ROS MARTIN JI WOON YOON SHANTALA PEPE JEN LIM GWEN CHARLES NINA RATH FANNY JEMMELY GABRIELLE LENHARD YOUNG JOO LEE MATHILDE NEAU
WOMENâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S CINEMA Gwen Charles
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Contents 04 Gwen Charles
118 Mathilde Neau
Young Joo Lee
The Magma Chamber
Ji Woon Yoon
I Can’t Stop Eating
DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN
Women Cinemakers meets
Gwen Charles Lives and works in Montclair, NJ, USA Deep Water, a dance film features women gathered in an abandoned pool, wearing billowing golden capes that undulate as they move through the spacious pool, creating spiraling vortices and rippling waves, making references to water that is no longer present. Featuring the dancers of the Moving Architects.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
Hello gwen and welcome to
and Dora S. Tennant
we would like to introduce you to our readers with a
couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after
Deep Water is a captivating experimental dance video project by New York based multi-disciplinary artist gwen charles: refined and effective in its composition and marked out with captivating soundtrack, it challenges the viewers' perceptual parameters addressing them to question our relationship with the outside world. One of the most interesting aspects of charles' approach is the way it inquiries into the balance between body and space. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted and stimulating artistic production.
undergraduate studies at Parsons School of Design & The New School for Public Engagement, you earned your MFA from Transart Institute, Berlin, German: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Thank you! Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d love to share some of my history and artistic practice for the past 25 years.
The undergraduate experience gave me a place to experiment and test out different media. As a fine arts major, I learned to weld; make plaster casts; silkscreen, and experiment with drawing materials. I came to Parsons School of design as a figurative painter and captured the figure in acrylic, oil, and pastels. In undergrad, as I had further exposure to painting daily, I became allergic to oil paints and the solvents used. At first, this was a huge blow to my practice, I had been painting with oils since 1990, but moving away from paint has offered me an opportunity to work in multimedia and be aware of the toxicity of traditional art supplies. Moving away from paint, I started to experiment with various materials: staining raw canvas with homemade natural dyes, and drawing with dry pastels on paper and canvas. Previously, I had been creating figurative tableaus to paint. At times I would photograph a model, or use myself as a model, arranging the photos which would be used as a source for the large paintings. Somehow I realized that these tableaus could be THE artwork and I started to create installations and performances, where previously I would have painted the scene. Until graduate school, my studio practice has always been an intensely private one, only showing works after they were completed and documented. At Transart Institute we were required to discuss our process weekly with small groups of students that were selected for us based on timezones. In addition to sharing weekly progress with students, I was also meeting with my advisors every few weeks, giving
them a summary of what I was working on and discussing the works as they unfolded. I had never discussed work as it was being made and never shared my process and progress while working. At first it was challenging to discuss ideas that had not yet been fully digested or critique the process. Now it is a normal part of my practice as I continue to meet with small groups of grads from Transart. In addition to grad school I have pushed my personal studio boundaries in professional development workshops with Creative Capital, the largest funder to the arts in the United States and an organization that asks artists to run their studio practices as a professional business. In 2009 I attended a one day professional development workshop on marketing for artists at Aljira Gallery in Newark, New Jersey, USA with artist Dredd Scott. At the time my website had not been updated in a while and I was not on social media. After whining that it I did not want to join social media, Dredd came close, pointed at me and said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;YOU NEED to update your website and you NEED to get on social media.â&#x20AC;? I joined Twitter the next day and started to work on updating my website. It took me a year to update my website, switching to a new service and formatting. In 2016, I was selected for a 3 month intensive Professional Development program with Creative Capital hosted by Gallery Aferro, Newark, New jersey, USA. This program offered us steps to take each month to help incorporated a business plan for our studio practice. Similar to grad school, the program required a small group check in periodically and Skype and online workshops with Creative Capital trainers. In two
Women Cinemakers workshops with moderators Andrew Simonet and Dredd Scott, they both echoed that I needed to be on social media to network with other artist, with potential supporters and to show potential supporters and funders that I am active in my studio practice. I added â&#x20AC;&#x153;join social mediaâ&#x20AC;? to my 6 month plan and first joined Instagram in September 2016,a month after the program convened then in January 2017 I joined Facebook for the first time. I am currently using Instagram as a daily digital journal of my studio practice. I only use social media for my professional artist. The response to my studio process shared online has been very positive. In 2009-10 I focused on building new skills and vocabulary to effectively collaborate with dancers. I immersed myself as a participant at Dance New Amsterdam, (DNA), a nonprofit dance studio and performing arts center in New York City, and previous base for the Dance Film Association (DFA). I took Gaga and yoga classes, writing workshops, and then applied to their Choreographic Investigative Course (CIC) worked with the choreographers & facilitators of DNA. Two of my mentors as part of the CIC were Ivy Baldwin & Jill Sigman. In 2010 I started experimenting with video and enrolled in the Media Studies program at the New School to further understand media history and production. In 2012 I purchased a small lighting kit, set up a paper backdrop in my studio and purchased Canon 5D Mark ii camera with the capacity for still and video work to improve the quality of my video work. The next two years I spent learning to work with editing software. I am currently producing my works with the Adobe creative suite.
Your practice is marked out with such captivating eclecticism and we have really appreciated the way your approach combines a variety of features from different art disciplines, ranging from Video, Sound Photography and Drawing to Performance, Installation and Sculpture. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: in the meanwhile, would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select an art discipline to inquire into a particular area of your artistic research? As I mentioned in undergrad I became allergic to oil paint and started working in various other media: using textiles, photography, movement to express an emotion. I was creating these scenes for my paintings previously and then I realized these scenes were the artwork themselves. Somewhere along these experiments, I realized that no matter the medium, my interests always stayed the same: to capture the human body moving in space to express an emotion. I would often use photography as a source for painting. I was using a system that has been in place for a thousand years, using a model for inspiration for painting. I would ask a friend to pose or cut out images from magazines and books, or use myself as a model by looking in a mirror. I would often try to express an emotion through a movement, through motion, and then pause the motion so it could be captured for a painting. I started to realize that this frozen moment has a moment before it and after it, it was moving, the figures in the
Women Cinemakers painting were inert, unmoving. I wanted to find a way to show the movement directly. I started to feel there was a new direction of working. In a studio art class in undergraduate program at Parsons School of Design, I was working with the theme of hair as a source of power and of sensuality, looking at themes in art history and mythology of cutting ones hair to cut ties with the past. I created a series of paintings with my hair. I used large sheets of paper on the floor and Japanese inky hair dye to use my hair as a large sumi style brush. Although the ink paintings came out beautiful, students in my critique group and faculty member artist Jackie Brookner, asked me why I did not show the act of making the painting. I was dumbstruck. It had never occurred to me to show the process and to consider this process as the art work. The canvases started to break out of the rectangle frame to become free form, the sculptures became wearables, interactive, performance based actions. I started to move the actions into the street as happenings, and as interventions. My references became broader as a read about and watched performance art and contemporary dance and music. As I started to document the actions I realized I could choreograph for the camera. we For this special edition of , an extremely interesting have selected experimental dance project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once impressed us of your insightful inquiry into the resonance between human body and space is the
A still from
Women Cinemakers way you have provided the results of your artistic research with such captivating aesthetics: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? I am very interested in working with improvisation. I have some works where I start with a seed of an idea, then develop the movement, the costumes and find a location to match. Deep Water was not created in a formal structure step by step, but formed out of a fluid experience/intuitive thought process. In summer of 2017 I was blessed to be invited to collaborate with the Moving Architects dance company to create the work "America Dawn". I was invited to a week long residency at Wilson College, PA, USA to help develop a work that draws inspiration from a poem written about a sculptural white Louise Nevelson work called American Dawn from 1967. The sculpture and the poem refer to the rising of the dawn over the city and its metaphor to the rise of the industrial era. The lights, darks, shadows, long repetitive shapes all are reflected in the dance work. After reading the poem and looking at the sculpture I thought about how to translate this feeing of the dawn rising over the city. I packed a bag of various types of lights, dicrotic glass, digital projectors, plastic sheeting, fabric,16 mm film and and digital video clips of the sun setting over Manhattan island. The dancers were very open to my suggestions for experimenting with new props, objects and materials during the residency. At one point the dancers were improving and I threw some plastic sheeting over a dancer. She immediately made a stomping motion and spun around. Visually in that moment, the plastic looked like water. I asked her if we might try the same movement in a puddle of water. As we explored the campus we discovered a
Women Cinemakers closed locker room and an abandoned pool. With a seed of an idea we filmed in the pool and experimented with the same motions of stamping in water, now imbued with further meaning inside an empty pool. These experiments became the dance film Deep Water. It was a combination of improvisation, openness, and kismet. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m grateful for the dancers willingness to be part of a fluid, flexible process. We came into the residency with one goal - to create the bones for a dance about America Dawn. We produced so much material in addition to creating the structure for America Dawn, we also created a dance film, a live performance with a video component and the structure for another dance we are currently collaborating on about memory and loss and we will return to Wilson College in 2018 and 2019 to complete. is marked out with such a minimalistic quality on the visual aspect and keen eye for details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? I wanted to shoot from angles that seem as if the audience is peering into the pool from various visual perspectives. Looking into the pool from the side, looking down deep from above, and looking across as if they have just entered the pool. Shooting with natural light, at the â&#x20AC;&#x153;magic hourâ&#x20AC;?, before sunset, gave a warm glow to the room and to the skin tones. I currently shoot with the Canon 5D Mark ii camera with a 24-105mm lens so I can get a variety of shoots with this
Women Cinemakers versatile lens. I had to work quick to capture the golden hour lighting. We shot over two consecutive evenings. I asked all the dancers to dress and wear the same makeup to give a uniform quality. I opted for an understated face palette using a matte cream nude lipstick and a matte face setting powder. I have been working with a make up artist who has taught be a few new tricks to create a matte look for the camera while dancing. Since we were at a residency I did not have access to my costumes in my studio. I went went onto the dressing room at the theatre we were rehearsing in and went through all the closets. I tried on many costumes in the dressing room and tried to drape them in an unexpected way on the body. I chose a series of poly fabric skirts for the dancers to wear as capes. Shot in in abandoned pool, features sapient cinematography and we have really appreciated your successful attempt to capture the resonance between performative gestures and the surrounding: how did you selected the location and how did it affect your shooting process? The location was a fortunate â&#x20AC;&#x153;discoveryâ&#x20AC;? as we searched for locations seemed to naturally bridge the ideas that evolved through the initial experiments in the studio. Sound plays an important role in your film and the emotionally powerful music by Michael Wall enriches the footage of with an ethereal atmosphere: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement within your work? Music and sound is integral to video and film work. A work like this requires some ambient sound: the squeak of the shoe, the splash of the water, the clap of the hand, etc. Finding a musical selection to match the work also takes some work. I chose a musical piece by
Women Cinemakers Michael Wall, a musical familiar with crafting works for dance.
and note the most visually striking images to use as inspiration for art making.
You often create your performances in alternative spaces, taking inspiration from everyday objects: how does everyday life's experience fuel your creative process?
I admire artists that use low-fi and very little postproduction techniques as filmmaker Michel Gondry and video pioneers Joan Jonas and Maya Deren. Their use of unusual camera angles, reflective surfaces, simple editing techniques and display options is still inspiring in an age of heavy use of CGI and special effects. I am focused on using the simple resources available to me to make inspired and captivating video work. It has been said that intuition is the dance of the mind. I enjoying dancing with the imagery that arrives through intuition and inspiration. The body has been my guide in illustrating these images that come to my mind.
I am very influenced by my everyday experiences, by what I encounter daily, what I read and take in. I use the strong synesthetic responses to daily events to guide my work. Making art is a way for me to process what I have been thinking about and feeling. I realize how important it is to be conscious of what we consume each day feeds us, and like with food, I can control some of what I intake each day. I can consume a rich varied diet of images and words, or I can ingest â&#x20AC;&#x153;junk foodâ&#x20AC;? reading whatever comes my way. We cannot control all our environment so of course there is much that comes before me that I do not choose, yet I can choose the response. I dig into the emotion I have from an experience and pull the synesthetic response from the feeling, sometimes using an association, or a texture, that bubbles to the surface. I use these responses to create works and the medium comes from what I sense the work requires.
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?
In addition, I have very vibrant sleeping and lucid dreams. These past few years, my works have been inspired by my dream imagery. Using video and photography, I have been able translate my dream imagery into short video vignettes. Dreams are part of the every day, but they are fleeting and quickly forgotten. I keep a dream journal
Our brains naturally seeks out pattern within abstraction and within the every day. All things emerge from a form of perceived abstraction and thought. Abstraction coalesces naturally into forms guided by my experiences and thoughts, ultimately into my artwork. The artwork in turn may evoke an instant reaction or feeling in the
Women Cinemakers viewer. Instant at first, then as we think more about it, we find connections to the every day.
look to the audience. Have I been able to translate the emotion and theme visually?
Synchronicity occurs between the mind and what is perceived as abstract, this in turn creates an interconnection.
A feeling does not always translate visually. Working kinesthetically sometimes takes a few attempts of moving and capturing the movement on camera, watching the footage and trying again to change the movement so it looks clearer, but still holds onto the emotion. I want to share my emotions but hope the audience feels free to bring their own feelings and perceptions to the view.
Merging elements of reality and magical realism, your artistic practice seems to move towards a bergsonian concept of time: how do you consider the relationship between perceptual reality and the realm of imagination? Moreover, how much important is for you to invite your audience to elaborate personal associations? Many of my artworks are inspired by lucid and sleeping dreams that I desire to reenact and recreate. According to Bergson, intuition, as well as analysis, brings to knowledge, and the experience of time is mediated by the way we perceive it. The way sleeping dreams talk to our awake life is similar to the way intuition talks to our experience of reality. The experience we have of time is not a linear experience. Our response to reality is determined and enriched by memories and emotions, and by the way we experience life. This is a little more evident in dreams. Dreams are an elaboration of our perception of time during our awake life. Dream combine and make evident what is blurred by a false sense of linearity our society. In thinking about inviting the audience to invite their own perceptions, this is a great dilemma for me. Coming from a visual background, my end concern is how it will
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Gwen. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? this upcoming year I will be working on completing a series about motions made by machines. Machine Movements is a series of live dances and videos focused on replicating the movements made by analog machines that keep running after turned on. A human replicates the actions of the machines, but the copied movements are without the same function as the machine. What is the intention and meaning for the human to create a non-functional action, copying a machine that performs an action for the human?
Dancers: Caitlin Bailey, Maggie Beutner, Jenny Gram, Lela Groom, Ashley Peters, Rachel Gill. Erin Carlisle Norton Artistic Director of The Moving Architects.
Women Cinemakers meets
Jen Lim Lives and works in London, United Kingdom
Jen is a British filmmaker who was born in London to Malaysian parents. She has always been involved in the arts, having studied music at an early age, and her earliest memory is of watching her collection of Disney films on VHS. She began studying film at the Beijing Film Academy in the first international film production program. There she studied photography, cinematography, editing and lighting, before deciding to return to the UK to continue her studies at the University of Bristol. She has written, directed and produced a multitude of short films and promotional videos which span everything from documentary to animation. She loves to make films about serious topics from a somewhat humorous and satirical perspective and admires the work of directors such as John Cassavetes, Hayao Miyazaki and Elia Kazan.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org New Arrivals is a captivating short film by writer and director Jen Lim: her film offers an emotionally complex visual experience, demonstrating the ability to capture the
subtle dephts of emotions: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Vajraca's stimulating artistic production. Hello Jen and welcome to WomenCinemakers. We would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background: you have a solid formal training and after your studies at the Beijing
Film Academy in the first international film production program you returned to the UK to continue your studies at the University of Bristol: how did these experiences influence your evolution as a filmmaker and as a creative, in general? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum due to your Malaysian roots direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Although my parents are Malaysian Chinese, I was born and raised in London and going to study in Beijing when I was 18 was the first time I had ever stepped foot in China. Once there, the contrast between my asian heritage and British upbringing was brought to light. My time there made me realise how out of touch I am with my ancestry, something I may wish to explore artistically in the future. However I also realised then how much I valued and missed living in a multicultural environment, and the extent to which the abundance of different cultures and backgrounds I have been exposed to my whole life, have influenced my ideas. My experience of the Beijing Film Academy was much like diving into the deep end. I had many filmmaking firsts there: first script, first edit, first time casting and first time keeping fish alive with a straw on set. My course in Bristol on the other hand gave me a more academic outlook; it introducing me to the various directors that now influence my work. Alongside my studies there I continued my practical work and took up numerous roles as a videographer as well as writing and directing further shorts. For this special edition of we have selected , a captivating 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
Women Cinemakers . What has at once impressed us with your brilliant storytelling is the way it sapiently engages the viewers with a clichĂŠ free narrative. While walking our readers through of , Could you tell us what did attract you to this particular story? At the time of the ideaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s conception I had recently had similar discussions to those Marie has with her family (with none of those life changing announcements I should add!). Therefore the themes explored the film were at the forefront of my mind. The decision to go childfree is met with shock by many people; there is an underlying pressure from society to have children in order to have what is considered a full life. This is a bias I wanted to confront in . I found that this lifestyle choice was rarely broached in film and when it was it was never the main theme but a minor motif on screen. Elegantly shot, features stunning cinematography by Patrycja Cygan: what were your when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? We were actually very limited with the choice of lenses but this ended up being beneficial in many ways. The framing progression was planned quite simply, beginning with wider shots and eventually going to close ups as the interactions between characters intensified. I tried to keep each couple within their own two shot, firstly in order to portray a sense of unity between Marie and Jack, and secondly to emphasize the divide between them and the other two pairs. With a relatively simple camera setup and having planned the shots as thoroughly as possible beforehand, it allowed me to focus on performance which is where I felt the most attention was needed once on set, especially with such a character driven script.
We like the way you explore serious topics: with its brilliantly structured storytelling imparts unparalleled to the narration, to unveil an ever shifting internal struggle. We have particularly appreciated the way your film gives to the viewers the sense they are watching would you tell how did you develop the structure of your film in order to achieve such ? Moreover, how does fuel your creative process to address your choices regarding the stories that you tell in your films?
Most protagonists reflect a part of the writer, director or in fact anyone who creatively influences their portrayal in some way. Looking back I think I channelled my own indecisiveness in the main character and, as I touched on earlier, her internal struggle very much reflected the debates I have had. In life things rarely go according to plan and so I tried to perpetuate this very common frustration through the characters. As the film focuses on one small but crucial event in the lives of this family there was no need to divulge any more information about them than what we learn in these few minutes. My aim was to highlight various contrasts: the opposition between the characters and each couple and the comparison between traditional and modern views. The process of redrafting was quite collaborative; I read through the script with the rest of the team and they contributed ideas that led to the addition of certain nuances in the story as well as its restructure. I had a mentor for the duration of this project and had feedback from other industry professionals, and this support really helped the scriptâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s development.
Featuring compelling narrative drive leaps off the screen for its essential still effective and we like the way you created entire scenarios out of : how did you structure your film in order to achieve such powerful narrative effect? In particular, what what are you hoping will trigger in the audience?
I hope the film prompts debate from its audience and leads each individual to question his or her preconception about the decision to have or not have children. The whole aim of the film is to question the stigma surrounding this topic and try to bring more understanding to what has and always should be a very personal decision. I wanted to create characters which the viewer can relate to in someway or
recognise traits of those they know from the reactions on screen. Mise en scene was particularly important to me because I
This was achieved by contrasting the occasion of the sisterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s baby shower to the announcement. I exaggerated the sense of occasion by showing how much effort their mother had gone to in her preparation.
wanted to really emphasize the sense of irony in the situation.
In your film you leave the floor to your characters, finding an effective way to walk them to develop with the viewers: what was your
preparation with actors in terms of
In particular, do you like spontaneity or do you prefer to meticulously schedule every detail of your shooting process?
you need at least a bit of spontaneity on set to achieve as close to genuine reactions you can get. We shot it chronologically so that it could unravel as if playing out in real time. This allowed me to actually withhold
I did rehearse with the cast prior to the shoot but have
the ending from all of the cast except Marie. When she says
always been very much against over rehearsing. I believe
her last line I wanted it to be like a real announcement in
order to see how authentic a reaction I could get from everyone else. I prefer to have a shot list down in order to ensure total coverage, but the list is flexible and I am always adjusting things on the day to account for time constraints or changes in lighting etc. The shots in all my films which were not anticipated are the ones that
excite me the most, especially in the edit which I usually do myself. is actually one of the very few films that I did not edit although I was involved in the post production. has drawn heavily from and we have highly
appreciated the way you have created such powerful between the intimate qualities of ordinary locations and the atmosphere that floats around the stories: how did you select the locations and how did they influence your shooting process? Out of all the locations I have had to find since starting out as a filmmaker, surprisingly this was by far the most difficult. At the time I really wished that we had access to a sound stage and could simply build what I envisioned as it was coming up near impossible, on our low budget, to find a dining room big enough to film in. However, I was extremely fortunate that last minute a friend allowed me to use her family home which turned out much better in achieving this domestic ambience and a more natural mise en scene. Over the years you have written, directed and produced a multitude of short films and promotional videos which span everything from documentary to animation: how importance has for you ? And how do you feel previewing a film before an audience? No matter who you are or what you do I think you have to take in all feedback given, whether it be positive or negative. In fact the negative feedback is what I really value as, though the positive reactions are motivating, any negative but constructive comments fuel my desire to progress as a filmmaker.
of things I most enjoy about filmmaking is the aspect of problem solving required when things go wrong, which they always do. I have found that these moments turn into
As cliche as it is, you learn from your mistakes and one
A still from
the most hilarious stories!
I have learnt that in terms of the more commercial work, the
satisfy the client brief and adapt according to the feedback
real feedback comes from the clients first. Of course the
before the end result even goes out to the public.
number of shares evidence how effective the video is doing
I have no idea about other filmmakers but I certainly find
in terms of achieving its marketing goal, but you have to
screening my work a really nerve racking event, which I think
has only ever paled in comparison to my experience cliff
catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on
the future of women in cinema. For more than half a
We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic
century women have been
research and before leaving this conversation we want to
behind the camera,
I think now is the time for females to really contribute to this industry; it is certainly easier than it was fifty years ago to have your voice heard in many fields, not just in the creative industries. Over the last couple of years especially, I have been constantly coming across funding, schemes and training courses specifically aimed at women and find it encouraging to think of all the opportunities this has created. I would urge female creatives out there to make the most of the current momentum and I actually do have to remind myself sometimes to make more effort in benefiting from these too. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Jen. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? It has been so easy to be siderailled by all the practicalities of everyday life that recently I have hardened my resolve to pick up the pace with my future projects. I could not really say how I predict my work evolving exactly as inspiration tends to strike out of the blue, but I am sure it will constantly evolve especially through this current period of change.
however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing: what's your view on ? Do you think it is harder for women to have their projects green lit ?
I do know however that I will continue to make films on topics I feel are not exhibited enough on screen and, even if the topic has already been given much attention, shed light on lesser known point of views. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Women Cinemakers meets
Shantala Pèpe Lives and works in Brussels
My choreographic work explores themes of womanhood, the paradox of female power and vulnerability as well as the perception of female identity throughout history. I portray women figures in both my performances and films, making use of non-linear narrative strategies as a means to create evocative imagery and a sense of timelessness. I choose to make solo performances as a means to create an intimate and personal framework for this research. Embodied physical states, narrative soundscapes and contrasted lighting design: these are the building blocks of my performative language, which I combine in a concise and interactive way as a means to create powerful visual and metaphorical story telling that provides the viewer with a strong sensory and emotional experience rather than a conceptual one. The Magma Chamber draws its inspiration from a vision I had years ago. After a couple of years trying to make sense of it, it became clear to me that this was a vision of one of the darkest and most controversial female figures in history: the witch. My research led me to study female figures and representations in both myth and literature, their consistently ambivalent and often Manichean portrayal. I found that the witch had evolved from earlier archetypes of femininity and was perceived more and more negatively over time. In my film I sought to trace the reverse path, starting from the figure of the terrifying, possessed woman who is haunted by accusations and dominating voices, to the magician, the healer, the mother all the way to the enchantress as a means of retrieving her true innate power, her sensuality and sovereignty over her own body, face and voice. The film naturally evolved from the topic of witches to the question of female empowerment by confronting preconceived ideas and common imagery as a means of reclaiming freedom. The Magma Chamber is made of two very distinct parts which portray these ideas in performative actions and aesthetical choices: a closing door, a confined body cut in half, a faceless character hidden behind long hair which is uncovered in the final scene, the character’s frontal actions and gaze. We chose filming techniques used to make horror movies as a means to build tension and suspense, as well as long shot camera movements which were choreographed in order to captivate the audience’s attention. Lighting was designed once the performative material had been created while the film’s sound score was composed over a long period of time once the film had been fully edited.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Shantala and welcome to
WomenCinemakers: you are a versatile artist working in the fields of dance, choreography and film-making, a broad-ranging and multifaceted artistic practice we invite our readers to discover by visiting your website http://www.shantalapepe.net. We would like to start this
Women Cinemakers interview with a question about your background. You have a solid formal training and hold a Diploma of Choreographic Studies in contemporary and modern jazz that you received from the National Dance Conservatory of Avignon, and over the years you have trained as an actor with John Flanders (Flanders Acting Studio) and Beatriz Flores Silva, as well as studied Jazz singing technique with Sarah Klenes, Pete Churchill and Marie-Sophie Talbot in Brussels: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? I was 19 when I graduated from the National Dance Conservatory of Avignon, where I had spent 5 years training intensely and specialising as a highly technical dancer. The school was amongst the best in France but was also one of the strictest and most old-fashioned in its teachings, forming a microcosm closed off from any outside influences, practitioners and disciplines. When i came out I felt a real urge to explore the world and discover new artistic perspectives. I wanted to participate in multidisciplinary projects where i could share the stage with other artists, not necessarily dancers. I started to work a lot with live musicians, in London particularly, where the jazz scene is very lively. After 10 years, extensive travel and dozens of projects, I once again felt I needed to broaden my own practice. I finally made the time to follow acting and singing training, which I had dreamed of for a long time. These new practices gave me a new dynamic and urge to learn. Dance being by essence a non-
verbal expression, which very much suited me, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and explore vocal work. Taking to the stage requires a kind of talent and confidence which I was lacking in life and in my work. It was a difficult but necessary step which really pushed me forward. I felt I had discovered a whole new and substantial field of work which would open new artistic opportunities for me. It gave me much more freedom in my work. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected The Magma Chamber, an extremely interesting dance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What particularly caught our attention in your insightful exploration of the figure of the witch is the way in which you subverted its archetype and, in a broader sense, the representation of female identity. We’d like to shine some light on the genesis of The Magma Chamber for our readers, could you tell us how you came up with the initial idea? Years ago, just after making my second film ‘Embrace’, I had a vision of a woman dressed in black, trapped in a closed white space, with only her chest visible, convulsing as if she were exorcizing dark entities. It was an intense flash of inspiration which I followed, deciding to experiment with such a closed white space myself: I created a set and improvised, curious to see what would happen. This
first video try out had interesting graphic qualities and something of a horror movie feel and suspense that excited my curiosity. I had never worked with that genre, but I felt it held real potential. Adapting this idea for the screen rather than the stage was an obvious choice, however understanding what this work was about and where it could lead me took quite some time. Having other projects unfolding simultaneously, I let this material rest for a while. Two years later I was offered a coproduction by the festival DesArts//DesCinĂŠs (now DAN.CIN.FEST) of Saint-
Etienne in France for a new dance film, as a reward for two prizes which my previous film â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Embraceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; had won in their 2015 edition. This was exactly the opportunity I was waiting for, I started to write a synopsis, a process which really clarified the nature and subject matter of the film: the dismissal of women in history and their ambivalent representation in tales and myth. I wanted to translate and show a certain kind of feminine power. I started to research the iconography, history and various legends of the witch figure, as well as contemporary works that had been made on the topic.
My friend Cedric Celorio-Lopez, who is passionate about Greek mythology and in particular about female figures in the Greek pantheon, was of great help. I tried to watch a few horror films, not always successfully, until I discovered Masaki Kobayashi’s mesmerising film anthology ‘Kwaidan’, which struck me with its perfect mix of beauty, horror and suspense. Following this period of research, we entered the studio with Antonin De Bemels who I invited to do the camera and sound design. We had 3 weeks to develop and gather choreographic material,
followed by 2 days of shooting. The story board evolved throughout the creative process as well as the lighting, designed by Hugues Girard. Originally, I wanted to create a very short and simple 4 to 5 minutes film, with a fast paced rhythm, which I had never experimented with. Our research led us to develop a few sequences, nearly all of them shot as long sequence shots. In the editing, we decided to throw out a number of sequences and reimagined the film entirely to draw closer to the subject matter.
Rich with evocative details and its well-orchestrated choreography, The Magma Chamber engages the audience in a voyeuristic and heightened visual experience, urging them to challenge their perceptual categories and create their own personal narratives: what are you hoping The Magma Chamber will trigger in your audience? In particular, how important is it for you that viewer's make use of their imagination to create their own stories with your work? It is essential for me to leave the story line open enough for viewers to stay active and make their own story with my films. Art is a way to question our perception of reality and concepts. It invites us to look at singular visions of the world, and through it, it gives us a reflection and a connection point to our own imagination and sensitivity. Dramaturgy has a key role to play in this kind of performative and visual work because it will trigger and channel the viewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s inner journey. It is the entrance door to personal associations. The challenge for me is to get the narrative to reach the core of the subject matter without being too directive and still allowing for a variety of layers of meaning and possible interpretations to coexist. In The Magma Chamber I really wanted to create a sense of bewitchment, using both fear and attraction to seduce the viewer. The witch is a historical figure of transgression which has been a subject of fascination, too often in the worst possible way. It was important that the film produce a level of visual fascination, by crafting a mesmerising character that would sustain the viewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attention throughout the film. The film only features a woman
caught in between 2 vertical and horizontal surfaces, a wall and a table, facing the viewer all through the film. The scenographic means are minimal, everything relies on presence, movement, sound and the relationship to the viewer. The fact that her face is hidden but she is clearly looking directly at the viewer sets a somewhat threatening tone, establishing a tense relationship to the viewer. I like to think that this is a chamber where you enter as a viewer and where you should have no exit until the film ends. Hopefully the film questions the viewer about their perceptions of female identity and the conditions of women. We really appreciated the way your approach to video dance conveys a sense of freedom and reflects a 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 for spontaneity? How important is improvisation in your process? Precision in choreographic writing is a necessary condition for me to access spontaneity and freedom in the performative act. And vice versa. They are two interdependent aspects of the performative language and indissociable in the work I am developing. The more I know what I am doing and have written and master the material I am working with, the more I can get free from it when I perform. I always start with long sessions of improvisation based on intentions, situations or themes I prepare beforehand. Improvisation allows me to open the creative process and explore the subject Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m working on without
giving myself intellectual boundaries that direct composition implies. I find it very difficult to write a choreography from scratch because it requires logical internal thought process that cut me off from any sense of spontaneity. It is rare that interesting choreographic material emerges for me in this way, which more often than not produces conventional boring material. Each project requires a specific language that needs to be discovered, and improvisation is my gateway to this new language. Long improvisations force me to let go of what I want to do and think I should do, and takes me beyond that point of knowing and willing. That’s usually when something happens, revealing interesting and unconventional gestures I would have not found otherwise. If you are sufficiently immersed in your subject, I believe the subconscious will do the work, provided you get over your fear of the unknown. Little by little I strengthen the directions of the work with what I’ve drawn from improvisation, to finally get to the stage of composition. I then refine the material, develop it, narrow it, depending on what’s needed. It is very much an intuitive process that goes hand in hand with analysis and more rational decision making. I don’t try to understand the meaning of every gesture, sometimes I just see that something works and let it be. Also, sometimes I understand much later what a specific movement or part means in the project. This is live art and that’s what I love about it. The intersection between sound and gesture plays a crucial role in your practice, as well as in your artistic
A still from
Women Cinemakers research, that has a particular focus on the interaction between movement, sounds and lighting: we particularly appreciated the way Antonin de Bemels’ soundscape provides your performance with such an ethereal and somewhat unsettling atmosphere: how do you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? Dance and music are rarely separate and their relationship is determined by specific cultures and subcultures. In contemporary dance, the link between music and dance has been questioned and explored in many different ways, searching for new kinds of language and interaction. I like to think of sound in my work as being as important as choreography or visual elements. I feel like they are the 2 main ingredients for any choreographic recipe of mine. Lighting is another element playing an equally important role in my work. In the dance world I feel that sound is often seen as secondary in a choreographic creation process, like a support element or embellishment for what’s going on on stage. Of course it depends on what kind of work you do. To me, sound has an evocative role to play to bring meaning to the image, allowing for a more complex, richer choreographic language to emerge. It can amplify the image as well as create distance with it, it can drive and orient the viewer’s sensations and interpretations in singular directions and in that way has a real dramaturgic role to play. It can definitely influence the insight an audience will get from a dance work. I feel it’s rarely interesting for soundscapes to illustrate or stick too closely to what is going on on stage, but sometimes this can also be necessary. I generally feel there needs to be a slight dissonance between sound and
Women Cinemakers image as a means of enhancing the viewer’s experience of the image. For each of my projects the way sound and movement interlock depends on what the piece or film is trying to achieve. For ‘The Magma Chamber’ I wanted the soundscape to empower the presence of the body, providing clues as to what was driving and possessing this being as well as bringing substance to the rather empty and sterile space surrounding her. It also needed to embody the tensions between the inner dialogue of this woman and the external voices haunting her, as well as reflect her power and resistance. We recorded my voice to give body, breath and substance to her presence on screen. We worked very closely with Antonin on the soundtrack, he would send me compositions, I’d send him feedback and suggestions of directions to explore. It’s been a very rich process which has taken a long time to mature. Again, intuition, working together with analysis, played an important role in the choice of the material we used. Then, what takes up the most time in this kind of work where body, movement and sound come together is attention to detail in crafting the soundtrack… This process can takes ages, but usually makes a huge difference in the perception of the work. Antonin could surely tell you a lot about my obsession with details and how demanding I can be. Thankfully he’s now proud of the result and can tease me about that! The original sound track is actually out on the label UNREzT / Thin Consolation : https://thinconsolation.bandcamp.com/album/themagma-chamber-ost
As you mention in your artist's statement, The Magma Chamber naturally evolved from the topic of the witch to that of female empowerment, exploring confrontation as a means to regain freedom. In recent years many artists, from Martha Wilson to Carolee Schneemann have explored cultural expectations about what women are supposed to be: as an artist interested in questioning the shapings of the modern woman, do you think that contemporary art could be a conduit for a kind of social criticism capable of raising awareness as to the condition of women in our globalized, still patriarchal societies? Moreover, do you think that being a woman provides your artistic research with some special value? Well, I feel deeply feminist even though I am not engaged in any political or social movement of that kind. My playground and podium is the stage and that’s where I can act concretely, in my own modest way. I personally think that we have a certain duty as women to redefine our position and identity within our societies which are still as you said very much patriarchal. Some of my work is imbued with these issues and I am quite sure it wouldn’t be if I were a man.. Even though I have a number of male friends who call themselves feminists! I am not sure though contemporary art on its own could lead a large part of the population to become aware of the conditions of women as I feel it is still a widely unknown field of art. The film industry has much broader impact, touching every layer of the population. I think if there is an art
Women Cinemakers which could have that kind of influence it would surely be film. With its essential, almost static camera work The Magma Chamber heavily draws from the minimalistic qualities of its environment and we really appreciated the way in which you created such insightful resonance with the landscapes: how did the choice of the locations affect your performing and shooting process? The social body is in constant interaction with its environment, its behaviour being largely shaped by it. The performative act for me is also indissociable from the landscape in which it unfolds. In my film work, there is always a specific location or a scenic device which sets a spatial structure to begin with. The choreographic material developed is very much specific to that setting. Like ‘The Magma Chamber’, my first film ‘Emergences’ is entirely set indoors, but shot in bird’s eye view and framed to the set, an oversized bed. The bed becomes the screen in which the body cannot escape. The bird’s eye view defined how the body was deployed and the movement developed. For my second short film ‘Embrace’ I planed to make a short film portraying the meeting of a couple around a long public bench located in the center of Brussels. The wooden bench was sinuous and located on a small square with ancient bulwarks. This site called for a dynamic and playful choreography which never came to be as the bench was demolished before we could carry out the project. Later on, walking on the cliffs of Cornwall nearby Plymouth, I
Women Cinemakers saw this marble bench facing the sea. It was a beautiful site and I decided I would rewrite my original idea for this specific location. There, in the midst of this magnificent landscape, taking into account the skyline in the background and the horizontal and polished lines of the bench, I had to rethink the nature of the choreography in order to develop movement which could embrace both the serenity and wildness of the surroundings. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make the same film I wanted to make in Brussels. Improvising on site with my partner Wilkie Branson, we quickly spotted that a subtle rhythm was required and that setting the body horizontally on the bench and shooting horizontally were what best suited the location. This bench had been dedicated by a man to his lover, and that also very much informed the choreography. What had this special location meant for their relationship, what memories did it hold for them? Was this the place where they had met? Was it where they used to come to talk or keep silent together looking at the horizon? I tried to locate this man but was unable to find him. All of this resonated in me and inspired me to create an ethereal duet which evoked an imaginary relationship full of softness and sensuality. I always find that landscapes provide clear direction for crafting choreographies as well as choosing angles to shoot from. Researching the right kind of presence and quality of movement to suit a given location requires a kind of openness and deep listening which make the creative process very interesting as it requires me to explore and discover new choreographic languages.
Women Cinemakers Deviating from traditional filmmaking, we daresay that The Magma Chamber highlights the struggle between perception and experience: how do you consider the role of direct experience as a starting point for your work as an artist? In particular, how do the details that you capture during daily life fuel your artistic research? I am a highly visual person and that surely explains why I do what I do. Observing people’s behaviour and traveling for work or discovering new cultures and landscapes are all an important parts of my life that indirectly impact my work. I grew up moving every few years, many of which were spent living in nature. However I have lived in cities my whole adult life so I often time feel the need to retire in nature. A few years ago I hiked 500km from the North to the South of Iceland, discovering amazing landscapes and spending days at a time without seeing any other human beings. This experience had a huge impact on me. I’ve often noticed in my life that inspiration comes at times when you give your mind the chance to get empty and find some space to breath, such as with meditation for exemple. To me it is necessary to give yourself that space often, as creative work requires a lot of energy and positive momentum. I am also a huge fan of nature documentaries, which are using new technologies to depict plants and animals in increasingly fascinating ways. I suspect that it has subconsciously influenced the way I move.. In a more direct way, my solo piece ‘Despite her’ was inspired by my love for jazz and blues and the first American divas.
I’m fascinated by female artist biographies from that time period and the similarities between their lives really struck me: many were extremely free for their time while being prisoners to male domination and addiction. I find the combination of their artistic power and tragic lives extremely interesting. On a more personal level, my film ‘Emergences’ was inspired by my relationship to dreams, which play a really important role in my life, exerting an invasive and dark influence on me. I needed to transform this darker aspect of my life into art! My last choreographic piece ‘Alice’, is inspired by ‘Alice in wonderland’, which questions identity, dreams and fantasy which are all essential subjects in my work. And also because i love tales and cartoons.. We appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to seize this opportunity to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing 'uncommon' works, 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? Women have come a long way and are still widely denied their right to do as they please with their own bodies, thoughts and acts. But today there are surely more female artists worldwide than there have ever
Women Cinemakers been in human history. Which is a sign of an amazing new era for women. Still, even in western societies, there remains a lot to achieve, and women artists have a great role to play in raising collective awareness, advancing the emancipation of women and thinking and re-thinking the place of women in our societies. I have to say I consider myself very lucky to enjoy such freedom as a female artist living in Europe. It puts me in a very privileged position compared to the majority of women worldwide. That doesn’t necessarily mean that being an artist today is an easy way of living, certainly not, but it is not related in my case to the question of gender. The difficulties artists face in Europe are more related to a global political systems that still consider culture and art as superficial. Working in the field of art, and specially with unconventional language, requires a lot of perseverance and hard work, mostly unpaid. All my films are self-produced and haven’t benefited from funding. It was a personal choice as the process of getting support takes such a long time and demands so much additional work. In the end you end up doing more administrative work than creative work! To produce a stage work, we don’t really have a choice because it costs a lot of money, however, with the kind of handcrafted films I do, I wanted until now to be able to do my thing without spending one whole year preparing production and risking not getting funding… Furthermore, these kinds of films don't make any money. They can travel a lot in festivals and be seen internationally but they usually don’t pay a cent. So you know you’re making it for the sake of art and because
you actually need to do it and give it to people. Until now I decided to use the money I make with other projects to finance my films. But I admit that for future works I won’t be able to carry on that way as this is definitely not sustainable on the long term! I have to say it would be quite rewarding to find a production company which could at least help me not loose money making them.. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Shantala. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I have only done solo works, whether for stage or on film, and I feel that I now need to withdraw for a while as a performer in order to direct other artists in my projects. I just finished my last creation ‘Alice’, and I need time now to think of my next project. I have had a film in mind for a long time, a site specific project in Iceland involving performers with no formal dance training.. I fell in love with an amazing site there, but I still need to do some research to know if it would even be possible to shoot there! It is a very simple idea but if I want to make it happen I really won’t be able to get away with working alone this time! So I’ll see what happens. I definitely want to continue develop my own work in both film and stage, but also occasionally work for other artists.
Women Cinemakers meets
Ji Woon Yoon An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com Hello Jiwoon and welcome to : we would ask you some questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Seoul Women's University, you moved to the New York City, to nurture your education with an MFA of Visual Arts, that you received from the prestigious School of the Arts, Columbia University: how did this experience influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how due to your Korean roots does your direct the trajectory of your artistic research? The school where I studied MFA is located in Manhattan, New York so there were many opportunities that New Yorkbased international artists visited the school. It was a great chance to experience how they balance work and life while pursuing their artistic career as well as their latest interest
and ideas. I think I had trained an attitude to live as an artist from a long-term perspective. I was also influenced by the environment of New York City as much as the educational experience from school. I was exposed to various cultural, racial, sexual and religious backgrounds. It was interesting to experience a society where different values are together, which is not mixed with one another but was more like coexisting. At this time, I started to think about my racial awareness of Asian and the national identity of Korean. While being in a socially secure fence of the school, I was an international student receiving ‘temporary hospitality’, and at the same time, I was a foreigner in a state of ‘in between’ that does not belong anywhere. I could not directly participate in making decisions or changes to the society I was physically within but was able to observe it in close. Paradoxically this 'indefinite' status reminded me to think about position and role as an artist in society. In terms of geopolitical situations and complex topography of history, Korea is abundant in sources for having a critical(or skeptical) mind since there have been
so many unstable political, economic, historical issues from internal and external aspects of geographically and politically contiguous countries such as China, Japan, Russia, USA as well as North Korea. So that, rather than the importance of the Korean roots itself, I think it was critical that these geopolitical conditions which have been “developed” to me. You are an eclectic artist and your versatile practice embraces moving images, installation, and performance: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit
in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select an artistic discipline in order to explore a particular aspect of your artistic inquiry? It seems I don’t limit the possibility of the medium. I enjoy discovering various aspects, function, and meaning of something. There is a moment when an idea and medium are combined interestingly and the work says itself while I try to balance between the idea and medium, avoiding that
it is too conceptual to keep visual interest or is inclined to show only visual spectacle. I am always working on it and many times I fail. However, I keep trying to capture a moment of tension between familiarity and unfamiliarity causing interest and critical thinking. I try to keep an attitude of doubting, rebelling, inverting something we firmly believe so that softening and making boundaries ambiguous which occurs various questions and interpretations. I also consider why this work should be expressed through me.
Your artistic practice is centered on the exploration of Korean collective identity as well as her identity, macrohistory and micro-history, war and immigration, subaltern cultures, and postcolonialism. For this special edition of we have selected , a captivating 2-channel video installation work that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . When of , walking our readers through would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?
To speak about how I started making HENOKO, I need to mention a bit about a performance work which I did right before HENOKO, titled ‘Welcome Home Michael, Your Country Thanks You’. The title of the performance is quoted from a banner to welcome the US overseas army dispatchers when they return home. This performance piece is a fine dining concept restaurant where offers an experience of fusion dishes created by the presence of US army bases. Each dishes’ names refer its regions and ingredients came from US army camps such as ‘Spam Musubi’ in Hawaii, ‘American fried rice’ in Thailand,
‘Corned beef rice’ in the Philippines, ‘Taco rice’ in Okinawa, Japan and ‘Army base stew’ in South Korea. These fusion foods, which were born under the influence of Pax Americana, leave their respective hometowns and return to the US to reveal their existence. By showing them in New York, I wondered if the presence of these fusion foods would be welcomed like the US army soldiers returning home after dispatch. After finishing this work, I hoped to go on a trip to try the authentic fusion dishes that I performed and look around if there are still US army camps in each country. Luckily
during winter break, I had time to visit Okinawa and had an authentic â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Okinawa Taco Riceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; at a restaurant located a minute from the main gate of Camp Hansen. Enjoying the trip and checking a travel guide book, by chance I read about local people who have opposed the construction of US military bases in a small town, Henoko. Since the headquarters for U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea has been relocated to a city where I was born, I became interested in Henoko and decided to drop by there.
When I first visited Henoko area, it was very tranquil. The local protesterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s camp made of worn out blue fabric was located along the shore and there were several people in the camp tent, showing a little information on why they have protested against the new US military base here. One of them told me that the main protest starts every morning at 6 am at the main gate of the construction site of the US military base, not in this tent. So in the next early morning, I headed to the gate again and witnessed a scene that people are sitting and bonding their arms like one mass in front of the gate and police are trying to
separate them. It was such a tremendous scene compared to peaceful sceneries of Okinawa. I directly jumped into filming it without plans. Postponing return flight and staying in a house of one of the protesters, I could have enough time to film most of the protest process. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I would make out of that shooting back then. I just kept collecting footages improvising on a given circumstance. This was very different from my previous work process but there was something attracting me to do that.
After getting back to New York for school, I checked out all the footage that I shoot from Henoko and could understand the details of the protest by translating Japanese into English with a help of a Japanese friend. While arranging and rewatching the footage, there were some points that I didn’t notice in Henoko. First of all, I found the protesters are singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ protest song from one of the footage and thought it was paradoxical that the "We Shall Overcome" protest song and the “Sit-in" movement, widely used as the symbol of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s of the
America, are moved to Japan and enacted by Japanese who oppose the construction of US military bases. Moreover, while editing the footage, my eyes got used to the violent protest scene and my gaze which was focused on the protesters gradually moved to periphery; Security guards trained to act like walls without any response or speak, residents watching the protest one step back, people coming from the mainland of Japan to support the protesters, US soldiers jogging and passing by the protest site, police taking a break in a container lounge for a
while, and a woman senior citizen comforting both police and protesters after physical crashes. I was thinking of how the people of these various layers are engaged in this event. Why do we have different emotional distance and feel the gap of emotion? which ultimately lead them to act differently. As it has been protested for ten years, both protesters and police were also conscious of each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s following actions and how it would be finished. Enduring the friction of daily life, how much courage/energy do they need to
sustain an action that they already know its ending? At
body and mind. However, which one would be truly easier
some point, it seemed like a well-organized ceremony or
an art performance repeating and reenacted a protest of the previous day by using their body to build temporary walls. These walls; a wall made by police and a wall made by protesters, reminded me visual similarity with old ramparts which imply the vestige of World War ll in Okinawa area. In terms of the difference of the persistence of time, the 500 years old ramparts seem to last longer than the temporary walls made by police and protestersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;
Featuring unsparing realism with sapient cinematography,
is a transporting
experience, and we have appreciated the way your storytelling captures hidden emotional reactions with thoughtful detachment: what were your when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens?
Honestly, aesthetic decisions could not be considered that much when shooting because I was not on the spot where I could direct people to stand here and there. I needed to adjust myself to improvise on a given circumstance and run around to set cameras to seize an important scene. It was like a war correspondent. I also needed to think and move one step faster or later than the scene to set up the cameras. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t totally understand what is going on and what people are saying on the spot because I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak Japanese, but there were moments when gestures and emotion go beyond the language. I tried to capture
those moments. I remember one interesting thing: when shooting protesters, I did not have to do closeup their face to capture their emotions because they used their entire body to express/transmit emotion. In contrast, because of policeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; too moderated behavior and facial expression, I did closeup their face in order to grab subtle emotions. In regard to the choice of camera and lens, I used Sony FS100, Canon Vixia and 5D Mark ll that I checked out from school. I used the Sony FS100 when I shoot the main
protest scene and interview people because I found that people tend to be more cooperative/prudent with a bigger camera. On the other hand, when I need to hide a camera to film something unofficial, I used the Canon Vixia and 5D Mark ll. Drawing from the memory of the war experienced by your grandparentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; generations, imparts unparalleled psychological intensity to the viewing experience: would you tell us how
important was for you to make something you knew a lot?
Honestly, I am not sure if I am making works about something I knew well. It is more about something I feel familiar but didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think of it consciously because it is too close or too far. I think most of my works started from personal experience and interest but it doesn't just remain on a personal level. While researching on something I am interested in and becoming more knowledgeable on it, there is a moment when these personal level of experience
becomes a strong motivation by being taken off outsider’s unripe eyes. In terms of the Korean war, it became important for me when I got to know that it was the event that my family was born(my grandfather had wife and family in North Korea but couldn’t go back to home because of the war and division so he got married to my grandmother and settled down in South Korea), but it has also involved in today’s social conflict and power games in Korea. I thought that it could be sympathetic to the societies of other countries in
terms of how the political power of the modern nation legally demanded sacrifice in order to pursue their intention. I think it is also important to remind people of their own country’s historical memory and current social conflicts. I believe that even in a specific situation where a person is facing, it can be universally talked by others. There is a scene that a senior citizen who speaks in front of the demonstrators in HENOKO. He is a native of Okinawa and his brother was forced to serve in the war in the Philippines and died during the war. This scar of the war has been passed down to the place of his life where has
been damaged by the US military base. The national violence in Henoko and the resistance against it would not be the only case in Henoko. I started with personal interest and experience, but I focus on the questions arising from a point where a single personal event as micro-history entangles with broader society as macro-history. We have really appreciated the way your practice inquiries into belief systems: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once remarked that "
": as an artist particularly interested in the exploration of boundary between â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;politicalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and politics, what could be in your opinion in our unstable, everchanging contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? Yes, I respond to the cultural moment that brings me critical thinking. I always consider what kind of meaning my work would generate. With an attitude of active
contemplation, I pay attention to the big and small events affecting those who live in contemporary moments including myself. The interest in this particular cultural moment is not just a story of its own. It is an interest in the invisible backgrounds that lead to the moment of its manifestation and visual experience that is the starting point for a larger context. Although having skeptical and rebellious attitude because I was born in a place where social and political context is important, I seldom make works with an expectation of
what I am doing would cause direct changes to the world. Honestly, I think if art has a particular purpose, the purpose on the art would eventually fail. I believe artwork arises from its purposeless and uselessness in a context of social function and role. It doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s useless or unnecessary in society. It means it's free enough to have a distance from society and suggest diverse perspectives and values. In a society where most people stay specific and fixed roles, I believe the role of the artist is to cross the boundary between these roles freely without belonging to any roles.
Artist and art may not be able to solve social issues directly but artistic attitudes and its ways of thinking can influence people’s thoughts and decisions so that they can respond to the firmly believed system or unstable changes by presenting alternative possibilities to be flexible in thinking and cross the boundaries. I believe that artwork can become ‘political’, even if it could not be ‘politics’. If politics is to determine boundaries, could “political” mean to affect and soften the boundaries constantly?
Political ————> ) ) <———— Political (( Political ————> ) ) <———— Political (( Political ————> ) ) <———— Political Politics Unveiling the boundaries among opposite sides, seems to reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that
: are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate ? In particular, How open would you like your works to be understood? The reality is easy to be distorted depending on various factors such as the tone of media and platform that deliver it so that the refraction of it would eventually occur. It is almost impossible to convey the reality as it is. Even if something looks like to show the reality, we should
have an attitude to question it and try to discover something remains unseen. With regard to something delivered, I think emotion is relatively straightforward. Personally, I want my work to have some emotional resonance beyond the visual pleasure of seeing something new and interesting. This resonance often starts with an emotional bond like a moment when we have experienced what others have experienced. Viewers may be from different backgrounds but I believe they are able to experience the same feelings.
Visual experience can also be strong as much as the firsthand experience. In this context, I think it is more important that the viewers broaden the spectrum of experience through the works and to expand thinking based on viewersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; situation and position than whether the viewers understand my works. I am satisfied if I provide the viewers a moment to feel something and make questions themselves.
emotions transmitted from the screens to them rather than understanding the events in HENOKO. Of course, they can feel more emotions if they are more knowledgeable on the events of the video, but the viewers can start from a question of why these people in the video are emitting those emotions, which is not from the judgment of right or wrong of the emotions. Whether the viewers have personal associations comes after that process.
However, this doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean to feel and accept the emotions passively. I also hope the viewers keep doubting
It's important to mention that the audience watches sitting on a fishing chair like the Japanese
protesters in the video, allowing them to receive a wide variety of emotions and layers of meaning, depending from their position: how do you consider the nature of the relationship with your audience? And what do you hope will trigger in the spectators? The relationship with the audience is tricky. Even if a work doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t reach to the communication with the audience, it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mean that the work failed, although the audience is the subject of appreciation of the work.
The artist is a being who keeps speaking and asking through works. I make works through various media in time and space and offer the audience a sort of artistic experience. I hope that the experience would be a moment of critical thinking in which the audience can consciously perceive everyday activities as they live their lives. As to the fishing chair in HENOKO, the connected fishing chair is a device that evokes a place in the screens and forms a temporary community with other
viewers while sitting together. The act of sitting could be conscious behavior that the will is reflected. Sitting is in the middle of standing and lying down. Standing is not continuous but temporary. Lying down could last for a sufficient amount of time, but there is no conscious tension. It gives a sense of stability too easily. On the other hand, sitting is balancing between conscious comfort and tension. It can also be a strong means of resistance itself, combining with the specific place like sit-in protest of the Civil rights movement. While sitting in the fishing chair, I
hope the audience would have a moment to think about what they are also resisting against in their entire life. 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 contemporary art scene. 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. 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. What's your view on in this field? It seems that it is not just the problem of women that have been discouraged from making something ‘uncommon’. I think most artists have received such opposition when they have shown/done/been something unusual in society.
Historically, as one of classes who couldn’t be in the boundary of social hospitality, it is true that women had had less opportunity to be shown in society and neglected by history. As the boundary of social hospitality has been slowly expanded by attaining suffrage, the rise of social participation and the devoted effort of pioneer women, I think we are crossing a problem of whether we are allowed to do something or not by one’s gender role. Although there is still a long journey that we have to work on, I believe contemporary art scene and institutions have been
trying and will keep trying to narrow the gap of opportunity and discover diverse voices. When it comes to pursuing an artistic career as an artist, I think we should not be safe in a frame of the female artist or whatever prefixed and not allow people to limit the possibility of various interpretation of our works. Once, one of my professors who is Black Americans said his work is nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement but people naturally tend to see his work in relation to the movement. Similarly, there were some people who saw my
work only in the context of the Asian woman and military things (even I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t show any military images in my works before HENOKO). I think artists should be careful not to let people confine works to a frame of easily readable and should keep challenging the limit by not making predictable works. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ji. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
It’s been slow down but I am keeping researching on the small and big issues around me and making works. After finishing school in recent years, to survive as an artist, I am facing a difficult stage which is hard to balance working for living and pursuing my artwork. so I began to think about labor and leisure as I am considering how I could work the minimum and spend the most time on my work. While reading Bertrand Russell’s book, ‘In Praise of Idleness’, I became interested in a social belief that working hard is a good,
specially in Korea. South Koreans usually work 8-9 hours a day which is third longest hours among OECD. (Even there is a quote in Korea, ‘Do not eat those who do not work’) Looking at the roots of this belief, it can be traced back to the ‘Saemaul Undong’, known as the New Community Movement back in the 1970s of South Korea. I was wondering if people hypnotized themselves (or by being forced) to work hard to restore a country that has been ruined after the Korean war and if the hypnosis is still valid to nowadays.
Within this interest, I have also researched on one of the districts in Seoul, called ‘Yongsan’ where I currently live. Yongsan literally means “Dragon Hill” (my zodiac is also a dragon, what a coincidence!) and located in the center of Seoul, served as the strategic location of economy and transportation. Historically military forces have been stationed in this district and the headquarters for US military forces has stationed since the 1950s. Before the US forces, Japanese troops had stationed in this area during the Japanese occupation of Korea and the US military has reused the buildings built by the Japanese army. Even
there is a record that the Mongolian troops were stationed in the Goryeo period in the 13th century. There are walls formed along the outskirts of the US military bases, which are quite long (shorter than the Berlin wall though) and they are visually uncomfortable as well as physical discomfort. These walls remind me of the DMZ zone between the two Koreas, and simultaneously they create a sort of feeling of disconnection which is similar but different from that of the DMZ.
In Yongsan district, there are also many interesting places
There are also other ideas that I am working on but not
such as a site of a Japanese shrine, the largest train station
sure when I will finish them. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m considering to show next
in Korea, a village where Korean war refugees were settled
work around the end of this year or next spring. Thank you
in and a rich village where high-class people live as well as US military bases. I am writing a script for video work with mythical/superstitious imagination through the presence
for the thoughtful and meticulous questions. It was very helpful to go through and update my thoughts.
of the dragon, a grand train station where peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; desires
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
are projected/intersected and the historical places over this
and Dora S. Tennant
Women Cinemakers meets
Ros Martin Shot in landscapes of Eastern Nigeria, St Kitts & Nevis and Bristol UK, this is transnational trilogy of digital shorts is a lyrical and poetic documentary tribute, that honours African ancestors. Three African women writers, on three continents, render visible and give voice three generations of forgotten 18th century African women from one family, who are permanently separated by the inhumanity of human trafficking into slavery
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant
I see myself as primarly a word based artist, a playwright, a spoken
word and activist based in Bristol, UK. As a child I was silent but watchful of the strange adult word around me its’ incongruences hit
Hello Ros and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions about your background. You are an established poet, artist, filmmaker and creative producer: are there any particular experiences that did particular influence your evoution as a filmmaker your artistic research? Moreover, could you tell us how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research?
me from a very young age. I was an avid reader of books, LM Montgomery of the Anne of Greengables, Louise May Alcott’s Little Women, Joanna Spyri’s Heidi were my favourites. I loved craft making out of junk, story telling. I endlessly wrote stories and put on performances. Mine was an interior world full of imaginative play and I could be anything. The public library and the Puffin bookshop shelves were my home. I was never bored. I relish and still do watch
Hi, thank you for giving me this opportunity to share something of my journey and the collaborative endeavour behind DAUGHTERS OF IBO WOMAN in 2017. Digital technology has enabled us to converge online as creative personnel from Bristol, Morpeth, Manchester, UK and St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean & different parts of Nigeria to bring to the fore, the African woman’s story affected by slavery and her afterlives in a deep and meaningful way. I have also approached the St Kitts filmaker Vida Rawlins to contribute to this interview.
old films, I am currently revisiting British colonial films for a project with my Uncle actor Orlando Martins in them from 1940’s to 1950’MAN FROM MOROCCO 1947 and ABANDON SHIP 1957 stand out for me. I can wholly immerse myself into them as he is for once not portrayed as the put upon, inferior African. I also I guess in creating, I am doing what I have always done but professionally, I produce literary based projects in whatever form best suits the narrative.
Women Cinemakers In my practice, I am rendering visible, the invisible, little people’s hidden histories/herstories to throw light on everyday oppression & social injustices. I find digital media user friendly, it opens up creative possibilities, enabling one to take more risks. It has enabled DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN’s international collaboration; digital media also allows instant recording of one’s work i.e podcasts are easy to make; it also enables us to reach new audiences. Living and working in a Bristol UK, there is a received narrative relating to Bristol’s/ Britain’s/ Europe’s imperial past as one of philanthrophy bestowed on the city by its ‘ great and good’ white men carved out in monuments and curated in in our public spaces e.g in cathedrals, museums and country houses. The stature of the controversial 17th century slave trader merchant Edward Colston in the city centre is a case in point. It is incongruent with my knowlege base and value system. They do no speak to me as an older woman of colour, a mother, a sister, a daughter of African and Caribbean parents, who arrived in 50’s to rebuild this country after the second world war. Where is our ancestor’s story? When the narrative of the invisible shackled toiler is there I am often made to feel uneasy. I guess in raising DAUGHTERS I am putting into the public domain, what I wish to see and hear and what I believe others wish to see, hear and feel. We are restoring Bristol’s African ancestors their true humanity, informing our own humanity. Revisiting inhumane relationships with one another in the past to improve what we have been bequeathed today is to understand of our presence in the city. Who and what has influenced my practice? Individuals; African and Caribbean elders, I have had the good fortune to hear and give public talks in Bristol and subsequently; not only befriend but have had as mentors, gifting me much. For instance, I owe much of my understanding of African Caribbean history, the struggle for decolonisation and the importance of telling our own narratives for ourselves from countless conversations and reading in the midst of the late Dr Richard Hart 1917-2014 the latter, Caribbean historian, author, political activist who resided in Bristol. In developing my thinking about the position of people of colour globally Prof, Denise Ferreira Da Silva re local significant events in Bristol civil rights activist, Paul Stephenson. And informing my thinking; researching my family’s own story, my father’s half brother namely Orlando Martins 1899-1985 the actor in the UK from Nigeria. Last but not least from my 95 mother. Eliciting her memories of growing up in colonial St Lucia in the Caribbean.
Women Cinemakers Each project raised brings new learning opportunities. On this project learning came from each other; on the African continent, Akachi Ezeigbo, Sam Osaze & film maker Onyeka Osajie, and in the Caribbean Vida Rawlins . I come to digital film making, to promote understanding how history is important to throw light on persistent globally inequalities for people of colour , and our creative resistance to this. I ultilise digtal films as a classroom resource to influence students learning in global citizenship, linking this to active citizenship. My aim in workshops is to develop in younger audiences’ their critical thinking skills about the world they live in and creative self expression through Our History, Our Heritage http://olawalearts.org.uk/workshops/ My first two digital shorts are examples of this e.g UNSUNG NO MORE OUR HEROES AND SHEROES BREATHE INTO YOU A FREER BEING 2005 (15mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv4RkJMP_l8&t=91s BUYING INTO BANANA’S LIBERTY 2007 (2mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh5ZJYjuxqk Are there particular influences on my evolution as a film maker? Not really; just having an idea and space at the right time to fit the opportunities that comes up. I choose the medium that best suits the narrative, but increasily I am realising I actually want to have records of my work. I put work on line and my film Fanny Coker is online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Axam3sgLdc&t=235s For this special edition of
we have selected , a captivating documentary 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 is the way your sapient narrative provides the viewers with with such an intense and struggling visual experience. While walking our readers through of , could you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? I guess, I had been waiting for an opportunity to share Frances Coker story once I had first stumbled across the existence of this African woman’s ghost in the Georgian House museum in Bristol. This was following a visit 3 or 4 years ago, I had bought a booklet ‘Pero’ (the African valet to Mr Pinney of the Georgian House whom a city centre bridge is named after. (The book is by Christine Eickelmann & David Small) Both Pero and Fanny had arrived on the
same ship the Von Charlotte, at the same time. I had heard of Pero but not Fanny. There was no mention of her in the Georgian house museum where she lived and worked as a maidservant & where presumably she died. She ignited my curiosity. Who was she? Why was she invisible? I was to discover a Baptist memorial stone in Greenbank cemetery Bristol, marked Fanny Coker’s final remains. Furthermore, held by the University of Bristol, in their special collection, were the Pinney papers with information on Fanny and her mother, Igbo Polly/Black Polly (and many others as former ‘property’ of John Pretor Pinney Mountravers plantation enslaved workforce), Bristol’s 18th century Nevis sugar plantation owner, sugar merchant and one time owner of The Georgian House Museum. They are now online https://seis.bristol.ac.uk/~emceee/. Seeing 12 year old Igbo /Black Polly name ( Adaeze was the igbo name we gave her in the film) on the plantation slave returns for the first time moved me to the core. I could hear her, ‘ despite all that has happened to me I will tell you who I am’. I was immediately and drawn into her story and world. What was it about her Igbo culture that was so important to her self preservation? Some time in 2016 , I came across Dr Josie Gill from University of Bristol English dept. She was looking for writers for an Arts and Humanities Research Council UK literary archaeology collaboration. I suggested Our Stories Make Waves: (African disaporan artist network of the southwest in creativity. I was founder member (2005-2009) From archaeologists scant scientific research findings on bone fragments disturbed from a ‘slave plantation’ burial grounds in Barbados and Gran Canaria. I wanted to bring things closer to home, to speak to the city’s truths of its colonial slave trading past in raising Fanny’s ghostly presence, to restore her in the bedroom of the Georgian House where she would be carrying out her domestic duties. Certainly, I did not want to collude with the prevailing silence of the house. Fanny Coker, speaks to me. She is the invisible woman, put upon marginalised working in the home, outside the home woman of colour today. The care giver, the nurturer of others in her family, sending remittances home elevating the community. The artist performance readings drew huge crowds for the Georgian House museum, crowds that reached around the block. I guess the public in Bristol are hungry to hear a different narrative than that currently presented in the House. My instinct was to recreate Fanny’s voice as I moved slowly through the cemetery to locate and the Broadmead baptist memorial stone marking her
remains alongside other Baptist believers that had been reinterred there in 1926. I wanted to create a lingering memory of her and of her family’s story to concide with 250 years of her birth, a memory that would endure. This included a live artist performance tribute this can be found online..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09WNdrZDM9M My Fanny Coker’s film can be found online and on Literary archaeology project website http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/research/literaryarchaeology/blog/2016/-what-is-literary-archaeology.html Once my film was completed, I sought help to create the other 2 films to complete the trilogy; one in Nevis and the other in South East Nigeria to restore Fanny Coker’s mother’s and grandmothers journeys. Enter writers: Vida Rawlins and Akachi Ezeigbo. Akachi is a highly celebrated author in her own right and a professor of English at Federal University Ndufu Alike Nigeria. I had met her in Lagos the previous year along with poet Sam Osaze. Being an Igbo woman herself she has researched and written novels on pre colonial Igboland and culture. It is an honour to have the
film in Igbo language and to have Akachi perform a special Igbo dirge for Fumnanya (Fanny) Coker as aprt of the film. Vida I knew in Bristol. We had worked together on my first film ‘Unsung No more’ digital film. She was also a member of Bristol Black Womens Writer before moving to the Caribbean. So DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN was conceived and came together as a digital memorial installation for the Georgian House Museum & Greenbank cemetery during August 2017 to mark International Slavery Trade Remembrance and its Abolition in the UK. Additional pop up screenings took place in in the Peoples Republic of Stoke’s Croft container’s gallery, situated in the Broadmead area i.e the St James Barton underpass, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare. This was programmed for Bristol Black history month and supported by Journey to Justice Bristol in our endeavour to raise Fanny Coker’s profile leaving behind spectres of her memory. We were successful with Arts Council UK funding for the Bristol sites installation, the rest is history.
With unsparing realism, is : what were your directed with spare eye and effective when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? I’ll let Vida Rawlins film maker nee Black Polly in St Kitts & Nevis answer this one. ‘Oh dear…. Choice! I think in the world of independent filming, choices are limited to what is affordable. I work with a Panasonic AG-HMC40 High Definition Professional Camcorder. I had the script, drive the music and the images. As to the lens, I shall answer it this way. The atrocity of slavery is that the AfriKan woman’s image has been corrupted through the lens of the person who holds the pen and the artist brush, the camera. The European sociopathic slide is superimposed over a continent. It is a derivative of the knowledge, the civilization models and the antiquities drained from AfriKa corrupted and turned in against herself. How do we shoot these scenes without it depicting the mendacity of the afriKan woman? Her being over sexuallised, promiscuous, concupiscent? How do
we render on screen, AfriKan people learning a new concept, that they were naked? Drawing from your being of African descent, imparts unparalleled psychological intensity to the vieweing experience: would you tell us how important was for you to , about something you knew a lot? And what make do you hope your film will trigger in your audience? Unparalleled psychological intensity, That is humbling, thank you. These women I believe are essentially ourselves in some kind of bondage whether this is mental or physical, patriarchal etc and in spite of this how we live our lives. I wanted to promote discourse & understanding of European colonial history its global impact particularly the effect of slavery in the 18th century and in its afterlives. My/our aim is to restore African women their humanity, make them living, breathing entities and to educate others whilst commemorating and expanding on a history yet to be fully incorporated.
A still from
Women Cinemakers I/we have learned alot whilst working on this project and I am /we are still journeying with DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN; To be honest I personally did not know alot about Igbo culture. I am Yoruba and do not even speak the Yoruba languge. What has been lost is being recovered symbolically, for all of us coming together in making these films, and for audiences viewing them in different settings and locations. It fills in gaps in one’s knowledge base in a visceral way and creates for us creatives a truly transatlantic relationship. Emotions were certainly stirred from feedback from the film in the Georgian House installation in 2017. Interestingly enough it was the Nigerian Igbo woman film that evoked most emotion in terms of its visceral content wherever it was screened. One could see when audience members left the exhibit room they were moved. They were encouraged to share their feelings. Many did stop to complete evaluation questionnaires we provided in the Georgian House, at Greebank cemetery and at the Bearpit.
2) On individuals affected by slavery -Absolutely, learning about Fanny added a human context around a story that is often pigeon holed around a specific narrative Individual stories always more powerful than the general Yes very moving and evocative especially Ojiugo section Yes. A narrative is an effective way of sharing a human angle, alongside facts, dates & numbers 3on women -Definitely. There's still a lot of work to be done in 'freeing' women across the world so important to hear women's voices. They are too often marginalised Yes women as property and sex slaves -I -This is a good reminder of hard times which only reminds me of hard times going on for a lot of people now
I can not speak for how people receive and react to DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN films simply to say, each film has been made with integrity to the writer evoking ancestral spirits specific to the landscape. Of course in the Fanny (Fumnanya ) Coker film, set in Bristol, I am her speaking my truths to the frustrations I see and experience as a woman of colour in Bristol. The questions we asked of the audiences in eliciting feedback were….
Using a naturalistic still refined shooting style and well has orchestrated camera work, drawn heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful with the landscapes of Eastern Nigeria, St Kitts & Nevis and Bristol UK: how did you select the locations and how did they affect your shooting process?
Did the exhibit make you feel: i) different about the Georgian House? ii) more aware of individuals affected by slavery? iii) think about the position of women in slavery?
Vida Rawlins nee Black Polly Nevis film
Some audience reponses were as follows: 1) Re feeling about the Georgian House - It made me very uncomfortable as it came across as though we are celebrating the slave owner, -I am stunned that I take for granted museums with the powerful white ''man'' as the main focus. I like to think that I consider the role of 'everyone' involved. But this exhibition has given me so much more -I hadn't been here before but it certainly contextualises the wealth & opulence & unsanitises it. Maybe consider keeping it permanently. In top room permanent exhibit, it says slaves were bought. Maybe more accurate to say humans were bought & turned into slaves
‘It is easy to return to the past because the past has not really past here in the Caribbean. Montravers Estate, The Nevis Estate of Mr Pinney (nee Pretor John), is still here as a memorial to our ancestors. We have many abandoned Plantation homes of the past elite, left open, in ruins with the excess and ostentatious wealth of the 17th & 18th centuries, now cloaked and preservedin cobwebs and dust, corroding from within. The story of Adaeze (Black Polly) was of her negotiations with Mr Pinney for the freedom of their daughter Fumnanya, raised to be known as Fanny Coker. Mr Pinney like all plantation owners had sexual slaves. I suppressed all my assumptions and lay down with my ancestors and they told me the tales I didn't want to hear
Women Cinemakers and of experiences that I myself had come to know. And I knew then that I, Adaeze was innocent. The narrative was graphic, I wanted the visual to show innocence’. You sapiently balance social issues with the telling of compelling narrative, something not very easy to do: in your documentary you leave the floor to the people that you introduce to your spectatorship, to develope a bridge with the viewers' inner sphere and the stories of three generations of forgotten 18th century African women: do you think provides your artistic research with some ? We black women, who are writers, artists, mothers, teachers etc wherever we are, we live our often invisible lives in a patriarchal world , our voices being raised and heard, is our resistance. Could a man have written and produced this? I do not know. I do know it is about lifiting ourselves up as women of colour, by our own endeavours, recalling our elders and ancestors struggles and recognising patterns now. In DAUGHTERS we revisit our mother’s and grandmother’s stories of separation from loved ones. I recall my St Lucian mother’s story leaving the island travelling alone by boat to the UK, leaving my eldest brother aged 8 behind…... We in Europe do not not stay long enough to really concern ourselves with our countries own complicity in the basis of plantation slavery system, in the Caribbean and its afterlives. When does one realise the nature of the oppression one is born into, will grow up in and will die in, men, women and children generation after generation? What narratives do we give to those who come after us? Watching Ojiugo’s grief, in the first film is hard viewing. It aims to connect with the viewer’s own humanity .. reminding ourselves what it is to be human, and what it is to endure suffering at the hands of ones fellows . What is the real nature of sexual transaction for the African woman under this opressive system? Do you make your captor your lover? How? Do you manipulate his weaknesses? And when you tire of him or he tires of you? What then? The question is as black African women, how do we make links with our own and relatives’ lives and the community’s global naratives of itself, it’s past and present? Do we look inwards and just concentrate ourselves wherever we are in in our European towns and cities or do we look out into the different
landscapes and place ourselves alongside sisters of colour in the world and make links? I have chosen the latter. Beyond these symbolic global links, DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN restores the Africa family. The message is whoever we are, we are one unity and with understanding of our shared history, with respect for one another and with creative imagination we have many possibilities to go forward. It has been a deeply humbling, beautiful and inspiring learning curve to connect with our global African family. Each of us brings our own unique voice of the woman in her landscape throughout history, speaking of her presence, enabling us to look at our common humanity and common woman hood, re how we hold up and honour ourselves and honour our bodies when they are essentially not our own, how we deal with being separated from our offspring. It alludes to the resilience and survival of us as women of colour and the manifestation a deep sadness and hoplessness when it does not seem possible to survive. Of course these stories speak of womens lives globally wherever we are. is a successful attempt to blur the geographic lines that once divided generations who are permanently separated by the inhumanity of human trafficking into slavery and that continue to divide us but to rather focus on the binding creative and cultural forces that unify and help bring us together. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ": as an artist particularly interested in the theme of cultural identity, what could be in your opinion in our contemporary age? Does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? D Does it? Certainly for me it is how we see the position of women and people of colour globally it is all relative, when I look at Akachi’s writings she is writing from a lived through understanding of hers and the lives of Igbo women in her matriarchial lineage going back to precolonial times in former Igboland. The urge to throw light on something that is painful, troubling and unfinished as a writer, is an exploration of oneself in others to begin to understand and heal ourselves. I am interested in the spectres of inhumanity and humanity from the prism of the othered, as an artist what else could I do but to show society’s dissonance about the memory
Women Cinemakers of its’ colonial heritage?. It is a priviledge to be a story teller, we offer up our work to enable others to critique on how past injustices positions itself in the present & how we feel or deal with this. We artists can shock, enable a process of healing, enabling others thinking more deeply about global narratives that challenge our present condition. We are not just victims. It's important to remark that you are a founder member of Bristol Black Women’s Writers group 2002-2005 and Our Stories Make Waves . We have appreciated both the originality and the of your approach, so 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. Do you think it is harder for women artists to have their projects green lit today? What's your view on ? It is interesting that you mention Bristol Black Womens Writers’ Group 2002-2005 and Our Stories Make Waves 2005- (South West African diaspora artists in creativity) 2005-2009. The former marked prolific creativity from all the women writers involved. Our womens writing group provided a safe nurturing space to take ourselves seriously on our own terms.. We were conceiving, believing and in raising our voices becoming our own agent in making meaningful work, doing our own thing. With encouragement, support it gives you confidence to think you can do anything. The world is our oyster! Incidentally, Vida Rawlins and I worked on a number of projects at this time including my first poetry digital short, UNSUNG NO MORE 2005. VR ‘I don't think that it is any harder than it ever was, I don't know that it is any easier now. Women are negotiating with men every day in order to move freely through society. We watch and produce images from a European male consideration. In our style of production, we reference male artists and autors such as Rembrandt, Ken Burns and Hitchcock. Women are discouraged only when we turn to these ‘experts’ for validation, when we follow the rules and doubt our relevance, shy away from self expression and sacrifice the fluidity of our intuition. After its launch on Nigerian soil, has been presented and screened in several occasions: how importance has for you that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel previewing a film before an audience?
Once it is out there on the screen, DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN becomes whatever people wish to identify or think about or further research for themselves. I was taken aback following a screening to a largely female audience when no-one had anything to say. I now realise silence often means the audience are still processing some of the difficult stuff the film raises for them. Watching the films alongside others is always humbling. I feel like I am watching them afresh. With each setting and audience in attendance, there is always something to discover and yes, I feel the visceral nature every time. DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN has had an afterlife since the official end of the digital installations in Bristol. So far screenings have taken place in London, Oxford, Preston, UK, Vancouver, Canada & Lagos and Enugu Nigeria. Further screenings are being planned in 2019 for Marburg Germany and Dakar Senegal the latter following French subtitling by the University of Bristol. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ros. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? As well as further promoting DAUGHTERS abroad I am working on new theatre play set in a church. I am revisiting a period of British history just before the introduction of the Slavery Emancipation Act 1833 I am using a haunting spectre which will symbolic to the space. Importantly, I am exploring the position of women at this time in relation to an ageing and troubled Wilberforce. The second project I am working on is using archives and experimenting with a prototype for online a digital museum that can be worked into a solo theatre performance re African actor Orlando Martins 1899- 1985. The question I am asking myself is how does the fall of empire play out in his British films and theatre plays? And how does he recall and relate his shifting relationship with his story, as an older man looking man on his past? I am I am working with Bristol based artist Mike Stuart on this. Thank you once again for enabling us sharing our thoughts on our work on DAUGHTERS OF IGBO WOMAN
Women Cinemakers meets
Caroline Haydon Lives and works in _________________________________
I like to think of my works as existing on the axis of reality and the realm of dreams. This place is a multidimensional, inbetween space in which the surreal and the mundane may exist alongside and within one another. My choreographic canon draws from the visceral, the innate, and the essential strangeness of the human existence. My work thus far has used the frame of Butoh dance to illuminate the dark and unfamiliar spaces within the self to reveal presence and our interconnectedness on an infinite scale, and in the process, to bring about a recognition of sortsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a meeting place which encompasses the deep and ancient familiarity that is at the core of our existence, often hidden in plain sight. I have found the landscapes of surrealism and deconstructionism to be useful in the rearranging of received ideas, images, and motifs. The pieces I make are placed in the canon of performance and multimedia art, in hopes of making visible what is often overlooked and unnoticed. My work has always been grounded in the altering of time and space, encouraging the witness to seek these dark places to bring about presence, reflection, and internal revolutions.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
artistic research? Moreover, how does your cultural
and Dora S. Tennant
substratum due direct the multidisciplinary nature
of your artistic research?
You have a solid formal training in acting and Butoh dance, and you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting,
I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a diverse artistic journey that has allowed me to work with and learn from incredibly insightful mentors and
that you received from the University of Utah: how
collaborators. From a very young age, I was immersed
did these experiences influence the directory of your
in theatre, dance, and a myriad of movement and
Women Cinemakers performance styles, and my path continues to be shaped
movement and its intersection with other mediums. I
by an innate curiosity about exploring the potential of
strive to create works that are living and breathing, as
multidisciplinary endeavors. For the past 8 years, my
Butoh in and of itself is an ever-shifting form. As it
artistic work has existed within the frame of Butoh, a
ricochets off of other cultures and art forms, it too
Japanese form of postmodern dance and avant-garde
becomes malleable and changeable, and I truly enjoy the
performance art which developed at the height of the
exploratory process of developing this type of work.
Japanese Counter Culture Movement and was influenced
When I moved to Los Angeles, I began to create my own
by surrealism, neo dada, French mime techniques, ballet,
works on film. How the form may remain alive and
flamenco, Neue Tanz (German Expressionist dance) as
present when digitally captured is a constant challenge
well as French and European literature. My introduction
and reward while working in this way. The draw of Butoh
to Butoh came during my time at the University of Utah
comes from the deep sense of presence within the
in Salt Lake City where I was fortunate enough to train
performer, and the visceral experience which
with Jerry Allen Gardner, a Butoh dancer who for many
magnetically pulls the viewer in. Capturing this on film is
years trained with and danced for Yoshito Ohno, the son
often challenging and requires extreme amounts of focus
of one of Butohâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s founders Kazuo Ohno, and his dance
and patience while shooting, but I have found that this
presence on film, when accompanied by strong imagery and tableaux, can be deeply moving and powerful.
In its inception, Butoh represented a shift from the conscious to the subconscious, and sought to deconstruct traditionally accepted themes, motifs, and characters, often drawing inspiration from Dada and surrealist visual artists such as Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. The multidisciplinary nature of Butoh itself has had a strong influence in the development of my current work.
I have been fortunate to begin working with LA-based Safety Third Productions, a movement-based new media production company founded by choreographer/director Katherine Helen Fisher and creative technologist Shimmy Boyle. Their self-taught and self-driven approach to the art of filmmaking has further inspired me, and their curiosities involving technology and new media have informed my artistic works as well. Uncovering the way in
Most often I am looking to deconstruct our cultural
which my works may be enhanced by technology is
understanding of narrative, time, and space through
exhilarating, and I am grateful to be working in a place
Women Cinemakers and time where these modes of expression are available to be manipulated and explored through the realms of dance, performance art, and film. Ultimately, I am still always striving to remain grounded within the roots and foundation of Butoh as its power lies in its simplicity. As I traverse these modalities, my goal is to remain centered within my artistic identity and the infinite power which lies in the language of movement and the body. For this special edition of we have selected HYDRA, an extremely interesting film that premiered at Art See Ocean Gallery in April 2019 and our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed us of your insightful inquiry into the repetitive and cyclical quality of nature, is the way it draws the viewers through such a multilayered visual experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of HYDRA, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? The textures and the profound multiplicities of time found in nature have always been influential on my artistic work. I find visceral and physical inspiration from the various landscapes of the natural world, and am in awe of the diverse life cycles of flora and
Women Cinemakers fauna which are all happening at once within the same microcosm. To think that a flower could be blooming while inches away a stone is slowing being consumed by moss and still a fallen tree branch begins to rot and decay is energetically such a buzzing and multilayered universe to inhabit and experience. Initially I was drawn to the dreamy ways in which this wild and untamed world was captured by British Impressionist John William Waterhouse, and the mythical and nymph-like women depicted within these environments. It began as a desire to further understand who these women were within these botanical worlds. Rather than exploring who they were being depicted as by the myths or stories they emerged from, I was more interested in how they themselves were painted into these natural landscapes, often alone and perfectly immersed in their environments. From my perspective, they belonged to these worlds and, just as the stone is slowly consumed by the moss, they too were in process of being absorbed by their environment. There is a deep sense of passion, true wildness, and profound longing that I get from the women in these works, and I was most interested in taking the moments depicted and expanding upon them, creating a life cycle for the woman within that universe. HYDRA was my attempt to simplify my filmmaking, and truly create a work unencumbered by equipment, postproduction techniques, or effects. While much of my work involves these processes and while I am always interested in
exploring the intersectionality of technology and my
drove the film and created these beautifully surprising or
artistic works, HYDRA was a chance for me to rely solely
evocative moments of pause throughout the piece.
upon my presence as a dancer and the unbelievable environment I was filming in. I was also deeply inspired by
Shot in the NynĂ¤s Nature Reserve as part of your artist
contemporary short film director and glitch artist Sam
residency, HYDRA brings to a new level of significance
Cannon who blends the human body and the natural
the tension between the body and its surroundings:
world in such a fascinating and visually stimulating way. I
how did you select the locations and how was the
too wanted to explore deconstructing the human body
itself, and the ways in which our limbs or our bodies mimic elements found in nature. I had very strong
I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be an
tableaux in mind for the film, which ultimately I think
Artist in Residence at Art See Ocean Gallery, a beautiful
gallery space situated at the edge of the NynĂ¤s Nature
accommodations. The first evening at the gallery, we
Reserve just near Vasterljung, Sweden. The experience
took a five minute walk down to a field overlooking the
was rich, profound, and further immersed me in this
Baltic Sea which became the sight for what I consider to
exploration of simplicity, presence, and exploration of
be the filmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s iconic hero shot. This process was also
time and space. In the woods surrounding the gallery, I
extremely powerful and illuminating. Having built up
found those vibrant, breathing environments I was
such a strong treatment and storyboard for the film, I
attempting to capture from the Waterhouse paintings.
had a very clear vision before even arriving at the nature
Being a small crew, solely comprised of myself and my
reserve. However, once there, I actually found that the
fantastic director of photography, Katherine Helen Fisher,
film began to unfold and blossom into this powerfully
we were extremely mobile and found such rich and
image-driven meditation on the ebb and flow of the
diverse shooting locations only steps away from our
natural world, and our role as people, and women, within
it. The results were astounding to me, and in my opinion what we captured aligned so fully with the initial questions I was raising in a way that I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think it would have had I stuck to the rigid outlines of my treatment. So in many ways, this was also an exploration of my process of filmmaking, and the beauty of remaining present, malleable. The filming experience was, in a word, cold! We were at the gallery at the beginning of April, just as spring began to arrive in Sweden. On our initial location scout, there was still ice floating in the Baltic Sea. I was initially a bit hesitant about the weather conditions given that the entire piece I am in nothing but a silk nightgown, but in hindsight the color schemes of this early Swedish spring were exactly what I was looking for. To mimic the cooler-toned pastels and richly vibrant greens found in those impressionist paintings, I had selected the perfect time of year. While it was colder than is perhaps comfortable, I personally think that the weather brought a sense of focused determination to my performance. Additionally, this is often an element of traditional site-specific Butoh dance, usually occurring in nature and frequently in colder weather or involving garments which offer little to no protection from the elements. I do believe the effect of the temperatures brought about a stronger sense of presence and an ability for me to more deeply embody the surrounding environment while also accessing an extremely authentic visceral journey. The focus, longing, and wildness reflected in
Women Cinemakers my eyes throughout the film manifested because of this environment, and needless to say I will always be proud of myself for submerging entirely into the near-freezing Baltic Sea. It was so worth it and such an exhilarating experience overall. New York City based artist Lydia Dona once stated that in order to make art today one has to reevaluate the conceptual language behind the mechanism of art making itself: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the big picture of your performance and the creative power of improvisation? Does spontaneity play an important role in your artistic process? Much of my choreographic work is structured based upon tableaux or moments that I consider to be markers through the journey of the piece, but being heavily trained in Kazuo Ohnoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s improvisational style of Butoh dance, my artistic process does incorporate a fair amount of spontaneity. For much of my work, I usually find repetitive gestures or spatial patterns during the developmental stages, and those become the foundation for the journey of the dance. What happens in between is very often based upon the environment and the present, visceral experience of living the dance. Moreover, I have always attempted to maintain an aspect of spontaneity as I believe very often these extemporaneous moments can result in inspired movements and revelations. To a degree, capturing dance on film
requires more structure than I typically use for live performance, but it is in these more structured moments that my internal journey becomes all the more important if I am to remain in this space of deep awareness and presence. Additionally, allowing for a sense of spontaneity and play while filming HYDRA resulted in some of my favorite moments and shots. I had initially decided that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like the entirety of the piece to be shot in real timeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;no slow motion capturesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but while shooting close ups in front of the ocean we experimented with slowing down the frames per second just for variety, and I think these slower takes became invaluable to the manipulation of time and space that drives the film. The refined interdisciplinary narrative structure of HYDRA is driven by visuals, sound, and pace with figurative, landscape, and inanimate object signifiers to provide meaning. Austrian historian Ernst Gombrich once remarked the importance of providing a space for the audience to project onto, so that they can actively participate in the creation of the illusion: how important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? I firmly believe that existing signifiers and linguistics are often insufficient when it comes to the potential of the artistic realm. In this vein, I am drawn to working with
Women Cinemakers images, and building my works upon images that I am inspired to expand upon or explore the journey of in an abstract or deconstructed nature. Linear narrative for the sake of pointing the viewer to understand a work from a specific perspective seems limiting, and I am much more interested in creating works in which the witnesses may interpret and attribute meaning to themselves. When I first began viewing and attending Butoh performances, I was often given the advice as the viewer to receive the performance as if I was within a dream which belonged to someone else. This has infused and informed my work, and has proven to be an effective means for me to create and to also release any objective ownership of my works. French critical theorist Roland Barthesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; essay â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Death of the Authorâ&#x20AC;? has greatly influenced my artistic process, which I think urges creators to release their works to the interpretations and perceptions of their audience. It is my hope that the audience for this project will come away feeling a resonance and inexplicable familiarity related to the earnest exploration of the human experience within the piece. I find myself drawn to creating works that are malleable and remain living, breathing, and changeable as they are received and understood by witnesses. Inspired by the dreamy, mythic, and often wild paintings of nymphs and women in folklore by late 1800s
Impressionist John William Waterhouse, HYDRA: as an artist particularly interested in the exploration of the intersectionality between ancient forms and innovative mediums, how do you consider the relationship between the cultural heritage from Tradition and Contemporary sensitiveness playing within your work? In particular, how does the theory of comparative mythology inspire your artistic research? The theories surrounding comparative mythology are very much intertwined with my interests regarding the axis of tradition and innovation. Deconstructionist theory plays a large role in my creative process as I am particularly drawn to finding these axis points with the intention of raising questions that may or may not have a resolution or answer. Rather than synthesizing these intersections, I am most interested in finding the meeting point, and illuminating that which does not coalesce or fuse together. By doing so, I find there is the potential for these accepted semiotics and motifs to become inverted, cultivating what can be referred to as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;pyramid on its point.â&#x20AC;? In this way, conventional understanding can give way to an inexplicable recognition and provocation within the witness. In my own works, I consider the relationship between cultural tradition and contemporary deviation to be integral at every stage and through each layer of the work. In my developmental process, I am frequently drawn to exploring images or ideas that spark this sense of contradiction or
Women Cinemakers reversal. My choreographic canon likewise involves exploration of a physical language that hinges on transmutation of accepted classical forms or alterations of accepted shapes and spatial patterns. Within my devising process, I particularly enjoy finding the starting point of a piece within distorted and abstract forms found in surrealist works of visual art from painters like Francis Bacon, and allowing the sense of tension and contortion in those shapes to inform the journey of the dance. As someone who has always held a great reverence for classical works across artistic mediums, I truly enjoy the opportunities to draw inspiration from cultural heritage and seek out how to approach the subject matter from a contemporary and deconstructed perspective. Your artistic practice links dance and with multi-media technology: how do you consider the realtionship between Art and Technology? When considering the relationship between art and technology, I think it is safe to say that the contemporary age is a digital one. New media and experiential forms of tech are on the rise, which in my opinion is quite exciting to witness and draw from. Still, there is always the concern when it comes to art and art-making that the development of technology sits in violation with the creative process. In my personal opinion, I believe this to be a somewhat narrow perspective. While I do think it is important to remain grounded and centered within the act of blending art and technology, we are on the threshold of entering an age and space with infinite
possibilities to explore. This is not something to fear or eschew, but rather to intertwine with our deeply human need to create. As I build works involving new media and technology, I am constantly aware of the role that tech is playing, the ways in which it supports and enhances the project itself. This is where the excitement for me lies, and in the unfamiliar frontiers we have the opportunity to explore as a result. In the same way that I draw from deconstructing classical forms and accepted motifs, technology and interactive experiences such as augmented reality provide us with an even more amplified sense of multidimensional perspectives, expanding the potential for our understanding and perception of artistic works, and our own existence to places beyond our awareness. As you have remarked in the starting lines of your artist's statement, you like to think of your works as existing on the axis of reality and the realm of dreams. Czech-born philosopher VilĂŠm Flusser once defined â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;imaginationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; as the ability to abstract surfaces out of space and time and to project them back into space and time. As a creative whose work highlights the Ariadne's thread that makes visible what is often overlooked and unnoticed, how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination playing within your artistic research? The correlation between reality and dreams favors strongly in my artistic works and in the process itself. Being that my
Women Cinemakers interests during the developmental phases of my work often involve everything from 12th century iconography to lectures on dark matter and alternate dimensions, I am always seeking to decode and more deeply understand the nature of our existence within and throughout the universe, space, and time. There are elements of Butoh dance that dip into Zen Buddhism and Quantum Physics, so to me this relationship between reality and imagination is integral to the power and the multilayered nature of the form. In my own works, I am constantly curious about the potential expansion of one moment, image, or tableau. Allowing an extremely mundane or pedestrian image to then unfold into something surreal can produce a beautifully poetic expression of the human existence. The genre of Magical Realism often informs my work as well, further expanding the ways in which we perceive our experiences and where we place ourselves within the universe and our understanding of reality. My works are often rooted in our accepted reality but featuring slightly surreal elements with the intention to make visible what perhaps would go unnoticed otherwise. In the case of HYDRA, the surreal element is as simple as the ways in which the human form blends and moves and intertwines with the natural world, enhancing and highlighting the human relationship with nature, time, and space. You are an established artist and 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
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? I am grateful to have been encouraged throughout my journey to develop works and a process that is intrinsically aligned with my artistic identity. Butoh developed as a radical form of protest, and in many ways I believe this has shaped my experience as I have never felt denied of or powerless within my own works, or the contemporary art scene. I am inspired by thoughts Marina Abramovic shared on the subject; Abramovic recognizes that women have often paid a higher price for committing to their craft simply because of accepted hierarchies within our society, but she herself never accepted that her position in life would be dictated by men, or anyone outside of herself. I believe that more and more people are recognizing that it is this sense of reclaiming oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s individual power which gives us the potential to balance the masculine and feminine energy both outwardly and within ourselves, and to open a door to conversations which have the potential to shift accepted power structures. I believe that art has the power to reframe and reimagine the dynamics and power of the divine feminine in an attempt to create universal balance. As we move towards a more interdisciplinary and multidimensional
artistic landscape, I believe this striving towards balance
Sean Deckert on a series aiming to capture the duality of
offers up an exciting time and space to create. Allowing
identity and multiple shapes all at once through the frame
our art to be universal, human, and multilayered provides
of Butoh forms. I am grateful to collaborate with other
the potential for a deep sense of connection and oneness
artists who are curious about the intersectionality of
with our own existence, and others.
different mediums and techniques, and the ways in which
Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Caroline. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?
are works are mutually inspiring and exciting to one another. The evolution of my work thus far has come from the opportunities to share my creations across a wide variety
I have the deepest sense of gratitude to be on this
of platforms throughout the world, and to inspire and be
creative and ever-developing journey, and I am beyond
equally inspired by a number of multidisciplinary artists. I
appreciative to Women Cine Makers for providing this
believe dance and new media as an art form has the
platform to share and expand upon my works.
potential to allow access to a wide and diverse audience,
This fall I am developing a new live installation piece involving Butoh as it relates to sensory deprivation through manipulation of light and sound. My hope is to develop and workshop this piece with the intention to share and premiere in early 2020. I am currently delving
and it has already begun reshaping the possibilities of film and accepted narrative structures. With my own work, I am ultimately striving to create a sense of presence and deep exploration of the perceptions of reality and our existence. This work has had a strong and meaningful
into a series of self-portraits involving deconstructing the
impact on my life and the way I structure it, and that is
human form as it relates to accepted motifs and settings. I
something I strive to offer up to the world with my energy
am inspired by the self-portraiture by artists such as
and artistic works. The impact lies in the sense of
Francesca Woodman and Antigone Kourakou, and am
recognition and visceral journey of both performer and
curious about exploring the nature of capturing and
witness, and I am most interested in my work continuing
depicting these moments. Additionally, I have been
to evolve by incorporating new media in ways that
collaborating with talented LA-based art photographer
deepen this sense of interconnectedness.
Women Cinemakers meets
Young Joo Lee Lives and works in Cambridge, USA
A daughter with blue eyes is born to an Asian woman. Her family neglects the newborn for having the blue eyes. The woman, in desperation jumps into the sea with the baby, which shifts the perspective of the narrative from the woman to the baby. The story depicts the journey of a heroine who is "the other" in a conforming society. She becomes part of the majority by hiding her otherness only to realize in the end, her inner "blueness" won't die, but it will only be born again in another form, in another generation. The soundtrack of the video was created entirely by the artist, mostly using voices and sounds made by her body. The idea of the inner journey came from the ancient Asian scroll landscape paintings. The landscape and architecture in this work are psychological spaces rather than representations of existing locations.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier
a BFA in Painting from Hongik Arts University,
and Dora S. Tennant
Korea, you nurtured your education with a
Meisterschuelerin in Film from StĂ¤delschule, Frankfurt and with an MFA in Sculpture, that you
Hello Young and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned
later received from Yale University: how did these experiences influence your current practice? Moreover, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum due to your South Korean
roots and your current life in the United States direct the trajectory of your artistic research? I gained a broad palette of skills and perspectives on contemporary art, as I studied in the three art schools in three different continents. Because I got to try almost all “traditional” mediums such as oil painting, charcoal, printmaking, sculpture and mold-making, I can freely use them when I need them and also to think with my hands. For me, this is very important part of my artistic practice and research, even when I work a lot more on computers nowadays. I still cannot start something from scratch on a computer. Drawing is a way to process information and my emotions, and it feels like the bones in my works. I like it when I can still see human hand and gesture in the digital world. I am also interested in the shift between 2-D, 3-D and 4-D spaces, and the realm in between reality and fantasy. Animation gives an endless possibility to mix all these, and I guess that’s why it became one of the major formats I use in the recent years. Living abroad gave me the opportunity to study more about Korean history and culture, because once you are outside of your country, you become the representative of it. I think it deepened my interest in how history, politics and culture shape an individual’s identity. Living in the U.S. now is mentally challenging, because of all the political disputes that are going on ever since I arrived here in 2015. As a South Korean, U.S. used to be (and maybe it still is) the number one destination for higher education and there’s still the U.S. army base in South Korea that exists ever since the Japanese surrendered. The complex relationship between South Korea and the
Women Cinemakers U.S. sometimes works in favor for me to stay here as a foreigner, and other times it is challenging to think about what is my role as an artist living in this country. Naturally many of the works I made in the U.S. deal with my own identity as a South Korean woman and a foreigner. You are an eclectic artist and your versatile practice embraces animations & video, performance, sculpture and drawing to pursue multilayered visual results: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit https://youngjoolee.net 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 an artistic discipline in order to explore a particular aspect of your artistic inquiry? I have a different starting point for every work. Meaning, each work comes to my mind in the format it wants to be unleashed. I would see a still image of a scene or an impression of a moment which usually ends up as a drawing, while there are sequential impressions or narratives that become video, performance and animation works. These impulses are related to something I read or experienced before. There are always some things that become my obsession or bother me for a while, which kind of take over my whole thinking stream. I usually write them down or make drawings, to better see them before my eyes. From there, I do more research, or make more drawings or go straight into making a performance or a video work. Sometimes the research becomes an independent work. In the journey to collect materials for the animation work, Paradise Limited, I drew what I saw along the South Korean border of the Demilitarized Zone on a 25-meter long scroll paper. This became a scroll ink painting that became a separate work from the animation. This journey changed and
concretized what I had to say about the psychological war between the two opposing sides of the border in Korea. A new story was written from this experience, and the result is the animation installation work, Paradise Limited. For this special edition of we have selected Disgraceful Blu, an interesting video installation that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/156251716/864b6ce5ec and 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 the compelling narrative drive of the combination between images and sound is the way it provides the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? Disgraceful Blue was inspired by a vivid dream I had a few years ago. I always have been an active dreamer and I practiced lucid dreaming for a while. I am interested in
dreams because they are similar to films, only that they are screened privately in the darkness of our own heads. I think dreams also inform a lot about our psychological status, wishes, anxiety and fear. Coming back to the dream that inspired Disgraceful Blue, I gave birth to a girl that had blue eyes and black hair. I showed her to my parents, but she was not approved by them because of her blue eyes. Blue eyes are never the physical feature of Korean babies, thus it implied that the father was not a Korean. Inter-racial marriage is not rare
anymore in Korea, but it still on some level is a taboo. My father in the dream asked me to choose between him or the baby. I chose to jump into the ocean with the baby, but when I hit the water, I suddenly became the baby, looking for myself. As I was ruminating over the dream, I realized that it is ultimately about my own fear and anxiety of being different, and being seen as somebody foreign in its native surrounding. This includes being a woman and being an artist. The father, mother and sister were not
my real family, but they were rather symbolically representing a society where I should be belonging. This is why I used my own body and face as masks to portray all the characters in the dream, because all the characters were reflections of my emotions. In terms of its structure, Disgraceful Blue is the first animation installation that I made using a long scroll drawing as a background. Initially, I was trying to draw a scene in the dream on a piece of paper. However, soon I had to add more because I started to remember the following scenes in the dream. In the end, the glued sheets of paper became a scroll, like a Korean traditional landscape painting. The purpose of such landscape painting is to provide an imaginary trip in an idealized nature. Disgraceful Blue is an imaginary journey following a womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience as an outcast from her own culture and identity. The omnipresence of a heroic figure in Asian and European religious paintings inspired the multiple appearances of the same character in one scene in the animation. We have been highly fascinated with the way you combine realism that comes from outdoor location and dreamlike atmosphere that pervades your artwork. In this sense, we responds to German daresay that photographer Andreas Gursky when he stated that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual categories in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And what do you hope Disgraceful Blu will trigger in the spectatorship?
The bodies and the faces of all the characters in Disgraceful Blue are from the same person, and just by their scale, clothing and hairstyle, they act different roles in the animation. The familiarity of all the characters are related to how I think of dreams as the mirror of our consciousness/unconsciousness. The blurred boundary between the interior and exterior space in likewise depicts the psychological space and time in dreams. The places are familiar locations to many people, like the ocean, cliff, beach, hospital and etc. These were not conscious choices, but I think they symbolize something to many people. I hoped that by mixing the locations that are familiar and unfamiliar to the viewers, they can enter into my world easier and get caught up in it for a while. I wish for the viewers to sympathize with the daughter with the blue eyes, and to recognize their own â&#x20AC;&#x153;bluenessâ&#x20AC;? or of the others around them, and to embrace it. is centered on the journey of a daughter with blue eyes born to an Asian woman, who is "the other" in a conforming society. As one the pioneers of feminist art, Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, the heroine of Disgraceful Blu not fall prey to the emotional prettification and in this sense seems to be a tribute to the issue of identity in our globalized still conformist societies. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artists' role differs depending on which sociopolitical system they are living in.' Not to remark that almost everything, could be considered political, do you think could be considered political, in a certain that sense? Since I lived abroad from a young age, defining my identity was an unavoidable task. Also, being a South-Korean, I get reminded often about the different value and social system people in North Korea are living in. In 2011, I worked on an animation introducing a
controversial book called Escape from Camp 14 for a German TV station. The story, regardless of how exact all
perception of who we are, and what we believe in. Thus, I am interested in what constitutes our way of thinking
the accounts were of the manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience in the labor camp in North Korea, I was deeply challenged to think about how much the system we are born in can alter the
and perception of reality. By telling a story that deals with my most intimate fears and experiences, I am
revealing the system that creates such fears and experiences. So, yes. It can be read as political. Sound plays an important role in your video and we have appreciated the way the sounds of the ambience and spoken words provide the footage of
Disgraceful Blu with such an ethereal and a bit enigmatic atmosphere: how do you see the relationship between sound and moving images? The sound and moving images have synergistic relationship in my work, because together, they enhance
the intensity and complexity of the narrative space. Sound occupies space beyond the screen. It creates atmosphere that immerses the audience immediately. It is physical/bodily, because literally it is vibration. Sound operates on the level of memory, of unconsciousness. Thus, it is a very powerful medium to set the mood of the work. In Disgraceful Blue, I created all the sounds using human body, most of them from my own. This was because I tried to create a visual/auditory space that is internal, intimate and psychological, which is what a dream space is to me. The theme of landscape is recurrent in your artistic production and we have particularly appreciated the way reflects the tension between the body and its surroundings. When introducing our readers to this stimulating work, that can be viewed at https://youngjoolee.net/paradiselimited, would you tell us how important is for you to create a work of art with allegorical features? All of my works are to some extent, allegorical. I think thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just how I understand and navigate through this world. Allegory is also a way to talk about complicated political, social issues and personal experiences. I often use autobiographical stories and mix them together with certain aspects of current issues and things I read about as I live day to day. As I try to make a sense of what everything means, I guess allegory comes in place for me to make connections between different ideas. I think our minds like to make associations but not be given the direct answers- and I think thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why we watch a work of art, for that aesthetical, intellectual challenge and associations that we are invited to interpret. For example, one of the stories that I remember well from my childhood is the story of Buddha and a pigeon. When Buddha was traveling around the country, he encountered a killing of a pigeon.
Women Cinemakers He offered his own flesh to save the pigeon. Buddha put a piece of his thigh on a scale to match the weight of the pigeon. However, the pigeon was heavier than his piece of thigh. He put more of his flesh on the scale until his whole body was on the scale. Finally, the weight matched that of the pigeon. This quite moral and allegorical tale about the equality of man and animal was told in such an effective way to a six-year old child. I cannot erase that quite gruesome picture of the human flesh on the scale, and the little pigeon on the other side of the scale from my head. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes, as you did in the interesting , a captivating performance that can be viewed at https://youngjoolee.net/hair-tsunami. 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 performance, how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your practice? Every artistic practice involves abstract thinking and physical exploration of ideas. The medium can change, and performance is one of the medium that I use. I think using oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own body as an artist is a natural approach, because in order to explore an idea, I need to physically experience to realize what works and what doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Sometimes this physicalizing of a concept can be much more challenging, because one has to deal with the space, gravity, technical problems, time and funding limitations. However, it can also be the most fun moment, because I get to see the ideas forming before my eyes, experience it, change it and share it with
someone. It becomes externalized. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like giving a birth in a way. The physical aspect can become a part of the artistic research, because I always learn something new from it. You are an established artist and over the years you have held solo and group exhibitions, including your upcoming shows at Alternative Space Loop, in Seoul, and Ochi Projects, in Los Angeles. Women are finding their voices in art: 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 producing something 'uncommon', however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. What's your view on the future of women in in this interdisciplinary field? I always wondered why there are more female students than male students in art schools, while there are more male artists in museums and galleries. It means that the situation changes for the female students when they graduate from art schools. It could be because of the family, getting a fulltime job or not getting enough attention and support from institutions that pushes them to choose a different path. I think it has changed a lot and it is still changing. There are many great women artists to be seen nowadays, at least in the big cities. The retrospectives of the women artists can greatly affect young women and future artists to believe in
Women Cinemakers what they do and to be able to project their career as artists in the future. I can’t name all of them, but artists like Laurie Anderson and Janet Cardiff inspire me, because of their works are sensual, intellectual, poetic and humane. There’s a notion of positivity which I seldom feel in most male artists’ works. So, it’s not only the number of women artists is increasing, but also there are different kinds of sensitivity being shown in the interdisciplinary art field that feels more inclusive and inviting. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Young. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Currently I am a College Fellow in Media Practice at Harvard University, teaching Immersive Storytelling using Mixed Media. I am researching on dream narratives and virtual reality that will evolve into a new body of work- it’s still in its infancy, but hopefully something will grow in the next few months. In the beginning of next year, I am going to travel along the border of US and Mexico to research on the human infrastructure and nature on both sides of the border. This is will be documented with drawings, writings and audio recordings. In addition, there are two sci-fi short film projects that have been in my head for a while now- let’s see how I can bring them out into this world. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
Fanny Jemmely The versatile artistic research pursued since a decade engenders a variety of propositions such as moving and still images, three-dimensional objects and performative pieces including textual or musical aspects. It cherishes an holistic view of the human being as a starting point and inquires into the common core of our subjective experiences. The person is seen as entangled in multiple processes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; passing through many modes of being, being crossed by inner and outer forces modeling her, unceasingly shaping the relationships to herself, the others and the surroundings, taken into personal and collective becomings. The desire hidden into this practice is to light up fundamental components of those processes, whether parts of any existence or inherent to the artistic activity. Spreading as symbolic or abstract visuals, multimedia installations, rituals or participative dispositives, my works aim to reveal the human being as a subject in constant mutation as well as an initiator of changes. Thus, in various ways, many proposals out of my corpus sollicit the viewers to leave the supremacy of the gaze to deploy their own potentials of invention. An interview by Francis L. Quettier
solid formal training and after having earned your
and Dora S. Tennant
Bachelor in Fine Arts at the ECAV (Ă&#x2030;cole cantonale
dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Arts visuels du Valais), you nurtured your education with a Master in Fine Arts, that your received from the
Hello Fanny and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.fannyjemmely.com in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a
Institut Kunst, in Basel: how do these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, does your cultural background direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Hi! Thanks for the invitation to participate to this edition
and to offer me the possibility of an interview. That is a first time! The cursus I followed in Fine Arts, first of all, gave me a lot of time to fully focus on the artistic research. So doing, the main themes still inhabiting my work today progressively became conscious as well as the reasons to dedicate myself to art, so to say. It is during those years that my artistic project found the particularities of its forms; I am yet referring to a “style” and to new medias like the videographic or the performative one. Now, about the cultural background… Despite the fact that I don’t feel particularly attuned with the western context it was given me to grow in and as my studies lasted quite a part of my life and as I ever been quite found of reading, that cultural background does probably play a tiny role (to quote one, amongst other influences, some authors of the French theory have been a source of inspiration!). After all, the notion of “cultural background” might be, in my eyes, more of an exploration’s process led by the successive directions taken by a personal curiosity unceasingly opening new horizons of toughts, perceptions, feelings and shapes. This individual research corroborates the more direct influences coming from the life’s experiences. - For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Thanaterros, 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/GtmLYhMd8Vc. We have particularly appreciated the way you explore the expressive qualities of the body, to walk the viewers to the interstitial point between the ordinary and the surreal: when walking our readers through the genesis of Thanaterros, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?
Ahah!... There are reasons to be a little anxious in front of that inevitable question! However, as I definitely stand for outspokenness, I will unveil my truth for you. So, usually, the artistic propositions of my corpus are the fruits of reflexion (or a sudden idea popping up!); in any of those cases, they often begin with an initial “conceptual” phase of research on paper. “Thanaterros” is an isolated case. While its process of realization still contains mysterious zones to me, at least, I remember the striking conditions of its emergence. Years ago, sitting at my desk, on one evening, the phone rang and abruptly warned me of a tragedy, the suicide of a close friend. As I remembered having left his last message without an answer, I stood there even more horrified, with a weird guilt. Some minutes later, I found myself spontaneously engaged into a performance involving that red lipstick lying around… The aim of that improvised ritual was to plunge into those foul-smelling feelings and get rid of obstructive components. This series of actions occured without a break while it was being captured by my computer’s camera. In a second time, it was edited without interrupting or cutting the initial sequence. A fantasy whispered me later that my friend might have inspired this, that he probably has been taking great delight in having taught me something I ignored, a non-conceptual manner to realize an artwork! It still is a surprise to me how such an intimate operation, made out of an emergency and towards a real purpose, turns into a work whose significance oozes beyond the initial situation. Thanaterros mixes realism with fast moments of surrealism, where initial charming moments are suddenly turned to tragic vision, to stimulate the viewers' perceptual parameters and
allows an open reading and as you have remarked in the ending lines of your artist's statement, your work aims to sollicit the viewers to leave the supremacy of the gaze to deploy their own potentials of invention: how important is for you to trigger the spectatorship's imagination in order to elaborate personal meanings? What do you hope your spectatorship will take away from Thanaterros? Primarily, according to Umberto Eco and his essay about the “open artwork”, for an artistic proposition to be aesthetically relevant, it has to trigger into its spectators that personal
potential to attribute meanings. It then seems of a highest importance for a proposal to provoke this kind of reception, whether it would occure on a mental level or by solliciting concrete actions. In some cases, it can turn the spectator into a co-author as in a reflexive work done as a Master thesis in 2016. It took the shape of a participative performance called “Undefined I, undefined piece”. It presents a lone performer wearing an integral suit hiding any personal features and permitting the embodiment of a generic human. After a phase conceived as a “show”, the performance would reach a last moment
when the â&#x20AC;&#x153;undefined Iâ&#x20AC;? was expressing his intents to not let the running piece remain a spectacle. The audience was offered the opportunity to influence the acoustic piece, subject to unpredictable changes until its form and content. As the secret wish of the second skin was to be cut, the hidden desire of the undefined piece was to be defined by the outside. If no answer followed the call, the participation would have been, at least, evoked, lighting up a crucial choice! If, on the contrary, the performance triggered reactions, it acquired the potential to mutate each time of its occurences.
So, it would just not be satisfying if my artistic proposals would only be meant to be seen - as more or less glorious achievements. They find their purpose(s) while they awake further processes in the name of an emancipated, emancipating art. I wish the viewers - as any beings - to deploy their own creative potentials, as it is part of the roots of being well or, of a well-being. The relevance of this choice actually relates to serious political and spiritual concerns and engagements, the theoretical and practical necessities to reappropriate ourselves our agencies to influence the situations in which we are plunged, to act on the current states of the real.
In the time where “Thanaterros” was created, this secret mission of my work was not that conscious. However, directly revealing aspects of the creative process was already included in the artistic vision. Precisely, that one video points out the dialogic ambivalence and the proximity in between these impulses of life, of creation – recalling here seduction, breath, raw expression - and those other forces rather linked with terror and destruction. Sound plays an important role in Thanaterros and we have appreciated the way its soundtrack provides its footage with such a bit unsettling atmosphere: how did you create such captivating soundtrack? And how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? That sound simply is the random track running by chance on the computer during the spontaneous ritual. During the editing phase, the music was slightly modified by chosen digital effects. As previously said about the sequence of images, I decided to welcome the sudden spurt of the work as a whole and kept it intact as a faithful commemoration. In that case, due to the simultaneity of the sound and gestures, you could also consider this videographied performance a dance. In fact, this music probably influenced the entire action more than ever thought as it extraordinarily fits the situation, giving the proper atmosphere - solemnity and concentration - and the minimalist, enigmatic, porous space needed as a background.
Women Cinemakers To emphasize the ubiquitous bond between everyday life's experience and creative process, British visual artist Chris Ofili once remarked that "creativity's to do with improvisation ? what's happening around you". How does everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? With all that just has been told now regarding “Thanaterros”, you can easily make yourself an idea… Putting apart this particular case in which a piece of the everyday life (even tough, it is a very singular one!) is directly building an artistic proposition, the existence commonly occupies like a continuous parallel space, close, very close to the space of the artistic activity. Well… it is rather including it. Actually it seems like there is a dialogic relationship in between life’s experiences and creative processes, where elements circulate from one realm to the other and vice versa. Producing an artwork has then something from an encrypting action. So doing, some existential fragments get mentally, emotionnaly, spiritually processed, giving birth to reflexions, temporary knowledges; the ones considered relevant are likely to reappear into artistic realizations. Moreover, to build up on Chris Ofili’s statement on improvisation and the importance of “what happens”, I must add this… While “the existential fragment” is integrated, encoded into an object, some unexpected elements are going to interfere with the process, exactly like “what’s happening” by itself into the matter, accidents and stuffs… parts of the everyday life of objects and differenciated and/or combined materials. “Faking the move” is a good example of this. The diverse shapes taken by the organism in this stop motion quite
Women Cinemakers sculptured themselves. They often are more decisions of the rose paste itself than mine. An other evoking example can be found in the installation “Field of mutations” conceived for my Master degree in Fine Arts and exhibited at the Kunsthalle, Basel in “Every contact leaves a trace”, a group show curated by Chus Martinez. We find there a video showing the making of the red organic sculpture presented on a doric column. There, in an atmosphere of emergency, the sculpture is suddenly similar to a bleeding organism on a chirurgical table, putting up with the collapses of its own matter, changing, constantly having to adapt itself to new circumstances and crisis. Finally, even tough it is more a matter of therapy trough artistic means or “art brut” than of usual contemporary art, let’s not forget numerous cases where any life’s experiences are springing into artworks without being the artist’s conscious moves! Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes, as you did in the interesting Undefined I. 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 the “Undefined I, undefined piece” in which I dwelled in the integral suit described before, the directness of physicality was used to show ideas in the most concrete way. The ideas of agency and becoming were presented in
A still from
Women Cinemakers action, trough the live raw music composed by the stepped rythms and the voice chanting a hammering theoretical poem. Auto-referential or “meta”, the lyrics were depicting the current running situation and referred to concepts which simultaneoulsy found there their concrete expressions, playing with saturation and redundancy. A similar and different play on representation’s mechanisms is again distinguishable in the “Field of Mutations”. This multimedia installation contains customized or original found objects, a cash machine roll of paper covered with fluxes, two sculptures out of clay and the video previously described, that one showing the making of the reddish organism. In this case, that “hyperimage” approaches the notion of representation by recalling us of its multidimensional aspect – an ever inherent difficulty or a sumptuousness - by simultaneously showing various elements as diverse formal definitions wanting to approach, to “glue” to a single blurry notion, the “becoming”. Tough, trough that variety of components, the “Field of Mutations” tries to avoid being a simple illustration of a concept or of an idea, perfectly aligned with it, as this would be taking the viewer as an empty vase ready to absorb a message. To take back this notion of “seeing” as an active part of the creation, let’s approach another kind of situation as it was given me to experience while I captured the images of “Fountain, in remembrance of B. Nauman”. Here, it is, at first, an aesthetic effect which found me into the real. Talking about a moment of contemplation as the origin of
a piece, the posture is different here; I am a spectator of my own aesthetic effect and the work is a capture of the situation provoking it, hoping that it can be unleashing feelings and/or reflexions in the mind of an other. If I dare to mention a drawing practice here, it is again a bit different if we consider the obsessive use of a pattern I like to call “fluxes”. Those fluid lines are often taking place for something invisible like thoughts, aspirations, affects, widely meant “economical”, libidinal impulses/exchanges, energies or melodies, etc. While tracing them, my mind is off and I draw without premeditations or expectations. This counts if I am not using the fluxes “performatively” to draw from a specific and almost incantative intent as in the “Magical interventions in the flowing”. In this last case, the realization itself is a ritual, like in “Thanaterros”. Following the impulses of the fingers, their intuitive moves, dynamic directions… using this pattern interests me a lot as it is able to shape different images into the spectator’s gaze, therefore putting him into a place or a state of activity. In front of this practice, as the author of it, I can be like a spectator myself, discovering the images after they have been drawn, seeing a face here, an entity there. We have appreciated the way your approach to performance art conveys sense of freedom 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 the need of spontaneity? How importance does improvisation play in your process?
Women Cinemakers The performance “Undefined I, undefined piece” was supposed to be completely impovised as I have recently developped a passion for musical improvisation and mostly for the way that, in such exercises, the music is literally shaping itself trough time, from a wide spacy sauce to… something. I get even more enthousiastic when it is about dialoging, walking together towards that one sudden time of harmony or simply, that one sudden interesting combination. However, the stress linked to that first performing action ever - taunting me with a potential loss of any means engendered by this planned lack of system - pushed me to finally choreograph the feets. So, at one point, each tap dance rhythm had its particular passage to accompany while the intonation and the melody stayed free to spontaneous modulations. Of course, the end of the performance as the public was invited to take part was, as well, given to the realm of improvisation. The combination of some kind of a pre-set structure and improvisation surely presents, beyond contrasts, a challenging aspect. This specific mixture might just be at the image of life… Sometimes, you have a plan and then you actually have to improvise! There are some predetermined things and some others that you will have to see right at the time you will have to deal with them! Really, constraints can, in some cases, inspire something different, rise creative potentials more than steming them. We like the way your works provide the viewers with such an immersive visual experience, to subvert the
cliché techniques used within the cinema and developing the expressive potential of the images and the symbols that you included in your work: how much importance do play symbolically charged images in your work? Those symbollicaly charged images, to take back your words, play a considerable role throughout my artistic corpus. Independently of the chosen medium, there are reasons for which symbols often emerge. As some symbols with defined signification specifically refer to one’s particular cultural background, I would rather use that kind of symbols whose signification stays fluid and which, at the same time, are able to softly orientate the viewer’s interpretation. This mechanism could be described as an interaction with common
perceptions from an intuitive, collective unconscious mind while it provokes a variety of associations in one’s mind. It can almost be called a method. Even tough it stays fluid and sometimes even unconscious – it brings the viewers to weave their reflexions. Somehow it is also about producing metaphors recalling what we might existentially be sharing, reverberating some dilemmas or initiations that the daily life confront us with. The use of those symbols potentially understandable beyond the notion of culture is something fascinating to my eyes, a way to explore the human psyche as well as a mean to produce sense in a non-authoritary way. Cinema or the videographic medium proceed this way, in the most concrete manner… into actions. Like Thanaterros does, it captures a performance as a form of ritual making use of symbols.
In my current work, I am digging further this symbolic niveau in a new way, as I am drawing while constructing and relying on an abstract language. It is amazing all that can be evoked with shapes, colors and their composition! 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 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?
Well, I guess your publication tends to put female artists out of a thick cover of darkness and give them a space to exist. Thank you! It has been and still is a pleasure to share those ideas about my artistic efforts and to see them recognized as such. It surely not has been that of an easy thing to advertise my artistic work or to show it until now. However, crucial points to overcome these difficulties are, among others, to keep doing it while nourrishing positive directions - detached from the common idea of success - and to simultaneously getting involved despite all into a series of actions towards visibility and acknowledgement. As it begins to be well known that most of the international exhibitions and contemporary art events are proposed and â&#x20AC;&#x153;inhabitedâ&#x20AC;? by males curators and/or artists, and that this fact makes this realm quite difficult to
penetrate for women even tough they might be as severely engaged into their art practices and ambitious as men can be, the question of the role that women think they do play is quite relevant! At first, it is important to me - without wanting to gender the art - that women persevere into creating what is naturally coming out of them, without trying to conform themselves or their artistic productions to the masculine predefined concepts (aren’t those frames also bothering some males as well?). Stubborn creation’s processes have to take place, even if they might not be fitting or yet considered. As in some other domains of the real - like politics or education to just name some of them - I believe the role of women can be to light up the possibility of otherness (some possibilities in contrast with the usual ways, views, current structures and systems yet into
places). Of course, this kind of official segregation should be exposed, analyzed in its mechanisms but I believe that it is not going to be sufficient here to stay theoretical. Without wanting to operate a simple reversal, concrete actions have to be made to change the situation… by women and men allies who want to imagine and set other kinds of concepts and structures. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Fanny. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Due to some circonstancial changes, I don’t have a studio at the moment so I mostly concentrate myself on some smaller scaled works – on paper or linen - adapted to this constraint of space. Lately, the “fluxes” took some colors
on and I enjoy experimenting freely with this pattern, augmenting its size, givint it significations to be deciphered, to carry like in the form of “scriptures” floatting on landscapes, letting it carry some special magic intentions for the personal and/or collective futur, relating it in a sort of shamanic/channeling way to natural elements etc. I want to explore more about engraving those thin lines into glas and exposing those surfaces to daylight. Those days, I also do think a lot about Nauman’s famous statement recalling us that “the true artist is an amazing luminous fountain”! In this way, he doesn’t really have to produce any other work than his constant self-actualization – process which is currently taking most of my time.
process of becoming an intermedial art-therapist along my
Furthermore, I am currently meditating on a new way to deal with my daily life and the concept of “work”. As I always knew, I am probably going to throw myself in a
new kind of human kings and godesses, caught in the act
own production of artistic works. Moreover, it would be a source of enthusiasm to develop “frames” in public or private spaces, initiating free, collective, “intermedial”, artistic operations. Ideally, those imagined acts aim to be empowering for those who perform them, for those who watch even, each time and for each person in different ways. They would push us to intersectionnally reflect and experiment on diverse mechanisms of power, empowerment, broad “poetry”, poïetic, etc. The development of this performative project could lead new subjects of painting. Those images to come would depict a of joy, confidence or awareness towards their own potentials, new axioms for a society.
Women Cinemakers meets
Gabrielle Lenhard Rude Ink. utilizes film to provide a complete sensory experience and physical journey for her viewers, inside a fully realized world. This process includes writing, set design, painting, performance, musical composition, costuming, digital arts, cinematography, and editing. The result mimics mainstream media yet calls the viewer to engage conceptually. Rude Ink. art plays with hyper sexuality and surrealism to examine societal constructs and our communication within them. Her work explores how our relationships reflect the social, political, and technological environment, as well as proposes alternative states of being.
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com Hello Gabrielle and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid training formal training and you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing, that you received from New York University: how did this
experience influence your evolution as a filmmaker? Moreover, how does your direct the trajectory of your artistic research? My screenwriting education informs the work that I do constantly. The program that I completed heavily emphasized craft and mastering the conventional form. The idea behind this being, once you know the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;rulesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; you can break them with more artfulness and purpose. When I began to make work on my
own, I realized that I felt bound by these rules. In order to release myself into a place where I could think freely and make work for myself, rather than an audience, I had to call my work something else entirely. This is why I make â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Video Artâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Some of my pieces are far more abstract than others, but I have found ways to apply my screenwriting knowledge to all of them be it to construct a conceptual thruline or in echoing a filmmaking genre. It is my ultimate goal to make feature length Video Art pieces, and I feel that slowly I am moving back towards more linear narratives using the new visual language and tools that I have developed for myself. You are an eclectic artist and your versatile practice embraces musical composition, costume design, set building, painting, performance, digital arts, and editing to pursue multilayered visual results: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select in order to explore a particular aspect of your artistic inquiry? I would say that my writing for each film determines how I move forth with all other aspects of production.
Women Cinemakers For some films the majority of my work is focused on costume design, while for others, like my film , I am mainly concerned with painting large scale sets. I think this is a result largely of my stubbornness with regard to realizing my ideas; I do not believe that anything is impossible to make happen. Therefore, I write without thinking of how something will come to be and task myself with figuring out the visualization afterwards. I think my multidisciplinary approach is very representative of me as an individual. Growing up, I painted, sculpted, played instruments, and studied dance. I believe that video art allows me the unique opportunity to utilize and practice all of my artistic passions. For me, there is no more satisfying feeling than having created the world inside of my head on screen, and being able to share that with other people. It may not look or sound like the world that we live in, but what do I have to offer differently from others, if not my individual voice? we For this special edition of have selected , a captivating experimental film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once
captured our attention of your insightful exploration of is the way your unconventional and powerful narrative provides the viewers with such an intense visual experience. While walking our readers , through the genesis of could you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?
I Canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Stop Eating was triggered by a few separate instances and ideas. A friend shared with me an unboxing video on YouTube a few years ago. I am not an avid YouTube viewer, and the concept that people make videos of taking goods out of their packaging was initially shocking. This inspired me to delve deeply into the genres specific only to YouTube, and I itched to make a parody of them.
Secondly, I had been thinking a lot about my relationship with food. My dichotomy between excess and denial, how is that also represented in the image of self?
What were your when shooting ? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens?
I recently learned about the internet phenomenon of ASMR, and was excited to realize that subtly addresses it. The soundtrack is partially just me eating a piece of toast and drinking water.
are The form and message of quite abstract, and the film takes place in a sort of mixture between the online landscape and the domestic feminine landscape of the
bedroom, the dressing room, the bathroom. Each scene in was meant to represent a different, popular YouTube genre, as well as a different sex position.The first scene in the video, for instance, acts as a makeup tutorial. At the start, the settings are sparse, visual representations of places that we know. As the film progresses we enter a place of great abstraction, before returning to something closer resembling a natural reality, along with the main character. The filming of the piece was meant to be quite voyeuristic. The Canon E0S 60D was one of two cameras available to me at the time, and I felt it was the right choice to achieve the appropriate feeling of intimacy and the artistic quality that I wanted. When I am working with cinematographer Mike Petrow, as I did for this film, I largely trust his judgement regarding equipment. We used a variety of fixed and zoom lenses. In a few instances, these were held detached from the camera to achieve some of the extreme closeups, of which I am such a proponent. 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 film and
? How much importance does play in your process? Spontaneity and improvisation play a important role in my artistic practice. Typically, I like to intensely outline every movement of the camera and actors, ahead of time. When the day of the shoot arrives, I then largely avoid referencing or enforcing what I have written. I feel that the most important ideas stick in the mind, and the rest is then open to flexibility. Ideally, I create a frame for each scene that the actors, cinematographer, and I are able to play in. I can give specific direction when needed, but I would prefer to provide options and scenarios where the actors must make active choices and experience genuine reactions. As much as I plan, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t predict the individual magic and mood that each person will bring to set. I think this method of filming is both more fun, and a method to visually convey an authentic, nuanced experience. Your work explores how our relationships reflect the social, political, and technological environment: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, " ": as an artist particularly interested in the theme of
cultural identity, what could be in your opinion in our contemporary age? Does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? I feel that there are many different roles an artist can take in our contemporary age. Activism. Entertainment. Inspiration. Education. Wakefulness. Personally, my films each zero in on a particular aspect, practice, or opinion, of my cultural landscape and highlight that through a surreal, highly exaggerated visual exploration. In doing this, I hope to provoke thought and introspection in my viewers, to show rather than tell. I create with intention, but I do not aspire to induce a specific reaction besides questions and conversation. What my films mean to you has equal validity to what they signify in my own mind. Living in Brooklyn, NY, a particularly active and varied cultural environment, offers me a unique opportunity to represent many voices and viewpoints, to be current without being overly topical. We have been highly fascinated with the way you combine realism with surreal atmosphere: in this sense, we daresay that responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky
A still from
Women Cinemakers when he stated that : in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create : how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual categories in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And what do you hope will trigger in the spectatorship? It is my hope that by taking a very real idea and placing it inside a surreal environment, I am able to guide the viewer towards considering that concept in isolation. Outside of a specific cultural or emotional context, I believe that we can engage with content differently. focuses on the impact that internet marketing and web media have on our self image. But the film could also be boiled down to the concept of .
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 " ": as a multidisciplinary artist deeply involved in performance and costume design, how do you consider the relation between of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and of your practice? When you have an artistic vision and believe in that vision strongly, at the end of the day, you are the only person who can see it through. I do not think of myself as a performer particularly or feel that I am a gifted performer, but I perform in my work frequently. At this stage, I feel that it is the right thing to do. Performing allows me to engage differently with my artwork, and therefore take more ownership of it. The abstract and often sexual circumstance of my films, I think, calls performers to be present in a way that is sometimes quite physically, or emotionally uncomfortable. How can I require discomfort from others, if I am not willing to go through that experience myself? We have appreciated both the originality of your artistic research and the of your works, so before leaving
Women Cinemakers 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 from getting women have been behind the camera, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. Do you think it is harder for women artists to have their projects green lit today? What's your view on ? My approach, as a woman, is to make work unapologetically. I believe that my artwork and my voice are of equal value to any other, despite the cultural reality that may indicate otherwise. By nature, my work is often very ill received, and that forces me to question constantly whether or not what I am doing is wanted, or needed, or of any value to society. But the reality is that I need to make art for myself. I need to take ownership of my body and express myself, and I feel that honest, genuine, available art will always find a place or an ear to listen. The fortitude of women will only continue to push our boundary closer to parallel. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Gabrielle. Finally, would you like to tell
us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I would like to highlight my most recent project, a multimedia installation titled that took place at Wild Embedding gallery in Brooklyn. This project was the realization of an American nationalist religion, in the year 2032 after all other religious practice has ceased. The first of 4 videos, is now available on Vimeo here (h ). I feel that my practice is moving towards a mixture of longer form, more narrative content as well as realizing more comprehensive installations, like Ch*rch of Murica. Both of these options allow me to create an even more detailed and immersive experience. My next ultimate goal, moving forward, is to make a feature length video art piece, so I will be working through the logistics and script for that, ongoing. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Cinemakers meets
Nina Rath Lives and works in Austria
Waltz with me through this human experience Dance with me the universal abun-dance Where nothing is yours and nothing is mine Yet everything moves in three-quarter time
An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant email@example.com
Hello Nina and welcome to
would invite our readers to visit and
in order to get a wide idea
about your artistic production and we would start this
interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid background: you hold a Bachelor (hons) in Digital Media, that you received from the University for Applied Sciences, in Salzburg and you have just finished your Master of Screen Production at the Griffith Filmschool : how did this experience influence your artistic evolution? Moreover, how does your direct the trajectory of your artistic research?
I believe that the environment highly influences my artistic work, and to be 100% honest, nature has always been the greatest teacher for me. It was not the institutionalized knowledge that has given me a deep “inner-push” to create art, but more often then not it has been nature and silence and solitude and self-observation. When I did the Master of Screen Production in Brisbane / Australia, I was also living and working in a monastery (or you can also call it Yoga Studio) with two Hindu monks and I learned at least as much from their presence as I learned from the lectures at university or the Australian culture, if not more. But it’s a very silent way of learning. Your learn by cultivating a lifestyle of meditation and introspection to understand what you are doing, and why you are doing it. What really motivates you? What drives you? What kind of topics reoccur in your life time and time again? And why is this particular topic occupying your mind over and over again? The greatest tool for my artistic work is self-observation. If I can distance myself from my created “identity” or “habitus” – which is of course highly influenced by the I am observing my life like a movie in which I play the main role. I become “The hero with a thousand faces” to say it with Jospeh Campbell. His work has highly influenced me. But to get back to the education at universities. I am very critical about this. There are some people in these institutions that are “light-bulbs” and who are really interested in your personal growth. They keep investing their time to really push you to the limits and support and nurture and question you and your work. That’s wonderful. But this is not the majority. I think you can always sense, why people are doing what they are doing. Some do it just because it looks great on their CV. It’s great
Women Cinemakers for their life but it adds very little to mine. And other’s do it because their really love to see young people get out of their comfort zones and scratch on the surface of the big box called “your full potential”. Whatever that looks like. But you can feel, when it’s a bit scary, a bit uncomfortable but still extremely exciting and you want to give 1000% of your energy. That’s what great teachers reveal inside you, cause they have lived their lives that way too. Two names I would like to mention here are: Mark Travis https://thetravistechnique.com/ and Elsha Bohnert. They have taught Masterclasses at Griffith Filmschool and their presence and toughness and love and dedication to their work and to see us grow to a new level of acting and directing was just mind-boggling. One lecture was called : “Telling your life story”, and each student had to present a personal story within 5 minutes in front of the whole group. Sounds simple. But you cannot imagine what kind of tragic, funny, heart-breaking and uplifting stories all these young students have gone through. First of all it was a deeply bonding experience for all of us, but furthermore it was a revelation to discover that each one of us had gathered a lot of wisdom, knowledge and life-experience and it was worth telling these stories, no matter how “small” they appeared to be. If you dare to go really deep, the whole group will go deep with you. If you prefer to stay “save” and shallow, so will your audience. That’s what I took away from the Masterclasses with Mark and Elsha. I highly recommend it to anyone. It will really shake up your life if you participate in their workshops. So these two people (and a few more) were my light-bulbs, but it total I would say that the filmschool itself was not really giving me what I was hoping for. I guess a lot of young people are looking for a structure, a place where they can unfold themselves to develop an artistic skill, and this was a major reason for me too. I was looking for some clear defined structure called “university” where I can improve
my talents and explore what I really want to do with my life. But as always, it is so dependent on your own energy, on your personal commitment and motivation. If you are willing to push hard, uni can support you with equipment and studios and knowledge and whatnot. But you can also do it without uni. That’s my conclusion. At some point I actually realized that you can never really “rely” on an
institution to uncover your full potential but in some ways it can actually hinder you from doing it. Cause it feels “save”. I live in a monastery and I mediate with the monks, I write my screenplays and shoot my films and go to university. That’s all save. If you would have to do it all without these external structures it would be much harder to cultivate self- discipline, to really get up in the morning
at 5 am and meditate and to step up to organize a crew and a budget and a make your film happen, in the socalled “real world”. That requires a lot of determination and inner strength and I just say that this is not depended on any external factor. But I would love to participate for example in a course of Werner Herzog. He has designed a very special training for film students. I
heard that one part of his “training” is to send people out into the forest for 3 days (like on a vision quest) and not do anything there. Just sit and listen and observe. Not create, write, act, do anything. But just sit and wait and see what happens on the inside and the outside. See what wants to emerge through you rather than what you create with willpower alone. I believe there is a big
Women Cinemakers difference in making something happen from a place of “ego” and effort and making something happen from an inner knowing or an inner vision. It might look like the same actions on the outside (script writing, planning, shooting, editing, distributing) but it’s a completely different process on the inside. It’s like an inner voice or intuition that says: “You should do this. You have to do this in your life. It is really important for your personal development and your life if you follow this particular stream of intention.” I had an experience like this with my first TV documentary. It was about “Community Supported Agriculture” in short CSA, and I have never produced or directed a TV documentary before but in this whole process I always had this inner knowing that I have to do it. No matter what. Even if it’s tough. And it was not easy. Four of five funding bodies declined our funding request and so we had to finance it through TV, sponsors and one funding body. But at the end, after it was done, it created a ripple effect in Austria and started a public debate about new forms of sustainable agriculture. I could talk a long time about his topic, but my main message it, trust your gut instinct. Always. we For this special edition of 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 . 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
Women Cinemakers experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? That is a really good question, because it allows me to share something I wanted to share for a really long time. So, as you have heard in the question before I am a big fan of mediation and self-observation. And I do believe in an intelligence, source, God or whatever you call it, that cannot not be reduced to some words or definitions. But it’s a field of infinity intelligence that I can connect with. And if I connect with it consciously, it’s like I am just the “tool”, or the “receiver” of a message and I have to be fast enough to bring it to paper. I believe that this is what artists, writer, athletes and inventors experience when they are in the “flow” state. It just moves through you. Yes you are an integral part of the whole process but the copyright belongs to this field of infinite intelligence. I have a personal story that I would like to share at this point to make it more tangible. Many people have heard about the law of attraction, and focusing on your dreams to make them real with vision boards. I did that too. I painted on a piece of paper exactly what I want to experience in my life. At some point I wanted to live in beautiful house, in the city, with a huge garden, and animals and forest around for not more than 150 € per month. And through some very weird circumstance I actually found this exact house I painted on my paper. Including all features: the second little house next to the main house, a round house on the top of the forest, a garden, animals and even the bicycles on the veranda. All was there. It was really spooky for me, when I found it and it made me think a lot about the connection between our inner worlds(visions) and our outer worlds (3D environment). It was so accurate, that it was really astonishing. Anyhow, so I kept painting these pictures about particular scenarios I want to
Women Cinemakers experience in my life. And after a while I had collected a whole stack of painting and visions. But then, one full moon night, we had an open meditation seminar in the monastery and after this meditation I had this strong urge to burn all my drawing and papers. So I went into the garden and made a fire and said: “Hey universe, Hey God, I am now burning all “my” wishes and I want that you show me exactly what it is, I should be doing in this life. What is my gift? What is my purpose? I will now give away all my “limited” perspective of what I want and make space for what wants to emerge through me.” And I burned it all, went to bed, and you cannot imagine what happened the next three days. I had such a flood of creativity and poetry running though my mind that I could not even cook, I could not even go to toilet or take a shower without having to write something down. This was the ultimate flow experience. And after these three days I actually said to myself: “Wow, this is a bit much, I think I can’t live a normal life if it keeps streaming and streaming like this.” And then it started to normalize again. But it does feel like the ultimate love affair. Like the most sexy and hot and loving and beautiful man has entered your life and turned it upside down. It’s hard to sleep, it’s hard to eat, cause you ultimately want to be in this connected stream all the time, and if you write a poem or not is not even relevant. It’s a vibrational state where you feel you are impeccable and you love everything to an extreme that it almost hurts. I started to get tears in my eyes when people just walked in the door to take some Yoga classes. I know it sounds ridiculous but I felt this extreme love for everything and everyone. And then I thought, there are not enough hours in the day that I can actively love 7, 5 billions people and 8.7 billion species in a
A still from
Women Cinemakers 1:1 way everyday. But I can put some of that love into my art. And it might not reach everybody, but at least I have a place where I can put all this energy. The problem with doing it 1:1 is that people start to confuse this energy with the 3D body. So they fall in love with me. But I am just the post-woman delivering a message, and you would never think that the postwoman has written the letter it brings to you. It is just a transmitter. And that’s how I feel. I am just the transmitter and I want to share this inner states with as many people I possibly can. And this experience has also taught me a lot. You know, with this law of attraction thing, people often want to HAVE something. I want to have this car, this lover, this job, this success, etc. But after burning my paper, I felt, WOW I want to GIVE this messages and feelings and experiences to as many people I possibly can. I already have everything, so I stopped to be a beggar in my mind. I felt extremely empowered and refreshed, knowing it’s really all here and I can go play. And so this is also how ABUN-DANCE came to life. These few lines popped into my mind. It came in portions. First just one line, then the second line and so on. And then I just went out into the city with a friend to dance with heaps of strangers on the street. Surprisingly 90% of the people I asked “Do you want to dance a waltz with me?” said yes. And the 10% who were not willing, were mainly kids. Funny, hey? Elegantly shot, features stunning cinematography: what were your when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? The camera (Sony Alpha 7M3) and lenses belonged to a friend of mine, Arron Millikin, a cinematographer. He was free one afternoon and I said, ok let’s go play. I wanted some medium
Women Cinemakers shots and some medium close up shots of me dancing with strangers, stabilized with a gimbal, but that’s about how much instruction I gave him. It was full improvisation – as many of my films are. I get extremely bored if I have to overthink things. Some people love it, and that’s really great, and professional and wonderful. But I like to do. It all happens whilst doing. Since I am also an editor, most of the work happens while editing. Sometimes I just sit and experiment for hours, and try how I could create a totally different meaning, just by changing the sequence. That’s a lot of fun. I have spend an incredible amount of hours over the last 10 years editing films and I am never bored by it. Never. Featuring well orchestrated camera work, has drawn heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful between the landscape and : how did you select the locations and how did they affect the performing and shooting process? The selection of the location was easy. That was the botanical garden in the middle of Brisbane. That’s one of my most favourite place in Brisbane. I love these gigantic ancient old trees. So we started to ask people in the park if they would like to dance. Since it all worked out so easily and almost everybody said yes, we were finished in about 4 hours with over 12 dances. To interweave these dances and gestures with the landscape shots wasn’t planned at the beginning. It just happened in the editing process. I love this idea of the microcosmos embedded in the macro-cosmos and how we are just a reflection or an image of God, but I wanted to communicate it in a subtle way. Sometimes I am too much “in your face” if I observe my work critically, and I think it’s nice to leave some
Women Cinemakers gaps for personal interpretations. That’s where the audience can really engage and create the missing link in their minds. I am working on becoming more subtle… Let’s see if I will improve. Maybe you know the feeling, when you have a personal realization, and you want that everyone can hear it and know it and applied it and realize it too at the same time. But that’s rarely the case. We are all on a very individual path and the magic happens when you realize it, not when someone comes screaming in your face: “Hey I have got the answer.” Personal growth is a very subtle and silent process. Oh… But I want to mention something about Muses here. You know that all the famous ancient painter, writer, thinker, philosophers, artists had their muses. Some elegant, beautiful woman that would ignite and inspire them to their most brilliant creations. And I discovered that it works the same way for me. If I have man in my life that I feel a strong sexual attraction to, a deep yearning to unite, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and I actually don’t sleep with them, and sometimes don’t even tell them, all the powerful sexual energy fuels my creative process. Because it’s energy. And as we know, sexual energy is one of THE most powerful energies in the universe cause it can create LIFE. But if I train myself to not chaise these man to sleep with them, and release all this energy in the sexual intercourse, I can use this energy to fuel me and my art. It was very obvious but still astounding to experience. So I would encourage everyone, to have a Muse. It’s so beautiful. And revel in the feeling. Let yourself be heated up to the extreme and let this energy move through you into your work, your art, your life. The magic is about not “owning” the other person. Like I said, I don’t even need to sleep with this or that particular man, I can just breath in his beauty and spark my imagination and let this fertile power move through my being.
Women Cinemakers In fact it does become more precious by not owning the person. By seeing them free and independent and alive and as a unique expression of beauty and divinity. And also woman can highly inspire me. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not limited by a particular gender. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more about their presence, their charisma and their way of being. And even further I can get really inspired by the erotic beauty of nature. Have you every watched a flower pop and really observed how she unfolds her petals. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s majestic. I can get some many inspiration and message from nature and to me this is the true meaning of ABUNDANCE. Where nothing is yours, and nothing is mine, yet everything moves in three-quarter time. We have appreciated the way you have provided with such a poetic quality, capable of establishing emotional involvement in the viewers, inviting them to create : 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 ? If there is something I would like to trigger with this little video, than it is an understanding; an inherent knowing that we are all interconnected with each other and the whole of creation. Even though it looks all really separated. I have started to research more and more about telepathic connection and sometimes I sing a song that the other person next to me just had in mind. Our thoughts are way less personal than we believe them to be. This can also lead to manipulation and it really concerns me to see how aggressive the online marketing industry is trying to analyse all digital data we produce, just to offer us more stuff to buy.
Women Cinemakers It is as if they could already read our thoughts and offer adequate products or information. Barack Obama said a very interesting thing at the World Leadership Summit in Köln I participated in a short while ago. Nowadays people are rather confirming their existing opinion with facts than to form an opinion based on facts. Something along those lines. It’s almost like the technology is mimicking what we also experience on a subtle level: The more you think about it the bigger it gets. Or the more you believe it to be like that, the more facts and information you get that “it is so”. A constant self-affirming opinion. And I have to mention that it can feel very scary if someone comes to question your believes and the things you hold very dear in your heart. Many of my friends in Brisbane started to argue with me about the question “Is there a God or not?” and we had long uncomfortable conversations. I don’t want to preach, I prefer that everyone will figure it out for himself or herself. But I know how unpleasant it feels to question everything you have ever learned about yourself, or life, or the world, or media. It feels much more powerful to have an opinion and good reasons for it. But to question it and take your own internal believe-system apart can be really confronting and refreshing at the same time. One night a friend of mine (who is a very successful businessman) and I were sitting at the Brisbane river, and we wondered: Imagine if we would let go of the thing that is most dear to us, for you it’s your believes about business, how to expand your vision of your company, and for me it’s spirituality and how I can get closer and closer to self-realization and then there was this beautiful silence, and we just looked at the river and watched the people passing and it was like watching life again with new eyes. Naked. Unprejudiced. Pure. As it is. With no concepts whatsoever. It lasted for about 1 hour, and this was for sure one of the most precious hours of my life. So what
Women Cinemakers do I want to trigger with the video ABUN-DANCE? Reverence, adoration, (self-) observation and the joy of being alive. 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 of the consider the relation between ideas you aim to communicate and of creating your artworks? Like I said, I like the connection between the micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos. Movement and dance can (in combination with the right sequencing and editing) communicate multi-layered meaning easily. That’s why I love dance. Cause there is a field of expression that I cannot reach with my words. Contemporary dance/movement practices, such as Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen's work with Contact Improvisation and Mary Whitehouse's Authentic Movement provide interesting precedents in this respect, being widely practised frameworks for embodied expression and playful exploration that relate closely to their respective founders’ own therapeutic bodywork methodologies (Bainbridge-Cohen, 1995, Hanlon-Johnson, 1995d). So, dancing can be healing. I am personally also practising Contact Improvisation dance, and I have had some real flow experience in the contact dance space with another person. It is as if you melt into one being. At the beginning, everybody wants to dance a “good dance” and do the “right movements” but very soon you realise that there is no such thing as the “right movement”. There is just a state of more or less connected and in tune with each other. It can be also
Women Cinemakers interesting if you don’t harmonize with the other person and the head starts to think – “Oh no, that’s so bad, how can I get out of this situation?!”. And then in a matter of seconds it can switch to a deep connection. That’s the magic of dance. We have appreciated the way your approach to dance 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 much importance does play in your process? Improvisation is everything. It has been a central element in most of my previous artwork. Though my future projects will need more choreography and the application of specific element and features. For example, I am working on a poetry short called “Thin Glass Rim”. It’s a love story between a man and a woman, which also refers to the Shiva- Shakti philosophy of tantric teachings, and in this particular short I will need a whine glass that is very well played by the dancers. I have a general direction of where I want to go, but the magic happens when the dancers or actors unleash something I was not particularly expecting. Something that emerged through the process and sometimes the actors can be surprised themselves about what just happened. I am eager to find this “sweet spot”. Mark Travis said in one of his Masterclasses, that the job of a director is to remove from the actor all fear. But how do you do that? When the camera is rolling and the director says “Action”, typically actors want to play their role well, they want to do a good job, and give their very best performance. But in many cases what you get is a great performance, and not a full authentic expression. It’s a performance, and you will see that,
Women Cinemakers especially on the big screens. I am still working on removing my fears so I wouldn’t dare to say that I am at the level of Mark Travis, but I am heading in this direction. It’s about exploring together how to bring the original vision to screen. I also play improvisation theatre myself, so I love the spontaneous creation of stories and meaning in the moment. It’s scary and uncomfortable. It feels naked when you cannot hold on to a script, to some well crafted words you are about to say, to some main plot you know you are following. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I believe, that’s why the audience comes to watch impro-theater. Because everyone knows, it’s all happening live on stage and we are all co-creating this experience. We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary cinema. 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 director? And what's your view on the future of women in this field? First of all, I rejoice in every success of a female producer, writer, director, actor, dancer or artist. The TV and film industry is still a male dominated industry and in my opinion this has to change fundamentally. But interestingly most of my colleagues in Australia have been woman not man. One of my closest friend was a female indigenous producer/ director and we were part of Women in Film &
Television Australia (WIFT Australia). This is a Not-ForProfit organisation dedicated to achieving gender equality in the Australian screen industry through research, advocacy, education and support for female-identifying screen industry practitioners. WIFT Australia also engages in research to uncover the nuances of gender inequality in screen, to develop the best strategies to address it and to advocate for change. WIFT Australia operates nationally with a presence in all states and territories and provides a number of programs, events and initiatives throughout the year. I have been part of a few of these events during my time in Australia and it was quite shocking to see how some woman have been discriminated by man just because having a family and raising children had an equal value in their life as having a career – if not higher. I personally don’t have kids, so for me it was not such an issue to work long hours and have weekend shooting schedules. And I have to say, in general I am not such a big fan of the woman vs. man movement and I know that might cause a stir in some readers, but what I am really interested to see is personal empowerment despite the gender. I love to see self-conscious woman and man who dare to follow their vision and bring it to life. At this point I want to refer to David R. Hawkins and his book „Power VS. Force – The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior”. Hawkins goes into great detail about the various levels of consciousness and he points out two turning points as most crucial. “On our scale of consciousness, there are two critical points that allow for major advancement. The first is at 200, the initial level of empowerment: Here, the willingness to stop blaming and accept responsibility for one’s own actions, feelings, and beliefs arises – as long as cause and responsibility are projected outside of oneself,
Women Cinemakers one will remain in the powerless mode of victimhood. The second is at the 500 level, which is reached by accepting love and nonjudgemental forgiveness as a lifestyle, exercising unconditional kindness to all persons, things, and events without exception.” (Hawkins 2002, 238). And in my opinion these principles still have to be integrated largely in the #metoo movement. Don’t get me wrong, I was really delighted to see what a thunderstorm this whole movement turned into and how it unmasked the hidden shadows and behaviours of so many man worldwide – from working class to the highest elite – but the ultimate step will be reconciliation. Nothing will change, if woman stay in they role of victimhood. The time has come to expose the dark side of the human soul and then bring it to light, and that includes as a final step radical forgiveness. Only then can we start to re-build a healthy society, where male and female energies can co-exist in harmony with each other, because they are mutually dependent. Everyone of us has a masculine and a famine aspect in our own personality. And the ultimate challenge is to bring them into balance within ourselves. The external worlds is just a mirror of our inner process. And to get back to your original question: What is my view on the future of women in this field? If we start collectively to think and feel higher about ourselves (not in terms of better) but higher in terms of capable, strong, loving, determined, forgiving, wise and bold and start to embody these principles in our personal lives, all victimhood will fade naturally, and woman will be inspired to reach even greater heights of their artistic expression. I want to mention Julie Gautier (with her
short film AMA for example) who I highly admire. AMA expresses extreme strength and resilience in combination with beauty and delicacy. To me this is a perfect example of the symbiosis of the masculine and the feminine archetype. And to close this question I would like to add something very important. One of my mentors and dear friends Elke Dürr, who is a wild life cinematographer, living most of the time outdoors in the wild, and has received countless awards for her films, once said to me: “You know, I also didn’t have any role model of a strong independent woman and filmmaker. And one day I asked – Holy Creator: What do you want me to be? Why am I here? What is my ultimate reason for this human experience? And then the answer was: To be a true woman.” To be a true woman. I am working on a poetry short right now, about what it means to be a true woman. It goes somehow along the lines of Clarissa Pinkola Estés and her book: „Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype“. And my deepest wish is that we all start to explore and discover what it means to be a true woman on a personal level. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Nina. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you for the interview. I was pleased to share some of my thoughts. I would like to summarize the future or my work with two quotes: “Be a voice not an echo” by Albert Einstein and “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that glows flowers, not thunder.” by Rumi. That summarised the essence of where I am going. It’s nice
Women Cinemakers and easy to write these two quotes on a piece of paper but to actually live it, is a totally different question. I have asked myself many times, how to be a voice and not an echo. You know, so many of our opinions are highly influenced by what we, hear, see, smell, taste and touch by our senses and of course by al the information that we are bombarded with every single day by modern media (TV, internet, smartphones, etc.) But I want to cultivate an attitude of deep listening and if you want “channelling” my words from a place of inner connection with my Divine Self. This is where I feel most compelled to go. To live and work in a state of flow. One of the most prominent representative of the Flow state is the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi [1995, 2000, 2006] from the University of Chicago. He calls this state the happy experience of a mental state of complete concentration and intense inner absorption into an activity that proceeds as if by itself. Conditions of flow may, under certain conditions, become hypnotic or in an ecstatic trance. Flowing is considered by some experts to be a trance state of total abandonment into a task. And the author of the book "Emotional Intelligence", Prof. Dr. med. Daniel Goleman ads: "Being able to follow the flow is the highest form of emotional intelligence. Flowing is perhaps the ultimate in putting emotions at the service of performance and learning. When flowing, the emotions are not merely dominated and channeled, but positive, full of suspense and aligned to the task at hand. Who is caught in the boredom of depression or the excitement of fear, is excluded from the flow. Flowing is an experience that almost everyone has every now and then, especially when performing at peak levels or exceeding their previous limits. It may perhaps best be compared to an ecstatic act
of love in which two melt into a flowing harmonic one.” And this is why I have chosen poetry (or poetry has chosen me) for my artistic work, as the main source of expression. I always say:“Poetry is God’s way of making love to me.” And sometimes it’s not easy to enter into the state of flow, especially when I start to work from a place of effort and controll. If I want to controll the outcome and especially if I want to create a “good” outcome it usually always becomes average. But when I have no personal agender anymore and just become available to inspiration when it comes to me, then I can write 5 pages within 10 minutes without changing anything afterwards. I have noticed that, to enter into the flow state has something to do with diminishing the ego influence. Sometimes when I am extremly tired and it’s 2 am at night, there is a flood of creativity moving through my mind. And then I go “Really?! Now?! Oh my God. I am so tired. I don’t want to get out of bed. Ok, well then, let’s do it.” And maybe because I am so tired all the self-critique is lowered and I just write and write and write like a waterfall with ease and flow. It’s funny cause sometimes I even start to have tears in my eyes when the next lines pop into my head, I know that sounds narcistic, but this is really what happens. I am very deeply moved by this conncetion and being able to “receive” the information, cause I haven’t logically planed to write it this way. There is still a lot of mystery to explore in the creative process, and like I said earlier in the interview: It really helps to have Muses. To adore and amire and love a particular person or a perticular expression of nature. It is the inner state of awareness that becomes fueled by this fire and I wish that we all start to create more and more from this place of flow, love and connection. Thank you.