Stabat Mater and “Now I am yours”/ Experimental film as inscription and materiality in the context of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op. Extracts

 

This was a talk with screened extracts of Stabat Mater and “Now I am yours” for the conference; Artists’ Moving Image Practice in Britain from 1990,  Whitechapel Gallery, 2015.     I have edited extracts of the talk focussing on the concept of ‘working closely’ with material and my concept of inscription and materiality through the ethos of London Filmmakers’ Co-op.  

Stabat Mater (1990)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alison Butler writes that women engaged with experimental film as a form which enabled self inscription and self-realisation. 1  This engagement when combined with forms of narrative made a space for the subjective in experimental film.    

 

The ethos of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op (LFMC),  enabled a ‘close’ i.e. hands-on relationship  with film as a material and I place this ethos in the context of feminist debates on representation.    Procedure was a systematic approach to undoing  the ideological apparatus as the means of representation and of producing structures for altering or producing new forms of conscious perception.  However,  in women’s experimental films procedure can be interpreted through an inscriptive and enunciative dimension.  These approaches enabled a form of  ‘getting close’ and  becoming ‘open’ to material and to  what could become revealed through process.   The concept of materiality provides a means of getting ‘beyond’ the standard grammars of film language and neo-objective deconstructions to enable a form of  inscribing of oneself – enfolding oneself in film and of fixing and unfixing localisation. 

 

Stabat Mater (1990)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Stabat Mater, filming in real places is combined with de-stablisation of space in the cut between the image and the speaking voice.   Embodiment takes place across the body of the film – indeed the film is considered a body – through,  in this film, fast editing and the voice as a material and an immaterial medium.  With these physical and structural materials and methods, I found ways to produce a filmic form which inscribes the elusive signification of drives and rhythms.   

 

 

 

 

“Now I am yours” (1992)

 

Now I am yours” is centred on Bernini’s statue The Ecstasy of St. Teresa filmed on location in the Cornaro Chapel,  Rome.  The method was to find a symbiosis between the sound and the image as in Stabat Mater but to reach a fuller experience through adding more layers to make a multivocal sound composition.   I had to find a way to do this working between analogue and digital and it was a struggle because the technology didn’t exist and neither did the production methods.   

In the highly theorised context of structural film of the 70s and the neo-structural practices at the LFMC of the 80s,  rigour  referred to intellectual clarity and technical mastery in the service of an objective aim.  But through a feminist reading, women’s film practices perhaps flout or resist neo-objectivity and the norms of professionalism or standardisation at a time when Television was commissioning work from artists in the 80s.    Women’s films sometimes appeared to lack polish and to be badly made, sometimes this was a deliberate aesthetic,  sometimes it was due to low budgets and lack of  technical support but also the  ethos of the LFMC gave the opportunity to ballast this with displays of technical, aesthetic virtuosity perhaps as a response to the assumption of women’s lack of skill, although many women’s films were also collaboratively made with male technicians and expertise,  often friends and supporters, as were my own. 

 

It was necessary to find a way to get close to our materials but this does not mean only literally for example by working frame by frame but also through other means.   For example, by knowing every frame in the editing process or every phrase of the sound.  

I worked through these methods on-through-with, the image and the voice.  So these two forms of intense attention came together in an inscriptive process. The context for this inscriptive feminine practice is women’s experimental film of the 80s and 90s which represents an embodied, enunciatory practice is the subject of my current research in women’s experimental film. 

 

Postscript:  Experimental film can be set of  co-ordinates and a setting out on a journey, which, in each film is different but always to some extent is unknown because it engages with a process and procedure as described.    As funding has become conditional upon  institutional partners, pre-planned outcomes,  confirmed exhibition, guarantees of public engagement, the experimental method which includes this aspect of the unknown  became less supported institutionally.  

  1. Alison Butler, Women’s Cinema: The Contested Screen, Wallflower Press 2002 

©Nina Danino 2015/2019

 

Conference:  Artists’ Moving Image Practice in Britain from 1990:  Whitechapel Gallery in collaboration with Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network 5-7 November, Whitechapel Gallery, 2015