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w o m e n NECHAMA WINSTON VALENTINA LACMANOVIC IVANA KOSANOVIĆ LISA MARIS MCDONELL ANNA WAŃTUCH VERONICA MOCKLER VERA MENNENS ALIKI CHIOTAKI MICHELLE GEVINT INGRID VERWEIJEN

INDEPENDENT

WOMEN’S CINEMA

Michelle Gevint


cINEMAKERS W O M E N

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04 Ingrid Verweijen

Contents 126 Anna Wantuch

'The voice in the screen

Mot/her KC

26

152

Michelle Gevint

Lisa Maris McDonell

The Sweet Stench of Sulfur

Coal is Dead

48

176

Aliki Chiotaki

Ivana Kosanović

72

202

Vera Mennens

Valentina Lacmanovic

60 pulses

Dissonance

The events between the events

SOLAR RING

98

236

Veronica Mockler

Nechama Winston

Chroniqe d'un été

Workhorses of the Harbor


Women Cinemakers meets

Ingrid Verweijen Lives and works in The Hague, the Netherlands

'The voice in the screen', is a music video installation, where slides that refer to the history of music video production, are used to superimpose the scenes. A Vitaphone demonstration film, an early sound- film system is used as a starting point. The scenes, are inspired by one the first produced music video's; 'the singing duck' by Gus Visser, where easy trickery and well rehearsed movements remind us of musical shorts or vaudeville. In this video, the try-outs, the experimentations with the camera the editing and sounds that are made during the production proces are proposed as the main focus instead. And the theatrical single shot scenes and fragmented audio recordings work as a tool to approach the production of sound and video making as a sketch rather then a polished product.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier

questions regarding your background. You

and Dora S. Tennant

have a solid formal training and after

womencinemaker@berlin.com

earned your Bachelor in Fine Arts at you nurtured your education with a Master

Hello Ingrid and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of

in Artistic Research, that you have received from the Royal Academy and Royal Conservatoire of The Hague: how did these


experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, does your direct your artistic research? I started my Masters Degree already with the approach of wanting to have more of an interdisciplinary practice. With the intention to focus as much as possible on the possibilities I would have by having acces to the facilities and courses offered by the Conservatory. While I was doing this, my experiences and discussions within the courses became part of my work. So after I graduated with my Bachelor in doing performances and film, I graduated from my Masters with doing performances and film while my work was more related to a theatrical and musical context. While answering your question about my cultural background; I don’t feel like my cultural background directs my artistic research. I don’t feel like my work has anything to do with me being dutch, I usually look for inspiration on the internet or American media because their glamour culture seems richer. You are a versatile artist and your pratice is marked out with such stimulating feature, that allows you to combine scriptwriting, object making,

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers photography, music composition and distinctive wordplay in polemical and witty videos, performances and installations: 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 a medium in order to explore a particular theme? I actually never deliberately select a medium, because I don’t want to predict the outcome of my research. So I first really take my time to collect as many information as possible in the theme I am working on, and only then I start to think about the form of the work. It is important for me to feel completely free in my work so I can choose any discipline that comes to mind. Mastering all of them is impossible, but at least I always try to learn new things in order to further develop my work. Even when I think, ok this will be a film, I leave the outcome open, and I may decide to make something completely different by the time I start to try


Women Cinemakers things out and see that things are not that appealing to me. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting music video installation 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 your work provides the viewers with a multilayered visual experience. When walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? I developed the idea for this video together with my boyfriend, who is also an artist. He gave me an 8mm camera with a slide holder to put in front. This was really interesting to me, because in this way you can make an overlay with a slide and create a light opening where you can spot the moving image. I was at that moment looking into early music video’s and discovered the video of Gus Visser, that is called; the singing duck. After


Women Cinemakers that I started collecting screenshots of this and several other videos to use them as slides to superimpose the scenes. I wanted to make a fragmented music video that focused on the try-outs of scenes and the overal production instead of a polished product with a suspected format. challenges the viewers' perceptual and cultural parameters: how important is for you to trigger the viewer's perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And what do you hope the spectators take away from your film? I aim to develop works that have an unsuspected format to confuse the audience in order to make them think about the video’s, theater shows, performances or music they usually are confronted with. That is why the video is deliberately fragmented and unpolished. I wanted to show the process of production, and the sounds that are made during its production, I didn’t want to make a flashy music video with a clean look, but to reflect on history. So I hope the spectator will experience this.


Women Cinemakers Sound plays an important role in your video and it provides film with such an : according to media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a ' ' that favors . How do you see ? Sound is currently really important in my artistic work, although I also believe in the power of image on itself. Sound is a very powerful tool, so it can be hard to find the right balance in between image, sound and the message you want to convey. In ‘the voice in the screen’ I actually used the sound that was produced while making moving image, so in a way I tried to include the sound that already belonged to the film I was making. A crucial aspect of your artistic inquiry is centered on : how does your everyday life's experience address you to explore such theme? In particular, do you think that such constant change comes from your inner self or it is a consequence of the from the outside world?

I think it comes from both. I have always felt the pressure of the outside world when it comes to my preferences as a performer. I am a bit unadapted and I would not interact that much with my audience when I would play my songs or perform in general. But that is mainly because I think this obstructs the message that I try to carry out. As for the construct of an idol in general; I think it is really valuable to critically observe what is handed to us everyday throughout different media, in order to investigate how this may effect our behavioural patterns, conceptions and expectations in our personal lives. Another interesting work of yours that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled : as an artist particularly focused on understanding the media construct developed around the image of the (pop) singer, how do you consider the relationship between the influence of our contemporary technosphere and the concept of identity? How does in


A still from


Women Cinemakers your opinion the online realm address people's expectations? I think that idolisation blurs any realistic expectations that we have in our own lives, but the selfmade online society that has been created opens possibilities for everyone. You don’t necessarily have to be extremely talented, you could just fart on film and that could be your thing. You can become famous by just being yourself. The relation between selfmade amateur musicians and any professional recording artist is really interesting in this matter. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once remarked that " ": as an artist particularly concerned with , what could be in your opinion in our unstable, everchanging contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? I think the role of the artist should be to confront, reflect and should be of a critical nature.


Women Cinemakers In my work I always try to be critical and discuss a certain situation that I encountered online or in my own experiences as a performer. The cultural moments I usually respond to are linked to the increasing influence of mass media and the internet in general or the way all these visual experiences influence they way we experience things.

We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ', however in the last decades ' there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And in what's your view on this interdisciplinary field? I think it is still hard to find the right platform for my work, since it is in between a lot of things, so part of the work is also trying to find a group of likeminded individuals or a place for discussion. But on the other hand it also

opens a lot of possibilities, since my work can have a place in the theater, in a festival, gallery, fashion related context or music concert. I see this as a richness, so in my opinion there could be a lot of possibilities for women in this interdisciplinary field. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ingrid. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I have a few things that I am currently working on, one being a publication of my performative music scores, another one being a project around the reconstruction and usage of a phonograph. Besides that, I am planning to make more experimental music video’s as I consider ‘the voice in the screen’ as the first one in a possible longer sequence. I hope in the future I will keep expanding the area that I could work in, meaning; I hope I will find even a larger grid of connections in between disciplines. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Michelle Gevint Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York City, USA

'The Sweet Stench of Sulfur' blends documentary, history, and fiction by merging the mythical and the apocalyptic into what seems like fragments of a dream. It examines human interaction with nature and how nature reclaims itself through natural disasters. The film was shot on the outskirts of the dead sea where a geological phenomenon called sinkholes is exponentially forming and ‘swallowing’ man-made habitats due to rapid evaporation and climate change. Although dangerous and unpredictable, there is much beauty in these pools of green, orange and blue liquid which resemble a Martian landscape and have been a mysterious source for new microbial life in an ecosystem infamously known for its barren characteristics. This region is associated with the biblical story of Lot who fled the apocalyptic destruction of the ancient city of Sodom. Evoking a collective memory of apocalyptic disasters, the film connects this current mysterious environmental disaster to a historical mythical context. The voice-over is based on an interview conducted with a geologist who was ‘swallowed’ by a sinkhole. Trapped inside a cavity in the earth, he underwent psychological extremes from hope to despair. In a post-truth political era, where objective facts about global warming are mythicized, the film reflects on the uncertain through a scientific, metaphysical, and historical lens.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier

these experiences address your artistic research? In particular, how

and Dora S. Tennant

does your cultural substratum due to your studies of Anthropology

womencinemaker@berlin.com

and Sociology influence the trajectory of your artistic research? I studied Anthropology and Sociology at Tel Aviv University, following a

Hello Michelle and welcome to WomenCinemakers: to start this

year of living in Asia. During that time, I bought my first film camera.

interview with a couple of questions about your background. You

This was before the advent of digital photography. The camera became

have a solid training and after having earned your Bachelor’s Degree

the impetus that pushed me to observe and reflect. It came with me

in Fine Arts from Bezalel Art Academy, Jerusalem you moved to New

everywhere I went and I would constantly be documenting what caught

York City to nurture your education with an MFA that you received

my eye. After I would finish a roll of film, I would take it to a local

from the prestigious Parsons The New School for Design: how did

photography shop to be developed and wait anxiously until it was ready


to be picked up. Sometimes I would go back to a particular spot at a different hour of the day and reshoot. I would study the differences in the light, the changes in the landscape and in the human interactions. When I returned to israel, I wanted to have a more in-depth way of thinking about the social systems around me. This led me to pursue the study of both Anthropology and Sociology. The focus of my work has always been related to questioning how landscapes are constructed around social systems, ie., why certain functions of society have changed landscapes, and why some of these functions fall apart. Studying Anthropology and Sociology was my first introduction into critically analyzing and dissecting these questions. I was drawn, in particular, to theorists such as Edward Said, who authored the book,

as well as French

Anthropologist, Claude Levi Strauss, who developed Structural Anthropology. After a year at Tel Aviv University, I studied photography and graduated with a BFA at Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem. Bezalel was the first time I felt I belonged to a community of like-minded creators and artists. This was an important discovery since I learned that being apart of a community of artists motivates and fuels my own practice. After graduating, I received a scholarship to Parsons and moved to NYC to begin my MFA studies. New York City was new and different to me and I experienced a heightened sense of awareness. Challenging embedded systems of thought is an important trajectory within my art practice and at Parsons, I was able to experiment. I felt confident enough to open my practice and explore new directions. I began to evolve from straightforward photography into working within other mediums, such as video, sculpture, and installation. I also began exploring new subject matters. I went from mainly shooting documentary photography of physical places and portraits, to developing a fascination with architecture and exploring it through new mediums. Although my style and subject matter are seemingly different from where I began my artistic path in Bezalel, the main thread shows my consistent interest in the relationship between humans, society, and physical spaces--whether it is through portraiture, collaging architecture, or battered landscapes. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such stimulating multidisciplinary feature, that allows you to range images, videos, and installations: before starting to elaborate about your artistic

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers production, we would invite to our readers to visit https://michellegevint.com in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? My thought process is usually triggered by a 2D image and formulates over time into multi- layered experience such as collage, moving image or installation. By reinterpreting an idea into different mediums, I work in a constant process of translation which adds experiential layers to the work. For example: my work, ‘

utilizes found imagery of modernist architecture to create a

series of black and white large-scale collages of imaginary architecture. In I interpret these 2D collaged architecture into 3D printed models

— to physically represent the idea of a failed Utopia. The 3D models were situated together with two projectors within a diorama in the form of a bunkerlike box. The outcome is an encapsulated world of a vibrant dystopian urban environment. I always consider how my work engages the viewer, hence, in my sculptural pieces, I invite the viewer to interact physically with the work. For instance, In ‘

I created camera-like structures that contain projected 8mm black

and white videos of buildings. Due to the grainy and blurry quality of the 8mm film the buildings resemble ex-rays that disintegrate as they dissolve and reappear. This emphasizes the disability of the building to fulfil its function as a container of stability and protection. Each body of work begins with rigorous and comprehensive research. An example of this research is for my film ‘

Before

traveling to Israel to shoot the film, I was researching this subject matter for several months. The films narrative centers around the current natural disaster happening in the Dead Sea in the form of sinkholes. Through my research, I learned about the scientific aspects of the phenomenon, such as how sinkholes form, what are the consequences on the ecosystem, on animals and humans, and the ways to predict their appearance. Going through the internet rabbit hole, I also discovered the story of a geologist who fell into a sinkhole. I ended up interviewing him when I was in Israel. A modified version of this interview co written with Ronen Gevint, became the basis for the voice-over script in the film.


Moving images felt like the best instrument to convey my ideas. I wanted

, a stimulating experimental film that our

the film to reflect the surrealness and the duality between the dangers

readers have already started to get to know in the introductory

the sinkholes posed and their beauty and mystery. I also wanted to

pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of

create a contradictory blend among the scientific, the historical, and the

your insightful exploration of

psychological, that come together in a narrative that seems almost

is the way your unconventional narrative

dreamlike. And most of all, I aspired to elevate the story of the Dead Sea

provides the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience.

and the sinkholes from their specificity and locality into a universal

While walking our readers through , could you tell us how did you come up with this stimulating

experience that is both visceral and experiential.

project? And what did appeal you of the outskirts of For this special edition of

we have selected

how did this unique location affect your shooting process?

and


Women Cinemakers Sea was diverted. Syria, Jordan and Israel rely on the Jordan river as a crucial source of water because of its scarcity in the region. Over the years the Dead Sea began receding dramatically-- exposing the bare shore. Meters below the surface of the sea there’s an ancient salt bed that once the waterline recedes, is dissolved by freshwater in the aquifer beneath. This triggers the surface earth to collapse, creating something of an hourglass effect. Sinkholes leave the earth battered and cracked and their destruction has increased exponentially. A few years ago, a popular resort was completely destroyed. It was evacuated just days before a 30-meter sinkhole opened up in the middle of the parking lot. Many more man-made habitats have been affected or are in danger of being affected by this phenomenon. Although sinkholes are extremely dangerous and unpredictable, there is much beauty in these pools of green, orange, and blue liquid. They also have been a mysterious source for new microbial life in an ecosystem infamously known for its barren characteristics. Scientists believe that they are the reason for the different colored liquid within the sinkholes that changes throughout the seasons. The ecological threat that sinkholes pose towards human systems and their habitats together with their luring beauty, mystery and urgency led to my fascination and exemplifies my allure to places of duality and ambivalence. While working on the film and visiting the sites that have been affected by sinkholes, I witnessed first-hand the immense power of nature. I explored the evacuated resort together with Gidi Bear, a geologist, from the Israeli geological survey, who has been studying sinkholes since the phenomena first began in the 1980s. Being on that beach was a very powerful moment I’ve always had a connection to the Dead Sea and I used to visit it often while I was studying at Bezalel and living in Jerusalem. I was drawn in particular to the arid desolate landscape. Over the years, I witnessed its slow evaporation and shrinkage. In recent years, my

and influenced the direction of the film. The resort was completely abandoned, and it felt like everything had stayed the same except for the absence of humans. Walking through the resort, I felt as though time had stopped. Everything was left behind with signs of decay- the beach chairs, umbrellas, the restaurant was still stocked up with beer bottles for guests, a

sense of urgency grew due to the increasing number of sinkholes.

gas station, the resort offices and more. Because of the danger, trucks can’t

The phenomenon of sinkholes started sometime in the early 1980s

risk entering the premises to tear down the resort facilities. Sinkholes were

and now by some estimates more than 2500 have littered the

everywhere including an enormous sinkhole in the parking lot. I walked

region, 80% appearing since the year 2000. Sinkholes started

down to the beach where the salt glaciers meet the sea when noticed a red

occurring because the Jordan river which carries water into the Dead

ladybug walking on one of the glaciers. That moment I felt reflected the


power of nature. In our daily lives we feel in control, however this is an illusion and ultimately nature has the ability to both create and destroy. Featuring refined realism, The Sweet Stench of Sulfur is edited with effective veritĂŠ style, capable of pulling the spectators into a resonant dialectic with urban environment: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, how did you structure your editing process in order to achieve such brilliant results? I wanted the film to reflect a dreamlike sensation, almost like an hallucination. My approach to sinkholes is not only through a factual scientific lens, but the phenomenon resonates with me on a psychological level. Sinkholes reflect an emotional state of duality and ambivalence because they are terrifying and unpredictable, yet beautiful and intriguing. This disaster is also a new source of life, a fact that reflects nature's ability to both create and destroy. The film introduces the phenomenon in a macro- factual informative layer, while delving into a micro- psychological consciousness. I do this through an array of methods, such as collage style editing and the use of different kinds of mediums, such as 8mm film, HD, animation and drone footage.Creating a fragmented dreamlike interpretation of an existing phenomenon (such as a natural disaster), allows the viewer an entry to critically engage with these difficult concepts. I use this as a method to reflect on larger (and more incomprehensible issues) such as global warming. Each medium I use adds a different perspective. With the drone shots, I created a sense of disorientation of the landscape. The viewer at times cannot assess the size and perspective of the landscape. The 8mm film adds an element of time by evoking a sense of the past. By depicting the landscape through animation, I add another layer of removal from reality which adds to the dreamlike qualities of the film. The way in which I approached the editing process was with the same premise of creating a surreal narrative that breaks the conventional linear approach. In the film there is no real beginning and end. The only thing that indicates a starting point is the voice-over which is a form of anchor. The rest is nonlinear. The rhythm of the film alternates between lingering, slow camera movements that are almost meditative to fast choppy cuts. This is similar to the way we dream where time loses its linearity. Sometimes, one scene can

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


A still from


Women Cinemakers linger for what seems like forever and then at other times things happen

salt. Evoking a collective memory of apocalyptic disasters, the film

so fast when we wake up we barely remember the sequence. I also worked

connects this current mysterious environmental phenomenon to a

with composer Yoav Shemesh, who created the original sound track for

historical mythical context. It also connects the collective trauma to the

the film. The layer of sound adds to the eerie sensation of the film.

personal trauma by integrating the voice-over which is based on the

Another aspect that guided me throughout the editing process was

interview I conducted with the geologist who was ‘swallowed’ by a

contrasting the beauty of the landscape yet emphasizing the desolate

sinkhole. Trapped inside a cavity in the earth, he underwent psychological

characteristics of the desert where humans are not present and where the

extremes from hope to despair. To remain sane, he wrote goodbye letters

cracks and crevasses are almost like wounds within the landscape.

to his family using tissue paper he found in his bag. The geologists true

The Sweet Stench of Sulfur saliently mixes documentary, history, and fiction by merging the mythical and the apocalyptic into what seems like fragments of a dream, to draw the viewers through a

story adds another dimension to the dreamlike atmosphere created in the film. Deviating from traditional filmmaking, we daresay that your artistic

multilayered journey in the liminal area where the real and the

research

imagined find consistent points of convergence: how do you consider

anthropologist Marc Augé, to encapsulate the inner soul of Nature,

the relationship between reality and imagination playing with in your

that you contemplate as

artistic practice?

interstitial points and

One of the methods I often use in my work is integrating both fact and fiction to create a new narrative allowing the viewer an entry to critically engage with more abstract concepts. In the ‘

, I explore our complex relationship with

the notion of

elaborated by French , to highlight the ubiquitous between human interaction

with nature: how do you consider the role of direct experience as starting point for your artistic research? In particular, how do the details that you capture during daily life fuel your artistic research? Interesting that you bring up Auge’s book, ‘Non-Places’, since it has been

nature and the effects and consequence of our continuous abuse of it. I

an instrumental part of my research throughout my practice. In his book,

use the fictional to draw from the real and the unfathomable reality

Auge talks about ‘Non-places’ that are in opposition to the traditional

borders on fictional. All of which create dreamlike surreal atmosphere. In

term that defines a place. A ‘Non-Place’ cannot be defined as relational,

dreams there is always a reference to reality, such as familiar locations and

historical, or concerned with identity; rather, it is a space for commerce or

people, but the logic of a dream is fragmented. They are very powerful

transportation, such as airports, hotels, supermarkets, and so on. These are

because in them we are faced with our inner truths, our fears and what we

spaces of transition that are produced as a result of an increasing

wish to avoid in reality. I use the surreal atmosphere to create an entry

globalized and urbanized world. Human interrelations in these spaces are

point for any viewer, removing it from its specificity and locality by making

temporal and sell an idea of a home. They portray what seems to be a

it more universal, experiential and visceral.

‘Utopia’-- a globalized city that has no borders.

Many of the elements that I incorporated in the film seem almost mythical. The dead sea region is associated with the biblical story of Lot who fled the apocalyptic destruction of the ancient city of Sodom. God appeared before Lot to warn him of his plan to destroy the city of Sodom due to the

In 2015 I created a book (zine) called Non-Places, that compiles together the series

(2013- ongoing) a series of black and white

imaginary architectural collages.

sins its inhabitants. Lot and his family escaped, but Lot’s wife, despites

By reimagining spaces and manipulating their functionality, I perpetuate

God’s warning, could not resist the temptation and turned to look at

the style and failure of Utopian architecture. The recreated fictitious urban

Sodom’s apocalyptic destruction. She immediately turned into a pillar of

architecture is a metaphor for a failed promise. A Utopia can never be


fulfilled, it is unattainable almost like a fantasy but at the same time generates a driving force.The uncanny structures reflect on the power of the cultural archetype in transition between a collapsed past and a Utopian future. In opposition to Auge’s ‘Non-Places’ that cannot be defined as relational, historical, or concerned with identity, the space in the film, ‘ , touches on the most primary and essential interrelationship with nature. We have become so far removed and alienated from nature-although it is central to our being, our history, and identity. The liminal space I portray in the film accentuates our existence and dependency on nature. While filming in that area, I spent time thinking about this relationship and it became less of an abstract concept. In the process of making work, direct experience fuels and inspires me to think about and dissect what I’m seeing and experiencing. Sometimes this is a long process; my ideas develop and formulate over time until they evolve into a form of materialized expression. For instance, I learned l about the existence of sinkholes a few years ago, but the processes of researching and visiting the location many times, until I began to shoot the film, took a substantial amount of time. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once remarked that " ": as a researcher particularly interested in unveiling , what could be in your opinion in our post-truth contemporary age? In particular, does your artistic research respond to

cultural moment?

Filmmakers have an important role because they are able to bring specific stories and elevate them from their specificity and locality into a universal experience. This to me is extremely crucial because as a filmmaker artist my role is to draw in the viewer and trigger them to go through an experience. An experience can be defined in many ways, but it makes a story despite it’s specificity, relatable. This is especially true in a post-truth political world where we are submerged by so much information that is portrayed as ‘truths’. It is very difficult to assess what the facts really are. The role of the authoritative voice has been

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers proliferated and it is confusing to try and distinguish fact from fiction. This makes us numb because we cannot comprehend and absorb so much information. The filmmaker becomes a gateway by providing an opportunity to relate to the personal. There are many examples, but one example which has inspired me is Shirin Neshat’s video installation ‘

, 2016. In the black and white nonlinear video,

Neshat created a surreal atmosphere that deals with issues of displacement, i.e., the fear of the other and the desire for a ‘mother’ role or ‘motherland’. The work conveys her personal experience as an Iranian immigrant living abroad, her relationship to her home country, and to her roots. But I, as a viewer, am able to relate, experience, and identify with her personal experience even though our stories are different. Over the years your works have been internationally shown in several exhibitions, including your recent participation to the Currents New Media Film Festival, in Santa Fe, moreover your most recent film has been screened at the UN climate change summit COP23 at the Kunst Museum Bonn, Germany, organized by the museum TBA21: how much importance has for you

that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do

you feel previewing a film before an audience? It was a great honor to screen my film at the UN climate change summit COP23 at the Kunst Museum Bonn, Germany, curated by Vanina Saracino. It couldn’t have been more fitting to be screened in that setting. It felt great to see the film migrate from the Bronx Museum in NYC to Laznia Museum in Poland (also curated by Vanina Saracino ) and from there to the summit COP23 Bonn, Germany. Because of the nature of my work, I’m accustomed to showing my work in a gallery setting. This film has opened a window for me to the world of film festivals. At first, it was a little daunting to realize how many festivals there are worldwide. However, I also realized how wide a range of opportunities exists for filmmakers, mostly due to internet and technology. This has created the ability to present films to a broader and more international audience, which is a very invigorating feeling. This is very different from exhibiting in a gallery setting, which requires more detailed coordination within a complex operation, such as shipping of works, art handling, etc. Film festivals are open to a larger audience,


and it is much easier to deliver the film since it’s not a physical object. Although I wish I was able to--most of the time--I don’t need to actually be there.. Also, having audiences from different parts of the world experience the story of the Dead Sea has been an important part of what motivates me to take on larger and more ambitious projects. Making the film was a wonderful feeling, and an important step in my practice, but experiencing people’s responses to it has been inspiring, specifically when the feedback sheds a new perspective. We have appreciated the originality of your research, so before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in cinema. For more than half a century woman 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 greenlit today? What's your view on

in this interdisciplinary

field? I think that there is an oversaturation of the male perspective within the field of photography and film which has been traditionally dominated by men. This is slowly changing as our society is shifting and encouraging more women to enter a world that is institutionalized by men. The Introduction of the female perspective produces more variety and richer content but most of all it influences more women to step into the industry and express their point of view. I remember when I first considered studying photography, I was influenced by female-directed films such as Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation’. I remember reflecting on how different this film was compared to what I was used to, specifically, how deeply nuanced the relationship between the two main characters was and how the slow rhythm of the film reflected their psychological state. I also believe it can be a daunting experience for many women who want to pursue a position in what is perceived as a male-dominated industry. The sense of discouragement to get behind the camera might be partly due to a lack of confidence. I've found that with my peers, there are more men who went through the freelance cameraman route because these fields in the industry are considered technical and as such are attributed to and dominated by males. I believe that this is also changing dramatically, especially in the art

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Women Cinemakers world because there is more room to experiment and make work that breaks traditional mainstream boundaries, both technically and conceptually. Today, women are slowly breaking the glass ceiling, especially now with movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, there is a greater awareness of the inequality that has dominated the industry. There are more women filmmakers, creators, and visionaries, which is empowering and instrumental in my own practice. It allows me to set higher boundaries by seeing what is possible. Making films can be overwhelming but knowing that I’m a part of a community of female artists and filmmakers motivates me to continue to create, despite the challenges along the way. There are also more opportunities for women to show their work, such as a woman’s festival and more institutional acknowledgments. Though I still think we still have a long way to go, I believe there will be a time when we won’t need categorized women’s festivals because women will be acknowledged equally to as men. This is also true in the interdisciplinary fields, where women feel more confident to explore and experiment in areas in which they might not have been traditionally trained. The strict boundaries between disciplines are giving way and we can see artists willing to delve into different forms of expression. I believe that this adds more layers to the work since it isn’t about mastering the craft anymore but about utilizing the medium that best embodies the idea. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Michelle. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I’m currently working on an experimental documentary that examines the relationship between text, image, and the formation of narratives. The focus is a modernist building by renowned architect Paul Rudolph. My interest in this structure stems from the fact that many of the Modernist and Brutalist buildings are at the center of a worldwide critical debate as to their aesthetic and historical value resulting in their destruction. This is another step in my exploration of the unrealized Utopian aspiration. The building was once a symbol of technological progress both in its design and its use. Today it stands uninhabited, unimportant, and neglected. As such it is a relic of an era that resonates an unfulfilled promise. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Aliki Chiotaki Lives and works in Chania, Crete

Using the camera as a choreographic tool amplifies the senses. My goal is to discover the possibilities of the camera when seen as a body part and not a separate work tool. My subject matter is the body-motion capturing, within the architectural space environment, its oscillations, the power, the balance, the grace and the conflict, without following specific narratives. Focusing on the circumstances, the experiences lived through the moving body in a restricted or open space, I strive for an open-ended exploration based upon the visual stimulus and the formations which may arise. I am an improvisor by nature, thus my camera work derives from space sensation, awareness of body mechanism, motivation and impulses. The body is the main instrument and subject of research in this interaction, for it functions as a mediator towards the quest for symbols in the formation of an identity within a socio–anthropological context.

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

: we

would like to introduce you to our readers with a

couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a BA(hons) in Dance with Visual Practice from Brighton University and a PGdiploma in Labananalysis and Somatic studies from Surrey University: how did these experience influence of your evolution as an artist?


It is not only those two experiences that influence my evolution as an artist, but i must say that those two parameters initially formed my artistic perspective and later enhanced the ability in being receptive to information from many areas and have more clarity of intention. Back then, Brighton University and Brighton city seemed to be the best place to study combined arts, and for me it was, if one can imagine that since then i was barely aware of the existence of interdisciplinary practices. Later, by choosing to study further the field of body movement, Labananalysis and Somatic studies course offered me the chance to expand my knowledge on body and concentrate more systematically on the interrelation between body and space. So yes, those two experiences set the foreground of my art practice and provided me with knowledge and experience but my evolution as an artist came when i started to embody my roots and origin and when i started to sense the space and feel the oscillations of the moving body passing through the lens, towards the inside of my eye and finally capturing my whole body. And that came years later! You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with a captivating multidisciplinary feature that allows you to cross video art, video dance and photography: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular aspect of the themes of your artistic research?

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My answer is simple.I chose to work with different mediums because i studied many different things in the art field and i wanted to find a way to combine them. This led me to acquire hybrid art forms. So as to the medium selection, the idea always comes first. Initially as a glimpse inside my head, then in the form of brainstorming and later when it takes a primal form, i grasp the camera. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance short film that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . What has at once captured our attention for the way it inquiries into the resonance between the body and its surroundings, is the way it brilliantly deconstructs , urging the viewers to - we dare say - a bergsonian experience: while walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? sprang out from an inner need to address situations of discomfort, feeling of displacement, heart palpitation or sudden moments of unexpected fear. The title has a strong reference to the number of times that the heart beats within a minute when is in rest. Something that runs counter to the resurgent motion of the body that cannot or does not want to escape from. The repetitive pattern of the piece echoes the inner need of the body to adjust in the given circumstances (narrow space, raging sea) in order to be able to transform itself. This is not visually


obvious but i believe that repetition brings awareness and the awareness you gain by this experience may lead to change. Featuring ravishing urban cinematography, is brilliantly composed and we have particularly appreciated the way your sapient use of close ups allows you to capture moments: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens and how was the filming experience?

I always work intuitively. I try to sense the mover and frame the motion according to how the body may react in the given environment / space. In other words i move with the mover. Aesthetically, i tried to capture the essence of the restricted/ narrow space and how this might be reflected upon the body, by moving in all possible directions and levels. Now, concerning the choice of the camera and lens, i used an HD video camera with a 24-135mm lens but besides those technical facilities i believe that most important is to know the frame mapping. What are the


elements that you want to capture? What is that you want to visualise? How do you perceive the space within the frame? What is that you want to include in the frame and what are the elements that you want to leave out? In my opinion these parameters may allow you to consider the context beyond the surface of the image itself. The filming experience developed spontaneously without any physical or emotional distractions. There was always an alertness and a feeling for an open -

ended exploration between me and the performer (Christina Mertzani). We have appreciated the way your approach to performance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language, so we would like to know something about of the collaborative aspect of your work with the performer Christina Mertzani: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of the performative gestures and the need of


spontaneity? How importance does improvisation play in your process? The whole piece was improvised thus, from my side i observed her movement behaviour for long before start videographing and Christina explored thoroughly the possibilities of moving in this specific environment. Sometimes wild and athletic, sometimes quite and subtle, her body led me to videograph accordingly. The shooting lasted only three days so when we arrived at the location i already knew the feeling, the atmosphere i wanted to have and Christina quickly adjusted to the environment. Almost all of my approach is improvised. Sometimes i need to have a structure because it makes easier to direct but most of the times i react intuitively to the subject. In this piece improvisation worked better from both sides, mainly because we were both aware of our spatial limits. Improvisation allows you to experience surprise or unknown qualities that you might not be aware of. It offers pluralism and opens space for experimentation. Sound plays an important role in your practice and we have appreciated the way the minimalistic soundtrack by Dimitris Barnias provides with such an enigmatic and a bit unsettling atmosphere, capable of providing the footage of your film with an aura of discomfort and strangeness, as well as the way you have sapiently structured the combination between performance gestures and sound: how do you see ?

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I always create the image and then i add the sound. I have never tried it the other way round but i am really keen on trying it, just to see how this might work. So, in almost every project i do, first i want to be content with the final composition. And if what i see is visually stimulating then i add the sound. Sound boosts the quality of the movement and image. It is like that little cherry on a birthday cake. Sound creates an invisible path that leads the viewer to a more comprehensive understanding of the work but it should always be interrelated to the image otherwise there is reason adding it. The past three years, Dimitris and i have closely collaborated in other projects beside this one and there is a fine attunement between us which conveys a good collaboration. has Using a well orchestrated camera work, drawn heavily from and we have highly appreciated the way you have between the created such insightful environment and performative getures: as an artist particularly interested in exploring the moving body in a restricted or open space, how did you select the location and how did it affect your shooting process? I work well in restricted spaces because the space itself provides a frame but i am also intrigued by open spaces where the frame needs to be defined through the lens. As i mention above, in my mind i had already the image of the space so it was not difficult to locate the place. When we arrived there, the first thing i did was “to see� the space through the lens and set the parameters of my


frame. As soon as i set the limits, the creative process begun. Another interesting wotk of yours that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled , whose teaser can be viewed at: . We have been highly fascinated with the way you combine realism and dreamlike atmosphere and we daresay that you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create : how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? To be honest i have not thought of this aspect. was videographed at an old house of my family where the memories and the experiences of the people that lived there were imprinted in the space. My intention was to create a story that echoed these elements but given from a personal perspective. Almost like in Magical Realism i used those visual references with pinches of imagistic fantasy. Yes, it is important to trigger the viewer’s imagination no matter the reaction as long as there is one. Your artistic research and practice is often enhanced by collaborating with artists from different fields, including sound designers, architects, visual artists and curators: it's no doubt that collaborations are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and

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Women Cinemakers that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines? Interdisciplinary practices acquire collaboration because it gives you the ability to combine different elements from different fields so as to have an integrated result. My work would not make any sense if i did not have a stable and harmonious relationship between myself and the people i create works with. Collaboration is essential for an aesthetically strong visual result. If the energy that is given in each task that is necessary to complete an artwork then the result will probably be undefined and imbalanced. in other words the result of all i have done so far, would not result in a fine aesthetic if there was lack of communication. Over the years your work has been internationally shown in several occasions, both in Europe and in the United States and it's important to remark that you are the artistic curator of the Video Dance section at International Chania Film Festival: how important is for you the feedback that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel previewing a work of art before an audience? My collaboration with the festival has only started a year ago and i must say that this genre is fairly unknown in


Women Cinemakers general, so i made a great effort to introduce it. Thus, i did not expect a solid substantial feedback but i managed at least to plant a small seed that eventually will grow and obtain a complete form. Chania is a city with strong multicultural references and Crete is an island that geographically is sited between three continents. I say that it is a town that can offer unlimited cultural possibilities through meaningful collaborations. And how do i feel previewing a work of art before an audience? Well, the audience varies. Some people are more open to new art forms, in others it might take more time. My intention towards the audience is to offer them a visually reach material with the outcome of a cultural enrichment. We have really appreciated the originality of your work 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 ' 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? Sometimes i feel alienated and other times i feel comfortable, especially if i am around people who are acquainted with unconventional art forms. But i never felt discouraged because of the fact that i am a woman.


Women Cinemakers Personally i never pay attention to labels or gender discrimination. All humans are unique and their uniqueness is what makes them authentic artists. In this interdisciplinary field, i have the sense that women artists and men artists are equally active. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Aliki. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Well, I just started renovating a house that i inherited from my grandmother in order to turn it into a cultural space and art residency which will focus on media related art field. I am also preparing a new video dance project with seven dancers entitled “cipher” (you can watch a pitch at: https://vimeo.com/233512745) and an ongoing photographic project with young people between the age of 13 - 16 entitled “A hero to look at”. The subject of the project focuses on young immigrants and how or if this affects their passage from childhood to adulthood. I am interested to explore further the possibilities of videography, the possible ways of directing while being somatically engaged and also new ways of exhibiting work in network as well as vivid spaces. Thank you very much. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Vera Mennens is a work consisting of different narratives accompanied and brought together by one vocal narrative. The materials were made in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech-Republic, Switzerland, Belgium, the UK, and the Netherlands while following Napoleon Bonaparte's footsteps over the current existing national borders of Europe. The events between the events (2017) is a research project in the format of a personal journey through various layers and voices of history. Each step is a consequence of a previous step. Like the present, it is a construction of events that are preserved in the past. Throughout the years, humans have come up with explanations for the way time presents itself to us. On the one hand, it creates the illusion of a linear continuum, on the other, times connect, run together, or exist parallel to one another. What is the ‘now’, and what kind of relation does it have to other moments in the past, present, and future? Working through the medium of film the essay creates constellations of overlapping images from public and personal archives, found footage, books, slide projections and objects accompanied and brought together by vocal narratives. The work provides a site of relations across time and place that invites to take a position between the collective and personal, fact and fiction, past and present.

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

Unconventional and captivating in its multifaceted practice, Vera Mennens 'work is indeed difficult to pin down and at the basis of it there's an insightful and analytical research abut the notions of time and memory.

One of the most captivating aspects of Mennens' work is the way it provide spectatorship with an extension of their perceptual parameters, waling them through a multilayered visual experience. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her captivating and multifaceted artistic production. Hello Vera and welcome to : before starting to elaborate to your artistic production, we would like to invite our readers to


visit http://www.veramennens.nl and we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and after having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from AKV/St. Joost, you nurtured your education with Master of Fine Arts in Artistic Research, that you received from KABK, the Hague: how did these experiences inform your current practice as an artists? Moreover, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? Once again, thank you very much for the opportunity to share my thoughts on my work and practice. Thinking back about my training I had in the past I strongly believe both my studies in photography, and artistic research have led to an extensive practice in which I use image and language as a research methodology to investigate and ask questions regarding of our experience of time and history. Writing has always been the balancing counterpart posed to my visual imagery in a way however because of the educational and documentary focus in my bachelors I had quite some di culty with putting my photographs next to text, thinking the story should be readable and stored in one object and all texts would therefore be useless. But stepping into a masters of artistic research suddenly underlined how important writing was in my research and and openend up the way I would approach the visual image from then on. Looking in to how far documentary allows fiction, moving on the field and borders between stories, myths and histories, between the objective and subjective, disclosing them in image and text. Suddenly there was time to give space to narrative, became the research itself part of the work and was I able to eventually let loose of my fixed use of only the medium of photography. I have a lot to thank my tutors and my classmates, being only a group of eight people studying and

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Women Cinemakers working together for two years, it was a coincidence that there was a heavy focus on narrative in all of the practices. Their knowledge and thoughts on using narrative within visual works brought me to creating works I would other wise never would be able to make. Also having tutors who could look beyond the parameters of my practice at that point and were able to take me look further then I was used to, led me to take big steps in creating methodologies I was starting to use in my research and works. For this special edition of we have selected The events between the events, a stimulating video-essay that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed us of your exploration of bergsonian boundary between past and present is the way you have provided the results of your artistic inquiry with captivating aesthetics. When walking our readers through the genesis of The events between the events, would you walk us through the genesis of this stimulating project? How did you develop the initial idea? The project the events between the events started where my previous project stopped, or at least at that point I had decided I had to move on. Before this work I finished a project called a monument for an almost country, an ode to the rise and fall of the Esperanto country ‘Moresnet’ which came in to existence as a direct result of the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. The country was located at the border meeting point between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany and existed from 1815 until the end of World War I. The special interest for this forgotten history was triggered by finding the picture of my greatgrandfather, who was an Esperantist at the time. Having finished an elaborate research about the periode between 1815 and 1919, hovering around between existing borders, I somehow


came across an ‘autobiography’ of Napoleon Bonaparte, which turned out to be not an autobiography at all, merely a collection of anecdotes, memories and vague historical facts. From this biography the journey through Europe began, in which I came across the difficulties of writing, understanding and passing on histories. In the hikes I took I tried to merge the temporal dimensions that

were existing in the research, between past and present, connecting space and time together in one story creating a video essay which brings geographical, personal and historical perspectives together. The events between the events creates constellations of overlapping images from public and personal


Women Cinemakers

archives, found footage, books, slide projections: what were the qualities that you were searching for in the materials that you included in your work? I have quite a strict regime of what should, or what should not be included in the final work. As the video might come across intuitively it has been put together

very precise. I have so many cuts of a ‘final’ version, taking out beloved photographs or objects, which were beautiful in a aesthetic way just didn’t tell the story, rewriting the narrative, recording the narrative with a di erent intonation and so on. You have to visualise my archive shelves now. Stacked from the floor to the ceiling are countless boxes and archival boxes which contain all the objects, materials, books, writings and so on. As I earlier on mentioned I had to stop the project I was making before this one, as researching history never ends and you end up in a sort of spiral in which nothing makes sense anymore. During the research as well on the hikes I take back so much data, visual materials, stories and objects I sometimes just get overwhelmed. As I narrate in the video the expectations you have before going on a research trip are not always met. You arrive on the location you think you got to know not knowing what to look for anymore. But in every research project there come a point, and I’m always really relieved when I arrive at this stage, where I really sit down for weeks organising, cross- referencing, and labeling everything. I think this is the most important and fruitful part of the projects I do and decide what stays and what goes. The qualities I look for in the materials is mostly that the merging of found footage, studio shots, photographs in a slide presentation and video clips together, feel natural. I has to be in a certain flow, especially together with the audio narration, to be sure the attention span of the viewer is not being distracted from a sudden change in imagery. Your practice addresses the viewers to explore the thin line between fact and fiction, urging them to question the unstable nature of their perceptual and cultural parameters. How do you consider the relationship


between the real and the imagined within your artistic research? Sometimes fiction and imagination starts in the research part of my works. For example when I was reading through the autobiography of Napoleon entering the writings about the battle at Leipzig in 1813. In the first paragraph a church was mentioned as an outlook post. Having always my computer next to me, looking up other documents in which I can cross reference facts I found a painting of a blown up bridge in order to make space to let the French army escape the battle field leaving behind half the regiment, the place in the painting I was planning to visit in one of my trips. . With the 1956 version of War & Peace in my mind, where soldiers on horseback swiftly move on a steep hilly landscape while being at the location of the painting I created, as a narrative part of the work, a possible event in history where these two facts come together by the use of fiction. Or when I was hiking along the coast of England. I remembered a vivid dream in which I headed back to the sea, vividly remembering the road along the small paths on the edge of the cli . The trees seemed higher than I remembered and their branches created a buzzing sound in the wind. In this dream I recalled during hiking my grandmother was reading me a letter she never wrote and handed me a stone, either washed ashore or fallen from a cliff and she started to slowly repeat the upcoming times of the tides from memory. This association with this dream also became part of the narrative. Sometimes it arrives earlier in the process of making a work, but the imagined part of my work arrives mostly as I go on my research trips. But while I am taking all the

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Women Cinemakers gathered data with me, all the knowledge, facts, images, historical maps and maps I am going to use during the hikes, I often arrive in a situation that I get lost in the place or landscape I have been researching for months. For example, in my newest work, the three stages (2019), in which I follow four characters through time and space, binding them in one network of narratives, I often have the feeling I am having a conversation with those characters while walking. I is a bit hard to explain, but last month I was in the south of the Netherlands following one of my characters, a Dutch biologist called Eli Heimans, who died in 1914 during a geological journey in the Eifel, Germany. While I was following his writings, in which he explains everything he’d seen and experienced on the walk I was doing in the present, I had the feeling he was walking 20 meters before me constantly. I could hear him telling things from the distance, things I had read in his books, but I could of course never physically reach him, because he was not there in real life. In this way the gap between times presented itself to me, an imaginary conversation, and the narrative I wrote after the journey was as if he had taken me on a hike. As you have remarked in your artist's statement, your artistic research is centred on the exploration of how the archive helps to construct and preserve our collective and personal memory and what the future of that archive can be: how do you consider the role of digital technologies in this direction? In particular, do you think that online technosphere will cause an irreversible change in the way we relate ourselves to the notion of memory? Before we can even start answering this question, we have to ask ourselves, what is archive? The book Lost and living (in) archives by Annet Dekker (ed, 2017) puts the following


statements about this in the introduction; as Michal Foucault wrote, ‘an archive cannot be described from within or in its totality, it emerges in fragments, region and levels’ (Foucault, 2010). Documents in an archive change location, get decontextualised, destroyed, get lost or forgotten. The digital archive, and here I quote Ina Blom (2016) ‘ have increased the fragmentary nature of archives. Whereas in the paper archive, documents and the archival administrative system are clearly divide, with digital archives, documents and contents are no longer separated from the archival infrastructure. Once the archives based on networked data circulation, its emphatic form dissolves into the coding and protocol layer, into electronic circuits or data flow’. With this we come back to Archive Fever by Jacques Derrida (1995) who already back then stated that mutation in technology not only alter the archival process but also what is archivable: in other words, technology changes not only the way but also the content of what is archived. The digitalisation of archives, the amount of legit information you can find online nowadays is nevertheless a blessing for my kind of work, or for any research based artist really. But, the changing structure, the fleeting knowledge and absence of real life people, for example an archivist, a museologist, anyone who is professionally familiar with the subjects given online in these endless databases, takes away a lot. I am not a historian, geologist, archivist, pianist or any of the professions that are involved in my works, even though I am using all these fields and interpreting the information as good as I can. In all the databases I can see the weavings and movements of relating informations through times. Because you move around in the realm of a particular research you connect things which you would beforehand not connect would you not be

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Women Cinemakers engaged in such a research. This brings me to an image I stumbled on during the research, placed in a Norwegian archive. The photo was made by Severin Worm-Petersen in 1916 and used in a lecture about the genes in the families of Bach, Goethe, Napoleon and Darwin. Where I made completely di erent relations between the four on geographical, historical and personal levels (f.e. Goethe and Napoleon met in person, Bach was appointed to the church which was the main military hospital 100 years later during the battle of Leipzig, and Darwin insisted on visiting Napoleon’s grave during a geographical expedition on St. Helena they were linked through genius genes. But to come back to the question what the digital age does to our memory, it has changed for sure. Although I can not give a concreet answer, since this is one of the leading questions in my works, and maybe I will never arrive at the answer, I think art can help us to find our way to new interpretations, newly explore memories, look at histories from di  erent perspectives, with our getting distracted from everything that is surrounding us in a world where everyone is becoming an archivist. Your practice deviates from standard videomaking and enhance the communicative potential of the images that you capture: how do you consider the relationship between experimental videomaking and reality? Moreover, what is your opinion about the importance of experimental video as a medium in our media driven contemporary art scene? I think the way I approach the medium of video is a similar way as I approach my research. It is never a linear narrative. Before creating the video-essay, a way of presenting my work is still continuing in my currents projects, I was focused on the presentation of a series of photography next to for example an narration audio work and found or used objects. Slowly I


understood this way of presenting was not su cient for the subjects I was dealing with. I realised while being so eager on fixing the gap between past and present with my work I was creating an even more larger gap in the way the story was being brought together and presented to the audience in a presentation by taking out the steps in how the network of narratives came to be. I realised I needed to approach the visual work that was derived from this research should be approached in a similar way as I approached the research. In my research, objects, stories and images are transformed, overlapped and repositioned and in doing so I question the way how we influence historiography, in the way history is told and presented. In this I create a dialog between myself, landscapes and the historical characters and I use walking as a way to weave the temporal and spatial dimensions between us together. In the network of weaving, borders create themselves between fiction and non fiction, the past, imaginary and the future and the personal and collectieve memory. Relations between the researched materials create themselves opening up dialogs over time and space. This is how the video-essay’s came to be. For me this way of using video, is an engaging way of taking the audience on journeys, merging them for 12 minutes in the world I created through space and time, yet leaving enough space to hover around and positioning ourselves on top of these borders to be able to have an overview and open up new spaces for reflection, narration and eventually an approach of new ways of writing, passing on and reading history. The events between the events draws from universal imagery and we dare say that it responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky's quote, when he stated that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but

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Women Cinemakers should be looking at what's behind something: how much important is for you to create images capable of triggering the spectatorship perceptual substratum in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? How open would you like your works to be understood? My videos are always in a loop. The viewer can come in to the story at any point of the work. Since as I stated earlier, the work is a network of relations between di erent stories, histories and personal accounts, and is presented as such. Images are hidden, replaced, put next to each other and you may slowly gaze upon each image, one by one, from left to right as were you reading a book. Each image engages in a relationship with the previous image, and this is important for me that the audience understands this. Because within these movements of the video they can start making their own relationships with the images, maybe just one in the entire film, but when it connects to a personal memory, a dream, a conversation, I know the work has done something to the viewer. Even though this work has a clear line of me stepping in the footsteps of a great ruler while travelling through Europe, all the underlining themes are not literally mentioned. In a way I wanted to create a space- for all the voices of experiencing, speaking up and accompanied by visuals that created the narratives on the way. Three dimensional objects became two dimensional in the frame of the camera, printed photographs of landscapes were seemingly moving by the twitching quality of film. In the end I want to give the viewer images of histories, lead by a ( fictional) narrative, where often the border between fiction and fact is unknown and open to interpretation. All the voices, the one of the past, the present and the one of possible future are organised and bound in this framework of video and for a moment, just a moment, the gap between past and present is overcome.


Over the years your work have been internationally showcased in a wide number of occasions: one of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to establish direct involvement with the viewers. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Up till now I have not altered the way I approach my videos because of the audience reception. But as I said before, coming from a photography background, moving to the field of video, my presentations are always evolving. What comes first is to determine what a work needs rather then thinking of how the audience has received a previous work. In this work for example the one leading voice could bind all the images together, placing them all in one frame work. But now I am working with di erent narratives and voices that might not be suited in one framework, but rather in separate frameworks in one space. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Vera. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I am currently developing a work called ‘The three stages’, which focuses on the narratives of four characters. One character is a man called Eli Heimans, a Dutch biologist and geologist who tragically died in 1914 on a excursion in Germany, the second is a sand bank in the Netherlands, west of Den Helder and south of the island Texel, the third a

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Women Cinemakers forgotten great- aunt on a photograph made in Vienna and last, the final unfinished musical piece by Johann Sebastiaan Bach. The four characters seemed to have nothing in common other then me as an artist binding them in a network of narratives, though, the amount of information, or a better way to say is the lack of information available about these four characters was the first thing that bound them. As I was given the young talent grant from the Mondriaan Fund just this month, I am able to take this work over the borders of Europe, surround myself again in the databases and take the archive as a challenging and inspiring site for artistic production and research creation. For this work I am now doing research in the city archive of Maastricht (NL) and the University library of Amsterdam (NL) and working together with a geologist, an organist and a heritage specialist. For this work I’m intending to do a series of 14 walks, from which 4 already took place. One took place in Germany to the top of the Wilhelm tower surrounded by wind, the second at the coast of Den Helder to the top of the dunes, the third was in the province of zuid-Limburg (NL) where the hills seemed touch the clouds and the fourth took place in hallways of the three floors down underneath the ground depot of the City archive in Maastricht (NL) looking for a series of lost photographs. By presenting di erent characters, not necessarily from the same time or place, I will again create a dialog between myself, landscapes and the characters and use walking as a way to merge the di  erent temporal dimensions between us. To close this o  , thanks again for this wonderful opportunity to share my work and I hope my answers, ideas and thoughts inspired the reader. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Veronica Mockler Lives and works in Montreal, Canada

Through video, performance and interview, I work with individuals to present their reality to diverse audiences in order to socially challenge these given audiences. Through my projects, I hope to fill part of the gap that technology imposes between real human interaction and virtual media connectedness. I believe art is one of the rare remaining occasions in which human relatability can genuinely occur. This is why I use face-to-face performance, documentary testimony and the concept of hommage as tools to dismantle prejudice. I am driven by the idea that the direct presence of someone is politically transformative. I believe someone’s existence and opinions are worthy of art; are worthy of the art space; are worthy of the art world. I personally hold any art production socially accountable and thereby dedicate my practice to the overthrow of rigid conservative and capitalistic ideals. By putting forth work that serves the agency of other individuals and groups, I am also attempting to deconstruct my own privilege. I develop projects in and out of the gallery space by inviting stigmatized agents into the white cube, and connoisseurs into the real world. Basically, I think people are cool and important — I want them to be seen and heard.

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

Inspired by the namesake French documentary film by sociologist Edgar Morin and anthropologist Jean Rouch, Chronique d'un été is a stimulating experimental film by Montréal based intermedia

artist. Walking the viewers through a multilayered visual experience, this captivating film triggers the viewers cultural parameters to urge them to reexamine the idea of Western society. One of the most stimulating aspects of Mockler's artistic inquiry is her successful attempt to fill part of the gap that is created by technology between real human interaction and virtual media connectedness: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted artistic production.


Hello Veronica and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You have a solid formal training: you hold a BFA in Studio Arts / Intermedia Cyberarts, conferred with Distinction, from Concordia University, MontrĂŠal and you also studied at the University College Cork, Ireland: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, does your cultural background address your artistic research? Hey! It is so great to be here. Thanks so much for having me. My experience within the education system has without a doubt greatly informed who I am today as an artist, who I am today as a person. At Concordia University, I was fortunate enough to enrol in a program that was flexible, unlike most Fine Art curricula that are still medium-based and predetermined. My broader than usual major: Studio Arts allowed me to venture into multiple courses, mediums and inquiries that derailed from a standard art production program. Throughout my degree, I was able to curate my academic experience by branching out into documentary history and theory, critical art history, applied ethics, community theatre, social architecture as well as in queer and race studies. These fields of inquiry combined to studio courses allowed me to grasp what it is I wanted to put forward into the world. It is during these defining years that I not only realized but decided that my practice was socially accountable, and as a person benefiting from the privileges of being white, straight, abled and cis, I needed to produce work that was sensitive to, but also served the empowerment of the folks I worked with.

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Women Cinemakers At the end of my degree, I went to the south of Ireland as an independent student to take on Irish history, literature and film courses. From a very young age, I had been interested by Irish culture, its history and resilience. I think my fascination for this divided territory comes from the many social parallels that can be drawn between the island of Ireland and where I am from: QuĂŠbec. Similar social challenges (such as: colonialism, processes of decolonization, the British imperial upper hand, whiteness, nationalism, language protection and rights, the church, folklore and alcohol) have drawn me to Northern Ireland in recent years for research. You are a versatile artist and your practice is marked out with such captivating interdisciplinary approach that include video, performance and interview. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://veronicamockler.com 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 interdisciplinary approach? How do you select a medium in order to explore a particular theme? I have an interdisciplinary approach for one simple reason: the medium must serve the idea, the pursuit, and not the other way around. I use what ever medium works best to transmit what I am questioning or the claim I am putting forward. In my work, I feature the lived experiences of certain individuals and groups as a way to challenge social and specific status quos. Interviews, testimonials and staged conversations are often the most effective ways to present


Women Cinemakers such experiences. I most often invite folks to come and share their narratives in front of an audience and/or through video. I must resort to mediums that are somewhat transparent in order to appropriately and directly feature these stories. I like to see my role as an artist as the one of a facilitator who provides subversive ways to communicate. Mediums such as photography, sound recording and writing come in handy in my practice, as they also allow individuals to express themselves candidly. Depending on the project, these mediums are sometimes less intimidating then a camera or live audience. For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Chronique d'un été, an extremely interesting video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. Inspired by the namesake French documentary film, your work escapes from traditional narrative form to pursue a captivating cinema vérité style: when walking our readers through the genesis of Chronique d'un été, would you tell us what did attract you of this theme? Chronique d’un été is by far the most personal work I have produced in the past 3 years. It was a way for me to address certain parts of my life I had been wrestling with for a long time, such as: my privilege as a white person as well as my youth and hedonism. By creating a work unfolding around these themes, I wished to better understand these aspects that were part of my identity, and moreover, a great part of the Quebecois coming-of-age experience. Cinéma vérité is a wonderful approach to nonfiction that allows one to bring issues to the table without having to directly point any fingers.


Women Cinemakers This powerful and revealing documentary style allowed me to layout the things I wanted to understand about my community, my bubble. In a similar way to its great French predecessor, this contemporary Québécois reiteration also features a youth defined by its time, place and economic status. By contemplating the conversations of three individuals defined by this specific reality, I wanted to expose to myself, as well as to a greater audience, how sheltered the Western world demographic I stem from can be. I allowed myself to pose an anthropological gaze onto a distinct part of my own culture to better understand the challenges it faces, but moreover, to stress how difficult it is for anyone not belonging to this demographic to relate. Though Chronique d’un été critiques a specific Quebecois obliviousness, like always, my goal was still to elevate the humanity and genuineness of the actual folks I was featuring. Their beauty and realness counterbalances the critical gaze. Empowering the individuals who agree to participate in my work is crucial in any of the commentaries I put forward. We have appreciated your peculiar use of overblown whites that provides the footage with such a surreal quality: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? The overblown whites do give a surreal quality to Chronique d’un été. I wanted to situate my subjects in an abstract, white, almost dreamlike environment so to accentuate the hyperwhiteness I was putting at stake in the work. Simply put, I kind of wanted the piece to look like the performers had highjacked an iPhone ad. The shiny and overly clean setting


Women Cinemakers transpires the subjects’ naivety and privilege. In the same vein, I chose to have the performers wear pastel colours as a way to allude to their undisturbed and sugarcoated bubble. As for the framing and lens choice, I decided to use a wide-lens that would make the subjects look disproportionately round, perhaps even baby-like. Overall my aesthetic choices were made to accentuate or rather metaphor this demographic’s privilege. As you have remarked once, you hope to fill part of the gap that is created by technology between real human interaction and virtual media connectedness: how does in your opinion technology affects our perceptual and cultural parameters? In particular, how is in your opinion technology affecting the consumption of art? The prevalence of technology in our daily lives has tremendously affected the way we exist in this world. As mentioned earlier, I am interested in how the recognition of individuals’ experiences can help deconstruct specific social stigmas. Recognizing someone, and by this I mean facing them, listening to their voice, sensing their emotion, though perceived as something quite basic, is a precious moment that is becoming today more and more complexified and mediated. Our interactions are now fragmented onto multiple medias and platforms which actually dilutes and veils our connection to other people. In my work, face-to-face encountering (through live performance or on screen) is a tool I use to remind us of how

meaningful and powerful someone’s real face and emotion can be. Technology is affecting or consumption of art, our consumption of new events as well as having completely changed our relationship to information in general. The prevalence of technology in our lives is an inevitable reality that we must be critically optimistic about. It is my critical optimism that drives me to the type of work I do. By researching and producing work on how, why and when we can be socially empathetic, I am attempting to counterbalance our present over glorification of technology. There will keep appearing more and more ways to connect with one another yet we cannot forget the beauty and strength of connecting with someone in real life. Exchanging with an individual in person is proven to not only be more evocative, but to have a social and political impact on both individuals involved in the conversation. We need to keep going into our cities to buy things, in order to stay sensitive to the reality of those behind the counter; we need to face the individual sitting at the desk in order to acknowledge their agency, we need to go out into the world and see the faces of the folks who gather for a cause instead of being only introduce to said cause through futile, confusing and infuriating comment sections online. I believe it is my job as an artist to remind us of the beauty of a good ol’ one-on-one exchange, because seeing and feeling someone in real life, how they look, what animates them, what their environment is


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comprised of, has without a doubt the power to change us, meaningfully and for the better. Chronique d'un été seems to reflect German photographer Andreas Gursky's words, when he stated that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind something: are you particularly interested in structuring your work in order to urge the viewers to elaborate personal associations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? This is a very good quote indeed with regards to Chronique d’un été. The individuals brought to screen in this work are not meant to be judged by the audience, as no one should ever feel they have the right to condemn individuals when solely basing their judgement on a documentary depiction. However, the audience has the right to be critical of a demographic and of what defines it. As mentioned earlier, cinéma vérité is a wonderful approach to nonfiction that allowed me to contemplate issues I have with my own culture without wanting or having to point any fingers. Also, I would say that the rest of my work in general is much more open than Chronique d’un été. This openness is actually something I aim for. I believe a powerful and sensitive documentary depiction of subjects is twofold: the subject should be depicted as particular to their reality. Yet, at the same time, by being the only expert on their reality, the subject


Women Cinemakers should also become a reference for the audience. The subject must become a gateway onto greater observations and understandings. A subject is successfully depicted when they feel both unique and relatable to the audience. Your practice stands at the crossroads of art, documentary and advocacy and we have particularly appreciated the sharp sociopolitical criticism that marks out your work: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "the artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world you’re in. It depends on the political system you’re living under". As a cross disciplinary artist interested in social and psychological issues, what could be in your opinion the role of artists in our unstable, everchanging contemporary age? Does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? Artists must acknowledge the fact that they are socially accountable for the work they put out into the world. The role of the artist is to challenge the structures in society that, if it weren’t for art, would never be subverted or taken down when need be. And indeed, this role, though always social, is defined by the part of the world the artist is working from. More than ever, partly thanks to Donald Trump’s frightening ascendancy, xenophobic sentiments have spread throughout NorthAmerica. My research is right now aimed at dismantling this wave of detrimental prejudice and fear. By amplifying the voices of those targeted by this prejudice through interviews and documentary performances, I


Women Cinemakers hope, at the very least, to shake a few dozen conservative capitalists to reassess their bias. Not all art can be political, but all artistic endeavour and research should stem from a point of social curiosity and sensitivity. Meaningful art stays impervious to the market, and is responsible for encouraging its audience to progressive attitudes. Another interesting work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled CANVASSERS: as you have remarked once, this documentary performance demonstrates our empathetic capacity as individuals. Would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? In April 2016, a study entitled Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing, by David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, published in SCIENCE MAGAZINE, demonstrated that a 10-minute active one-on-one conversation between two strangers could durably reduce longstanding ingrained prejudice. The report suggested that a brief discussion could markedly and lastingly lower discriminatory attitudes towards stigmatized intergroups. The field experiment addressed prejudice against transgender people, in Miami, South Florida. I produced Canvassers in response to these scientific findings. I was very excited when I read the study as it was the first time I had come across scientific evidence that exemplified so tangibly what drives me to produce my work. Long ago, I decided as an artist, that my work would fundamentally be about experiencing the other. I gave myself this

conceptual rule for one simple reason: human interaction is important because it can lead to progressive thought and action. When individuals share who they are with you, their genuine intent automatically prompts you to be more receptive to who they are. It is at this very moment, that experiencing the other can inform and change your own preconceptions. This very state, this political experience, is the inquiry my work answers to; is what this scientific study reveals. This research, as well as others since, provide context to my use of interaction as a conceptual political framework. Canvassers is a didactic yet symbolic performance in which I asked two individuals to share a personal story in front of a camera. Both participants come to experience a unified understanding of events when one’s story is orally taken on by the other. Part performance, part document, Canvassers is a one-shot 15-minute video piece exemplifying the political potential of conversation. Over the years your works have been showcased in several occasion, including your recent solo Les Interprètes, at the Centre Turbine, in MontrÊal: one of the hallmarks of your practice is the ability to establish direct involvement with the viewers, who urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception? And what do you hope to trigger in the spectatorship?


Women Cinemakers I hope to trigger acknowledgement and accountability within my audience. Especially in my performance work, I want to shift the audience’s role from one that is passive and receiving to one that is active and accountable. Again, by inviting real folks to share their reality with my audience, through different modes of representation, I count on their genuineness to touch and shake the spectator’s disposition. There is no better way to make your audience engage with a certain issue than to bring agents, who are directly affected by said issue, to share their experience in a live setting. I cofounded in 2017 an art collective named VISIBLE with theatre artist Sofia Blondin. VISIBLE specializes in documentary performance. Often, in these documentary performances, the audience has to physically move through the space in order to go meet the individuals featured in our projects. The spectator goes from being a bystander onto someone who is facing an actual person affected by an actual inequality. Our performers do not only reveal their position on a given issue, but more importantly, they share a bit of who they are with the audience. Focusing on the personality, on the humanity of our participants, it is important for us to transcend the inequality at stake, and to raise these individuals’ agency above all discord, in strategic defining performative moments. It is by acknowledging that our performers are not solely defined by the featured injustice that we can ensure that this said injustice is addressed effectively and earnestly.


Women Cinemakers Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Veronica. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Well, right now I am in the development of a documentary short entitled The Call Back. In this nonlinear film, I will be interviewing 5 individuals who were not born in Canada, but who are now citizens of the country. These folks will share how they had imagined the country prior to their arrival. Then, through tableau vivant static scenes, I will stage each individual in a mise-en-scène that literally recreates how they had imagined Canada to be like. Some of the first generation immigrants and refugees participating in the film had imagined Canada to be better than what it is, while some, on the contrary, imagined the country to be worst than what it is. Some folks realize they had the wildest and funniest expectations prior to moving to Canada, while others realize they were mislead in alarming ways and are now questioning their entire migration. This documentary is a moment of recognition in which what one has hoped for and experienced is not only given a platform, but literally materialized during one brief scene. I see my work evolving, or rather I hope for the agencies and stories I put forward in my work to reach bigger audiences, as the experiences I have the privilege of featuring deserve attention and consideration. They should be seen and heard!


Women Cinemakers meets

Anna Wańtuch Lives and works in Kraków, Poland

I regard myself mostly as a dance artist. In the same time I feel that I got huge need to go beyond borders of any artistic field. I like collaborating with artists from different disciplines and to use tools that I need for my expression, not limited by any dance steps or specific dance technique. Taking into account my previous works, we may consider MOT/HER KC as my film debut, but for me it is a continuation of my performative way of speaking just using video as a tool. I think it was not accidental cause that project consists main points of my interests. Those are: notion of body, act of questioning identity, interplay with presence ( meaning both: act of presentation of myself and aspects of time as being here and now actively for someone). Although MOT/HER KC is first project in which I „unmoved” myself by posing for the camera (which is also still), I regard it as a full of movement. That project enriched my exploration of different kinds of movement. It made it possible to experiment with other meanings of move: move of thoughts, feelings, move of fluids inside my body, transformation of my body, fluctuation of time and situations occurring around me. The constant change makes it impossible to catch who am I, what is now, where are my borders, where is my place, and how to define myself, my environment. I am trying different tools, different art disciplines, different conventions, point of views, different definitions and roles played in everyday life but there is still lack of answers. It can make me angry, sad, I can feel lost but it can also be source for laugh, auto irony, self distance. The world appears as full of scraps which are sometimes matching and joining into bigger things but sometimes are interesting in its messy mismatch. I am touched by concept of „closeness”. In my projects I try to check what does it mean to be close: close to ourself, to audience, to body, to skin, to other people. It makes relation with viewer more intimate and honest. Sometimes I use very private experiences but try to say it the most open way so people can relate it to their own thoughts and stories. I appreciate when project let the audience interact with the work so delicately I try to provoke them to take some actions or to create situation when they start to ask themselves some questions.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Anna and welcome to : before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to

our readers to visit we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural background direct the trajectory of your artistic research?


Mot/her KC project ( or maybe even my previous performance ) is a moment in my artistic research where 3 different paths (maybe even contradicting) meet together. First path is my theoretical background. I graduated philosophy and simultaneously film studies. My philosophical diploma and my theoretical interests were about combining theory and practice in body awareness. I was under great impression of Richard Shusterman work on that field. His philosophy is an attempt of philosophical practice, what may be regarded quite controversial for discipline for so many years treated as mainly theoretical one. What is also most difficult for philosophers is fact that he wants to do that through the body, while for most philosophers in history concepts were made through their minds. I wanted to find some points in Shusterman philosophy I could use for my practical artistic life. It was of course not very revealing, but I started to see how body awareness, how thinking about how I move, and concentration on how my body is dancing influenced my ability of moving. It was also the time when I was very interested ( mainly because I was not satisfied with my dancing skills) in technical training of my body and how I can obtain perfect way of „using” my body with harmony of my mind. It was a great will to get to know as much as I could and sensitize for feeling body impulses, signals, feelings but also actively sent messages from myself to my body. And one day all of those feelings, all that work I thought was made got lost when I got pregnant. I was totally excited by this fact, but in the same time I was in panic of „not knowing” what was going on. The process which started had its own rules, own timing which was not interested in what I needed or wanted, it was just going on and I got feeling it was happening completely without my control and without my awareness. Something was going on inside me but in the same time somehow next to me and I could become just observer, not participant. I got a thought like: Ok you thought you knew something about your body and now you can throw away everything you have learned from Mr Shusterman cause it does not fit anymore to what is going on now. The third path is connected with residency program Dance Moves Cities. It was international project for local dancers/performers with 3 different choreographers. Before second workshops I got pregnant with my second baby so almost whole residency program I did being

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Women Cinemakers pregnant or soon after childbirth. At the beginning I thought I should leave that project but then I thought maybe I could try just to observe or took part partially. I met then Vera Mantero who was very open about having almost 8th month pregnant participant. Her workshops were so exciting that I forgot about just listening and did not know when but I accomplished whole program. Vera said that she had read some text saying that women artists during pregnancy had some kind of double mind. For me it was funny idea cause usually we hear that during pregnancy women are more stupid because of being sleepy and tired and think a bit slower. On the other hand I got the feeling Vera is a bit right and different creative ideas are filling my whole body and it was truly pleasant. It was like: Oh I would like to do project X, and project Y and then oh yes It would be great to do project Z. What was completely new for me artistically was concept of „free writing” , working on „moving without knowledge”, emphasizing unconsciousness and still finding structures in it, translation of text through the body, so sth completely opposite to what I was doing before. I let myself go, I found it so comfortable not to think but still find there material for movement. That letting go was also a source for autoirony, self distance, not being so serious and analyzing everything. I felt more free and more brave in my artistic decisions. we have selected For this special edition of , an extremely interesting 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 captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the theme of pregnancy as well as your insightful investiogation of the relationship between movement and physicality is the way it addresses the viewers to such a multilayered experience. While walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? During each pregnancy I had a huge need ( maybe connected with that double mind) to express myself in any artistic way. It was rather some kind of „souvenirs” from pregnancies, sth to celebrate artistically that fact. Experience of pregnancy was inexplicable each time. Even I knew it and experienced before I was still surprised by its fluidity, which was very hard to me to explain. Mot/her KC is some kind of looking for explanation for viewers and for myself. I found that process also as a kind of self exploration although not planned at the beginning.


I started with catching a bit my feelings, changes, experiences. Then it appeared that there were so many contexts of that fluidity and that self identity was built upon so many changeable things. It was strange that I wanted to speak about changes and fluidity in a project where the main idea was to unmove myself. Strange cause change and fluids remind me more movement than stillness and my main field is dance so it should be obvious I would rather like to move than to stay still, but I preferred to listen to myself than logical thinking. Firstly I just wanted to observe and hoped that after some time I could catch what is going on. We ( my husband and I) got the idea to just take pictures, each week in exactly same pose. We liked the solution that something stayed the same and something changed but

people need some time to see and understand what had changed. We made some trials and I was completely dissatisfied. I wanted to have some material published each week to have something we can also see „now”. When I watched trial photograph session I was „hit” by its emptiness while I was so „full”. It said nothing and was completely not understandable, too open for many contexts. Each week I was almost the same but also a bit different that was the most intriguing. How we can be the same when so many things changes. I also got so many floating thoughts in my head so I started to write them and said to my husband: What if we would make videos instead of pictures or do both but treat videos as main work and pictures as a tool. We decided to use pictures at the beginning cause we had thought that if we had wanted to speak about changes then the project should be the most minimalistic so the field would be very


clear to better catch the changes. But as always simplicity appeared as the most difficult in art. Those first pictures instead of being simple and clear were super cold, there was no me, it could be everyone, not even pregnant. In next session we decided to be more free, do not think about initial idea but just try to be, to try different poses and keep the one we like most and use it for the video. Each sunday we first were doing some photos on different levels. We improvised some poses sitting on chair, some sitting on floor, some lying, some standing. Then we watched them and made decision almost instantly. We tried not to think much, we chose what we like most or pose which fitted the most what I wrote in weekly text. After that we filmed only chosen pose.

There is also huge role of photos from our „surroundings� which make contrast to the clarity of the body. Some time ago my friend who was expecting baby had asked me to make some pictures to show him how it was to have children. When I did it I was surprised how picturesque was everyday chaos and how interesting compositions are made by everyday mess. In our films it also had some symbolic values, cause I felt similar inside my head to what my home looked like. We have been particularly impressed by the sculptural qualities of your images as well as the way they express a resonance between human body and its environment: what were your when conceiving this stimulating project?


Women Cinemakers Although I agree with you that sculptural qualities are visible here I treat them more like „positive side effects” and I admit I was more influenced by tradition of films and paintings. We were not thinking a lot about some specific artists but rather about some artistic associations.

processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that " ": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the issues that you explore and the physical act of creating your artworks?

When I speak about being influenced by cinema I am thinking about all self conscious acts of putting cameras in front of artists as acts of looking for or questioning their identity or identity of their works, just to call Krzysztof Kieślowski and his The Amateur as most „polish” example.

I think that issue is explored mostly in relation between text and body. Texts are based on real experiences, real events and feelings but those are just chosen fragments, scraps. This way they may become anything for viewer. It is specially seen in fragments about „numbers”. Numbers are something purely abstract by „nature”. I think they objectify our bodies the most. We are described similar to objects then, we got weight, height, temperature, blood pressure etc. When you got pregnant you become a bag of numbers, constantly changing object for researchers.

When it comes to painting I think it is an art genre where nudity is the most acceptable. When there is nudity in theater or film, audience is almost always warned about it while if there is exhibition of nude paintings viewers seems not to be so afraid. In my opinion it depends on how you „wear” your nudity. If you just provoke, „show” and want audience to see IT then it can make them feel at least not comfortable, although I believe making audience feel uncomfortable can also be valuable. Sometimes I feel strange when I see nudity in art. What fascinates me in Vera Mantero’s performances like her Olympia for example, is that when I watch her I regard her nudity like being dressed, it is so natural that it does not disturb you, you forget that someone in front of you is naked.You watch whole work and think what it says without considering if someone was dressed or not. I would really like to reach that point with viewer that he/she is not thinking if my body is dressed or naked, that nudity is important fact but is not something disturbing. Then we can see something more, go deeper and for example like in your case find a space for sculpture qualities to appear. Maybe it is not possible but we wanted to show the body with all aspects and details and also let audience to forget that they are looking at someone who is naked in the same time. We have deeply appreciated the way features such captivating inquiry into the grammar of body to create a kind of involvement with the viewers that touches not only the emotional sphere, but also and especially the intellectual one, urging them to . Many question also artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative

I like abstract features cause everyone can fill it with what she/he feel but on the other hand there are some people being afraid of not „clear voice”. For example at the beginning when we sent first episode to chosen group of friends asking for feedback, we saw that viewers were divided into 2 groups. First group were those whom we called „unthinkers” or „feelers”. They watched and absorbed the words, they were talking mostly about their feelings, they were emphasizing tone of voice, its sound, the atmosphere, some were watching with eyes closed (probably not because I was naked :) Their attention was concentrated on sensing. 2nd group we called „thinkers”. They felt uncomfortable with not clear texts, they wanted to understand what each sentence exactly meant. Some of them also said it should be written in a better way cause it did not sound well or maybe not correct. Since I was full of doubts and I was always thinking that viewer was always right I started to think about some edits. For texts I used method I have learned from workshops with Vera Mantero which is automated, not thinking writing. I just wrote the most important feelings, events, experiences from whole week, but when someone said it is written badly (I could use better words) or that people do not know what I am talking about ( like it is not precised if I spent 120 zł in pharmacy), then I thought oh noI need to correct it, I am artist, if I use text I should be professional writer so I should put effort on it, analyze each word and preferably ask some expert to check it. I spent one day changing my words to sound more „professional”, I was


Women Cinemakers

listening to „writers” advises and then I said: omg what I am doing here, it is not what the project is about, it is not me, why my words should be correct if I do not feel correct, why they should mean anything. Instead I started to analyze my previous texts, and what I wrote unconsciously appeared to be so important and saying so much about me. From that time I started to catch every accidental moment, every experience, every feeling and started to play with it. For example in episode 15 I am constantly saying: I know, I do not know. It is so nice example of playing with something abstract but also representing somehow how I felt with the first feedback of project. In fact it has so many meanings, it says about those who know-feel the project, so don’t need to know, and those who need to know but do not know, and also me who assured myself that not knowing is exactly knowing and who provocatively admitting not knowing is fine, and who exactly know why is doing so. Another example: one of my friends said it is so artificial to call your husband sexual partner and proposed to change wording to person you sleep with. At the beginning I thought, yes she is right it sounds better, but then I said to myself that project was not about how it sounded, what it said about my specific experience. I always feel surprised how fast we become objectified by medical exploration during pregnancy. How such everyday and human issues like sex, love, child, mother, father, family are being replaced with fetal, vagina, organs, cells etc. It is so funny that you need to make HIV test for the third time, even you make love with one person for 17 years. When you are an object of such exploration your lover is your sexual partner and that artificiality is something what was bothering me in that moment I wrote it, such wording makes you questioning your identity which becomes so official, you are asking yourself: are they talking about me? or does this form me? So that is why I used such word, it was some kind of irony, by saying: person I slept with I could not grab it. It says a lot about transformation of my body, of how it is regarded in some aspects, in some contexts, words may be abstract or have very specific meaning but for sure their „physicality is unavoidable”. explore the We have deeply appreciated the way women's identity in our globalized still patriarchal and maleoriented age. Not to mention that these days almost everything,

from Maurizio Cattelan's ' to Marta Minujín's ' ', could be considered : do you think that could be considered , in a certain sense? In particular, do you think that your being a woman provides your artistic research with some ? That is the most difficult question for me, not only in case of Mot/her KC but also in my whole artistic and everyday life. I think I still did not find right answer for it, and the more I think I am being closer then the opposite answer starts to approach. I am thinking about that issue from the very beginning of the project. That was also my first fear. I said to my husband: You know I am sure they will regard my work as feminist, while I think I would like it to be my work. We started to think if we wanted it to be „feminist”, why yes and why not, and if it was something we should be worry about. Then was also something very obvious I am women and I speak women voice about women issues. I think my work is and is not political in the same time. Also me being a woman gives it and gives it not some special value. Its political and feminist values are a bit like again „positive side effect” although I was pretty aware of them while working on that project and it was clear to me they might be visible even I haven’t planned them to be main aspects. The initial idea was to speak about my specific feelings and changes, problems with identity. I thought about myself as a person. I knew it would be regarded as a women art but I did not know what it would mean in my case. I treat that project also as a way of asking question what does it mean to speak women voice. It is very interesting cause it is collective project initiated by me and my husband. I regard it as a voice of us both. It was like: Let’s talk about what is going on here, child is in me but it is someone made of two of us and we feel it somehow together. I think that in discussion about pregnancy we forget about the fact that men are also there. It is issue I do not want to develop now cause it is not directly connected with our project but skipping men in pregnancy theme is something I think would be nice to talk about. (Some) Men change, they take care of children more and more, they want to be better parents than their parents, they want to be active and play important role. At the


beginning of project it was clear to me I speak personal voice without giving it any gender. Filip (my husband) put same effort on that project. On the other hand we had many „artistic fights” working together. I wanted him to propose more, to provide some solutions, to make some decisions by himself but from the very beginning he chose the role of observer, role of companion, somebody standing next to me, watching and letting me be, listening and letting me speak. This way I realized we deal with very interesting situation. We can say it is a male gaze cause men is watching but I (women) was talking through him. Of course I do not need him to do that, I do not need his permission but since we are friends his presence helped me to look at myself, to understand more about me. It is so difficult to speak about it cause we have objective facts like he is men, I am women so there would always be discussion about women freedom but in our relation we try to go beyond gender roles. And I felt that he understood more „my pregnancy” cause he already assisted me twice and we spent so many hours talking about it, and because there inside me, there was also his child. I felt he was more closer than other women being pregnant. There is one episode (not published yet in time of interview ) when we switched roles. When I was in hospital just after childbirth ( funny IT started just few minutes before we started to do our every week session) he put the camera in front of himself. When I was unable to speak, he started to speak by himself to continue the project. He wrote his text, about his fear, his feelings. I was looking at him through the camera. It was very strong and moving experience to me. There is also another men working in that project. I invited for collaboration Patryk Zakrocki, music improviser. I sent him first episode, say few sentences about project and compositions he proposed showed a big understanding to what I wanted to say. So as you may see men played very important role in that project and I am very glad I could work with them. For sure it is also effect of my personal experience. I had many great friends among men and really bad relations with women. My first child is a boy, he plays very important role in my life. We speak a lot how we need to support girls to let them grow and become who they want to be, but also boys need such support. I see so many sensitive boys dealing each day with being „not enough male”.

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


A still from


Women Cinemakers On the other hand I am women, I got two daughters for whom I would like to ensure free development and there are so many important issues for me being woman in Mot/her KC. It was accidental but so touching that my project was made in so strange and alarming time in my country. We had so many important demonstrations and discussions about freedom and also women rights and restrictions in reproduction law. Our government wanted to change already restricted law and force polish women to keep pregnancy even if woman was raped or we deal with fetal defects or risk for mother health. But again the situation is not completely clear to me. There is so many men in government so we may say that those are men who made this but on the other hand the project was written by woman and there are also women in our government who advocate that proposal. Polish women also received many support from men demonstrating next to them. We were on streets together, whole families, pregnant women, women with children, women with parents etc. For me that was more political conflict, not gender conflict. The both sides had both genders, but for me being pregnant, me being woman, me being Polish citizen, me artist, it was very difficult and touching issue. And I felt it is so important that in such context I am doing Mot/her KC. After first episode I receive many messages like: Anna it is so important, it is so political. Me being naked was regarded as act of political resistance. I thought that what I am doing is just about my „1 meter around” surrounding, but in fact I represented somehow other women similar to me. When I looked more wider to what I am speaking about, where am I, and who am I, then I could not disagree it may be political. It is also my everyday dilemma, should we just run away from political life, try to live your own life or to fight for that life, try to change the world so it become friendly for everyone. The crucial moment for „women” theme is episode 16th. I used critical (sometimes full of hate) voices of other women watching Mot/her KC. I found it very perverse. We directly refer to Claude Manet’s Olympia, example of male gaze but we used women voice, which in fact sounded so male and was quintessence of what we women were fighting against. I was objectified by them, by other women, by other mothers. At the beginning I could not stop laughing cause those opinions were so unbelievable but after a while I found it so sad, not the fact they did not like my work, but by the fact how they treated women body, what

were their expectations and limitations they put on themselves. Of course there were much more influences from Olympia, it inspired polish critical art, and was also present in ironical work by Vera Mantero. So of course yes, it is very important for Mot/her KC that I am woman, woman being pregnant, the most specific feminine state, woman learning her specific body, woman trying to understand her socio and political environment, woman trying to find herself among other women, sometimes feeling the same but sometimes being antagonistic. The feeling that I am so different, not fitting, not meeting the expectations was also part of identification, same as feelings that I am similar, that I go for demonstrations and stand with many other women fighting together for same rights. One friend wrote to me: Anna thank you for admitting you got mess at home, I feel much better seeing other got the same, and it is not just me who cannot manage. There was similar situation with epilogue episode. I just wanted to say childbirth is not ok to me, but soon it was regarded as me having traumatical experiences. It was not traumatical, I just think it is not right and that nature had not good idea how it is made and it has nothing to do with child itself. There were some women writing: I know what you mean, and such one sentence build for me a great bridge for communication between women. An interesting aspect of your practice is the fact that you are concerned in making the viewers aware of your process: we find this decision particularly interesting since it seems to reveal that you do not want to limit yourself to trigger the audience perceptual parameters, but that you aim to address the viewers , urging them to pose themselves questions and even to take actions: 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? I like to be surprised by other works when I am a viewer, and I also like to surprise when I am performing. I like situation when I watch some work and my inside voice start to ask some questions like: why the hell she/he is doing it, it is completely not needed and stupid, and I love the


Women Cinemakers moment when after a while it turn out that it was so needed and was so wise to do that such way. So it is so pleasant when I see my viewers are surprised and satisfied with finding some answers or solving some kinds of riddle. Generally I love interactions and plays with audience. My previous work „Words to dance” is performance for just one viewer, the person who is „inside” stage need to answer series of simple questions like coffee or tea, dog or cat, mother and father etc, everything I do and dance depends on his/her answers, the place he/she choses, his/her reactions etc. Whole process depends on viewer actions. In Mot/her KC I wanted to keep same feeling of intimacy, of being somehow for my viewer, speaking directly for someone, being close and honest. On the other hand I love to make some jokes, to do something opposite than excepted, and the last thing I found it really invigorating in doing work in episodes were experiments with different genres, modes, catching everything what came to me, what also can symbolize the way women is influenced by hormones during pregnancy. We got some episodes which are comedies ( like episode about children day), there are more sad ones, more documental ones, more artistic ones, more political ones etc. One week my husband was abroad and I did not manage to prepare lights and camera by myself so I took my mobile phone and prepared one episode just looking at myself. Some disadvantages may become advantages in the same time. Also some episodes are more clear and easy to understand for example political episode where I speak quite precisely the facts occurring, and there are also more poetical ones where „understanding” is more open and wide. I had several ideas of how Mot/her KC can be understood and experienced cause as I wrote before I think that „feeling” is one of the modes of understanding. My first dream was to reveal each episode in „almost” real time. At the beginning we were close to it, we were about one month late. I wanted viewers to follow my states, see how I develop, and to „be” pregnant with me. I think it would be completely different experience than when watching episodes now. We could not manage it. We had no funds for project and we were not supported by any institution, all work was completely self produced, and we needed to combine our efforts to be parents, and earn some money for living and keep doing that project at nights. We gave up after about 7 episodes cause Filip needed to work more and I was more and more tired. I am so thankful we gave ourself enough strength to keep collecting material

and even it was so hard for us, we still put the camera and lights on each sunday, so the process was full and leaded to its end. It was sunday when my waters broke and we were just about to film another episode:) I like that episodes are in order and each of them represent specific pregnancy week. This way watching in order reveal somehow all pregnancy process, shows how I change chronologically, also shows the process of natural body changes. So yes I think I would like it to be watched by order. KC are first letters for „kalendarz ciążowy” what means pregnancy calendar. On the other hand the project is not finished yet and there are some episodes not finalized in order and there are still some viewers who follow it, so it is evidence it does not have to be viewed by order to be understood. We also have several screenings of individual episodes without context of whole project. I think watching by order makes the project more understandable while watching individual episodes might make them more abstract ( what is also fine to me). As you have remarked once, you sometimes use your very private experiences but try to say it the most open way so people can relate it to their own thoughts and stories. How do you consider the relationship of your everyday life's experience and your your creative process? In particular, does daily experience artistic research? If I have to say one sentence I would say Life is art :) It was not so obvious to me and it have changed a lot in last years of my artistic research, but at that moment I would say that it fuels my artistic research a lot and I would put more accent not on if I use it or not but on fact that I am not afraid to use it. When I was younger I thought that we should never use everyday life, that what differs artist from other people is that we can create something special what cannot be found in real world. The other reason was my belief that other people are not interested in what I think and how my life looks like and I should propose them something what is fully created. When my son was born I got invitation to perform at University during Conference of Esthetics. I had no ideas what to do there and I did not want to perform „old” dances. I also had nobody to take care of my child during that performance. I decided to take him with me and to improvise with me. He was 7 months old and that idea was stupid and


Women Cinemakers beautiful in the same time. I had no idea and no experience in dancing with small babies, and the risk it could became total disaster was huge. Fortunately instead of disaster it became the most moving experience since many years. It was exciting, but also magical, I found that I could talk with my son using „body” language and we experienced some kind of dialogue and understanding thanks to art. Few years later we even solved private conflict participating in artistic project „Family affair” by Zimmerfrei collective. Life and art were interchanging and influencing together. I accepted it and found it very valuable. I started to think what I want to say, not who and how many would be interested. When we change that attitude it is very hard to avoid daily and private experience. To emphasize the ubiquitous bond between everyday life's experience and creative process British visual artist Chris Ofili once remarked that " ". How would you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of a performance and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does improvisation play in your process? I would go over again and one more time I need to admit that it is something what have changed since I got pregnant. So it is another example how everyday life influence artistic research. I thought improvisation is boring and that it is doing nothing, I liked to have prepared choreographies with each movement planned and trained. 7 years ago when my son was born I got feeling that my body was still not prepared to move as before pregnancy. I took part in several workshops were improvisation was main tool. I was so surprised that I could be so „prepared” without having any movement prepared before entering stage. I felt comfortable with a feeling that if I was sure what I wanted to do I did not have to train it so much before performing and I just needed to trust myself and my abilities. I got so much courage and trust for what I was doing. I think that it was something I received after having first baby. I realized that it is not enough to train your body, movements, compositions etc, but my direction turned to working on concepts and ideas I wanted to develop. Improvisation turned out to be a great tool for producing material and checking how concepts are working. I do not regard myself as improviser cause I would find it very difficult to just

perform without any assumptions, but I also do not imagine any creative process without improvisation. Nevertheless while working I still do some plans, I take care about compositions, structures, scenarios, so not everything is improvised but I am open to change my assumptions in case I think it is more valuable to go other direction. Another thing, close to Chris Ofili saying, when you got 3 children, then instead of you have to improvise each day, you need to adapt, have several scenarios just in case, be flexible for changes, switch your plans and try to solve situations which are usually unsolved. I got friends who are more framed and well organized but I failed many times in perfect life trials so I chose improvisation instead of organization:) In Mot/her KC I found spontaneity really important. I was following so many ideas appearing just like that, so the main concept revealed into let’s catch everything that comes and use it. On the other hand we had quite closed frame. There was always similar esthetic and way of filming ( only once we filmed in open air), each film had exactly the same text at the end, almost each time I started with numbers. So also in that case I use a bit of something planned and a bit of spontaneity. Before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to in the ask you to express your view on contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ' ', however in the last decades women are finding their voices in art: how would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what's your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field? It is the most easy and obvious to say that being artist is more easy for men. I have been observing it for many years that they got better dance parts, earn more, got more jobs etc. I found that we women always needed to work harder. I was jealous seeing some boys dancing on stage just immediately after joining group while many girls were not performing even they danced better. The explanation was always the same: there are too many girls dancing and not enough boys. We also had a discussion recently about presence of women in polish cinema on Gdynia film festival. In one year in competition all candidates were men. There were so many voices it is so unfair. On the other hand they admitted that specific year there were no valuable films made by women


and it is just accidental and not meant to be against women. Then it raised another problem what are the reasons there were no valuable films made by women that year and maybe we should think more about support them and encourage to make more films. So of course it could always be better. To express my view of future of women in art I would use some comparison with children playing together. In my family we are boys and girls, sometimes we divide into two groups, one group is doing something together and second one something different, but sometimes women want to do same as men and men same as women. The crucial thing lies in my opinion not to take that activity for myself but how we can do that together. So when I see my son playing his lego knights and his sister wanting to take his toy there are few scenarios. First of all he might say it is not for girls and ask her to go away although I think he could use such reason just because he does not want to share something what is his and not because she is a girl. Probably after a while she would start to scream and then he would give her that toy and go away angry. She would stay with that toy and soon after stop playing with it. Another solution he would not let her playing at all and keep it only for himself. For me as a parent the best success it would be when he would say: that is fine, please join, and when they would start playing together. I think that the same is with art and everyday life. I would love that in each situation we differs or are the same we would just do it together and find space for everyone and listen to each other. I would like to watch one day all important films for me, made by women with my daughters and son. What I found great in Mot/her KC that I received feedbacks from women and men. I was very happy men were watching it. As I wrote before it was not easy to communicate with all women but It would be very sad if we could talk about pregnancy just among women. Isn’t great that men would also find that topic important for them? I think each of us need to find their voice in art no mater of gender. I would love to make art for people not just for women not just for men. I would love to work with people with similar sensitiveness to mine but also would find it interesting to work with people completely different. I believe that our future is in opening, listening, encouraging, supporting. Some people might regard our work as uncommon but I would rather say it is exceptional cause each of us is different. So let’s do something

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


interview

Women Cinemakers unconventional and unique and teach others to accept it, make them being interested in it instead of being afraid in both creation and recognition. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Anna. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? There are some explorations saying that after childbirth women still have some child cells in her body, so I think I still have some fragments of all my children brains cause I am thinking about 3 projects simultaneously. First one is a continuation of my experiments with interaction with viewers which I started in „Words for dance”. I am thinking about performance based on tv programs, I would like to deal with subject of choosing women based on few questions by audience, dealing with known and unknown. I call it „Girls number 1,2,3”, I would like to let the audience decide about the process of performance but in the same time let them the feeling they deal with sth directed by others. Second project I call „What kind of mother are you” which is a bit continuation for Mot/her KC, I would like to collect the most unbelievable comments about mothers from internet forums, and deal with issue of being not perfect, and not managing. How I can translate not being able to do sth. on my body. And third project is connected with my experience as Contakids teacher. I would like to work with families and create abstract shapes and compositions based on their close body relations and attachment. But since for sure I would deal with lack of time and money I would probably not do much from that. Before working on above mentioned plans I would like to finish all episodes from Mot/her KC. We are now close to complete them. Since we got no support we now just publish it on our website so new episodes are uploaded there but I dream about some kind of exhibition or screening of whole project. I would love to prepare some kind of „our home” installation, where just among our clothes, sitting on our couch people could watch our films. I would like to see if they are brave enough to drink a coffee standing on our messy table. But putting asides dreams I would just like to find any occasion to show our work for audience. I regard that project as crucial moment in my artistic path, it is the most brave, the most considered ( even full of spontaneity), the most honest from my all works that is why it is so important to me to give it life and share it with audience.


Women Cinemakers meets

Lisa Maris McDonell Lives and works in New South Wales, Australia

Coal is dead is a short (3min) dance / movement video that uses the body as a representation of the coal industry, its unsustainable future and imminent death. This low budget, lo-fi video is filmed within a disused coal loading tunnel, and uses noises from within the coal industry as its soundtrack.

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

Hello Lisa and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your background. You hold a Bachelor of Arts in Dance, that you received from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University: how did these experiences influence your artistic evolution? In particular, how does your due to your previous work in theatre inform your current creative process? My training at WAAPA was an excellent foundation, that set me on a path that twenty years later, I’m still more or less following. While still a student I remember creating a

dance work that incorporated projection using photographs in a slide projector. Things have certainly changed since then, technologically speaking, but it seems that I have always had a sense of curiosity with regard to creating extra layers of visual interest in my performance works. Though I was training to become a dancer, I was equally interested in choreography, and creation. After graduation, while working on projects as a dancer, it was always the choreographic process and collaboration between dancer / choreographer that excited me, more so than my time on stage. As time went on I began creating dance and movement on video, as well as videos that supported the action of a performance work. I enjoyed the immediacy of creating a work on video. I’m quite impatient, and with my simple approach to video making I was able to create a work without waiting for funding, third party support,


available space, and all the other variables that must come together to create a work for the theatre. These days when I do create performance works they tend to incorporate video into their fabric, and my videos an element of performance. I am really enjoying being a witness to the evolution of my practice and seeing how the video and performance work inform each other. I still do not feel that by any means I have yet “arrived� with regards to this exploration of the relationship between performance and video. Certainly though, the body remains at the centre of my practice, just as it did all those years ago as a dance student. You are an eclectic artist and your versatile practice embraces performance, choreography, moving image, sound, visual art and therapeutic dance: you sometimes combine several techniques, as in the interesting to pursue multilayered visual results: before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://www.lisamarismcdonell.com.au 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 artist research? It seems that until the last decade or so, all the different aspects of my practice existed as separate entities. Previously I would be what ever I was doing at the time. When I was painting I was a Visual Artist. When I was choreographing I was a Choreographer, when I was working with clients in a therapeutic context, I was a Dance Therapist. Eventually everything just started to inform everything else. I quit the labels and just did what I did. My studies and practice in dance therapy, in particular Mary Starks Whitehouse’s Authentic

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

A still from


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers Movement practice, have formed the basis for my movement exploration and creation of the movement language I use in performance and video. With Bubblegum and Fairy Floss I was in the process of creating a series of paintings when I was commissioned to make purpose made videos to be projected onto historic buildings for a festival. So I used the paintings as background for parts of the video that featured dancers performing a duet. The paintings and another incarnation of the video were then also part of an exhibition within the festival. So I suppose that my approach to beginning an area of artistic research is usually a mix of an intuition and practicality. The questions I would ask myself when I begin a project are; What are my resources? What subject interests me? What do I want to say? What is my timeframe? It is very often the limitations around a project that determine its direction. What can I create with limited resources? The situation for independent artists with regard to funding in Australia is currently quite dire, so out of necessity I continuously re-imagine my practice to suit my circumstances. Rather than change my work to suit funding criteria, and make it more appealing to the gatekeepers of our art forms, I am forced to work with less while prioritising authenticity. Occasionally the funding criteria and the idea align and I am a happy creator! we have selected For this special edition of , an extremely interesting Dance short video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of this captivating project is the way its sapient combination between lo-fi techniques and evocative scenario draws the viewers through such an immersive experience, by minimal still effective . While


Women Cinemakers walking our readers through the genesis of , would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? Much of my work for video is concerned with the relationship and play between body, place and camera. So while the site where the video was filmed is actually a fair distance from where I live, really the work was in response to the area in the immediate vicinity of my home. The area in which I live has a long history of coal mining and since moving here fifteen or so years ago, I have felt the blasts, heard the squeal of the coal trains through the night, followed the endless convoy of coal trucks through the streets while going about my daily business, been aware of incidents of pollution of waterways and all the time wondered how this affects the health of my family. It is an industry that is a part of serves almost as a my everyday life. premonitory prayer. The coal industry must die for human life to survive, and for the health of the planet. Here where I live, the process has begun with various sites related to the industry slowly closing one by one. The location used for the video is an actual tunnel used in the past for coal loading. The idea of heading toward the light at the end of the tunnel and the associations with death that this evokes seemed a simple enough premise for the video. In the past I had used my own body as representative of more than just a singular identity with a personality, and rather as a faceless representative of a group or emotive idea. However for it was the first time I used the body to

represent something other than the human form. Having said that, when we make choices as humans to live in harmony with nature, or to destroy it either passively or actively, I believe the effects of those choices also inhabit our bodies. So as our addictions to ways of life born of the industrial revolution begin to evolve and change, so do our physical selves. uses the body as : we can recognize such a subtle still effective in your artistic research. Did you aim at conceiving a video marked out with ? In particular, how do issues related to our everchanging, unstable age influence your interests as an artist? I would say the genesis of the idea lay in the choice of location. I really set about creating a work about my body’s response to this site. This is a recurrent approach in my practice. Any sociopolitical comment is really a by product of this mode of creation. Due to my background as a dancer and dance therapist though, I know that our bodies hold truths that our minds do not yet necessarily conceive, therefore I see that it is one of the roles of an artist, and particularly those that work with the body, to almost act as a guide or truth teller during these posttruth political times. So while sociopolitical comment is not necessarily the driver for my practice, there are times when I cannot avoid it due to my process.


Women Cinemakers Sound plays a crucial role in your work: the noises from within the coal industry that you used as with such a soundtrack provides capable of challenging the viewers' perceptual categories: why did you decide to include such audio commentary? And how would you consider ? It is probably my dance background that led to this decision for Coal is Dead. Though the movement is very simple and more or less pedestrian, and the sound not at all musical, I see the work as a piece of choreography. The sound for me creates rhythm, pace and atmosphere, giving an extra layer of meaning and purpose to the movement. Creating the soundtrack myself means I have complete control over the previously mentioned elements. Whilst sound can create atmosphere for a moving image work, it can also create context. Placing various sounds or pieces of music over a video can change something from a tragedy to a comedy and everything in between. seems to walk the viewers to the point of convergence between reality and imagination: how important is it for you in order to address them to elaborate ? In order to appreciate much contemporary dance or contemporary art, the viewer must expand their

perceptual parameters and participate in the work on an imaginative and / or conceptual level. When one participate in this personal way, and not just sit back passively waiting to be entertained, the act of experiencing art is so much more rewarding. I think there are many people, particularly here in Australia where the arts take a bit of a backseat to sporting events, that are not aware that visiting the theatre or a gallery is a participatory event, and that their physiological, emotional, imaginative and intellectual responses to the work (even if they are negative or unexpected responses) are all part of the dialogue between artist and spectator. Many here in Australia still believe that viewing art involves passively witnessing the extraordinary and well practiced skill of the artist, as one does with a sportsperson at a sporting event. Even if one is invested in the outcome of say a cricket match, it is entirely the skills of the player that determine the experience of the viewer. This is not the way I see the viewing of an artwork however, so if my work can encourage this notion of participation by the viewer through personal associations, then it has been successful at some level. Another interesting work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled and it's a video that responds to the Sydney Living Museum's heritage site, Meroogal and we have appreciated its elegant and essential composition. What were your aesthetic choices when conceiving this work?


Women’s Work was created specifically for the Meroogal Women’s At Prize, so the heritage building Meroogal was at the centre of the conceptual and visual choices of the work. Built in the 1880’s, the house is described as being “Carpenter Gothic” in style. As the property, located in a rural area of New South Wales, was passed down through four generations of women, I was intrigued by the amount of physical labour these women must have performed as part of their daily life. Especially, it seems that these women must not only have performed the jobs historically expected of women, but also the work traditionally done by men. The physical actions in the video were inspired by the kinetics involved in physical labour such push and pull, contraction and release, use of weight etc.. The video was shot entirely outside the house, relating the gross motor movement to the architecture and purpose of the various settings featured in the video. I wanted to keep the look of the video a little “olde worldly”, and for the figure to be able to be related to any period in time in the building’s history. The figure was a representation of all the women who had inhabited the house, so I purposely established her costuming and relationship to the camera as being quite nondescript. At no time do we see her close up and face on to the camera, rather, I aimed for a voyeuristic quality to the video. The techniques used and structure of the video were kept extremely simple. Like in much of my video work, it is just my body, a single camera and the location. This way I can keep my response to a place immediate and visceral. Many artists express the ideas that they explore

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


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Women Cinemakers through representations of the body and by using their own bodies. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that " ": as a dancer and a performance artist, how do you consider the relation between of the ideas you aim to communicate and of creating your artworks? I suppose there are numerous physical acts involved in the creation of a work, but for me the most important of these, and the one which would probably define my practice would be my approach to the creation of movement for a video or performance work. As mentioned earlier, I am greatly influenced by the practice of Authentic Movement, which is widely used in Dance Movement Therapy. The practice involves a deep listening to the body, with a response in movement to the body’s needs and desires. I have adapted this approach to include kinasthetic, physiological and psychological responses to place, concept or social construct. It is a kind of a meditation in motion. Traditionally, dance training is the antithesis of this, with the dancer forcing new and codified movement patterns onto the body. In the first, the body informs the intellect and in the latter the intellect informs the body. As a choreographer I am really intrigued by the tension between these two ways of working. I am fascinated with working with authenticity within the trained body. When I work with these concerns the physical act of creation results in an abstract artistic language. For me, the physical act of creating a work assists in defining, elaborating upon and sometimes even exposing an idea.


In your current work you are exploring : would you tell us something about this project? This work began to grow out of a residency provided through Sydney’s Critical Path choreographic centre and Mirramu Creative Arts Centre, where the residency occurred. I was able to experiment freely with ideas for the two weeks at Weerewa (Lake George) just outside of Canberra. I was really struck by the landscape of the dying lake which resembled an immense and perfectly flat paddock surrounded by distant hills. One could never be invisible in this landscape. In fact time and again while working at the lake I was brought back to the simplicity of the non moving body in this vast treeless space. So much so that to have the body dancing in the frame seemed quite superfluous and unnecessary. The lake has risen and emptied at various times through history, and at the time I was there it was mainly empty. While at Mirramu I shot footage that will eventually be woven into the work, which uses both video and live performance. The work itself was born of a concern with the fact that at a time of a woman’s life where in other, non western and tribal cultures she is becoming increasingly revered and respected for her knowledge and experience, during this time of increased use of technology in daily life, the ageing western woman is increasingly vulnerable. Not only with regard to a lack of operational knowledge of digital devices, but with increased vulnerability to scams, fake news and the like due to growing up in an era when one did not have to navigate the difference between truth and fiction on a daily basis. The elements of performance

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

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Women Cinemakers and video each take equal importance, in an attempt to blur the boundaries between past and present, the digital space and the real, health and dis-ease, youth and ageing and comedy and tragedy. Borrowing imagery from women’s ancient and contemporary rituals, you tube make up tutorials, cosmetic surgery procedures, and exercise and fitness culture amongst others, the work is a comment on the violence enacted on women’s bodies in contemporary society. The project is still very much in progress. Over the years you have been creating and presenting performance works in various contexts in Australia and overseas, so before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you a question about the nature . Do you consider the issue of audience reception? And what do you hope to trigger in the spectatorship? When I was younger I think I made work for other artists. I thought about their expectations and on some level attempted to cater to that. In some respects that approach was quite successful in gaining opportunities but after a while I realised I was making the work of a twenty something male, as at the time there were a number of young men here in Australia and overseas gaining recognition as emerging choreographers of note. I was following the fashions and fads of the time but many of the elements of those trends weren’t applicable to my life. It was around the time of this realisation I moved to the area I live in now which is outside of a major metropolis. I also had my first child and these things kind of freed me up to make work that was a little more authentic. I was free to experiment with ideas and fail without the watchful eye of the arts community on me.


Women Cinemakers Audiences were sometimes small, but generally I found they were receptive and grateful to have something close to home to go and see that was perhaps a little different than the local musical society’s latest offering. From there I have been able to build a practice that continues to evolve and challenge regional audiences on their perceptions of what dance can be, while still (I hope) also be relevant within the larger arts landscape. In terms of what I hope to trigger in the spectator, I suppose the answer is quite multilayered. Do I hope they enjoy what I offer? Well of course. But I also acknowledge that while I am being true to myself and my processes that will not always be the case. A number of years ago I presented a (rather serious) performance / video work and a middle aged woman about the same age as me laughed hysterically throughout the entire work. If it hadn’t have been for the positive feedback of many other audience members, including artists whose work I respected, I’m not sure my ego would’ve handled it. I had to reflect on the fact that while I am creating work that is coming from a place of honesty, with the aim of entertainment being quite far down the list of priorities, there are going to be those who feel alienated, disinterested, challenged or offended by the work. I am OK with that. The flip side of that previous experience occurred at a recent work in a gallery space where a young woman left a note saying she “didn’t know much about dance” but “it was the best thing she’d ever seen”. So in conclusion I think I have to detach a little from what the audiences think and just continue to make the work that excites me. As I mentioned earlier in the interview I think the viewer is not a passive party in the audience / artist exchange and what they bring to their experience of an artwork is up to them. If


Women Cinemakers there is any one thing I hope to trigger in the spectator, it is the awakening of their responsibility in the exchange. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Lisa. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? for the opportunity to talk about and share my Thank practice. The work I spoke about earlier, born of the Mirramu / Critical Path residency, feels quite big and in need of further support to make it happen, so that is an ongoing project that may not come to fruition for a year or two after I can access suitable opportunities to assist in its development. Other than that I am currently revisiting an old performance / video work (the one that was laughed at!) to be presented later in the year at a contemporary dance festival in Mexico. I am also wanting to make a series of short videos focussing on the relationship between body / place / camera for online consumption. Finally, I am considering a work about the legend of the Yowie (the Australian equivalent of Bigfoot) that responds to an online forum on the phenomena. I really see my work following its current trajectory with continued explorations involving the body / camera / place relationship, experimenting with the value of each element within a work. I am also looking at the same kind of exploration with the performance / video relationship, playing with their effect on each other, and blurring the boundaries between the significance of each element within a work. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Ivana Kosanović Dissonance is a captivating dance short film by Ivana Kosanović: speaking of freedom and desire, this stimulating work is a successful attempt to create a brilliant allegory of human condition capable of drawing the viewers to a heightened and multilayered experience. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to this gorgeous work of art and to Kosanović's artistic production.

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

Hello Ivana and welcome to : we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions regarding your

background. Are there any experiences that did particularly inform your current practice? Moreover, does your cultural background inform the way you relate yourself to art making in general? Yes. The experience of isolation. At first


Women Cinemakers

that was country isolation, because Serbia was under sanctions throughout my childhood till adult hood, so all my life I was feeling like I was in a cube, a small cube. You can see just some shapes of the world, but you actually need the Universe. That was frustrating. I remember when I was 18, and we went on a high school trip to Greece. At one moment, when we crossed the border I had such a weird feeling about that separation and departure, that line on the road that means – off, off, outside, meta, out of... line. That outer experience was like the mirror to the inner space. I became mentally isolated, emotionally separated, in a deep focus on freedom and truth. For this special edition of we have selected , an extremely interesting dance short video that our readers


Women Cinemakers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at . While walking our readers through the , would you tell genesis of us how did you develop the initial idea? There was no an idea. There was just a need. A need to express, to tell, to improvise, to tell myself about myself, to explain, to find an answer, at least to try to find a question. When I start filming, I don’t know what I am doing nor where I am going or why. Sometimes I am attracted to light and I play with light and shadows on the walls, sometimes music just inspires my mode of expression. Also I like costumes, some materials and I play with that. When I see some closer connection between the sequences I have shot, I put it together in


Women Cinemakers

a single piece of video art work, and that was Dissonance genesis. We have appreciated the way your approach to performative gestures

conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language: how do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your


Women Cinemakers

performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does play improvisation in your process? When you play, when you dance, you have

some inner intelligence, some subconscious plan. I feel that move in me. I prepare the scene, I arrange the backdrop without a specific vision and put myself in front of the camera. For a moment I calm


Women Cinemakers down and open myself to feel the current need, and then let it flow. I am so interested to meet myself again and again in that artistic game. Featuring essential and wellorchestrated choreography involves the audience in a dreamlike and heightened visual experience: what were your aesthetic decisions when conceiving this stimulating work? In particular, were you interested in providing your performance with an allegorical quality that reflect human condition? My story is the overall experience of life. To encroach on oneself means to discover the human soul. To expose yourself in front of cameras means the need for communication with others. Communicating yourself. . There is one Bible story about Someone got one talent, someone five, or


Women Cinemakers

ten. But that doesn’t matter. It is important that we multiply them. Otherwise, we will lose them, squander them. My question has always been what my talent is. What should I cherish about myself? My artwork is a search for the answer to that question. What is it to me that I can not ignore? We have been highly fascinated with the way involve the viewers to such multilayered experience and we daresay that you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: how much important is for you to trigger the viewer's imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? It is interesting when I hear from different people about what they see in my work.


Women Cinemakers

Often it is something I have never thought about, but they are sure about that truth, for example some character’s motivation or even her or his past or current life. For example, one viewer confidently commented that was telling a story about a woman who had some unpleasant experience with a particular man. But also sometimes, and I love that most, the viewer reveals me some new perception, and I start to understand my work, my artistic search better. Audio plays an important role in your video and we have appreciated the way the soundtrack provides with such an ethereal atmosphere and as well as the way you have sapiently structured the combination between performance


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Women Cinemakers

gestures and sound: how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? I do not identify myself completely with my body. But in our life, we have it as a medium. We express something with our bodies, we enter into relationships with others through our bodies. Sound is also a way of communication. We can let a sound out of the body and it is nice to hear what tones come out of you. Unearthly. Where they come from and what they say is the meaning of my artistic quest. Also the sound coming from the outside. Through the body, the earthly medium, we deal with the tone we receive. It's a sort of game of senses, guided by the spirit. Many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by


Women Cinemakers

using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? I wonder if we are at all possible outside of the body. In fact, is it possible to express ourselves outside of the body? I always had the impression that I forgot something important, that I had some distant oblivion. What is that? Should we mention perhaps the fall from Paradise, or would it be too pretentious, or too naive? It seems to me that I have forgotten my true nature. 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 don’t think about gender till I come across some statistics. Even then, I don’t focus on that. My interest is the inner world, not the outer. I know that a disinterest in politics or the civilisation moment is irresponsible, but my way of activism is in my own practice, in the freedom to search myself, to speculate, to trace and discuss.


Women Cinemakers

Who can deny me that right? Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ivana. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? I have material that I have been recording for the last two years. I am waiting for a moment to see an inner story of all that work, and to try to connect all of that, or maybe just to see where I want to go with my expression. David Lynch once said on the set: I am so depressed that I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have a clue. It’s all an experiment. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Valentina Lacmanović Lives and works between Amsterdam and Paris SOLAR RING triptych is the second video art project of Valentina Lacmanović in which the author films herself and develops the treatment of camera as an extension of the body in movement. Imagined as a triptych, SOLAR RING can be unfolded and watched as a one channel projection or a three-channel installation. All parts are connected by a subtle narrative and correspond to three phases in a process of transmission of energy and transformation of both the character and the observer. The technique of the “ultimate selfie” and the organic relationship between camera and movement of the body takes the audience into a trance-like journey. The audience get the chance to enter the privileged, intimate perspective of the performer. It is an attempt to display the motion of the mind, its pacification and its passage into a different existence altogether. CHAPTER I Golden cage with open door (obsession with confusion) The incessant movement of the mind, chaotic thoughts and confusing attachment to it are the golden cage from which the escape is possible, the door is always open. CHAPTER II Solar spiral (transformation). In order to leave the obsessive mind, the tool is necessary. Repetition in form of spiralling and whirling represents the instrument that indicates the way out of the toxic habit labyrinth. CHAPTER III Voda light (katharmon. Myein.) "Voda" means "water" in Croatian. Once out of the mental cage, the energy has been transmitted into a different element (water) and the reflection of light influences the movement. Water evokes the initiation, purification (katharmon) and ritualization. "Myein" in ancient Greek means 'to close' referring to the lips or the eyes - evoking the secret status surrounding the rites. Later, “myein" has come to stand for the inexplicable.

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

SOLAR RING is a captivating dance short film by

performer, dancer and experimental video artist Valentina Lacmanovic: exploring the relationship between camera and movement, this work address the viewers to such heightened and multilayered experience. Featuring brilliant


©Pascal Tieman


approach to choreography and unconventional cinematography, SOLAR RING is a successful attempt to create a captivating allegory of human condition and to explore the motion of the mind: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Lacmanovic's multifaceted and stimulating artistic production. Hello Valentina and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to invite our readers to visit www.valentinalacmanovic.com in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a Master degree in Philosophy/Aesthetic from the 'Université Paris VIII' and you also studied drama at the prestigious French National Academy of Dramatic Arts (CNSAD) in Paris: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover what did address you to focus an important part of your artistic research on the intersection between choreography and video? First of all, thank you for inviting me to this conversation! I am very excited to share some of my thoughts around my creative process. Concerning my formal education, I think I was very lucky to end up living and studying in Paris. It was during the Balkan War and I got an invitation to the Avignon Festival as a representative of drama students from around the world who performed in French. I jumped on the last train out of Zagreb before the borders closed. After the Festival, with the help of some exceptional Parisian friends, I manage to stay on in Paris. At the University of Paris VIII I continued with my study of Philosophy. One of my main influences during this time was Rada Iveković - she was my professor at the University of Zagreb - and we met up again at Paris VIII. She is an important figure in Asian,

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Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


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Women Cinemakers particularly Indian comparative philosophy and feminist theory and philosophy. Another important figure in my development was the author Slavenka Drakulić. Both women impressed me with their tremendous strength and insights that encouraged my curiosity. From them I learned not to get discouraged by adverse circumstances and to trust my intuition. I became aware that I was not the only person aware that Patriarchy was a destructive force and unjust towards not only the female population, but also damaging all humanity and threatening survival through its values of competition, domination, exclusion and lack of dialogue, including its relationship with the environment through its shortsighted exploitation of natural resources. At the same time I was studying acting at the National Academy. It was the continuation of my passion for drama. From an early age, thanks to my mother, I took ballet classes, piano lessons and had been acting from childhood. I also studied cinema for two years and considered becoming a film director before becoming a professional actor. I turned from acting to dance due to my frustration at being typecast as a Balkan War victim, following education in contemporary dance and after studying for a short period of time in India (music and dances of North India). It was there that my journey into dance forms from different parts of the world and and the performative arts as part of ritual began. I was fascinated by dance that induces states of trance provoking important shifts in perception and consciousness. It is still my main subject of research and one of my motives for making art. I started to investigate the relation between choreography and the video out of a sense of playful experimentation. It seemed like a logical next step in my career. I had basic training in cinematography, I was an actor, dancer, and I had a keen interest in photography. I decided to dance with the camera instead of dancing ‘for’ the camera just to see what happens. It is my way to approach the “motion picture” as


©ValentinaLacmanović


©ValentinaLacmanović

image in motion. When I dance I always imagine having paintbrushes as extensions at the end of arms, legs and head, or that my whole body is some kind of giant paintbrush. I see myself as painting with movement in space and it is that “painting” that stays behind as an invisible vibrant impression. With the camera, I am intuitively aware of what I want to film, I don’t look at the screen while filming. It is only later in the editing - if there is any (eg. my first video “Shedervish Framed” is one 8 minute long single shot) - that I might select the material that I want and I work with that until things fall into place.

For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected SOLAR RING, an extremely interesting experimental dance video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article (preview at http://www.heureexquise.org/video.php?id=9157) What has at once captured our attention of your insightful inquiry into the organic relationship between camera and movement of the body is the way it provides the viewers to such a multilayered experience: when walking our readers through the genesis of SOLAR RING, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?


©ValentinaLacmanović

The decisive moment for me to start making video artwork was my encounter with Chris Fawcett, (steadicam operator, inventor of Exovest and Steadicam Segway http://steadivision.com/). He was filming my performance at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I was fascinated by the way he moved with the camera and the resulting footage. At the time (2007) I was also premiering my stage performance “Shedervish” in Barcelona that included video art by Amir Grabus, a film-maker and photographer who lives in the Netherlands. I saw Amir’s work on the internet and contacted him to make a video for projection behind me on stage. The title “Shedervish” was my reaction to sexist comments about

my previous whirling performances and the Orientalism (as defined by Edward Said) that was reducing my work to a dervish/Sufi/mystic dance. I made this piece with clear references to the different approaches to whirling in various cultures, transposing it into a contemporary dance performance on stage. Whirling or - more precisely - spiralling - was already my main instrument at that time and after seeing Chris filming, I wondered what it would be like to spiral with a camera. I asked him to lend me a small camera and we worked on it together. The result was my first video work “Shedervish


Framed” https://vimeo.com/95146302 filmed in November 2007 and released in 2008. Then, in 2014 on Chris’s recommendation I purchased a Gopro camera and “Solar RIng” was made. It is a triptych - it can be viewed as a mono channel projection where three chapters follow one another or as a three channel installation. Each of those chapters, or “tableaux”, represent a phase in a character’s transformational journey. I chose this subject because I was going through a profound inner transformation myself and I wanted to capture this intense process in a way that can resonate with others. The first “tableau” - “Golden cage (with open doors)” or “obsession with confusion” refers to our toxic relationships, both with others and with ourselves. It was filmed on the set of a site-specific artwork “We buy Gold _#CFB53B” by Branka Cvjetinčanin, which was on display at the gallery Gray)(Area on the island of Korčula, Croatia. The gallery supported my work and I got permission to film in the golden room. The door was missing from its frame and I saw this as a great metaphor. We often indulge in thinking habits where the narrative of our mind and our mental constructions become our golden cage. We end up accepting situations that drive us crazy with their multilayered, constant input. But the door is always open, there is always an option to get out of our heads and stop considering our golden cage as the only possible reality. The second tableau, the “Solar spiral” is about the moment where one finds an instrument through which one evolves as a human being. It could be anything for anyone - a passion, a relationship, a vocation - for me it is the spiral. I started practicing it long time ago and it is still surprising and exciting. It came to me at a moment when I was stuck on so many levels of my life and it freed me. It is regenerative and gives me inspiration. I call it “Spiraal”, the Dutch word for spiral. I particularly like the curving sound of the double

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


interview

Women Cinemakers vowel. Its essence speaks about the dialectics of repetition and change, of eternal return in difference. It recalls our motion in the Cosmos, we are part of this enormous spiral and the echo of it is visible in our fingerprint and in our DNA. The third tableau of Solar Ring is called “Voda. Light. Katharmon. Myein” and I am diving with the camera into the Adriatic sea. “Voda” means “water” in Croatian and its sound reminds me of the feeling of a thirst quenched. The change of the element and the environment (from an interior into the nature) marks the shift in the journey of the character who reaches a different level in her personal evolution. There is strong sunshine and reflections of it in the water that influence both the performance and the viewer.It ends with the state of peacefulness, as the body is moved by the sea. ‘Katharmon’ comes from ancient Greek and stands for purification and in this piece symbolises the dissolving of the past and a diving into the new. Its a liberation from the slavery of toxic habits. “Myein”, also ancient Greek, means 'to close' (lips or the eyes) - evoking a sense of secrecy. Featuring such an effective combination between abstraction and well- orchestrated choreography, SOLAR RING involves the audience in a voyeuristic and heightened visual experience, questions the concept of the motion of the mind, urging them to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: what are you hoping SOLAR RING will trigger in the spectatorship? In particular, how much important is for you to address the viewer's imagination in order to elaborate personal associations? As I just explained in the previous answer, our minds can play tricks on us and it was my intention to bring the spectator into the character’s world so they could relate and connect with their own personal interpretation. Filming directly from the hand, the


multilayered editing and movement positions the audience in a voyeuristic situation. It dissolves the distance between the one who is moving and the one who is watching. So far I haven’t use a steadicam. But I might in the future. Repetition and immersion are the main tools in my creative process. The spectator gets immersed through the repetition of the whirling movement, but it is abstract enough to become a canvas on which the audience can project themselves and their thoughts. SOLAR RING is centred on the idea of camera as an extension of the body in movement: many artists express the ideas that they explore through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? I think the body is and will always stay the most powerful artistic medium. I will always be a performer. Live performance is, in my opinion, the body communicating in its most refined way. Performance for me is creating art as a full body experience physical, mental, emotional, astral. During artistic creation the connection between the idea and its materialisation has to be consistent. An elaborate concept without powerful realisation is an idea lost in translation. As for abstraction - as Frantisek Kupka would say - “To abstract is to eliminate” (Manuscript from 1930). The latin origin of the word abstrahere, which meant “to remove” or “to drag away.” (and also to carry off for execution) is a key theme in my work where I am trying to remove myself - to disappear as an individual, as “me”. Instead, I become a channel, an instrument making the invisible visible. And that allows any

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović A still from


interview

Women Cinemakers member of the audience to travel through the work in a very personal and free manner. I am not interested in postmodern individualism and the “express yourself” imperative. Anyone can express themselves through a creative action - which does not make them an artist. An artist is someone who can get the idea, a message, an experience across. I am not important. What is important is the communication - what can I create and communicate with my art? My work is about transformation about making this almost alchemical change in myself and in the audience - the latter being impossible without the former, When I film or perform I enter a different space and I often don't remember everything that happened. I go into the “zone”, in the field beyond the limitations of my everyday “me”. So then the abstraction can take place, I can disappear and open the way towards that “zone” for the audience. When I perform, people travel with me. They don’t have to move, I move but we go together. Abstraction does not mean for me that there is no story - there is always a “red thread” hidden in the work, otherwise I could not hold the attention of the spectator. But it is never invasive, it leaves lots of space for interpretation. The composition between sound and visual is crucial in your practice and we have appreciated the way the minimalistic sound tapestry by Ranko Šajfar provides the footage of SOLAR RING with such an ethereal and a bit unsettling atmosphere: as an artist particularly concerned in the connection between sound and moving images, how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and movement? The role of sound in my work is really important. Movement and sound for me go together. Both are energy in motion. Music has


always played an important role in my life - I am very sensitive to it and it provokes many emotions. The minimalistic soundtrack in Solar Ring reflectS the intuitive relationship I have with Ranko. He knows how to combine realworld and digital sound material in a very special way and we work very well together. We don’t communicate much. I explain the concept, the acoustic ambience that I want and what kind and quality of sound I wish to hear in relation to the image. I leave him total freedom to create from there. For example in the first tableau of Solar Ring, there are church bells. I recorded the sound of the church bells in Korcula, and asked Ranko to incorporate it somehow in the soundtrack to represent the clanging of conflicting thoughts that won’t go away. I also liken it to the call to prayer and by association the influence of religion. He said “that is easy - I live near the church with the loudest bells in the country!”. We have worked together since 2012 - he made soundtracks for my performances “Spiraal” (2012), “From Zero to One” (2012), “Oracles” (2015) and for video artwork “Catch” (2017) and most recently “Umbra#1” and “Umbra#2” (2018). Another sound artist with whom I have collaborated is Francisco López. In 2012 we created a performance “WITH-IN”. After years of working in various genres with musicians from different backgrounds I wanted to explore the bodily roots of music - of heartbeat and breathing - as the origins of rhythm and melody. We created a performance using “Spiraal” in dialogue with the sounds coming from inside my own body. We worked in residence to harvest a large source pool of primordial sonic material and Francisco created a multi-channel immersive sound environment in his studio. During live

interview

Women Cinemakers


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


Women Cinemakers

ŠValentinaLacmanović


interview

Women Cinemakers performance, in an environment with low visibility, and with a surround sound system, we improvise on the basis of an open structure. The non-narrative/non-descriptive character of both sound and movement in this performance creates a blank emotional territory for the spectator to project, traverse, imagine and, ultimately, create. We have highly appreciated the way SOLAR RING challenges the audience's perceptual parameters to explore the struggle between reality and dreamlike dimension, your film provides the viewers them with a unique multilayered visual experience: how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination within your process? -Dreaming is very important. Since childhood I have had dreams so vivid that the world that I experience while sleeping is stronger than the one I see around me when I am awake. It is clear that with my video and with my performances I am interested in creating a hypnagogic state, somewhere between being awake and being asleep, pushing the boundaries of perception. It’s the state where visions take place and the imagination is at work. Realism does not interest me. What we call reality exists on its own and I don't feel the need to reproduce it in my art. Through practicing ”Spiraal” I learned about the elasticity of Time, and how to bend it. Consensual time belongs to everyday reality, but an extra-ordinary perception of Time is something that can be experienced through art. It is in this extra-ordinary time and hypnagogic state space where my art is made. So in order to create that environment for the audience, there are some choices I make in terms of aesthetics, timing, sound and light. I continue my research of dreams through Yoga Nidra practice and it has inspired my most recent project “Umbra”. I think I am creating


Women Cinemakers every time more abstract, weird, unsettling stuff. And I want to continue in that direction. We have appreciated the way your approach to dance conveys sense of freedom and reflects rigorous approach to the grammar of body language, and we appreciated your exploration of the relationship between the body and the space in the captivating performance entitled DISORIENT (https://disorienters.wordpress.com/). How do you consider the relationship between the necessity of scheduling the details of your performative gestures and the need of spontaneity? How much importance does improvisation play in your process? “Disorient” is an interdisciplinary collaboration with Ludivine Allegue, painter and videographer based in Madrid. After years of conversation about working together we finally entered residence at “Museo Centro de Artes de Vanguardia La Neomudéjar de Atocha” in Madrid, in spring 2016. It resulted in one lecture-performance, one performance and an exhibition at the museum in Madrid as well as a performance and video installation in Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris (December 2016), in the hall with Foucault’s pendulum. It was clear during the residence that we needed a strict framework since we were making a free and prolific body of work that grew in many different directions. So the approach to the performance, to sound, to photography, drawing, engraving and video art was disorienting. For example - while making digital shots, Ludivine was moving the camera while in panoramic setting, which resulted in beautiful, surreal images where my body looks like it exploded in pieces, which made the essence of the movement visible. One discipline provoked and merged with another and echoed the primordial, atavistic forces. For me as a performer, I was


©Valentina Lacmanović


Women Cinemakers incarnating the spirit of female warrior as protector of life. And - as I always imagine a hidden number behind every performance - this one was number 9, a tribute to Nikola Tesla and the vortex mathematics.. We were also inspired by the location of the Museum, in a building that used to belong to Atocha station. The end of the railway line went right up to its door, where materials were unloaded directly from freight wagons. Machines spin, industrialisation can be symbolised by the turning wheel. The title for the project came to me after I read a sentence by Anish Kapoor about Vanta black paint (that absorbs up to 99,965% of light): “Imagine a space that’s so dark that as you walk in you lose all sense of where you are, what you are, and especially all sense of time – something happens to your emotional self and in disorientation one has to reach in for other resources.” It felt to me like where I was at that point. My work was already very disorientating and demanding of the audience to go beyond the usual resources. So we decided to call the project “Disorient’. It was about breaking with socio-cultural parameters of imposed identities, and going for the essential. We were questioning how a work of art can through disorientation address Humanity. We wanted to create a state of disorientation that will go beyond perceiving the Other through orientalism (as the method of defining the Otherness through our fantasies about it instead of accepting its reality). For the Disorient performance I created a strong structure based on all of these research materials in order to be free to improvise within it. This element of improvisation is important for distantiation from theatre and choreography. Contemporary performance for me is constant re-creation in the moment since the energy of the audience and of the location is always different. All these

elements from research fell into place after the performance in Paris on 4th December when a Brazilian woman from the audience told me that she saw through me the incarnation of Yansa. I didn’t know what she meant so she explained that on 4th December the followers of the Yoruba religion (Candomblé) celebrate the Orisha (spirit) named Yansa (or Oja). Yansa symbolises the thunder and incarnates the female warrior spirit. In the ritual performance, the dancer incarnating Yansa, wears white and/or red and is celebrated as “the mother of ninth”. It is because Yoruba comes from Nigeria and the river Niger has 9 tributaries. The performer spins and shouts. Carla didn’t know in advance what my performance was about, so the fact that the performance was scheduled on the day of celebration of the female warrior spirit operating under the symbol of number 9 was a big surprise. Another link was that of Nikola Tesla who said that he was “speaking with thunder” and learned the essential for his science not from engineering studies but from his mother! And one final coincidence - I was wearing white and red (a white costume I designed inspired by martial arts on which Ludivine made a painting in red), whirling and wailing (I improvised with my voice during the performance). Why is all of this important? Well, the fact that somebody from a different cultural background, without knowing anything about the concept of the performance, could identify the archetype incarnated with striking precision proved that the project worked perfectly! Through disorientation we got to the essential, and everyone could identify on some level with the piece. I guess this is my signature: a lot of research, a lot of intuition, to create a strong structure in which I can go wild.


Women Cinemakers It's no doubt that collaborations as the ones that you have been creating since 2008 are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project- Moreover, is important to remark that you also involve experts from disciplines as anthropology, ethnology, and psychoanalysis: could you tell us something about this proficient synergy? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different backgrounds? I am very open to collaborations and it really inspires me to work with artists from backgrounds that have few common points with my own. But it can be complicated because of the large amount of decisions that have to be made during the creative process. When we are two it’s much easier. When there is a lot of artists and professionals involved, someone has to take the artistic direction, decide what is best for the piece and make the final cut. In my experience the more professional people are, the easier the collaboration and the more fun we have working together. I think there has to be the affinity between artistic sensibilities and besides the rational understanding of each other, some kind of non verbal communication. The editor of Solar Ring, Amir Grabus, never met the composer Ranko Šajfar. I worked with them separately. As with Ranko, I gave Amir lot of freedom within the frame of the concept. Towards the end of the process, I received files from both of them literally at the same time. I downloaded the image and the sound and pushed play for viewing. I had goosebumps all the way through. It was like they had been working together for ages! Everything - the timing, the ambience, the quality of editing and the soundtrack - was just perfect!

I think it is a matter of recognising people with whom we have a special bond and work on maintaining the relationship. The collaboration with Francisco López was another one with few words, but we intuitively knew what the other wanted. During the performance we responded to each other’s vibrations. It’s all about the energy. As of collaboration with scientists and researchers, it is about the encounter. I mentioned the influence of Rada Ivekovic and Slavenka Drakulic and during my life in Paris I also met Dr Gilbert Coyer, anthropologist, doctor and lecturer in intercultural clinical psychology at Université Paris 13 and writer. An amazing personality and incredible source of information. We are still close friends and I often talk to him about my future projects, and he directs me towards the literature that might inspire me further. He introduced me to Yoga Nidra (dream yoga) that he has been practicing for the last 30 years. I read a lot of anthropology, I can be inspired by many different sources it can be the work of the archeologist Maria Gimbutas or an article in astro-physics (for dummies)! As for my own research, I will hopefully finish a book about my 20 years of experience and research on the subject of shift of consciousness during the performance in both performer and audience and the convergences and divergences between ritual and contemporary performance. SOLAR RING was recently screened at Fresh Stream Experimental Film Festival, in Los Angeles and over the years you performances and video art have been presented in museums, galleries, festivals: how important is for you the feedback that you receive in the festival circuit? And how do you feel before an audience?


©ValentinaLacmanović


©Valentina Lacmanović


Women Cinemakers Solar Ring was presented so far in Festivals and art locations on four continents. But I get very little direct feedback from the audience since I am not present in person in most of those events. What I do hear are comments about the puzzling and unsettling filming technique and very emotional reactions. Everyone has their favourite part of Solar Ring among the three and that is very satisfying. When I was about to finish Solar Ring, I showed it for the first time to a colleague, a wonderful performer Snežana Golubović. I didn’t have any expectations, I was only hoping she would watch till the end and eventually offer feedback. When the video was over and I saw tears in her eyes I knew that the piece was done. She asked if she could take it with her to the Future of Imagination festival in Singapore where she was performing and curating the video art program. How do I feel before an audience? I feel at home, and I feel energised. I have a joint sense of responsibility towards my art. When I perform I have to give everything. So far my audience has always been very appreciative and if it were not for them I would stop showing my work. 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? Change is happening - women are rising! But as long as we don’t write our own version of history (or create an uninterrupted oral transmission of it) and create our own myths, whatever is acquired now could soon be forgotten, just

like some of the rights that women fought for in the last century (such as the right to choose). Do we really have to fight that battle that again? I mentioned the damaging consequences of the patriarchal system that is spread like a virus by both men and women, unconsciously or otherwise coercively. It dominates all aspects of society with a competitive spirit, fear of otherness, lack of dialogue and its thirst for power. It induces guilt. The Art world is not an exception. The position of female artists is in the slow process of changing. Hopefully it will lead to creating a different system of working together with men to build platforms to develop art in a way where quality prevails. Entering a power game with men is a battle lost in advance since men wrote the rules. We need to re-educate ourselves to remember our intrinsic power and the fact that we are the ultimate creators, the ones feared and limited because of it. So as producers of the human race and first teachers, what do we women teach our children? Patriarchy wants children twice born. First from their mother and again through the admittance to society by initiation into patriarchal institutions. Only then are they deemed legitimate. Yet it is the first teaching that shapes us in life and that should be the motor for conscious change. It is crucial that women make the right long term choices (if they can choose at all) on what is beneficial to them, their children and their art. Women artists will hopefully cease to compromise and continue to make “uncommon” art according to their own rules. The common, mediocre and ordinary makes no art worth mentioning anyway. I hope in future to collaborate more often with brilliant female artists. At the same time I am happy to work with men since those that surround me are very supportive, eager to collaborate and accept a different kind of approach. I have


Women Cinemakers never felt diminished, I have not experienced sexism or been subject to power games, but I know that my experience is exceptional in that respect. Overall though, I would like to see Art transcend gender and identity politics and focus on quality. As an unconventional artist I am happy with my creative process, collaborations and with the reaction from my audience. However my work has not been exploited to its full potential by institutions, promoters or galleries. I see two reasons for that. The first is the need to put me in box. There is a constant misuse of terminology when it comes to my projects including “Spiraal”. For a long time I could not understand why I was always tagged with the label “Dervish”, “Sufi” and “Mystic” despite my never claiming to any of those. I am very much aware that sustained whirling is present in rituals all over the world in shamanic practices, voodoo, folk and classical dance forms. It is enough to look up the definition of a ‘dervish’ and understand that its a title for religious mystics of Islam, and that my art has nothing to do with that. As I mentioned, my old project was called “Shedervish” (like Shedevil) but only as a reaction to the sexist comments I received. Some festival programers mislabeled my performance as “Sufi” without my consent as a marketing tool. I am definitely not a Sufi. Sufism is an intrinsic part of the religious dogma even if the whole approach may differ from the orthodox Islam. What happened to Sufism in the 20th century is what happened with Yoga, Tantra or Buddhism among others. It has been diluted for consumers for self-help and/or filling their spiritual void, ultimately resulting in normalisation of terminology abuse. This is a form of orientalism. Another symptom of which is the confusion of ritual and performance. All performative arts are developed from rituals, but they are not rituals themselves. Since my performances can be unsettling, acting as a mirror to the hidden parts of consciousness, I understand that for some people it is easier to watch through a filter of orientalist fantasy in order to keep their


©ErinMcKinney


©ErinMcKinney


Women Cinemakers distance. In doing so they miss the essence of the performance even if they greatly enjoy it since they are not comfortable with the Other. The second reason comes down to a failure to understand the physical requirements for my work. For instance, if I make an interdisciplinary work, I get to show only one aspect of it - either performance or video, or to give a conference or workshop. Even with Solar Ring, screened on dozens of occasion, I feel restrained in terms of engaging the space with projections. I understand that for film festivals the linear screening is mandatory, but otherwise I managed only once to get the three channel installation (at Museo La NeomudĂŠjar in Madrid during a retrospective of my video art and documentations of live performances in 2016). I really want that to change in the future so that I can immerse more in the architecture of each location. And in general hopefully the possibilities for presenting interdisciplinary projects will multiply. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Valentina. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you Women Cinemakers Team for giving me the opportunity to speak, I will continue to explore more possibilities for freer artistic expression which includes taking bigger risks. For that to happen I need more visibility, and of course I want to perform already existing pieces as much as possible. My future projects include another interdisciplinary project, part of it will be premiered only beginning 2019 and I am working with producers and waiting for answers for funds for my next filmperformance in collaboration with Chris Fawcett. An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com


Women Cinemakers meets

Nechama Winston Lives and works in New York City, USA

Nechama Winston’s research looks at the relationship between the U.S., the Middle East and the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet Union. Her work questions how we inherit ideas about the United States’ position in the world without more criticality. Working with photography, film, and the archive, she aims to show alternative sides of historical events taught within the American narrative trajectory, interweaving personal experiences with collective political ones. Within this process, she looks for new images to emerge out of the original material collected, which is transformed through digital scanning and montaging, to imagine and provoke new narratives about the U.S. that move between fiction and non-fiction.

An interview by Francis L. Quettier and Dora S. Tennant womencinemaker@berlin.com Hello Nechama and welcome to : before starting to elaborate to your artistic production, we would like to invite our readers to visit and we would like to introduce you to our readers with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your B.A. Art History from City University of New York, Hunter College, you nurtured your education with an M.F.A. in Advanced Photographic Studies, that you received from

the International Center of Photography-Bard College and you also graduated with a BA in Art History (honors) and Psychology: Behavioral Neuroscience (honors): how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your artistic research? I started CUNY Hunter College with the intention of going into medicine. From very early on I wanted to specialize in neurology. I was completely fascinated by the brain, in studying the biochemistry that could possibly explain people’s motivations and actions, and the processes in memory formation and development. This finally led to my decision to study Psychology, with a


Women Cinemakers concentration in behavioral neuroscience, to learn about what drove someone to do something and why, on a physical and material level, as well as the diseases and disorders that could impair these functions. Understanding biological and psychological mechanisms through concrete logic grew while I worked in a neuro lab for my thesis. It was in my junior year, however, when I began to doubt if this was really the career path I wanted to continue working towards. There were so many interests and ideas during college I felt I had been neglecting in order to pursue science. In this state of confusion, I took my first intro to art history class in the summer before starting my senior year. After the first day I knew I wanted to read, talk and write about art for the rest of my life. Making art did not occur to me in that moment. I spent my senior year taking mostly all art history classes since I was basically finished with the neuro major requirements. I decided to declare art history as my second major and took a little extra time to finish working on a second thesis before graduating. In undergrad I concentrated in early and late medieval art and eighteenth to nineteenth-century art, with a focus in British political satire. My love for research remained consistent between the two disciplines of neuroscience and art history, and it is the way I approach making work as an artist today. Research is a pretty critical part of my process. I am constantly reading academic journals and papers while I prepare for new projects, brainstorm ideas and develop ongoing works. My interest in photography developed a couple of years after graduating Hunter and working in various art administration jobs in New York. I took a bit of a leap when I decided to go back to school for my MFA in photography at ICP-Bard College. During my first semester I realized I made a


Women Cinemakers commitment to myself to produce work, and I developed a different kind of relationship to art and production. Now, I cannot really imagine doing anything else. I also developed an important relationship to working in the studio at the end of my first year in the MFA. It is actually in the studio I think where I felt myself totally free and abandoning this strong adherence to linear ways of thinking and logic from my neuro concentration days. I maintained my love for research, especially working within archives and databases, but presenting this information in logical structures, at least in the way I was originally trained to think, no longer remained a priority or obligation for me to listen to. Experimenting with how to break conventional ways of visual storytelling with pictures and texts began earlier when I shifted to working with film and digitally scanning it – intentionally scanning negatives incorrectly, manipulating my images. The digitizing process and simultaneous expansion into working with video and video editing became tools to push the boundaries of what I could get away with in communicating and narrating ideas and theoretical plots. All of this accelerated pretty quickly to another level when working on my final thesis exhibition in my second year of the MFA, spending most of my time in the studio, and experimenting with projecting montaged images onto constructed surfaces and materials I placed all over the gallery space. we have For this special edition of selected , a stimulating single channel experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed us of your exploration of the changing New York City landscape is the way you have provided the results of your artistic inquiry with


captovating aesthetics. When walking our readers through the genesis of would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea?

90s) protesting to preserve the vinyl record production

In Workhorses of the Harbor, media footage of shippingline workers around the NYC waterfront (from the 1930s50s) is juxtaposed with documentation of young musicians from Williamsburg, Brooklyn (from the mid-1980s/early

the American dream and the living conditions of middle

industry. The piece examines the notion of labor and leisure, and the image of the worker in America. It looks at and lower class families, along with the youth culture emerging towards the end of the era of the Cold War.


When I began editing the found footage in this piece I

had been making and collecting while I was living in

was researching the rent hikes in NYC and photographing

Bedford-Stuyvesant. I also spent a lot of time looking

around the Williamsburg waterfront. An article by Michael Greenberg later came out in August 2017 in The New York Review of Books: “Tenants Under Siege: Inside New

though American propaganda and media footage originally produced to sell and promote a certain myth of

York City’s Housing Crisis.” I wanted to make something

happiness, perfection and glorification of the American

in response to this ongoing crisis using the materials I

dream after WWII. With the intention of repurposing this


Women Cinemakers material I montaged some of it together with other less well-known and anonymously produced archival materials. The narrative in the video came about in the process of editing the found visual and audio components. The footage includes: “Industry on Parade” on the MoreMcCormack Lines around the Brooklyn waterfront (1930s1940s); “I Camera” and “The Vinyl Solution” shot around the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn (late 1980s-early 1990s) in color Super 8 film; and footage of the USS Constitution being towed up the Hudson River in 1927. The sound mix includes a playing film projector, music from clips of “Industry on Parade,” a voice recording reading Walter Benjamin’s “Gulls,” and edited tracks from various Shortwave Numbers Stations – a one-way radio communication system used by different worlds intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages anonymously. While the source materials are disparate I am trying to address the tension between East versus West, and the geopolitical undertones relating to the Cold War through the audio and visual archive footage. The sound brings your attention to an unseen / blocked-out Soviet presence lurking around the growing bubble of proud American capitalism and progress represented in the imagery. There are moments in the color film clips when the viewer sees glimpses of downtown Manhattan (the World Trade Center, Wall Street, etc.), and also sees American kids dressed in bizarre and extraordinary costumes (i.e. as a unicorn, a fairy, a furry white ape-man, a bunny, etc.). It made sense for me to juxtapose these scenes of American teenagers protesting along the Williamsburg waterfront with broken radio sounds and coded language. While I was editing I was also thinking about the relationship and evolution between the

history of radio and telecommunication with the popular culture industry in the U.S., and how this also connects to a type of hidden consciousness unfolding during the 1980s and 90s (which I am currently in the middle of researching), when there was a resurging attitude about anything being possible. I chose Williamsburg as the main backdrop location because I was spending a lot of time there in 2016-18, and became deeply interested in the current and historical changes around the waterfront. Workhorses of the Harbor creates constellations of overlapping images from public archives: what were the qualities that you were searching for in the materials that you included in your work? New York City is such a watery city. I originally wanted to focus on finding footage directly related to the Williamsburg waterfront, but this quickly evolved and expanded into working with footage of workers’ activities around various import and export sites in different parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. My research also led to discovering dozens of American propaganda newsreels promoting the typical “perfect image” of the American family, work ethic, and dream of innocence. After weeks of reviewing this footage, I came across more unique and unexpected films that seemed out of sync with what I was generally finding, yet still produced in and around the geographic locations I wanted to visually represent and talk about. Aesthetically, I wanted to work with low-res and poor image quality materials that felt more homestyle and DIY.


Women Cinemakers Workhorses of the Harbor has drawn heavily from the specifics of New York City environment and we have highly appreciated your insightful inquiry into the ongoing issues of deregulated rent control and rezoning. 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, ranging from Gentileschi's Susanna and the Elders to more recently Valie Export's work could be considered political, do you think that Workhorses of the Harbor could be considered political, in a certain sense? In particular, does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? My intention is to engage with certain representations and realities by challenging the ones I know or grew up with, with alternative ones I discover or would like to propose through my research. Fracturing information and montaging materials together helps me achieve this when I work with text, photographs, moving images, or sound from various archives. In the process of juxtaposing things together I also find it generative to create "new images" to counter ones that exist — often one-dimensional / binary realities and representations. The video definitely touches upon the way we view and interpret political narratives and ideas. Propaganda is such a powerful tool in society. Because I am reusing a particular kind of media that circulated around the U.S. in order to create an entirely different story, and hint at another reality lurking beneath, perhaps it could be political. But my intention is not really to make a political piece or statement. Perhaps it responds to the way media,

and information in general, functions and flows in our society now, especially with what is going on in the U.S. and Russia today, and between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Artemisia Gentileschi and Valie Export are two very important and powerful artists, and over 300 years apart from each other. I love that they were both brought up here together in this context. Both work with female representation and the female body to counter the way male-dominated societies depict and construct ideas of women. While Gentileschi paints women from myths and the Bible – victims and warriors – she reframes these figures to stress the dark nature of men, empowering women. Valie Export’s work in performance and video operates similarly, breaking boundaries created by men and redefining how women are seen. They are both such amazing icons in feminist art history, challenging stereotyped depictions and bodies’ attachments to gendered spaces and buildings. They also have something in common with rendering moments of death, rape and violence against women – they are retelling the stories we know and grew up with to reveal realities and perspectives that are often overlooked and unseen in history, and dominated by the voices of men. Another interesting work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled Cabinet of Abstraction. Providing the viewers with an immersive experience, this interdisciplinary installation walks the spectators through the thin line that divides the real and the imagined: what did you aim to trigger in the audience with Cabinet of Abstraction?


Women Cinemakers Cabinet of Abstraction came out of a collaboration with my friend and poet Wimpy AF (the AF stands for Afrofuturist). We were working together to respond to the theme of “Night” for a publication: Everyone is Asleep But Me, edited by Angelina Lin and Marisa Sottos. Wimpy and I were exchanging poetry and photographs over email for several weeks. In the process of this dialogue there was one poem he sent that inspired me to make a video using older photographs I had from a while ago together with new ones, and that is how this piece came about. I was also reading about El Lisstizky’s Cabinet of Abstraction, commissioned by Alexander Dorner for the Hannover Provincial Museum in 1927 – that’s where the title of the piece comes from. Between this research and the conversation with Wimpy I was photographing storefront windows of local businesses on the main avenue in my hometown in Long Island, nearby where I went to high school. Some were taken during the day, but most were made at night when everything was closed and the street was desolate. I was mainly thinking about the tension between feeling comfort and discomfort in states / spaces of quiet, loneliness and alienation. Cabinet of Abstraction draws from universal imagery and we dare say that it responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky's quote, when he stated that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind something: how much important is for you to create images capable of triggering the spectatorship perceptual substratum in order to address them to


A still from


Women Cinemakers elaborate personal interpretations? How open would you like your works to be understood? Through my work I think about alternative modes of information storage, distribution, and presentation. Towards the end of 2017 I started reading about Soviet organizational science, social engineering and the Soviet Scientific Organization of Labor (NOT). One of the leading figures of NOT, Platon Khrezhntsev, was responsible for founding some of the major Soviet news agencies and developed much of his theory on labor organization and subjective experience when working in the grassroots studios of the Proletkul’t, where there were assemblies of information collectives that distributed information based on the principal of vzaimoinformatsiia (reciprocal information). I am interested in borrowing from the Soviet approach of flexible organizational schemes to tell stories with the archive in an effort to essentially try to better understand ourselves and our history. Through this strategy and interpretation I would like to synthesize my interest in poetry, labor and image making to go deeper into realizing the potential of the archive (and the practice of photography) through reconfiguration and continuous variation of its inherent information and taxonomic properties – to create / experiment with new assemblages of knowledge in space. According to Aleksandr Rodchenko, "A man is not just one sum total. He is many, and sometimes they are quite opposed." Historian and scholar Devin Fore further explains that, "It is impossible to provide a single, summary portrait of a person, either psychological or physiognomic." I apply this to the archive: what we collect is a portrait of us just as much as we are an extension of it, similar to any other object or commodity. If we activate the archive (and photography) in


Women Cinemakers such a way where it can be organized and reorganized, and not remain static, we might realize the parallels it contains to the human psyche, and how it presents a way to access a new understanding of our history and reality.

today is easier to speak to a particular niche of viewers or that online technology will allow artist to extend to a broader number of viewers the interest towards a particular theme?

The archive has the potential to be something fluid and open – a living, breathing entity – a spiritual-material apparatus in conversation with the complicated relationship between individual and collective identity. Perceiving it solely as an indexical site of representation and rigid categorization and filing of the past limits the archive’s potential. It is a tool we can re-channel and use as a guide to realize a more dynamic and revolutionary version of things. Today, I think the power of photography and image-making operates on a very similar level in its ability to visualize and articulate alternate realities outside of what we are conditioned to seeing and understanding. How is it possible to rethink the archive, the snapshot of reality, and perceive it as something unfixed, incomplete and undifferentiated? How can we actualize this informational language to its fullest potential? Continual reconfiguration of the archive, image-making, and organizational systems is key to understanding and surfacing parallel stories underlying the dominating mainstream ones, in order to make room for marginal voices, narratives and ideas to be heard and seen. This is what I am interested in doing when I work with images and the archive in videos and installations.

I think there are pros and cons with how technology is influencing the way we view and access art today. We consume huge amounts of information through the internet, social media and various devices. The flow and speed of information is so rapid and vast. Anyone could technically learn about new art projects and exhibitions at any place and time, regardless of how far away they are from the work geographically, which is amazing. However, I don’t think the technosphere can totally replace the way we experience and consume art in physical spaces. For example, I know I am able to get different things out of viewing art in front of me in space versus reading about it and seeing images of a work online or via a small screen. The digital world, in a way, flattens works into a one dimensional existence and experience for us. Scale, color, smell and materiality do not transmit through the screen.

Marina Abramovi once remarked the importance of not just making work but ensuring that it’s seen in the right place by the right people at the right time: how is in your opinion online technopshere affecting the consumption of art by the audience? Do you think that

There is no doubt that artists can reach many more viewers and niche communities through the digital world with their work. This is one of the huge and amazing benefits of art online. However, as with all things in life, there is a balance we need to still figure out when it comes to talking about art through technology. The internet has definitely impacted the way viewers think about, process, and react to works of art, both online and in-person, for better and for worse. An important aspect of artwork is in its ability to bring people together to talk about issues or concepts in ways they would not necessarily think about. That personal, social interaction in physical space is important, and this is


Women Cinemakers less likely to happen when we view things online. Even if online conversations take place it is not the same as a faceto-face dialogue. On the other hand, I think we have not yet necessarily untapped the full potential technology and the digital world have to offer artists and viewers in terms of the way it can be used to distribute and represent work. It is a fascinating ongoing conversation‌ Deviates from standard videomaking, your works enhance the communicative potential of the images that you capture: we daresay that your practice addresses the viewers to explore the thin line between fact and fiction, urging them to question the unstable nature of their perceptual and cultural parameters. How do you consider the relationship between the real and the imagined within your artistic research? Moreover, what is your opinion about the importance of experimental video as a medium in our media driven contemporary art scene? I like to blur the lines between fact and fiction especially when I deal with political and historical material because I think this opens up many alternate possibilities for how we can perceive and reperceive events. Who is to say what is the right and wrong interpretation of how the story gets told? With my work I am interested in creating feelings of doubt to make one question what they are seeing or looking at. My approach to this is through creating meaning and experience for the viewer out of seemingly disconnected events, experimenting with ways to foster gaps and discontinuity between images. When I work in installation I think about building a new information architecture to present visual research in a nonlinear and open form, projecting videos in a constructed environment. I also think about how information


Women Cinemakers transmits through “the multitude� and is always in flux, versus presented in a monotonous, harmonious and static manner. The desire to free and untether visual information through space breaks away from my concern with linearity or adhering to a preconceived ideology and specific definition of how/what we think reality is. Experimental video is the same for me as photography and poetry, in terms of how we think it is very fast and easy to see and understand what the piece is trying to say, but we actually need to slow down and stay with the work for a while to see all the layers and meanings it contains. As a medium, it actually challenges the fast pace of our media driven contemporary art scene, even though it can be easily distributed through the media. Over the years your work have been internationally showcased in a wide number of occasions and you recently had your solo Static Test at ICP Bard College one of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to establish direct involvement with the viewers. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context? Yes, and no. I do not want to completely lose viewers’ attention and/or interest by making something too abstract or confusing. Sometimes when I am editing I lose sight of where that line is when I am too close to the material. Usually, the decisions become more obvious over time after leaving a piece alone for several months and


Women Cinemakers coming back to it with fresh eyes – I am able to look at things more critically, as if I was the viewer and saying to myself, “ok, this is working, and this isn’t…” Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Nechama. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving? Thank you so much for inviting me for this interview and for the opportunity to answer these questions! It is really an honor to be part of WomenCinemakers. In terms of other projects going on…recently, I returned from Medellín where I was part of the exhibition Al camello camello y al amor amor, organized by the initiative New Poetics of Labor. We have been working and developing this project since last November, which included over 40 artists and writers. I invite everyone to check it out — This August I will also be in Berlin to develop a new video installation project in a studio generously provided by K77 Studio | Space for Contemporary Performing Arts. I am very interested in working more with sound and music in constructed spaces. Part of my time at K77 Studio will be dedicated to new audio experimentations while I work on a project responding to the rapid changes in the area and former parts of East Berlin that took place in and around 1989.

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


Profile for WomenCinemakers

WomenCinemakers, Special Edition  

WomenCinemakers, Special Edition  

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