Claire and welcome to : we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you are currently pursuing

your M.A. in Art Studies, majoring in Art Theory and Criticism at the University of the Philippines: how did this experience influence your artistic evolution? Moreover, how does your address your artistic research? I have always been fascinated with the flaneur, mainly from watching the arresting images of flanerie in French New Wave


cinema. Stylish aesthetics of the French New Wave aside, I myself am no stranger to the mundanity of cafĂŠ dwelling, people-watching and "blending" in a crowd that I have, more often than not, felt at odds with in the city where I currently live - Manila - which also happens to be the city I grew up in. CafĂŠs also happen to be the places I inhabit in order to ponder and sharpen the reflexivity required of the course work for my graduate program, for lack of cozy public libraries inside and outside of the university. Spaces that are created specifically for the pursuit of academic scholarship don't seem to have the environmental comforts of the student in mind, and the struggle between maximising government funds and efforts to privatise come into play, and it's an excruciatingly slow process. Most libraries are private and are only accessible to the students that have immediate access to them. Writing and creating within the quietude of the home environment has not entirely worked for me, either, since a typical Filipino home means dealing with your family on a daily basis - unless you happen to live alone. Ideas borne out of my domestic private space can't seem to flourish in my own home because it is a space for unwinding with loved ones, restful distractions and hibernation. Therefore, I get a lot of my inspiration for my creative pursuits by interacting with spaces outside of the home. University life takes me 20 kilometres away from where I live, so I get to be away from my immediate surroundings. The academic environment is less cosmopolitan than what I am used to, and over time, its community has witnessed the deteriorative state of our university in terms of the imminent danger of old physical structures falling apart. We have lost buildings to fires - buildings that have housed a lifetime of archives that have not all been digitised. While that can easily dampen the collective spirit of faculty and students and everyone concerned within the community, I can only hope that the academic superbness of our graduate program is not compromised in the process. Active discussions in the classroom on place, space and the everyday have opened my eyes to how I could discursively tackle and frame these concepts, whether I attempt to write about them or translate them into the digital realm. I was also delighted to know that there is a concept of place and space with the idea of being on the move, or in transit, that can be articulated as valid aesthetic experiences. Contrast of environment is also necessary to be able to hold a firm grasp in the articulation of place and space - and the idea of having traveled to First World cities also helps put the idea of cosmopolitanism into perspective. It says a lot about urban planning, of the expatriate culture that adds to the

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Women Cinemakers multiculturalism concentrated only in these cosmopolitan spaces, the evolving coffeehouse culture and of safer spaces. And yet Manila is still a Third World city, in spite of this supposed cultural boom. Social realism has been done through and through, and has been the most creatively "packaged" concept, in terms of "selling" the image of our country to an international film audience. I don't think it's an intentional representation. It's just that a lot of narratives happen to touch on the theme, and there are a lot of filmmakers worthy of critical praise that are already thriving in this artistic terrain. My own creative life, on the other hand, is a dichotomy. When I write, I focus on the autobiographical storytelling or creative nonfiction. When it comes to digital video projects like city-scape, I would rather not focus on reality, but on the homage to the flaneur as a displaced figure within the cosmopolitan spaces of Manila, feeling his way around a contextual plane laden with colonial histories of architecture and self-aware lenses of mirror-imaging of cities. It may have nothing to do with distinctly local expressions of our culture, but it has a multitude of things to reveal about space as constantly developing, cosmopolitan place as a First World clone and Filipino identity as being more worldly on account of being traveled and exposed to developing/developed Asian cities, on top of bearing a past history of being colonised. There is also that layer of gender - the female optic, which is me, filming and hidden from view, experiencing open spaces vicariously through an openly gay man. This attempt to queer the space is an exploration of our public safety after broad daylight. Martial law in the seventies to early eighties had rendered spaces safe, with the imposition of curfews. However, safely was only relative to those who weren't political targets. Even with the current administration's war on drugs, gender violence and unreported stories on police raids shared within the confines of social media, the impending fear of martial law hangs over our heads. (As of this writing, Mindanao, a Muslim region south of the Philippines, is under martial law to curb ongoing acts of rebellion involving firearms and terrorism, and an extension has been upheld by the Supreme Court until the end of the year. Its constitutionality has been questioned and while it is far away and we are culturally removed from Mindanao, this display of power only means that martial law can be declared anytime.) And just like the example of social realism I brought up, it doesn't entirely represent us as a race or culture, either. But city-scape as our digital offering is what reflects our reciprocity to neighbouring cities and spaces and the desire for the familiar and unfamiliar. It's what we give back to the


world, especially after taking all our experiences in and translating them into a visual articulation of sorts. The videos have also done their own share of traveling and finding their art audiences. And how we continue to dance around these concepts is our way of further exploring how much further we can go. For this special edition of we have selected , an interesting ongoing video, dance, performance collaborative project that you created with Gian Cruz and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: what has particularly impressed us of your insightful inquiry into is the way you provided the results of your work with captivating aesthetics and coherent visual unity. When walking our readers through the genesis of would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?

I was able to take a film elective a year before I finalised the very first city-scape video. It was a spin-off from an original film I completed for the elective called Flaneurs In Love, wherein two men who gave off hints of their actual personalities dance away their respective highs and lows before a chance meeting between them takes place. I chose dance as a medium of expression and communication because it was the best way for me not to deal with dialogue or a clear-cut narrative. I happened to be watching a lot of silent films at the time, and was drawn to movement with little to no sound at all. Maya Deren's short films involving dance totally blew me away because they conveyed how there were no limits to the use of space and how connectivity is highly possible between or among distinctly different spaces. I would definitely give a nod to Pina Bausch's unconventional approaches to ballet. The inspiration is definitely there in terms of situating ourselves in relation to our surroundings, though I can't really say that we have


gone as far as challenging the physical limits of bodies with erratic movements brought about by the quality of emotional intensity, as we are still reconciling emotions with performativity as something that comes naturally. It's a continuing, exploratory thing as we are always on the lookout for locations and the spaces within to work with for city-scape. Robert Longo's "Men in the Cities" series also resonates with us in terms of the stylishly cleancut male and female "dancers" in the given frame, trying to cut loose or break free from a certain convention - minus the monumental scale of the hand-drawn medium and iconographic aspects that the series is known for. While working with two flaneurs served its purpose for the duration of the course, I felt that I didn't just want it to just start and end with a film elective. It was interesting to see how the characters were developed in relation to the city and each other, but I also couldn't see a future beyond their encounter, either. Gian Cruz, whom I had

cast as one of the flaneurs, saw the potential of a continuing project, with him retaining his character. On camera, his depiction of a flaneur was more natural between the two. So I shamelessly edited the other guy out (since we were no longer friends at one point), and city-scape was realised from there. It was easier to work with the ambiguity of having only one flaneur relate to his surroundings because it allows for breathing space, especially for the layers of discourse to unfold. It gave more room for the articulation of the unseen "observer", which is where I come in, because in a way, the flaneur is an extension of myself. He inhabits the spaces I inhabit. It is an exploration for both of us to venture in these spaces that are coded as "safe", because there are always threats of gender violence in the streets that perhaps have everything and nothing to do with political activism. Everything because we have a misogynist in power who actually stated that women should be shot in the pussy with an rifle, and nothing


because women, both straight and queer, and queer men just want to go about their daily commute safely without having to end up at a rally. Even something as everyday as taking public transport or driving alone is a struggle for safety. Likewise with the simple act of walking. At present, city-scape is a trilogy and it won't end there. The first video gives you an inkling of how the flaneur preoccupies himself when out into the town, most notably with the books he reads in the French text. His worldliness is met with a locality of pretences, and both fantasy and reality somehow collide with how we chose to re/present the contextual space. The second video was set within a confined, private space and environmental sound. Outside of the visible space, particularly over the wall, is public space, and the only evidence we have of it is the sound itself. The third video deals with a cosmopolitan space that boasts of its global expansion by building more condos. In spite of having the end consumer in mind, which is the feeling of home, the space actually feels soulless; hence, the flaneur's robotic movements in his dance. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have established with artist Gian Cruz are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? Gian was there from the very beginning. We're actually from the same graduate program. So he was very accessible for the first 2 videos since city-scape's inception in 2012. These days, however, we have to schedule our shoots around the demands of thesis writing, ongoing projects and our personal lives. At the time the first video was fleshed out in 2013, he was embarking on an ongoing self- portraiture project called "You as Me", wherein he had friends, acquaintances and people he had just encountered to don his usual threads - a button down white shirt with a tie, a blazer and blackrimmed frames. He would photograph his subjects against a plain white wall. He works with black and white photography, and he really dresses like a flaneur in the European sense of the word. Both "You as Me" and city-scape deal with identity and performativity in similar and in also very different ways, so I guess you could say that our works communicate with each other without necessarily being directly connected to one another.

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Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers Since Gian became the main flaneur and city-scape was a spin-off that has no acknowledgment of what preceded it, he has been more involved with the conceptual process of our work, rather than being merely a visual talent who dances through space in front of the camera. Between the two of us, he is always on the lookout for art spaces and exhibitions that are thematically suitable for cityscape. Featuring gorgeous cinematography and keen eye to details, each shot of is carefully orchestrated with a veritĂŠ-style, to work within the when shooting and overall structure: what were your conceiving the chreography? I'm very flattered that you see it that way. Thank you. It means a lot. I definitely wanted to shoot in black and white because I have always loved the aesthetics of both film and photography in black and white. French New Wave cinema also happened to be in black and white. And it's an aesthetic that works best with a flaneur in the picture. It's also an aesthetic that is very unlike our local predisposition to colour, which can range from arid saleability of goods to heightened levels of eyesore tantamount to the promotion of tourism culture. Anything done in black and white is considered aesthetically "old" or unsellable in this tedious, market-driven society. That said, I have the penchant for the old, and having learned black and white photography as a hobby many years ago (before SLRs were even digital), it's an artistic preference or sensibility that stuck with me over time. I wanted to relate this seemingly "old" aesthetic with being in the current moment, in the "now". And monochrome has a way of masking the the urban environment itself. Our city then becomes cloaked in anywhere-ness, making the sense of place and displacement within our given space a simultaneous tension. Amidst the tension is a semblance of joy or hope that can be read through the flaneur's body language, in spite of the seriousness he projects as he dances his way around the given spaces. With the dance itself, the movements are free and are entirely based on what Gian is feeling at the moment. I actually don't come from a background of dance as performance, so I'm no choreographer, either. I pretty much follow the flaneur around with a camera and "frame his feelings" on the basis of his movements as best as I could. Every take is never similar, and there is no rehearsal or repetition. At most, there is an initial take wherein Gian is "warming up" before the succeeding takes. Whether the footage gets used or not depends on how I edit. Whatever I shoot is nonlinear; likewise with the editing.


I think the most evident would be the lack of soundtrack to the performance itself. The muted silence that pervades in both city-scape n°1 and n°3 was a conscious decision that also worked with my limitations with the artistry of sound. I did not want to dictate the mood of the city and performance with music, no matter how disconcerting it can get with the experimental side of classical music. I also shot city-scape without music in mind, either. Initially, Gian had been dancing in relation to another flaneur with more of a basis for his identity whilst running the risk of eclipsing the depths of spatial discourse per se. With city-scape n°1, only Gian's flaneur bounces off the city itself, and his sense of identity is formed in relation to its contextual layers. With city-scape n°2, however, I managed to listen to the footage with sound and decided to keep it. Like I said, am no sound artist, but I decided to fiddle around with it by splicing the sound together, with a bit of layering involved. I increased the volume to intensify the mystery of its actual source. The flaneur has a short path and a wall to manoeuvre his way around, and while the mystery resides with the sound, so does the mystery involving what's on the other side of the wall. He does his dance within the confines of private space, one that involves exclusivity where not everyone can gain access to. The sound source is beyond that space, which actually comes from outside the frame, or over the wall, which is a more public realm - hence, the divide between private and public space. cityscape n°3 was all about incorporating a robotic cadence to Gian's free form of dance. It helped that we shot it in a continuously developing city that makes people feel like their souls are being sucked out of them, perhaps because this global expansion did not have most of the Filipino population in mind, especially those who seek a space for leisure. Our personal perceptions of this particular city inspired the form. While the takes were done in one evening, it took a bit of time for me to edit, not only because of the new demands of single motherhood on my part, but it was also painful to watch again and again. I guess the deadening feeling of the city somehow lingered in the footage. has drawn heavily from of the city of Manila and we have highly appreciated the way between space and movement: you have created such insightful how did you select the locations and how did they affect your shooting process? For city-scape n°1, I picked a neighbourhood café at Salcedo Village, which is in the city of Makati, that I myself would frequent and would always sit at the

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A still from


Women Cinemakers terrace, no matter how smoky it got. It was rather dim indoors, so I felt outdoor seating was more suitable for reading, writing or typing. (I would eventually do my long and short edits of the pre-city-scape student film, "Flaneurs in Love" at the very same terrace.) I like people-watching and, occasionally, having short conversations with the waitstaff. I would take walks to the park nearby and either continue reading there or observing workers taking a breather from their evening shifts by walking along the concrete path, or foreign mothers with their children who are still running around in the playground close to midnight (believe it or not). In the video itself, I had Gian almost replicate my cafe terrace routines, minus the use of celfones or laptops and those small exchanges with people. I didn't want to think too long and hard about having him do a production number of sorts at the terrace without the waitstaff thinking I was going nuts filming it, but since other gestures had initially been done with his hands on the table, I guess it was only a matter of time to zero in on those made with his feet while he hovered over the terrace to observe the passersby. I wanted it to feel natural as well, and in a public space obsessed with permits, I wanted to get away with the momentary artistry-in-progress. Surprisingly, the street scenes were met without much difficulty. A vacant parking lot en route to the park gave us the luxury of space to explore how Gian's unchoreographed dance movements could be captured on video. I had to keep up with his pace, since he propelled himself forward pretty fast. And there I was, behind the camera, doing a little unwitnessed dance and leaping of my own. I did the first city-scape in 3 takes - all nighttime shoots - one of which coincided with an event in the park. My spontaneous background cast added to the video's charm - a kid on a scooter must have passed Gian twice. Also, while he strutted on a sidewalk like he was on a fashion runway, a small troop of night riding Vespas appeared from behind. Admittedly, that felt very French New Wave, without really having to try. It felt wonderful to have elements of the neighbourhood emerge in the video without going out of my way to negotiate them, since I was aiming for things to unfold naturally. The main priority was the dance, after all. I think Gian felt comfortable right away with all this space to work with. There was a slightly rough quality to his performance, especially with all that spinning around, but he would slow down with a graceful finish.

I also picked this neighbourhood location because of the multicultural/expatriate presence that is reminiscent of First World Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. In a creative environment that feels the need to assert itself by re/claiming what is Filipino, which gets tiring after a while, I felt that the opposite could be said about my choice of intellectual and cultural habitat. I am home, I feel at home - and at times I do not - and yet current trends in architecture and interior design do not scream of local identity. As a traveler, I also have, to some extent, felt at "home" in other multicultural cities. Even if the Filipino cannot be taken out of me or Gian for that matter, we can always play up the fantasy that we could be whoever and whatever we want to be, given the anonymity of traveling bodies. But using this residential hub of Salcedo Village which is populated by condos and boutique hotels (as well as cultural libraries, banks and BPOs) - as a stand-in for another multicultural city heightens the fantasy that we could be anywhere, even if we happen to be from a Third World city. The cosmopolitan disguise, after all, is not so apparent, even with the seemingly non-evidence of its contextual baggage. city-scape n°2 was shot inside the area where I live. It is a "gated" community, also in Makati, that only residents can access. For reasons of privacy, I won't say where, but as it is, there are several villages within Makati that operate as "gated" communities. The village association issues stickers to residents on a yearly basis for all-access entry to the village gates, located in strategic points, which are strictly monitored by security. Because of where these gates are strategically located within access to areas of the city, one of the known perks of residing in the village is avoiding traffic, which tends to bottleneck outside. Driving through inside can get a resident from Point A to Point B with ease, while those without access deal with the horrible traffic outside. This explains why over the wall where Gian dances on the short path, you can hear a lot of cars outside. Cars do pass inside, but not with the kind of volume and intensity of how much traffic is generated as the public space outside, except perhaps during the rush hour. Inside, the streets are quite still. We just wanted a wall to work with. We also have to respect private property by not shooting in front of houses, but that was not the real reason why we chose the wall. It was for Gian to be given a quiet space to interact with, to bounce off from. It just so happened that the sounds coming


Women Cinemakers from the public (cars) and the private (audible voices) realm had a way of intersecting the space Gian dances in. These are things we don't pay attention to during the shoot itself, but during post-prod, I came to the realisation that the sound itself became an integral part of the discourse. The location for city-scape n°3 is a continuously developing city that was built over a restricted area called Fort Bonifacio which was mainly military housing. Military families had to evacuate the area eventually because the houses would be bulldozed to accommodate a highway. I'm not too certain if that area really became the main highway known as C5 because it seemed too far in its proximity. I did have a childhood friend who lived in that neighbourhood because her father was in the military, and I tried to map out in my mind's eye the ghost of its past - the row of houses from where she grew up - by looking at the view from a window of a (then newly built) high-rise condo. Currently, this area is populated by high-rise condos and buildings, international schools, various areas with shops and restaurants and a few kid-friendly spaces and has since been called The Fort, or Bonifacio Global City, which is in the elegant part of Taguig. The Fort often gets mistaken as Makati territory when it is actually at the border. These spaces are suitable more for its residents than anybody else. People who work in the area can't even afford to dine in the nice restaurants. I find myself there a few times a week and I have to brace myself for spending a huge chunk of my time stuck in traffic or looking for parking, and those who make money off parking lots really don't want you to stay long. It's the last place where I would consider spending long hours having coffee because parking would cost more than my cup of joe. In spite of the life these developers want to inject into these spaces of leisure, with the pretence that it is for the public to enjoy. It's tempting to ask: for whom are these spaces for? I actually was a resident of one of those high-rise condos at one point, and if this was supposed to be "home", then why was I not feeling at home? It had its relative comforts, sure, and no one can just barge into the condo unannounced, either. But I personally felt like I was in a cold and soulless environment, even within the walls of condo living. I remember the night of the shoot itself. Gian and I didn't have a definite location in mind. We parked near a new mall and walked until we found a spot near a home depot. We knew we were aiming for the

robotic feeling without ever having a big discussion about it. Apparently, Gian felt it, too, and he never had to live in the area to experience this soul-sucking vibe. While there were 24-hour cafĂŠs and restaurants as well as a soccer field that surround the home depot, we focused on the home depot because there was a charm in using a backdrop outside of business hours. In spite of the bustling life around it, which we tried as much as possible to leave out, the city was as lifeless as the home depot's "off hours". I guess it became an apt analogy to convey our emotions surrounding this "dead" city. A crucial aspect of your artistic inquiry is centered on and as you have remarked once explores : how does from daily life address you to explore such theme? In particular, do you think that such constant shifts come from the from the outside inner self or it is a consequence of the world? I think the reality wherein I live near spaces in the city that are rendered safe supplies the material for city-scape. Developers are always building something new, and they are always trying to keep up with global architectural trends. I think the buildings that have defined us culturally have been historically associated with Marcosian architecture, which the public politically prefer to shun. So there goes the political divide when it comes to our local art and culture because of all associations with martial law of the seventies up to the eighties, and even if they are still around and very much active, the structures are tainted with historical meaning and little care now is given to their exteriors. New high-rise buildings are associated with big names in global architecture, but that knowledge is only important to those who care. It does not speak much for our cultural identity - only that you need to have the money to be able to buy a condo. Obviously, there are also restrictions given to us because there are less public spaces outside of malls for us to enjoy. The malls get crowded because there are no other spaces of leisure. Our cultural identity must have gone to mall architecture, come to think of it. Mall architecture or not, there always seems to be foreign prototypes for these developing spaces. If I travel to a neighbouring First World Asian City for a few days and choose to stay in only one area - like a


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers shopping destination populated by tourists - and come back home, it would only feel like I never really left because things are starting to feel all too familiar. (Maybe it's because a lot of the tourists who want to shop are also Filipino, and I also see them here in my hometown.) Perhaps we have levelled up in terms of aesthetics, especially where cosmopolitan spaces are concerned, but that's where it really begins and ends. (Don't get me started on the existing traffic schemes, though this is already outside of city-scape territory.) I would say that I don't allow pressure from the outside world, because that would be succumbing to cultural shame. Truth be told, I don't feel shameful at all about projecting an identity that is neither here nor there, that seems like it's always elsewhere because it's as much of a reality as it is a fantasy. Of course, this may not apply to Filipinos in general - just those who feel they could be more and do more with either our existing spaces, or maybe elsewhere. Yes, there is that fantasy of flight, too. But by being here in Manila, at times with the feeling of being stuck and stifled by the environment, we try to make the most out of a "city that escapes". I guess the constant shifts from the inner self apply more here, and it also entails facing our true feelings about the city. It can be depressing, regardless of its perks and relative comforts. Trying to be brave about taking my camera out at night is also part the whole thematic exploration process as well as a testing ground for safety. I always felt that the negative elements of the city held me back creatively, and I would always feel conscious about bringing an SLR or DSLR around. We have been impressed with of and we daresay that your practice seems to reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's quote, when he stated that It seems that you aim to address the viewers in order to unveil the hidden layers beneath that which is visible: you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? You could say that. I'm actually happy that the city-scape trilogy has found audiences that look for those not-so-visible layers beyond the mere dismissal of Eurocentric whitewashing of a dandy Filipino male fulfilling his Francophile fantasy on video. Though it does run the risk of the latter


provocations, and I know that It would be beyond my control as well as Gian's. However, the provocations could be a huge part of the discourse, too, and it could lead to even more questions...but what if that's how he chooses to dress and present himself on a daily basis, in real life? Does it necessarily erase his identity? Does it make him less of a Filipino? Where is he, anyway? Is this the Philippines? A city in Manila? It looks like he could be in a foreign city. I'm not sure how the thought processes of our viewers operate, but I would imagine that it could be something like that, upon first look. I think what would make all the difference is the knowledge of, or acknowledgment of, gazes that are both female and queer. But I know that insights are always different across cultures and sometimes, the feedback can be something that actually never occurred to me before. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ": as an artist particularly interested in , how do you consider the role of artist in our unstable and globalised contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to ? I think this instability stems from living with inner - and perhaps even outer (in terms of how artists choose to physically, or even visually, represent themselves to the world) - contradictions of identity, race, sexuality, gender and class and finding ways to reconcile these intersections, no matter how conflicted artists are, through artistic practice. We can already think along the lines of how we represent ourselves to the world not only because of the Internet and social media, but also in our engagement with contemporary art and its direction towards the global. There is a social aspect to contemporary art wherein we are encouraged to jump into existing conversations in art. Otherwise, you and I would not be having this conversation in the first place. I have also been doing a similar kind of global exchange with zinesters from other parts of the world, and it looks like there is a precedent to my travelling video because my own zines have done their share of travelling, too, and finding their audience. Zines also encourage conversation on shared ideas and materiality. I'm actually not aware of whether my work responds to particular cultural moments. I just produce, and they may or may not resonate with the times. I guess I'm better at being in-step with a cultural moment rather than having

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers to come up with a direct response to one. If anything, I have the tendency to respond to what is lacking in my area of artistic research. also valorizes , so before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I've always stood by my work, no matter how unpopular, or whether it gets critiques for coming from a perspective and position of privilege. And it has not at all discouraged me from making art in whatever form. I march to the beat of my own drum and am more often than not sure of what I want to do, at least creatively. In terms of "seeking" audiences who may be interested in my craft, I don't like limiting myself to local audiences because they don't always get where I'm coming from. I also feel that while promoting my work is important, I'm the worst self-promoter ever. Or at least I try to manage my expectations when it comes to getting my work out there. Though I like the idea of my own work finding its audience where I least expect it. I think women who have who have strong inclination to produce work within the contemporary art scene will continue to do so, no matter how unconventional the approach. It's encouraging to see a lot of local women artists producing provocative art throughout the years, working with mixed media and installation with something very meaningful to say, whether they come from a strong feminist standpoint or not, as long as the female gaze is there - or that element of challenging spectatorship. Some have also played on environmental themes that are well thought out and, to an extent, delve Into the exploration of women's bodies in the process. The works of Filipina artists are worthy of representation within the international art world, and they do seize the opportunities to travel in order to share and impart their passions for artistic practice. Their work can also travel without them, especially if they have gallery representation.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Claire. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? The pleasure is mine. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss the city-scape trilogy and everything in relation to it. Your questions helped me feel more attuned to the experiences of making city-scape happen. Most definitely, Gian and I plan to expand the trilogy by either exploring comfort zones that are nearer and dearer to him - since we had started off with my safe space - or just venture outside of these comfort zones altogether. I think the braver we get, the more we get to challenge our notions of space and place. I read a thesis online on the flaneur in French New Wave cinema, and apparently, flaneuring can be applied to city driving as well. I do a lot of city driving myself, and it would be interesting to be filmed while driving this long stretch, cutting across cities within the national capital region. An obvious evolution here would be to "come out" from behind the camera and to discuss the contextual flaneuse for a change. I also want to do something along the lines of framing single motherhood and plunging into it in my early forties, but I have not sorted out the medium or digital format for it. Apart from my work with video, am very much involved with the print medium. I have been making zines on-and-off since 1999, and while I have focused on writing for the most part, I have been more inclined towards the visual. I have been producing straight to paper ink drawings using my toddler's favourite pages from his storybooks as reference material. I find this process cathartic because drawing relaxes me, probably because I am so used to thinking and beating myself over what to write with alarming regularity. I dubbed this fan art a "visual mixtape", with about 16 pages of my storybook renditions in ink reproduced on coloured paper and cut into loose leaf sheets that are meant to be scattered. While there was an obvious basis for selecting my son's favourite pages, each were hand-drawn with the care that is placed in curating a mixtape for a special friend, one that takes time and a lot of love.


Women Cinemakers meets

Anna Athanasiou Lives and works in Berlin, Germany

“Captiva” is a brief story of acceptance. Searching for love is a journey full of self-exploration, new experiences and acquaintances. My darkest thoughts, fears and insecurities can become formidable obstacles in my path and create forced restrictions. Using the BDSM culture as an allegory and being especially inspired by the Japanese Shibari bondage technique, I find absolute freedom by having my body immobilized. This vulnerability, the exposure and the complete submission turn into a mentally liberating sensation. However, love lies within self acceptance and beyond limitations. Anna Athanasiou is a Greek dance artist based in Berlin. She is using her art, her body and her imagination as tools to express her world. Throughout her career she has found herself in different stages of production and creation. She equally enjoys being a dancer at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, a choreographer at the European Games in Baku and other independent productions, a professional dance educator and actually an artist, who's aim is to create a multidisciplinary artistic language. “Captiva” is her first short film conception as a producer, director and performer on screen.

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

Hello Anna 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 you graduated

with a BA in Dance, that you received from the State School of Dance in Athens: you also attended intensive courses in Contemporary and Modern Dance, as well as Classical ballet and Choreography: how did these experiences influence the interdisciplinary nature of your creative process? Morever, how does your due to your Greek roots and


Women Cinemakers its releationship with your current life in Berlin direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Hello and thank you very much for including me and my short film in this issue of . Yes, I do have a solid dance background, but my curiosity has opened many other artistic doors and I am glad to consider myself as an artist, beyond specification or specialization only in the dance field. Throughout my education years I studied History of Art and History of Music. This way my horizons were expanded and my mind was given the ingredients it needed to create images that did not necessarily focus only on dance. Later on, I started working with various artists, directors and choreographers who have diverse backgrounds, which contributed to my knowledge and added to my palette of inspiration. Using stage lights, experimenting with colors or simply choosing music for my works has become more of a natural habit rather than an effort. I have so many different references and the more I work as an artist, the more I care about details and the meaning behind them. The core of my interdisciplinary work. Being born in Athens, a city with such enormous cultural heritage, has definitely sculpted my aesthetics. Moreover, my father Petros Athanasiou who is also an artist, introduced me to Greek mythology and history, two of his favorite inspirational themes. So, I was exposed to them from an early age and I still recognize this influence in my visions. Moving to Berlin was and still is an eye-opening experience, I swim in a sea full of

mixed cultures and I am lucky to meet so many other artists. Contemporary art and other modern influences, cultures and artistic movements have each given me an element to be inspired by. I guess the Athenian spirit is the base and everything else fell on top of it to create this interesting mixture that is living in me and forms my creativity. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance 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 insightful inquiry into is the way it hightlights , to invite the viewers to a captivating and multilayered visual experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The original idea of came to me after participating in a Japanese Shibary Bondage workshop in Berlin. In the beginning it wasn't shaped completely, but this experience was very intense, clearly something in me was shook. Weeks after, I slowly started unraveling this puzzled feeling. There was a great contrast between the feeling of freedom I noticed and the fact that I was completely immobilized by the Shibari ropes. It intrigued my imagination and made me question my personal behaviors. I started thinking


Women Cinemakers of an allegory based on this contradiction, a story that would show my personal journey. The boundaries and the patterns I had developed, certainly gave me a sense of freedom and control, but the truth was that they only held me back. I had to demolish these walls and let go of these ideas in order to let my true self be revealed and to start to connect substantially and fundamentally with me and other people. This meaningful connection and love, this self-exploration journey is the idea behind my short film. We have appreciated the way your approach to choreography conveys and at the same time reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and ? How much importance does play in your process? Choreography could be created based on fixed ideas and kinetic material as well as improvisational techniques and spontaneity. I don't chose by default either the first or the second method, personally I enjoy both and most of the times I use these tools equally. Both are valuable procedures. Depending on the occasion and the subject, when I am at the studio and I have a certain idea I want to work on, I make sure there is always room for fresh input or another view. It is important to me to concentrate on a subject and explore as many aspects of it as I can, but I try as much as possible to stay open to potential changes. It is a

long process and it usually takes time, but I have to admit that usually the best outcome happens when I am challenged with the unknown. Improvisation provides me with this element of surprise and it pushes me further in understanding my initial idea. For this film, I already had in mind some of the choreography and the shots I wanted to have, I had visualized the skeleton . During the shooting many other scenes of happened impromptu. It wasn't until later, while editing, when I realized the importance of these scenes and how much I learned by “playing around� at the studio. Rich with allegorical qualities, uses BDSM culture and more specifically Japanese Shibari bondage technique to explore the relationship between and : how did you come up to the idea of combining such apparently opposites concept? Moreover, how important was for you to , about a theme that you know make a lot about? With the Shibari bondage technique one is basically tighten up with special ropes, there is no possibility to move the arms or legs and some times one can even be suspended from a height. While experimenting with the ropes I have come to realize that I have to let go of all control in order to avoid this panicking feeling that quickly takes over my mind. I have to give in to this lack of mobility which for me – being a dancer - is a very difficult task. It makes me uncomfortable and vulnerable


Women Cinemakers and it brings at the same time a powerful sensation of freedom. Letting go in a safe environment forces a calm and soothing feeling in every cell of my body and it brings me mentally in almost a meditative state. The calmness under these circumstances was a personal revelation since the first time I tried it. How vulnerability can be strength. Although it is a personal experience, it feels universal, that is why I decided to communicate it with others and with an audience. This film is about a human experience which to me occurred after taking part in a workshop, but to others could appear in other ways. I believe that all ideas come from within us, from our point of view and our paths and I am no different from all the other artists who want to share their truth and vision. Inspiration can come from what we see, what we feel, what we hear and if it speaks to our hearts, then it is worth exploring. you sapiently mix realism of choreographic In gestures with surreal qualities of the ambience, and we have appreciated the way such coherent combination addresses your audience to a multilayered experience. Austrian historian Ernst Gombrich once remarked the importance of providing a space for the vaudience to project onto, so that they can in the creation of the illusion: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate ? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? We don't always understand an art piece or an artistic expression and I believe that this is mostly happening because we cannot relate to it. Art perception is purely


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers objective and so many contradicting factors contribute to forming it, our lives, our character, our past, our upbringing, the way we sense the world etc. An artistic point could and should be explained, but I don't think that its purpose is to always be accepted or understood. As artists, we are given a platform and an alternative means to communicate. With my work I am offering a piece of me and in return I might have the chance to speak to the audience, to move them emotionally, to open a discussion. Of course I appreciate being understood, but I might as well not be, as in any conversation. On the other hand, I do also appreciate as a viewer and as a creator, the mystery and vagueness of art. I value art that speaks to the heart, without having to be explained every thoroughly. I think this gives the artists the respect and freedom to make their point and at the same time it is offering the audience space to connect and feel more related to it. So, yes I too agree that an explanation is needed to a certain extend as it would an argument in a conversation. The audience's view would be the next argument thrown into this conversation. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that " ": how do you consider the relation between of the ideas you aim to communicate and of creating your artworks?


Women Cinemakers There are surely many different approaches to that and endless ways of expressing your ideas. Creating demands that you put part of you, a part of your soul into the process and the final result and that already makes it less abstract, even though the idea behind it could be. I need to have the mental and physical connection in order to understand a situation and translate it. I am nevertheless a professional dancer and I have chosen to express emotions and thoughts through my body and through movement. It inevitably adds to my need and intention of having my own physical way. It just comes naturally to me. Once I connect my intellect and physical self, the bond is unbreakable. Afterwards, it is only a matter of hard work and organizing, so that this personal journey can be molded into an art piece. Sound plays an important role in your film and we have appreciated the way it provides its footage with such an : how did you create such captivating soundtrack? And how do you see ? I am very lucky to be surrounded by other artists in my life, people who share similar passion for art as me, each one on their chosen field. Many of them are musicians. This film would have never happened without the incredible help of a bunch of friends: Arthur Pegis (music), Emmanuel Levedianos (camera) and Orestis Chatzitheodorou (editing) and Adonis Vais. These people believed in my project and offered their


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Women Cinemakers artistry without a second thought. Arthur is a great musician so, knowing his work and his aesthetics, I trusted that he could capture the ambience I needed for this film. We recorded part of the soundtrack together and then he managed to create an extraordinary and haunting atmosphere based on the , video material I had. Eventually, while editing Orestis refined and combined the audio and visual elements, which depend on each other extremely. I am not a musician but I was always drawn to music and soundscapes. The mystery, the complexity, even their technical aspects are alluring me. Dance and sound blend naturally together, because their common ground is the rhythm. Obviously, you can dance without music and you can create music with your body. But when they are combined an intense experience emerges. One is challenging and simultaneously is supporting the other. Music moves me, enters my body and sends a vibration throughout my skin and bones, it has an instant impact to me. In my body of work, sound is playing a significant role, it is ultimately part of my life, there cannot be a separation or distinction from what I do and I am happy to have it in my professional life on a daily basis. For example, one of my favorite rehearsals in the Deutsche Oper is the first rehearsal on stage with the orchestra. Live music overflows my ears and this brings an incomparable and fulfilling encounter. I feel truly thankful for that. Over the years you have participated in numerous


Women Cinemakers productions in the Deutsche Oper Berlin as a member of the Opernballett and you also participated in many dancing projects and other experimental Dance Theater productions in Germany and Greece: how important is for your the feedback of the festival circuit? Do you consider as being a crucial component of your decision-making process? It is important to me to be part of the festival circuit, because it is a space to be yourself and to share your work with the rest of the artistic community. It is not easy being an artist in our society and it is still remarkable that we are able to continue pursuing our dreams, so having your work shown at festivals it is a big deal. We should be open to share our work and to listen to some feedback, because it improves and carves our personalities and vision. We all like to be liked and well-reviewed, but my creations are deriving from a personal need, an inner voice and a necessity that has nothing to do with other people's opinion about it. I can only wish that my work will be accepted, but I cannot control that and it is definitely not in my mind during the creation or rehearsals. I believe that each of us has so much to offer and we might be lucky enough to find our audience. I am trying to keep this as a reminder to myself, that I should keep on making despite the obstacles or the perception, in the end it is my duty to myself. We have relly appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express


Women Cinemakers your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? I am glad to be discussing this subject more and more openly, even though equality, feminism and the woman's place in the society is just a trend topic for some people nowadays. Although we have come a long way as women and as society, these are still matters that are on the table, so there is a long way to go ahead of us and I hope that this dialogue will take us further. I have been mostly inspired by women artists in my life and the more I understand this field and this business, the more I admire them for overcoming colossal obstacles and for their dedication to their art, regardless of all the pressure. It is very hard to describe the struggle if you have never been in the position of being a woman in the art world. Unfortunately, I have heard various examples and comments by people – men and women - who don't understand that dance is an art form and it can also be a profession, not only a hobby or a way to have fun. I never let those comments discourage me, because I don't feel that I have to justify myself to these people. And that has been the most harmless to me of the troubles. I did not choose to be a dancer and an artist over another career,


Women Cinemakers there is just no other way for me to live and I expect, at least, that this should be respected. For the future I just wish that there will be equality and to need to divide women's from men's art. I don't believe women should do something differently, we carry on working and pushing boundaries. Artists should keep on creating, challenging and changing the wold in their way. It is our responsibility as humans, as generation and as society to move past these divisions, to create a world where art would be a universal language and it's worth won't be reduced by social gender categorization. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Anna. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Since we are living in fragile times with several political and social changes, I humbly wish that I can continue living and working as an artist. The last years my focus has shifted and now I indulge more and more into creating, although performing is still my passion. I am eager to explore the possibilities of this interdisciplinary field, which provides numerous tools to play with. My goal is to find ways to combine all my artistic expressions and I am open to see where this adventure will take me. Choreography and dance will certainly be the fuel to my engine, while image, video and music will play an equally essential role to complete my view.


Women Cinemakers meets

Poppet Portraits Lives and works in East Lothian, Scotland

I am a portrait artist. I work in abstract:conceptual form using mixed media. My preferred method is to keep things as basic in form and apparatus as possible. I portray portraits that show the reactions of others to me, the artist. I metamorphose this reaction into abstract:conceptual form. These portraits are imbued with intrigue because the images are so abstract and conceptual that the person’s identity cannot be discovered. Sometimes I choose to show identity. In these portraits I portray the person’s reaction to me the artist as an abstract:conceptual alter ego. I also portray portraits of me as artist. My portraits are non-didactic artistic discussions, on the artist, on the other person’s reactions and on art itself.

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

Hello and welcome to would invite our readers to visit

: we

in order to get a wide idea about your multifaceted artistic

production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your direct the trajectory of your artistic research?

I have always been an artist of one sort or another. I was predominantly a performance dance artist


Women Cinemakers throughout my childhood. From age four, I learned to define myself as an artist by distinguishing between following someone else’s choreography and moving my feet in another direction. I wasn’t ever very good at following other’s choreography, my mind would wander off and I’d forget whatever it was I was supposed to be doing and do something else. I did, however, have one ‘moment’ as a choreographed ballet dancer when I won the Northumbrian Junior Ballet Champion competition. As an adult, I moved to Rome for two years and whilst there I turned to portraiture, not just of myself but also others. I used prose and I put together my first art narrative, which I don’t think I ever named properly and, actually, I think I’ve lost it, but never mind! On returning to Scotland, I began to both paint and write a collection of short art narratives, ’60 Fragments’. More recently I have written several other art narratives that also incorporate drawings. My first series of painted and mixed media portraits is ‘Shards’. During the later years producing this series I began to film myself painting some of the portraits. I did this because I like to discuss the possibility of the separation of the artist from the other person in the portrait. I often like to have my family, usually as voices, in these portraits. So, I use a multidisciplinary approach to portaiture based on my life experiences in the arts and on my knowledge building of art history that I have accumulated through


Women Cinemakers living in places relevant throughout art history, especially Rome and Provence, and through researching the works of other artists. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting performance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into is the way you have provided the results of your artistic research with such refined aesthetic, inviting the viewers to such a experience: when walking our readers through of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?

‘Washout’ is a portrait comprising five main references; movement, static, time, nature and ‘others’. In ‘Wash Out’ I am discussing the ambivalence of the separation between ‘The Washer’ and ‘The Washed’. I also question which of the five references is the most dominant piece, whether ‘The Washer’ as the moving piece in the portrait is the most dominant reference, more so than ‘The Washed’ the most static piece, or, whether the elongation of time by doubling the washing process becomes the dominant reference, or, whether the natural environment

with its multiple references is dominant, or, whether the activity of ‘The Other’s’ is dominant. The portrait manifested as a concept after I attended a figure drawing class at the National Gallery of Scotland. I was thinking about how I use ‘realist’ figures as abstract:conceptual references. How I go about showing myself or others as an apparently ‘real’ form but with abstract:conceptual references that dominate the ‘realism’. I created possible dominance for all five references. For the ‘real’ reference, ‘The Washer’ I used clothing and shoes and accessories. I created dominance for the ‘alter ego’ reference, ‘The Washed’ by using art supplies, hardware and the stone wall. For the reference to time I used repetition and slowness of activity. For the reference to environment I chose to film with high contrast light and shade, wind noise and bird noise. For ‘The Others’ I didn’t tell them what I was about to film so as not to direct a response. We have appreciated the way your approach to performance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to : how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and ? How importance does


Women Cinemakers play in your process?

I had already thought through how I wanted the ‘real’ reference, ‘The Washer’ to appear in the portrait. I decided to show the ‘real’ reference, ‘The Washer’, when painting the name of the ‘alter ego’ reference, ‘The Washed’ as ‘Poppet’, when filling the glass jugs with water from the hose pipe and when finishing the cleaning process. I decided to remove the ‘real’ reference, ‘The Washer’ from the portrait when throwing the jugs of water at the ‘alter ego’ reference, ‘The Washed’, to wash the ‘alter ego’ reference as ‘Poppet’ off the glass sheet. Filming wasn’t scheduled. I was in the garden and I decided the natural environment had all the appropriate emphases I thought would provide the necessary dominace to make the environment a competing reference in the portrait. So, I brought out a tripod and camera and the glass jugs, switched on the camera and began the portrait.

production, provided it didn’t affect the references in the portrait. How importantis the evokative power of symbols and metaphors in your practice? In particular, are you interested in creating an capable of reflecting human condition in a general sense?

I usually reference the artist, the ‘others’ and the discussions on art in my portraits. I do this using symbols and metaphors. Symbols are widely used in everyday life, often they are used as warning signs to prevent people from coming into danger. I like to transfer this sort of language into my portraits and I sometimes use abstract or realist shapes, colours, words, noises, symbolically. The use of symbols in art can allow the opening of conceptual space where the viewer can interpret the symbol as he/she/they wish.

It took one take. I was lucky things worked out and the result was the set of five competing references I wanted to portray.

I use metaphors to increase the clarity of the portrait, to sharpen the image of the reaction to the artist that I am portraying. The titles I give the portraits are often metaphorically ‘sharpening’.

Regarding improvisation, I’d decide a portrait was finished even if I had to improvise during the

‘Wash Out’ is a metaphorical ‘sharpener’ in that it gives emphasis to the ‘alter ego’ reference, ‘The


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Washed’. However, this ‘sharpening’ does not close the conceptual space, as the question remains whether, after the washing, the presence of ‘The Washed’ reference remains in the viewer’s mind, resulting in a heightened notion of dominance as a reference in the portrait.

As you have remarked in your artist's statement, you portray portraits that show the reactions of others to you and then metamorphose this reaction into abstract: how do you consider the relationship between reality and abstraction? Moreover, how does eveeryday life's experience fuel your creative process?

My ‘nom d’artiste’, Poppet Portraits, is methaphorical, adding emphasis to the art I create and the questions I pose on the way in which I create it. How does an artist create portraits? Am I merely a puppet dancing to others’ reactions to me?

I work with real people and with their real reactions. I metamorphose this, or, if you like, my reality, that is, the reality of my view, into art. I define my art as the result of the metamophoses of a person’s reaction via abstraction and conceptuality into an art image and/or art narrative.

I’m not interested in producing allegorial portraits in that I have no intent to use portraits to deliver statements on politics, religion, ecomomics, utopia, distopia or whatever else the human condition is currently processing or has processed. I discuss nothing so significant as the human condition. My only intent is to show myself and others in a metamorphosed abstract:conceptual form and to discuss the art of doing so. My view on art is that it is a mere frivolity, often a mere hilarity! That said, my art is non-didactic and open to interpretation. Should someone wish to interpret and express their own view that my art is allegorical, well, whatever!

Given the possibility of losing the reality by turning the person’s reaction into abstract:conceptual form, the references used to portray the portraits often have art historical significance or are common references from everyday life in order to provide the image/prose with definition, with signifiers that any viewer can identify and consider in any way they wish. I have lived a fairly long time as an artist of sorts and so I have a wealth of people’s reactions to portray. I have come to consider


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the common usage of the three stages of any artist’s life. They are often referenced with regard only to women but I interpret them as applicable to artists in general. That is, the Virgin, the Mother, the Old Hag. In my view, people’s reactions to the artist change according to which of these stages the artist is at. I think being able to portray portraits objectively provides an opportunity to attempt to dislocate the artist from the ‘other’. I think that the point at which an artist can become objective is when the artist has experienced these stages and moved past them. I am now at the stage where I can say I’ve experienced the Old Hag stage and can now portray others’ reactions as objectively as I’m ever likely to do. But, that doesn’t mean I’m over as an artist, rather, I can concentrate on other aspects of making portraits. Another aspect of making portraits from everyday life is deciding how ‘everyday’ to make the portrait look. I think that during the metamophosis into abstract:conceptualism it is my preference to emphasise the abstraction and the conceptualism and take the image away from realism. However, this is not always necessary, such as, when the juxtapositions of the ‘realist’ references of the image are so dominant as to make even the most

ostensibly realist image abstract:conceptual. Using these devices, I can open up potential dialogue so the viewer isn’t forced into what I may consider to be a claustrophobic definitive interpretation of a realist looking portrait. Your practice seems to respond to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he stated that . What are you hoping will trigger in the spectatorship? In particular, how important is for you to address the viewer's imagination in order to elaborate ?

As I view Andreas Gursky’s art, I respond, on looking at his images, to the impact of the certainty of the static and uncertainty of the movement they create. Whilst I use conceptual static and movement as references in my portraits, that may or may not stimulate the viewer’s imagination, I don’t attach conceptual certainty and uncertainty in order to do so, as Andreas Gurskey appears to do, in my view. I think journalism tops art in terms of addressing viewer’s imaginations. Perhaps I am wrong to distinguish the two by defining journalism as taking on the front and art as taking on, I suppose this is what Andreas Gursky has defined as ‘what’s


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Women Cinemakers behind’, and what I define as abstract:conceptualism, which, in my view is an undefined space. My aim as a portrait artist is to produce something that really is nothing! Something that can be passed by with ease and not thought about at all. That is not so say if some people want to think about it that they shouldn’t. Therefore, whilst it is not important to me that the portraits stimulate viewer’s brain cells like a Frankenstinian electric shock into the realm of my art and their perceived personal associations with it, I accept the possibility that it is not impossible that something along those lines might happen. Featuring well orchestrated camera work, has drawn heavily from to reflect the entaglement between the concept of place and memories. We have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful between environment and the ideas that you explore: how did you select the location and how did it affect the performing and shooting process?

The location is my garden. I like to work with what I’ve got in my immediate environment using my things and turning them into references in my portraits.

In ‘Wash Out’ I use the stone wall to set the scene. It is a canvas with irregular texture and pattern. It is lit in bright yellow sunlight and is similar in colour to my sunlit hair. On the wall there is a plant which has green finger-like shaped leaves on long stems, trailing over the stones. I show my hands and arms in the film with my long fingers, ‘green fingers’. I use my grey shoes to merge ‘The Washer’ to the stone ground. The sounds of the wind and ‘The Others’ merge too. My coat echoes the clouds in the sky. I use two tools, the paint brush and the garden hose. The blue paint echoes the water. The rectangular glass sheet and the two glass jugs juxtapose in shape. The walking back and forth echoes the painting of the name ’Poppet’. Using this small set area with the relevant environmental conditions meant that filming could be very basically done. I didn’t need to do anything regarding moving the camera. I didn’t need a separate microphone for the sound and I didn’t need any artificial lighting. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "


Women Cinemakers ": as a multidisciplinary artist deeply involved in dance, how do you consider the relation between of the concepts you explore in your artistic research and of your practice?

In my view the physical act, whatever form that takes, be it the act of seeing, the act of painting, the act of positioning the body, can be made to be irrelevant, or at least, using abstract:conceptual devices, can be made to appear to be the least dominant reference in a portrait. For me, it is all about the relative dominance of the references used. There is work and there is play. I prefer to minimalise the work and emphasise the play. The work being the use of the body in the physical production and the play being the abstract:conceptualism in the product. Women are finding their voices in art: since Artemisia Gentileschi's times to our contemporary scene it has been a long process and it will be a long process but we have already seen lots of original awareness among women artists. 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 ', however in the producing something '

last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on in this field?

I think that there is an inclination for women in the arts to come from multidisciplinary artistic backgrounds and to evoke their personal experiences from across the arts in the art they produce. I’d like to see more of this as a narrower focus on methods and production in one particular art form is’nt always so interesting, it lacks this interesting diversity of approach. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving

I’m about to film another film portrait and I’m also doing more portraits in paint. At some point I’d like to do some very large scale portraits referencing the notion of the ‘looming presence’. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Valerie Driscoll 'Smile' is a durational performance in which the performer’s head floats on a black background, alternating between smiling and frowning. The length of the video is determined by the performer's ability to sustain these mechanical, emotional transitions. Often contemplating sex, death and the banal, Driscoll works with repetition, provocation and the exemplification of process. Rethinking the body as machine and reflecting Hochchild's notion of 'emotional work', in this piece Driscoll inverts cybernetic philosophy, juxtaposing biological fatigue with mechanical malfunction.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Valerie and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would invite our readers in order to get to visit a wide idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview we would ask you a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after having

earned your BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Camberwell College of Art, London, you nurtured your education with an MA in Photography, that you received from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, in London: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an interdisciplinary artist? And how does you cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Yes, I was very fortunate to have had wonderful experiences at college. I was always interested in


photography but was determined not to study editorial or documentary photography, I wanted to study art. At both Camberwell and St. Martins, I met fantastic people and my tutors particularly, greatly influenced the development of my practice. In an art context, the sky is the limit and I was actively encouraged to broaden my practice and study other disciplines. I studied sculpture, photography and film. In particular, I found contemporary philosophy, which became my new love. On the first day of my two-year MA Photography course at St. Martins, the course leader Dr. Daniel Rubinstein said, “If you don’t want to touch a camera for two years, then so be it.” This was music to my ears, it was very freeing. It is difficult to say, or at least to pin down how my cultural substratum directs the trajectory of my artistic research? I would say, of course, that it does and deeply but exactly how, I’m not sure. Everything we do, see, experience and read influences the research, and ultimately the practice. Sometimes the idea forms the basis of the research, sometimes the idea is obliterated by the research and/or the making. Usually the track the work takes is somewhere in between. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Smile, an extremely interesting durational performance that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers our attention of your exploration of the relationship between biological fatigue and mechanical malfunction, is the way it provides the viewers with a multilayered visual experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of Smile, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? ‘Smile’ is a culmination of explorations into the endurance capabilities of the human body and our ‘desire’ to be machines. I was thinking about mobile phone culture and how our bodies interact with them. Through micro-movements of the fingers, hands, arms, eyes, ears, hearts and brains move over these information machines offering feedback, which is then reciprocated. This cybernetic feedback loop is something that interests me a great deal. We behave as though we want to absorb them into our beings, lick them, smell them, swallow them, become them. I examined the history of information machines and looked specifically at the idea of ‘technological determinism’, which posits that technology determines human and sociological progress. This didn’t sit easy with me and I looked at the antithesis and loved the idea that they are useless without us human beings instructing them and interacting with them; thus far, that is! Looking too at the body as a machine or as Deleuze and Guattari illustrate, many machines within a machine, and how that machine functions; for example, how it needs energy, fuel, lubrication, direction,


maintenance. I wanted to play with the idea that the body, like a machine, will malfunction or glitch. These are some of the ideas I was exploring as I carried out my research. There would of course also be a personal element in the work and a socio/political one; for me there are many things at play here. Smile communicates a sense of freedom and at the same time reflects a conscious shift regarding performative gestures: how would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? What importance does improvisation play within your practice? The length of the performance was determined by the performer’s ability to sustain these repeated, relentless movements. Moving from smile to not exactly frown, but more like non-smile, the performer methodically switches emotions. For this work, I was determined that the performer’s body would drive the outcome. With minimal direction, e.g. try to keep the timing of the movements consistent and try to smile, as in Hochild’s research of airline stewardesses who were first told to smile and were then told to ‘really smile’.

It can sometimes be difficult to detach yourself as director and allow the events to unfold. This is not a tactic that I usually rely on in my role as a film maker, which might reflect my developing confidence in this area. But for this work, it felt absolutely right to take a step back. My work often has a performative element and many of my sculptures are interactive. I’ve asked participants to dress up, for example in ‘Flat 48’ where they became part of the installation. In this kind of work you have no choice but to take a step back and let the viewer do as they will. In the work ‘Giving Head’ for example, viewers were free to interact in a hands on way. This was frightening to watch! This work was a light box and on closer inspection you find images of a person’s head from the corresponding perspective, through each lens, i.e. it looks as though the head in inside the sculpture. I might lay a trail and perhaps even proffer a reward but ultimately, I like to hand over the power to the viewer. I like to have an element of lightness and spontaneity in my practice generally but this can be difficult to achieve and often requires a lot of thought and effort! We can recognize a subtle socio political criticism in your insightful inquiry into the notion of Emotional labor elaborated by American sociologist Arlie Hochschild. Not to


Women Cinemakers mention that almost everything, from Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitchen to Marta Minujín's 'Reading the News', could be considered political, do you think Smile could be considered a political work of art, in a certain sense? In particular, how do you consider the role of humour in your practice? I’m very glad you felt that and yes, I do think this work could be considered political. We humans are political beings and artists are no different. Although I would never set out to make a political work specifically, it would certainly be my hope that as a deeply political person, some of that seeps through. As in the cultural substratum you mentioned before, it underlies everything we do. I was already in the throes of considering this work and often in the early stages of a work particularly, it can be difficult to pin down where a work is coming from or what it’s about. That can sometimes take months or even years to figure out. In the course of my research, I came across Arlie Hochschild’s research in to ‘emotional labour’. In her book, (1983), she asserts that employees, who have to interact with the public and particularly those in the service industry (who are also interestingly, predominantly women), have their emotions commoditized by their employers. That is to say,

they are expected and trained to repress their own emotions in order to capitalize on the consumer experience. This rang all the right bells for me and could be seen as a sort of mechanization of human emotions. Interestingly, Hochschild also found that this commodification process can have a very negative impact on the emotional health of the employee, e.g. they can become detached from their own emotions and can also suffer from emotional exhaustion or ‘burnout’. This bodily manifestation of changes in emotion is something I wanted the work to explore. Humour is important in my work, but only in retrospect. I would never set out to make a work that is ‘funny’, it embarrasses me to even say it that way. People often comment on the humour in my work, which always brings a smile to my face as it’s an element of my character that has instinctively, perhaps even unintentionally, seeped through. 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": as an artist particularly interested in the conceptual overlapping of human body and machine, how do you consider the role of artists in our globalised and media driven contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond


Interactive installation 'Flat 48' Bedroom (2012)


Interactive installation 'Falt 48' Kitchen (2012)


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to a particular cultural moment? Artists have a responsibility to themselves and their own work first. They must say what they need to say and if the work is successful, hopefully, this will come across. Artists are living creatures, acutely aware of the society in which they live, the positives and the negatives. I suppose if I had to be pinned down about whether my work responds to a particular cultural moment, I would have to say ‘post-internet’ but I wouldn’t be altogether happy about that. My practice is concerned with information machines and the body and how they interact or overlap, this is where my current interests lie. There is a vast and diverse history of the body in art. There is also a rich history of machines in art. I like to think that my work not only references other era in art history but also brings that history with it. The body has inspired and moved artists for millennia and I certainly feel those affiliations and connections to other era. I am aware that those interests are borne out of the culture or political system in which I live. Orozco is correct and I have no doubt that if I was living in a different political system, for example, my work could not help but be influenced by that.

I make work that is about or related to information machines so obviously, I am tuned in to the global media driven contemporary age. It is something that I get a lot of pleasure from. We are often encouraged by the media to be in awe of technology; to believe it’s doing things behind our backs that we mere mortals could never understand. I don’t buy in to that way of thinking. I see information technology and by association the global contemporary age as tools at my disposal. I milk it, use it and leave it behind when a piece of work requires that. Austrian-British historian E. Gombrich, writing in Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, 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 to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? Yes, that’s important but I try not to obsess over it. You try to reach a viewer but not to pander to them. Maybe the viewer should be helped to participate in the illusion but maybe they can also participate in their own illusion! When I go to a


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gallery, I sometimes try to avoid reading about the works but let myself instead just experience or feel them. Sometimes on the way out, I might pick up the supporting material and sometimes I’m disappointed by what I read as I might have enjoyed the work in a different way. You make what you need to make, what you need to say first but the work should also make available the possibility of different readings and experiences. That should be ok. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes: how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? This is a great question, as it represents exactly where my concerns are; I am constantly wrestling with this. Manifesting something from an idea using the body brings its challenges but also its rewards. The body is infinitely inspiring as an art object. It is also a tool and a machine, capable of exponential growth. The body is also capable of malfunction and glitch. Overlapping the body with information machines in this way allows the abstract to take shape. I try not to think of them as polarized entities. Instead they merge and support each other, fight and bounce off of each other, much like a relationship. In the sculptural work ‘Icarus’ for example, I looked at a tripod,


Interactive sculptural installation 'Giving Head' (2013)


A still from Sculpture 'Icarus' (2015)


Women Cinemakers the epitome of all that is erect and solid in photography and wanted to imbue it with attributes of the human body, e.g. wobble, bulge and mess. I made this giant tripod out of bubble wrap, wire and tape. ‘Icarus’ is photography that is wobbling, failing and cocky, flying too close to the sun. 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? It would be difficult to find an artist who hasn’t struggled with this. The time has come for women artists to say ‘back the fuck up and give me room’! Our global culture and network affords women artists the opportunity to spread out, where possible they should take it. I don’t feel however that women artists have a responsibility to make feminist work or to fight for the feminist cause,

unless they want to of course. The ultimate goal is that women artists are free to make the kind of work that they want to make and that the work is taken seriously by the art establishment, that is perhaps the greatest challenge. Women artists have to continue to be brave. Change is happening all around us and we must not lose the momentum. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Valerie. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am currently developing interactive sculptural work around intransigent, sulky machines. I am also about to embark on a month-long residency in Buenos Aires, which I am really looking forward to. This time will allow me to immerse myself in research and making to realize a new project about the body and online environments. I am looking forward to working with performers and actors in this new environment. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Romy Yedidia Lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Coming from the visual arts background as well as architecture and design, I have been continuously investigating how the language of aesthetics is appropriated within the realm of gender-representation. Understanding the polarized dimensions of contemporary gender-politics and its impact in shaping socio-cultural environment, my artistic focus is directed towards examinations of power-plays of intimate and collective gender performativity and social construct around it. To understand what is oppressive, imposed, sanctioned or in some cases regressive within the gestures of the gender roles, one must first investigate intimate domains of identification, question personal convictions and reconcile individual discrepancies. Within my artistic practice, I explore the relations between architectural elements and the female body; questioning archetypes and symbols of material-bodily presence. Topics related to gender and cultural normative, social control and body representation, are intrinsic part of my conceptual artistic exploration. My observations on these matters are translated later into specific techniques and materials that are represented through architectural forms. As a methodology, I use my own body as material. I work with casts and moulds, in particular concrete and similar constructive materials, with an attempt to preserve shapes, states and positions of my body. The process of my work is a crucial part of the concept. Although, I work predominantly with rudimental materials such as concrete and metal, my work has a strong performative aspect, demanding direct personal engagement. I choose to endure bodily rites of passage through my work, in order to transform an abstract pain into a physical one. The pain as a sensation plays a crucial role in my artistic process. The pain that I can control or even enjoy, since I know that one is temporary in contrast to the former. Materialising this pain through the creative and performative process, the rites become a form of a protest and resistance. It is my way of exposing the rigid mould I allowed to be constructed around me, the rules that I bound myself to, and the standards that I was taught to respect. I continuously challenge these paradigms through my art practice, looking at space as a potential dialogue to defy gravity of social constructs. An interview by Francis L. Quettier

questions regarding your background. You have a solid

and Dora S. Tennant

formal training and after having attended Interior

womencinemaker@berlin.com

Architecture at Holon Institute of Technology in Israel, you received your BA in Architectural Design from the

Hello Romy and welcome to

: we would

like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of

Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. How did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist?


Romy Yedidia photo by Frédérique Albert-Bordenave


Women Cinemakers Moreover, does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Hello and thank you for inviting me for this interview, I am honoured to be a part of this special edition of Women Cinemakers. At its early stages my practice was focused on architectural theories, material exploration and production of architectural sculptures. I was always attracted to rough, rudimental materials; the many hours I spent in different workshops, helped me explore the properties of various materials and through that (start to) understand the reasons of my fascination with them. At this point, the conceptualisation was the leading part of my projects from beginning to end, while in my former course of studies, functionality naturally played a major role and consequently could often compromise the expression of a concept. After two years, I decided to move to Amsterdam to study in the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. The experience at the Rietveld academy confronted me with the themes I was dealing with unconsciously. I started to use architecture as a tool to manifest my perception on body appropriation within western society and the systems of control around it. The choice to focus on such themes is not random and also originates from my cultural background. Although I live in Amsterdam for only 4 years, the visits to my home town Tel Aviv, shed a light on the clear differences between the two cities regarding the concept of femininity and how one should behave and appear as a woman in society. Having said that, I believe that these pressures are present even when they are less visible. Many women around me in my current place deny being a subject to these forces, but in my eyes, the pressure from the media towards women is so inherent, that it exists even if one is unaware of it. You are an eclectic artist and your versatile practice ranges from performance and film to sculpture and installation,

revealing the ability of crossing from a media to another: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.romyyedidia.com in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: 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? The initial aspect of choosing the appropriate medium and form for a project depends on the relevance and implications of the conceptual framework. My practice responds and relies on various different factors; cultural settings and conceptual interests which the medium follows. A recurring subject I explore in my work is the social surveillance systems applied onto women in the western society. The exploration of this topic started in 2016 with the artistic research publication ‘The Beauty Machine’. I was and still am curious to understand the evolution of the collective monitoring mechanisms that lead women to monitor themselves and the cause of these effects that are manifested throughout society. English art critic and writer John Berger said “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only the relations of men to women, but the relation of women to themselves.” The longing to fit in as well as the constant pressure to please the encircling collective gaze is the reason why it was a natural consequence to include performance with the sculpting process. The way this dialogue within mediums occurs in my practice could be understood through the works ‘Preserve x 186’ and ‘Objectify’. ‘Preserve x 186’ is a performative sculpture series in which I react to the objectification of the female body in public spheres. The expectation of women to be beautiful, preserve their bodies, all awhile making it appear effortless, led me to the idea to be casted in plaster (therefore “preserved”) in front


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Romy Yedidia, Belly Love (performance for video, 9 minutes), 2016, photos by Arno Nollen

of my everyday public surrounding. The final result is a series consisting of 186 of my body parts in plaster, clay, silicone and concrete. Dismembered, floating objects with no context (nor gravity), no face, no personality, just as they appear in so many commercials that are plastered on billboards in public urban spaces. After completing the series I extracted its sculpting process into a public live performance called ‘Objectify’. My purpose is to show the pain women undergo to reach that “final result”. The physical pain, but more importantly, the mental burden of meeting an endless, conflicting list of expectations. we have For this special edition of selected , an extremely interesting experimental performance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages

of this article and that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/176035881. What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the thin line between self-acceptance and self-hate is the way it addresses the viewers to such unconventional and multilayered experience.While walking our readers through the genesis of Belly Love, would you tell us how do you usually select the themes that you explore in your artworks? Initially, I would say that I don't choose the themes, but rather they choose me. The topic of gender performativity and pressures projected onto women are inherent subject matters from my childhood. I grew up in a family that stressed the importance of female beauty, that was the prominent value I


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was taught to sustain. Moreover, my choice of reacting to this topic through heavy, bare, architectural forms and materials corresponds with the mental burden of meeting these expectations. As part of my artistic process I explore themes through visual and literal research in combination with material experimentations. The intuitive nature of the latter tells much about unconscious thoughts if one chooses to listen and observe attentively. The process of ‘Belly Love’ started with exploring water as a material. As the many trials to tame the material showed, I realised that it is all about my constant wish to control. At that moment I was in a cross roads, either I could continue to hide behind chemical material properties, or face the public with the truth. I chose to address the real aspect in my life I try to control the most; the preservation of

my body to fit in society’s standards. From that point the concept and its translation to a form fell into place: “I’m a circle that is trapped inside a square”. The corset carries literal weight of a concrete block. It is equally painful and arousing to be in such state. How perverse is the wish to belong! Creating Belly Love was a crucial moment in my artistic development. Being vulnerable through that work and communicating my deepest anxiety motivated me to dive in the themes that are now central in my practice. features We have deeply appreciated the way such captivating inquiry into the grammar of body to create a kind of involvement with the viewers that touches not only the emotional sphere, but also and especially the intellectual one. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using


Women Cinemakers their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the issues that you explore and the physical act of creating your artworks? The correspondence between a concept of a work and the physical act of its production is an essential aspect in the creative process. This relation is implemented in my practice through a dialogue between literal research, visual collages, associative writings and material experimentations. The combination of these various research techniques reinforces each other to reach a concrete, yet personal interpretation of the topic in question. The notions I address through my artistic practice are gender performativity, collective/intimate monitoring systems and female body appropriation within a social context. The relation between these conceptions and the creation process is through a reflection on stereotypical expectations that often projected onto women. Sayings I heard throughout my childhood such as “one must suffer to be beautiful” and “be pretty and stay quiet” were initially expressed through the passivity of sculpture. The further I go with my research, the more I combine interactive, performative aspects with the medium of sculpture. This evolution reflects my exhaustion regarding the expectation of women to behave as statues; meet impossible, contradicting standards all awhile make it appear effortless and remain quiet about it. In this way, the medium as a concept plays an intrinsic role in my artistic identity. inquiries We have deeply appreciated the way into the theme of society’s expectationsin our globalized still patriarchal and male-oriented age. Not to mention that these days almost everything, from Maurizio Cattelan's ' ' to Marta Minujín's ' ', could

be considered political, do you think that Belly Love could be considered political, in a certain sense? In particular, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? My work reflects on gender-societal issues that are indeed resulting from political agendas. I react to the image of femininity communicated in contemporary media and how that escalated into forms of violence: sadistic aspects from the male perspective, and masochistic from the female one. The objectification of women in the media leads to the perception of females as statues, an object with merely a decorative function. It is been communicated to us that we would be loved only if we are beautiful, and since suffering equals beauty, the association between pain and acceptance arises. This conditioning results in men linking femininity with submissivity and causes women to abide that expectation in order to be loved. In ‘Belly Love’, my choice to be filmed by a man (cinematographer: Arno Nollen) was in order to experiment with and question to what extent women go to please the male gaze, what starts this cycle and what is women’s role in it. To carry this social corset is my obedience in this system of control. The pursuit of pleasing the dominant male gaze is also a factor which consumerism is based on. As long as the media will nourish women’s self-hate by promoting a celebrated image of femininity that does not really exist, women will be an easy market, one that will always serve as a clientele. In her book ‘The Beauty Myth’ Naomi Wolf wrote: “The advertisers who make women’s mass culture possible depend on making women feel bad enough about their faces and bodies to spend more money on worthless or pain-inducing products than they would if they felt innately beautiful.” Yes, the beautiful women that are plastered on magazine covers do exist (regardless of the censoring photoshopping these images undergo) but behind the beauty of these women sometimes are also hidden much


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obsession and struggle in order to maintain something that one might think is her only virtue. The media is causing women to believe that our only function is to be decorative objects, and if one does not answer that definition she might not feel adequate for love. Thus starts the cycle of painbeauty-love. An interesting aspect of your practice is the fact that you are concerned in making the viewers aware of your process: we find this decision particularly interesting since it seems to reveal that you do not want to limit yourself to trigger the audience perceptual parameters, but that you aim to address the viewers 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? Through performative aspects I address societal systems of control that are being operated on women. By being vulnerable in the eyes of the audience, I address the perception of the female body as a visual commodity in public spheres, as well as the responsibilities of both spectator and participant in this cycle of monitoring. My aim is to make the public contemplate on the relation between pain and spectatorship. What kinds of feelings arise when witnessing someone else’s suffering; empathy or joy? Through this confrontation I aspire to make them actively reflect on their role as spectators and how that contributes to the creation of a painful portrayal of femininity. 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": as an artist particularly interested in the problems of indoctrination within propaganda, how do you consider

the role of artists in our unstable and ever changing contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? In recent years, the social surveillance mechanisms took a severe step further with the absorbance of social media in our lives. The (mass) cultural female heroes nowadays are women like Kim Kardashian, those who teach little girls that they will be loved and embraced only through the means of selfobjectification, provocation and severe body modification. This phenomenon creates a distorted image of femininity that produces a masochistic behaviour amongst the female population. It tempers with our self-perception to the point that we do not experience ourselves through intimate, authentic perspective but through a collective one. We have appreciated the way you explore the expressive potential of a wide variety of materials as concrete, metal and plaster to expose monumentality and permanence concerning the topics: we dare say that this way you subvert the narrative process in order to create a completely new one: German art critic and historian Michael Fried once stated that 'materials do not represent, signify, or allude to anything; they are what they are and nothing more.' What are the the properties that you search for in the materials that you include in your works? In my practice, materiality is a crucial layer in communicating the concept of a work. In other words, it is the complete opposite of how Micheal Fried is referring to materials. Whether one likes it or not, materials carry associations with them. By working with this I give the audience a chance to reflect and connect the dots between the visibility of a work and its texture. Over the years your works have been internationally


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exhibited in venues such as ISOamsterdam (NL), Josilda da Conceição Gallery (NL), Van Eesteren Museum (NL) and Brakke Grond (NL), so 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? Working within a predominately male artistic context could often result in feelings of segregation and seclusion. Often I experience that because of my gender, there is doubt regarding the quality of the work I can produce physically. As for the subject of women in the contemporary art scene, sexism still exists to a shocking level. According to a joint study held in 2017 by Artnet Analytics and Maastricht University, Joan Mitchell was found as the most expensive artist within the female sector, but came in at number 47 in the list of all best-selling artists. In other words, 46 male artists preceded Mitchell in value. That is outrageous. But sexism within the art market is only a microcosm of misogyny in western society. That is why 2017 was such a great year for women. The resisting, feminist movement #MeToo sparked a wave of consciousness and exhaustion within the female population regarding men’s abuse of power. As one of the brave women that broke their silence, curator Amanda Schmitt, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Artforum magazine’s long time publisher Knight Landesman. This was followed by a legal motion filed by the magazine’s publishers and lawyers to dismiss Schmitt’s lawsuit, referring to the harassment she and other women filed as “irrelevant”. As a response, the initiative We Are Not Surprised was created. Female artists, curators, gallerists, art historians, etc, wrote


Romy Yedidia, Objectify (performance, 100 minutes), ISOamsterdam, Amsterdam, 2018 co-performer Marie Ilse Bourlanges A stillby from photo Jessie Yingying Gong


Romy Yedidia, Preserve x 186, 2017, performative sculpture series, photo by Kateryna Snizhko


Women Cinemakers an open letter in which they declared that they will not read, work with, or advertise in Artforum or its affiliates until the magazine will retract its motion from Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit and remove Landesman completely as so-owner of the magazine. Female perspective is barely researched and acknowledged in scientific, social, and artistic sectors. I believe that through movements and initiatives such as #MeToo and WANS women are encouraged to speak their minds and combat such forms of abuse of power. Witnessing the perseverance of such groups even after they are pressured to remain quiet is inspiring and indeed the proof that women could resist these forces by joining each other and collaborating to achieve a common goal. To quote Roselee Goldberg “Sexism doesn’t stand a chance”. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Romy. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? In the end of September, the installation ‘Preserve x 186’ will be a part of a special event UY Studio is organizing as part of Berlin Art Week. In November, the publication ‘The Beauty Machine’ will be featured in The Printing Plant, an intimate art book fair Looiersgracht 60 is producing for Amsterdam Art Weekend. As for future projects, I’m developing a new performance and sculpture series inspired by the architectural element that is the cornice. In this project I will be questioning the functionality of cornices, or the lack thereof as they are used as purely decorative elements in interior spaces, in relation to the notion of femininity. Thank you dear Women Cinemakers’ team for your time and interest in my work. It was fascinating and stimulating to engage in and be a part of such elaborate and enjoyable interview.

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


Women Cinemakers meets

ilvs strauss Lives and works in Vancouver, BC

COULD is an introspective solo duet between a dancer and herself. Set in the stark confines of an all white room furnished with a single chair and hanging bare bulb, an unspoken dialog plays out between two selves; a subtle conversation both playful and poignant. ilvs strauss is an analytical chemist turned multi-disciplinary performance artist and theater technician living and making work in Seattle.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello ilvs and welcome to

before starting

to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.ilvsstrauss.com in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background: are there any experiences that did particularly address you to your artistic journey? In particular, how does your cultural substratum due to your scientific studies direct the trajectory of your artistic research?

I get mixed reactions when people find out I have a degree in Chemistry, but mostly it falls somewhere along the lines of ‘Ah, that makes sense.’ Ha. I’m never 100% sure what they mean by that, but I accept as a compliment nonetheless. In science, there’s much emphasis on setting up how you are going to do something, and the method is always the same: start with a purpose/hypothesis, lay out the procedure, the materials used, collect data and observations, formulate a reasonable conclusion. Everything is recorded in a notebook, and results can be graphed, extrapolated and graded for accuracy. It’s all very rational, analytical, clean in a manner of speaking. I can still hear my high school science teacher telling the class, ‘Go from what you know, to what you don’t know.’ You have a known starting point and an unknown endpoint and all the stepping stones laid out to link the two - it’s a veritable warm blanket and cup of tea for my left-brain. I worked as an analytical chemist for a pharmaceutical company for a short bit after college and I was really


good at it. My left brain was running victory laps around the lab after every report turned in. Meanwhile, my right brain was huddled in the corner repeating, ‘I cannot love the HPLC Spectrometer,’ with the occasional, ‘Can we be done now?’ Needless to say, I didn’t last long at that job. I began my involvement with theater (most of my work is performance based, with the occasional dip into other mediums such as film) in high school as both an actor and theater tech. Theater is great (says Left Brain wearing a black turtleneck) because the entire spectacle is built on the foundation of the script (traditional theater, at least). You have a clear starting point: the script; you know the materials you have to work with: lights, costume, set, sound, etc; you have set rehearsals under the visionary eye of the director; and then you have performances where people come and watch and applause at the end when you take a bow. That structure was/still is very comforting for my inner scientist, and is very much the structure I based my initial artistic process on. Over the years of developing my practice, I’ve come to realize that, while there is a prescribed way of creating theater, the format is really a loose and malleable suggestion open to interpretation, not an etched in stone commandment. The first time I collaborated on a performance piece with a dancer/performance artist (Jody Kuehner), I kept pushing for us to start with a script, We need to start with a script! We need to start with a script! And she came back with a humored smile and a ‘Hmmmmm. . . No.’ Ha. My feathers were ruffled for sure - How else can we build and create if we don’t have a foundation??? Who are you to throw out the blueprints?? Through our rehearsal process (which, looking back, was quite possibly a little bit of a painful process for her) I slowly opened up to the world of fluid, organic art making: talking it out, feeling it out, experimenting with no hard structure, no rigid boundaries, no wrong answers. This nebulous, experimental format took a while for me to warm up to, but once I did, I realized what had been missing for me during my brief but illustrious chemistry career - this other sense that is oft dismissed by science due to its lack of tangibility, lack of definition, lack of discernible physical limits or form: intuition. Art became this subjective, living matter born of a streamof-consciousness procedure driven by this unseen, universal force, devoid of reason and linearity. I now approach art projects using a well balanced blend of Left Brain/Right Brain techniques (at least, that’s my intention). I’ve spent the last decade or

interview

Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers so working as a theater technician, learning lighting design, sound design, and the overall limits and possibilities of technical elements. I love figuring out how things work, playing with how the different pieces of the puzzle work with each other under a time based parameter, how tech can be utilized as a storytelling technique, and how it all affects the audience. Much of my solo live performance work relies on detailed sound score: layers of voice over and music and live text, and more recently, using video: projected text and abstract imagery. Piecing it all together is a process that harkens back to my lab days, the detail, the timing, the documentation of process, only with this, the audience reaction takes the place of telling peaks on a graph read out to indicate if the desired outcome has been achieved. You know, it’s funny, thinking back to high school chemistry class and my first years of college (I started in engineering, ended in chemistry), my interest in the periodic table and in breaking things down to their elemental particles and examining how they work together turned out to be less of a scientific interest and more of a philosophical one. Everything, everything, everything is made up of the same basic building blocks: electrons, protons, neutrons. And those can further be broken down into their essence: energy. After parting ways with my lab coat, I delved more into my lifelong interest in the spiritual. I grew up Catholic and over the years have studied Buddhism, Yoga, Shamanism, non secular spirituality and ideologies that view the human body as a complex array of energetic systems. What I’ve found is that, at heart, it’s all the same thing, a study of energy. It’s a topic that continues to hold my fascination, and the different approaches to talking about it, describing it, all it influence my art. we have selected For this special edition of , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . When walking our readers through the genesis of Could, would you tell us something about your process? In particular, how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of the videos and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process?


The filming of this video in particular was largely spontaneous. Lindsay Martin (director) and I filmed it in a shipping container that I had been working in for about a month as part of a residency I received through CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art based in the Pacific Northwest). My main focus for that residency was a study of the color teal, both looking at the symbolic and cultural meanings of it, as well as the physiological phenomenon of ‘negative afterimage’, where your eye, after being exposed to a certain image, or saturate color in this instance, continues to react even after the original stimulus has been removed. Using lights with teal gel, I invited people to sit in the container and bathe in the saturate light, allowing their eyes to adjust to the color, then, at a certain interval, I switched to white light. The result was that the room appeared pink for several minutes, until the eyes adjusted back from the teal experience. This idea of adjusting to a new environment, of adapting to extreme stimuli, and of the body continuing to react to the initial stimuli long

after it is removed, was interesting fodder as a metaphor for human adaptability and response in varying life situations. All this to say that I spent a good 3 weeks painting the interior of a shipping container solid white. The process was tedious, to say the least (corrugated walls = larger in surface area than they appear), and allowed for lots of time to think and process aloud to myself, to really take in the dimensions and angles of the space, and to map out options for lighting and set. Basically, I had three weeks of deliberate planning and decision making before the shoot happened. When it came time to film, the execution of the dance was a largely improvised score inspired by weeks of thought processing and moving my body in a particular, task oriented way, at times directly mimicking the physical actions of cleaning and painting. Planning and thinking through possible outcomes is a crucial part of my art making process. And interestingly enough, it’s through that methodical approach that spontaneity flourishes: impulses,


nonsensical leaps, left field conclusions and inspired wanderings, all made possible by creating a playing field, choosing the players, creating circumstance, and ultimately letting go of the outcome. For this piece, I prepared a shipping container, put myself into it, gave myself environment (lights, sound), and with the information gathered over the prep time, combined with directorial input from Lindsay and inspiration from the song used, let the movement surface out of that. Could features an unspoken dialogue between two selves, urging the viewers to question : what were your aesthetic decisions when conceiving the choreography and what did you aim at triggering in your spectatorship? Regarding the notion of identity: I’m a twin in real life (fraternal, not identical). Having an equal by my side at all times for the first 20 years of my life (we’ve lived in different cities for almost two decades

now) has had a palpable influence on my art, not to mention my day to day life. In this film, I’m my own twin/triplet, playing with the idea of conversing with different aspects of myself as if they were individual persons. It raises the questions of Who am I talking to exactly? Who is listening? Which of these is the real me? Full well knowing the answers (me, myself and I, respectively), it is a fun and interesting thought exercise, not to mention a striking visual end product. As for the aesthetic decisions of the choreography, one of the main influences was the muscle memory of having spent so much time painting the interior of the container, as well as painting the chair and setting the light. Tedium aside, it was a very satisfying endeavor - I love cleaning and organizing things. For me, the act of painting and cleaning was not just a physical act, but an energetic and spiritual one. I was able to familiarize myself with the space, attend to every square inch of surface, and in doing so, not only wash the


space with my presence, but create a unique relationship with the container. I’ve observed quite a lot of art that follows the trajectory of order to chaos, that explores the dismemberment of the whole, and revels in the beauty of disorder, commotion. While I appreciate these works, my work tends to gravitate toward the opposite: fixing up, tidying, decluttering, squaring up corners, lining up edges. That being said, the peace and tranquility of solid colors, clean lines, and bright light makes for a great backdrop to analyse and explore the finer, often times messy and disorderly, nuances of the human experience. Marked out with essential and rigorous cinematography by features a keen eye to details and we have Lindsay Martin, really appreciated your successful attempt to capture the resonance between gestures and indoor environment: how do you consider the relationship between space and movement playing within your artistic research? The resonance between gesture and the indoor environment is a rather personal one for me. I’m fascinated with pedestrian movement in general, but especially with movement that comes unconsciously as one delivers speech: how we move when we talk. I grew up bilingual, raised by the latina side of my family. Growing up, I was immersed in a culture that uses their hands to do half the talking. Gesture is an integral, inextricable part of language, of communication and I spent my childhood watching, observing how my family talked to each other. Gesture that exists as a result of communicating is so interesting to me. What is it about language that fails the communicator such that they have to add movement to fill in the blanks, to get the full point across? Is it a failure of the language? Or is it a cultural bent to accent words with a nonverbal dimension? (I have heard one explanation that cultures historically located on trade routes tend to have languages more inclined towards gesture born of the necessity to communicate between many foreign languages). Whatever the full reason, I love the interplay that occurs. Aside from the communication triggered gestures that came naturally to my family because of culture, there was another source of gesture (that I came to recognize later on), one specific to being a foreigner.

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers When watching my great aunt speak English, her second language, the gestures were at times a manifestation of the mind grasping for the right word, or for a word that just wasn’t there. It’s movement born from an almost primal impulse, part discomfort (not having full command of the language), part manifestation of the brain scrambling to take circuitous routes in order to connect words into a sentence to get one’s point across. A similar outcome occurs when you engage two people in an exercise of standing face to face and looking each other in the eye for a period of time. The undercurrent of unease (for most) is too much to keep inside and the body begins to respond accordingly with shifting weight, fidgeting and the like. All this observation of gesture occurred indoors, in my own home, specifically, so the link between the two is strong. For this film in particular, the inner feeling of confinement and struggle is mirrored in the tight quarters of the white room, which in turn create feelings of confinement, which in turn are mirrored by the room, which in turn creates feelings of confinement. . . With regards to a playing space in general and its relationship to movement, I find that building a certain level of stewardship to locale, however temporary, is valuable. For me, feeling at home in the space, to feel comfortable, connected, not only allows for ideas to express themselves more freely through movement, but creates an open state of mind with which to respond to whatever the space wants to communicate back to me. To achieve that groundedness in the space, I usually engage in some kind of cleaning ritual, be it sweeping before each show or rehearsal, or doing my own grounding and clearing practice (these days it’s Qi Gong), or just sitting with the space and listening. For this film in particular, it was the solitary process of painting. From there the space becomes more integrated a character rather than just a sterile platform. We have appreciated the way you have provided your short film with is such a poetic quality and what has at once impressed us of the way it brings the nature of relationship between the body and the surroundings to a new level of significance, unveiling the ubiquitous bond between the individual and outside reality. While introducing us to the initial idea of this film, would you tell us how do you consider the relationship between outside reality and our inner landscape?


One of the inspirations for the film was simply that the container made for such a stark, visually striking setting. Blank pieces of paper or canvases can be intimidating when starting a work of 2D art or a piece of writing, but there was something about having the added element of depth, and of being able to get into the piece of paper that created lots of freedom for exploration. So in essence, the original idea for making a film was really to make use of the set and its strict parameters, to fill the empty box. The set makes me think of this question my old English teacher posed to my class: ‘Imagine yourself in an all white room, alone, no furniture, no windows - How do you feel?’ Your answer is supposed to be indicative of how you feel about death, about dying. (It makes me laugh thinking about the fact that that teacher had a background in psychology and was using this and other in-class ‘thought exercises’ to sneakily psychoanalyse her students.) I’m not sure how much my subconscious thoughts about death specifically influenced the film during the creation process, but the ideas of waiting, of infinite space, of nothing, of being in a situation where there’s not much to do but to ruminate came thru nonetheless. (Side note, my conscious thoughts about death are that it is a physical transformation that the soul/energetic body goes thru. We, our true essence, remain intact.) (Still, the idea terrifies me from time to time.) My thoughts on the specific relationship between inner landscape and outer reality is that one is a microcosm of the other. How we feel inside is largely reflected in our surrounding environment. It’s like how gross human interactions are reflected in smaller group dynamics. Beyond being an interesting parallel, it also serves as a great opportunity for us to analyse and confront and play with bigger ideas and issues that would otherwise be insurmountable. That art can break matters down into bite size pieces is a gift to the human community. 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 a multidisciplinary artist with a solid scientific background, how would you consider the role of

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

A still from


interview

Women Cinemakers an artist in such apparent dichotomies that affect our contemporary age? Whenever I see two words with the joiner ‘versus’ between them, it recalls a frame of mind that puts the two in opposition, on opposite ends of a linear, finite spectrum. I find it to be a limiting and flawed way of thinking in that it doesn’t take into consideration the full, detailed picture. Things, concepts, ideas, solid objects, all have a kind of depth to them, a feature that gets largely omitted when structuring suggestions on opposing poles. We live in the blurred area between A and B, and the blurring begins the instant we step away from either extreme. (Not to mention that A wouldn’t exist without B, so examining either in their pure form requires, minimally, the acknowledgement of B as a framework or backdrop from which to base the very definition of A on.) So I guess my point is ‘Emphasis on apparent’, with regards to ‘apparent dichotomies’. That stance definitely makes things less clear cut, much to the chagrin of my sciencey inclinations, but at the same time, more interesting, and more useful when talking of the human experience, which, goes without saying, is probably the most complex, layered, neither here nor there but everywhere adventure. That being said, the idea of nature vs science makes me think about nature vs nurture and being a twin. Not being an identical twin disqualifies me from a true study (my DNA differs from my sister’s DNA, so for all intents and purposes, we are just sisters), but it’s still an idea that’s near and dear to me. I’ve read arguments from both sides and my takeaway is that both are correct. Basically whatever you chose to focus on is the correct answer. And really, there is no extricating one from the other, and you cannot have one without the other. It’s a fascinating or frustrating caveat, depending on what you majored in in college. With culture vs society, I think about having been brought up Latin@ in a largely white environment (the Pacific Northwest for a good number of the formative years). My home environment differed largely from my school and social environment, but they worked tangentially and I am a product of both. I embody both. I paradoxically feel a both part of and excluded from both.


Women Cinemakers But going back to my initial point, I’m in no way arguing that the dichotomies no not exist, they do, I’m quite aware of it. I more want to emphasize that it’s not an either or situation, it’s an everything all at once situation, indivisible by scrutiny. Dichotomies exist with a dimensionality that is more robust than we give credit to. That we are (I was) brought up to think of things in strictly binary terms is a disservice. As an artist, I have the advantage to being versed in seeing dual (or any multiple of) perspectives simultaneously. I have a foot in two different worlds and I think of the art that I make as the bridge that connects. The way you have sapiently combined your performance and the soundtrack by Elderbrook provides with such an ethereal and a bit enigmatic atmosphere: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? I’m very deliberate when choosing music and sound to go in a performance. Lindsay brought the Elderbrook song to the table and I was immediately endeared to it, the simplicity, the beat, the subtle urgency of it. It’s very danceable, engaging, without being predictable. In general, I’m of the opinion that a music choice can make or break a piece. Let’s say I watch a dance piece that uses my favorite Radiohead song as the soundtrack. If I’m struck by the work I have to ask myself, Is it the dance I like? Or am I just a really big fan of Radiohead? Sometimes both, sometimes just one. Occasionally neither. Music, especially popular, carries with it a certain amount of baggage. People have their own relationship to music that can be very personal, very subjective, very intense, and they bring those with them to the theater. If an artist is to use a Radiohead song they should ask, Am I OK with bringing up all these unknown associations? Is there a way that I can use as a way to manipulate the audience’s reaction or interpretation of the work? In that vein, and thinking about the experience of a live performance, the quality of the sound can be as much of a factor in the experience as what the sound is. Technical glitches (speakers cutting out or tracks poorly mixed) can be distracting, but those

aside, the volume, type of audio sounds, and how it is transmitted are all very influential in creating the atmosphere of the theater. If it’s too loud, there’s a risk of causing discomfort, too quiet and people may miss what is being played; certain pitches or frequencies of notes can really irritate; sometimes a speaker is placed in such a way where only half the room has quality sound. All these are factors, but none out of our control. I think, when used intentionally, they all have the capacity to create effect. Well, actually, they have the capacity to effect no matter what, so in that sense it becomes imperative to take it all into consideration, both as it influences the performer and the audience. I think that the amount of thought and intention put into music/soundscape choices really comes through in performance, be it on stage or on film. As a mover, there are sounds and songs that inspire me to move and many that don’t. It’s very much subjective. I’ll stare at you blankly if you put on a Britney Spears song, but watch out if you play any of Robyn’s hits. Ha. When developing choreography, I find it useful to have notes to hold on to, beats as guideposts, melodies to follow or diverge from. Music acts as something of a coaster to put my brain on, I can set it down and let my non-thinking brain take over. I also take care to not let the music bear too much of the weight of the piece. When fine tuning choreography, I tend to extract phrases from improvised sessions and tease them out without the music, ask myself ‘Is this still interesting without the music?’ In theory, the answer is ‘Yes’. Unless, of course, I’m intentionally trying to be uninteresting. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": as a multidisciplinary artist deeply involved in dance, how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the concepts you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your practice?


Women Cinemakers I’m quite fond of Gerhard Richter’s work, particularly the stained glass windows he did for the Cologne cathedral. I love churches, and having gone to many a Catholic mass, the images of stained glass are very familiar to me. When I first saw a photo of the Cathedral windows, it almost didn’t register that the work itself was entirely pixelated, my mind saw the colors, the context, and put that together with stored images I had of previous stained glass to complete the picture. It was only after that initial moment passed that I saw what was actually there. The effect of it was quite moving, the windows effortlessly conjuring up concrete images so vividly, only to be waiting for me at the entrance of a room that only I walked into. This craft of allusion, of illusion, is so simple and effective and I love it so. I employ it to the best of my ability with performance with both literal and metaphorical slights of hand, through subtle gesture and sometimes circuitous dialog. When I start to work on a performance, one of the first things I do is to let go of the idea that the audience is going to pick up any and all abstract ideas I put forth (or concrete ideas, for that matter). I focus on making sure that, for myself, the relationship between what is happening on stage and how I got there is clear. If there are concepts or points I want the audience to ‘get’, and if the audience ‘getting it’ is important to the work, then I make sure that I find a delivery method that makes it explicit. I think that is part of why I gravitate towards voice overs and text: I like making a clear point. But text is only one way to make the abstract concrete; so much can be communicated with context, be it the title, the aesthetic elements, the location, the music, the movement, etc. But as intentional as I strive to be, I know that people are going to extract abstract ideas that I had not intended. I invite it and enjoy seeing where people’s minds go and the dots they connect along the way. With how it (abstract) affects the physical aspect of my performing, I’d say it forms the basis of it, the base impulse for movement. Going back to the example of staring a stranger in the eye for an undisclosed amount of time, that (potential) discomfort has the force to move mountains. Any movement that is trying to express discomfort that doesn’t first start with the feeling of discomfort is

just mechanical. Just like you can tell when a person is smiling for real or when they are smiling because they have to. That underlying intention, or, for me, that internalized abstraction, is what gives the physical movement its vibrancy. And the physicalities that come out of it are what give the abstractions some form of release, of new life, of greater aliveness and concreteness. Before leaving this interesting conversation so we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? For women in the interdisciplinary field, I think we have an advantage. (I identify as a genderqueer woman and use she/her pronouns, for the record.) Hear me out. So much of our lives, media, culture, religion, the very design of objects, are all made for (and by) men. Most movies are from a male’s perspective, the equipment at the gym is sized for men’s bodies, the grip and placement of doorknobs are sized off of male dimensions. Pretty. Much. Everything is made with men folk in mind. Which makes sense considering that is more often than not who is making the decisions. But it’s problematic, because if you aren’t male bodied or male identified, everything is once removed from being personal, from connecting with you directly. So then there’s an internal compensation that occurs, a translation or transposition of information adjusted to fit your own personal experience. It can get a bit exhausting, and quite frankly annoying (I’ve never read Harry Potter because do I need another young male coming of age story? No.) But the benefits from this constant conversion exercise it is a razor sharp ability to be fluid, empathetic, and be able to hold two (or more) different viewpoints at one time. I’d venture to say that it’s second nature to women, to all persons who don’t identify with the majority, to be able to have a greater perspective, that of a


Women Cinemakers shapeshifter almost. As a masculine-of-center presenting woman, as a mixed race person, as a queer person, I am versed in viewing the world as not a place for the whole of me. But at the same time, and more importantly, I get to claim ownership to so many both-sides, masculine and feminine, white and brown, hetero and homo. It’s an all access backstage pass, of sorts. Granted, there are certain benefits I do not have access to (those reserved for straight, white males), but being able to walk across divides is its own super power in a way. And makes me, and all women, I would argue, primed to excel at interdisciplinary arts. I can be a visual artist and performer, musician and dancer, theater technician and actor. By taking this ability to translate media to fit my personal experience, I’m able to find ways of making art that comes from personal experience that is not only cohesive, but accessible to audiences. I’ve been fortunate enough to have found myself in a supportive art scene for the past decade or so (Seattle until recently, I just moved to Vancouver, BC to earn my MFA), and gained inspiration from other women artists who bend their art on unconventional seams. But while there has been evidence of change in the art world, there’s still a fortress to be dismantled at the top of the mountain. Some homework I was doing the other day led me to some articles on the LA MoCA gala in 2011, curated by Marina Abramovic, wherein she made a statement about hiring only women to fill the roles of nude performers because the museum wouldn’t allow nude men. I could write 15 pages on that sentence alone, ha, but I’ll keep it mercifully brief: basically, we probably won’t see significant change until the makeup of the powers that be becomes more balanced. That sounds ominous and a potentially depressing. It could happen tomorrow, really. Either way, I’ll keep making work, following my curiosities, challenging my own ideas of boundaries, and having fun in spite of (in spirit of) it all. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ilvs. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Well, my current future project is grad school (MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies, Simon Fraser). It’s been a while since I’ve

been in school, and not having studied art in my undergraduate courses, I’m very excited and happy to be involved in this program. I’m using the smaller coursework assignments to explore video - how to incorporate it in live performance as a narrative element, as a scenic element, as an interactive element. It’s an exercise in technical theater, aesthetics and directorial decision making, exploring the possibilities within the medium within a medium. I imagine my future works to still be narrative based, but evolve through how the story is told. The use of technology (lights, sound, and now video) is really interesting to me - not necessarily the significance of human’s interaction with technology (phones, laptops, user interfaces), but technology as a way to manipulate sounds and images seamlessly and intricately in the context of a live performance. On a less technical note, a project I’m interested in exploring (and one that is a strong contender for my thesis project) is a work based on the Stations of the Cross. I started this during a two week residency through Base: Experimental Arts + Space in Seattle last October and have been ruminating on it ever since. I’m quite fond of the character of Jesus (I have been performing Him in a holiday show for going on 8 years now) (Jingle All the Gay - formerly Homo for the Holidays) and, having been named after St. Veronica (my middle name, minus the ‘St.’ part) of the 6th Station, have always had a fascination with the Stations. I’m curious about ideas of martyrdom vs agency, god complex, deus ex machina, the segmentation and focus on such a specific part of the timeline of one’s life, the complexities of the sacrosanct vs the profane. Also, the shadow side of the Catholic Church has been in the news a bunch as of late, so there’s a lot there to consider. I’m keen to see how the use of the aforementioned technology can create a layered story that is subtle/profound, mutable/fixed, able to be in multiple places (both spatially and temporally) at one time. In other words, neither here nor there. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Ilaria Falli from Florence, Italy, based in London

Guilt reflects in different forms. It creeps up on you, constantly torturing the back of your mind, leaving you with a few spare moments of ignorant bliss and little space for anything else. You’re welcome to try and kill your own thoughts with your spirit of choice. But you can’t suppress them, they won’t go away. You come to an acceptance that you will have to share the rest of your life with the choices you’ve made. An internal monologue on betrayal, guilt and self-sabotage. My most secret and haunting obsessions come alive in an imaginary red room suspended in time, where memories and regret intertwine. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Sapiently constructed and marked out with brilliant cinematography,

is a captivating work

by filmmaker London based Ilaria Falli: when inviting

the viewers to inquire into the ideas of betrayal, guilt and self-sabotage, it triggers their perceptual categories with such a tapestry of sounds and images, creating effective mesmerizing narration. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Falli's captivating and multifaceted artistic production.


Women Cinemakers

Ilaria Falli Photo by Pietro Lazzaris


Hello Ilaria and welcome to : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would ask you some questions about your background. Are there any experiences influence ? Moreover, could you tell us what are your biggest influences and how do they affect your ?

Hello WomenCinemakers, thank you for featuring my work and giving me this opportunity to talk about it— it has been an invaluable retrospective for me. I recently graduated from a creative university in London where I studied Film and TV production. Uni was of course an influence, but if I’m being honest, not so much the lectures. It was the diverse and extroverted people in a setting of frequent exhibitions and learning to digest the dialogue between artist and audience that really changed my perspective on my practice. With my own insecurities and worries, I have always felt heldback from doing what I wanted. Seeing the artistic output of so many talented individuals gave me the confidence to make my own work and be proud of it. Seeing art makes you want to do your own art. It’s the ever- present London creative bubble that you get sucked into and eventually depend on. If we’re talking narrative, then… I have a big weak-spot for Jean-Luc Godard’s nouvelle vague work. His style is obviously marvellously iconic, but to me a lot of the allure comes from these films feeling so spontaneous and honest, yet full of hidden meanings; the ones he meant to portray and the ones we attribute as a thinking audience.

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers It’s like, the films that really get me are not the Inception-type of movies with very intricate plots or dazzlingly high budgeted Oscar nominees, I get that “I want to make movies exactly like that” feeling when I watch a brutally honest, gritty portrayal of British common life, say,

by Andrea

Arnold, or impressive studies of characters and relationships, like Gaspar Noè’s

. Maybe I like looking at other people’s

weaknesses because it makes me feel that we all love and suffer the same. we have For this special edition of 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 captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the ideas of betrayal, guilt and self-sabotage is the way it provides the viewers with such . While walking our readers through of , could you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?

I initially wanted to write a script about the end of a love story. The film is the result of a long process, it was born as a narrative short film, which I turned into a more experimental piece of work. The idea stems from a breakup which I had, about a year before shooting the film. It came from knowing the pain that cheating can cause not only in the victim, but also in the perpetrator. In the writing of the first script, the more effort and time I put into building characters, the further they fell away from me. I started to feel a disconnect between what I was writing down and what was going on in my mind at the


time. There were correlations between the script and my inner thoughts, but it wasn’t until I decided to be honest with myself and discovered that I was far more excited about realising my inner confidence to make something of my own — that I knew the path to take.

release. Featuring such captivating combination between enriched with a surreal atmosphere, what were you aesthetic choices when shooting and how did you structure the editing process in order to achieve

I was incredibly nervous and stressed during the shooting

such brilliant results

?

of the film and time was tight with the deadlines. It was at the very end that I decided to do commit myself to autobiographical work; I felt like I was doing something ‘right’ by following my gut. You could say there was some

I think if you make films nowadays, and especially if you learned them academically, there is so much that already exists, that it naturally just comes to you to make work that is a compound of everything you’ve seen; following


your gut becomes your methodology, to some extent. That being said, I was certainly aware of the harmonisation between what was happening on the screen and in my head in terms of colour, tone and nature.

immediately off-kilter. I wanted to throw the viewer into an untenable void which feels contained, yet also boundless and perpetual in the mind. This coincides with sensory distortion — the use of alcohol to cope with my guilt — and an uncomfortable motion between two realities.

I shot widescreen to evoke the sense of suffocation one feels when trapped existentially by guilt. This idea of containment within the physical space is suggested through the visually perceived scale and geometry of the shots, but the tight framing hides the actual geography of the whole room, which appears

The monochromatic red lighting and prevailing shadows are meant to enhance the feeling of surrealism, coinciding with the idea that nothing feels very real when you are cheating, and a sort of expressionist way of portraying that state of mind through hue and tone. Red is also reminiscent of an


internal, womb-like space, like that of a darkroom, to express the notion of a latent image, where something is not what it appears to be, or perhaps hiding in plain sight. The movements, shots and sound all coalesce in the final work, but much of this cohesion was discovered in the making of the work, and especially during the editing process. I made the first cut myself, but I had shot in sections which I found difficult to stitch together, so I asked a friend who is an editor for help. A fresh approach to the work by an editor’s eye allowed the piece to really flow and when I thought I had reached an impasse, his suggestion to use over layered imagery in the frame as well as effective sound design, meant both became key impacting elements of the narrative arc’s climax. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that " ": how do you consider the relation between

of the

ideas you aim to communicate and

of

creating your artworks? I used Victoria because I can’t act. But I liked the idea of being in it myself, and so am the second figure which appears for a moment, but I don’t say anything. I am almost my selfconscious, where I remain silent in reply to my own anxieties. I see and hear them but don’t act or react. In this way, the making of the work itself, is my reply. It was the catharsis I needed, to deliver an honest voice to unload my anxieties and feelings of self-caused entrapment. It was an attempt to

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers return to being full circle — this was difficult coming from a overstrained and imbalanced state of being. In making works that deal with “aspects of reality that cannot be seen by the naked eye”—it is inevitable that you abstract the body, sublating it with the mind so they translate through the chosen medium. Richter masters conveying a messy consciousness in his paintings. I hoped to convey what was left of mine, battered into submission by the chaos of my situation. It became a necessity to let my pain and weaknesses come out. Where I had initially displaced myself in order to write a theoretically sound script to captivate an audience, I instead thought about what the work could be used for, rather than the filmic attribution of final piece itself. That is the self- medicating or cathartic nature of it. On catharsis, I had to release my secrets, to release myself from the heaviness caused by the lies - and just a few moments of myself being visible is evidence enough to attribute my name, like a signature on a painting. I have authenticated my acts as my own— a concept previously unthinkable and terrifying to me. I am exposed, it is it being out there which is the main concept to contend with for me. We like the way your intimate

created entire

scenarios out of you

. In with the

viewers' emotional sphere: what are you hoping will trigger in the spectatorship? I wanted this to be like a letter never sent, unspoken and voiceless, a truth that you never told but one that is necessary and that you feel compelled to tell… yet also in an equal and opposite amount, to never tell anyone at all. I think this is where the emotional


charge comes from. In a way, it remains unclear if this voice was ever spoken aloud at the time of the events, the audience of the film knows only that in retrospect it has been vocalised. I have always wanted to make relatable work, so by using personal experiences as a core, the work gains empathetic integrity and surpasses a vocal barrier I experienced at the time of breaking up with my ex-girlfriend. Despite the excruciating and twisting internal explosion, at the time I came across to her as an inexpressive and inaudible wall, unaffected and apathetic. I do wonder if she has seen it, what she would say, or if she would ever understand. The work broaches an area that often hangs in a silent limbo. If someone can relate to the purgatory I felt, I feel it has achieved its aim as a work. We daresay that the imaginary red room suspended in time, where memories and regret intertwine could be considered an effective allegory of and we have appreciated the way you created such powerful resonance between the body and its surroundings: how did you come up with the idea about this location? Moreover, how important is for you to provide your work with allegorical qualities? The idea is that the protagonist comes home drunk one night, hence the floor tiles moving at the beginning, which are supposed to resemble your head spinning — she then stares at herself in the mirror and starts thinking. I picked the bathroom as it is a familiar space, one that is supposed to feel homely, one you’ve shared with your partner many times, and now that you’re alone it feels disrupted and empty. But it still is a real place in a way, it is being inside her mind and talking to herself which is the allegorical aspect. For my

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

A still from


interview

Women Cinemakers own personal work it is important for this aspect to be explored as I find it both helps me in making and in translating feeling across film. However, that is not to say that I think there is anything wrong with making purely aesthetically beautiful work. As conceptual spaces, I think our inner-mind and the bathroom have a lot in common, and I find them easy for people to project feeling into, and to fill that space with their individual psyche. A lot of subconscious language is evoked by notions such as reflection and self-image making. How this develops takes place in both our minds and bathrooms of the world. How does your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? In particular, how important was it for you to make , about a theme that you know a lot about? It was fundamental, it is all I wanted to do. I wouldn’t care about telling the story of a soldier in World War One. All of the works I want to make as director, I feel a strong desire from within to make them, both for myself and for others to hopefully find something in them. This monologue, for example, is all made up of notes I wrote before even thinking of making a film, while on the tube or the bus or just alone and I had all these thoughts going through my head, things that I wanted to say but I couldn’t tell anyone and then out of all these notes I had, I made the script. Anything can be fuel, really. This is why I want to make films about stuff that I know. I’ll see something happening in front of my eyes


and will think, “Wow, this could be in a film”, or “this could be such a cool shot” so I’ll write it down or try to draw something, to remember it and then maybe incorporate it into a project of mine. I wish I had a camera in my eyes to take snaps of what happens around me, because when I’m out I’m not really the kind of person that gets their phone out and takes a picture. I forget, or I’d rather just be there. I believe there’s a really crazy, incredibly interesting story to tell in everybody’s life, so I like to look around and chat to people. And I always try to live my life to the fullest, so I feel like I’d really like to share these stories and my perspective on concepts and worldly things. If I am not feeling the personal aspect explicitly, then I enjoy translating someone else’s vision most through working technically as DP. This position allows me to also suggest creative and technical solutions to narrative problems. 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 from getting behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on ?

I picked cinematography as my craft, which has always been male dominated and still is. However, I am quite amazed at how often I see women behind the camera in independent and short films now. It makes me so proud and happy to see women behind the lighting too. I work in a film and TV rental house in London, and used to do lots of driving for them, delivering kits to sets or production houses. A classic comment from people would be “Did they just send with all of this equipment?” or, “They

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


could have sent a guy to help you!”— and they don’t even think they are saying anything bad. Mostly, I think the fact that there is more women directing in film is great because their perspective is undeniably unique. New ideas will inevitably emerge from a diverse crew as compared to one limited to the confines of a monocular age, race and sex. Not only for the representation of women, but it’s how someone sees the world or the story that they feel compelled to tell. I and love Céline Sciamma’s work, especially . It is not just about women, I feel a lot for LGBT+ directors as well. I find Xavier Dolan’s films so emotionally poignant and easy to connect to. It is amazing because so many new things will come out of this. In my course at university, all of the final major project

me and my personal growth. I think my next piece will be about exploring and discovering sexuality. I have a lot of thoughts in my head that I need to put together. It’s also about the challenging hypocrisy of the chemistry in love and why our brain makes us feel the way we do. How you can feel so compelled to act and commit so strongly to something you know full well will cause an onslaught of pain later. How we’re all a bit Bonobo in this way. In terms of my work evolving, I want to continue doing experimental work, but I would like to combine it with more commercial outlets. If I could express my ideas through music videos, that would be fantastic. I am currently working on a video with a friend for a very powerful song, which hits the intensity marker for the type of work I want to be

films were directed by women. I thought that was very

creating. It is good that he doesn’t have that strong of a

good. I think that a lot of women realise that they can be

reason behind the song, he simply felt a certain way at the

whatever they want now. I am looking forward to a

time of its conception. This means I can put more of myself

widening directive proliferation of the female gaze. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ilaria. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I will keep working on my main career objective, to be a DP. I do a lot of working as a camera assistant/gaffer/spark. I am keen to learn from anything that helps to shape my knowledge of the craft. I categorise that pursuit as all real, tangible work. There is then the aspirations to work on projects that mean something to

into it and shape it in the way I want. I am excited for any projects that come my way and look forward to honing my skills alongside a diverse crew. I am very grateful to Womencinemakers and its readers for taking the time to engage with my work,

.

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

Profile for WomenCinemakers

WomenCinemakers // Special Edition, September 2018  

WomenCinemakers // Special Edition, September 2018  

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