Location filming I Die of Sadness Crying For You, 2019


Nina Danino was born in Gibraltar and came to London to study Fine Art in the 70s.  Her films have been shown worldwide in film festivals including Edinburgh (1985), London (1992, 1998), Chicago (1994), Ann Arbor, US (2016), in cinemas; Pacific Film Archives, San Francisco (1994), NFT (2011), ICA, London (2016), Anthology Film Archives, New York (2017), Tate Modern (2016) and recently at the London Film Festival (2019), Seville European Film Festival (2019).


She has taught at Sheffield Hallam University, Architectural Association School of Architecture and since 2000 at Goldsmiths, University of London.  She studied Painting at St. Martin’s School of Art (1973-1977) and at Environmental Media, Royal College of Art (1979-81)  London where she made the multimedia work First Memory (1980-81) using slide/tape, S8 and 16mm film and her voice to narrate.   She developed her practice in experimental film as a member of the London Filmmakers’ Co-operative 1981-1992. She was also a member of the editorial collective of the journal Undercut 1981-1990 which published on artists’ film and video and is Co-Editor of The Undercut Reader (2002).  


Her interests have centred on film and materiality, women’s experimental languages of film, theory of structural/materialist film, notions of inscription and the ‘feminine’ in film, the voice as an element in cinema and on the film soundtrack in relation to the image.  She engaged with psychoanalysis through the writings of Kristeva and Lacan which inform her notions of the ‘feminine’.  


Nina Danino’s seminal short film Stabat Mater (1990) used spoken word and fast editing, literary texts and the saeta – a religious song which evokes intense and strong emotion. With Stabat Mater (1990) she added religious motifs and discourse to experimental film.


She then made “Now I am yours” (1992) which is arguably one of her most well-known films being exhibited internationally. This film combines the visionary writings of the mystic Teresa of Avila and her own poem-writing. Visually it is centred on Bernini’s  The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in Rome, mixed with other footage on S8, VHS, 35mm and Hi 8 formats where these parts all come together in one whole in a performative drama of ecstasy. She combined vocals and spoken word in the soundtracks to these films.  Since 2020 she has been collaborating with musicians, recently with early and established musicians James Creed, Gagarin, Donna Matthews, in stand-alone sound and for the soundtrack to her film Solitude (2022).  During the 90s she collaborated with avant-garde singers Shelley Hirsch, Sainkho Namtchylak and followed the work of Diamanda Galas. These two films and The Silence is Baroque (1997) are published in the DVD Rupture/Rapture/Jouissance – The Religious Trilogy published by LUX (2028).


In 1997 she made the landscape film Temenos (1998) with a soundtrack by Sainkho Namtchylak with additional parts by Shelley Hirsch and mezzo soprano Catherine Bott.  In this film, the visible and invisible is filmed in places imbued with apparitional events. On a phenomenological plane it engaged with the presence of the image in cinema.  The soundtrack is composed of voices sobbing, wailing, lamenting, crying and in soaring pitches to create a sound landscape of joy and terror. Temenos has been published on DVD by the BFI Avant-garde series and the soundtrack is available on CD.  Temenos’ haunting images filmed on 35mm and soundtrack create an Other worldly place.


Theological film theory informs a strand of her work on the contemplative presence of the cinema image.  This underpins Communion (2010) which is a short silent film photographed by Billy Williams OBE on 35mm using classical Hollywood studio lighting. Communion has been shown in two major solo film installations with additional works on print.  With Communion she also initiated a socially, as well as spiritually framed series of film portraits of religious women in community and as individuals. The works use formal observation, duration and foreground the presence of the camera and composition.  Jennifer (2015) is feature length collaborative portrait with the Carmelite nun which is self-filmed in the enclosed monastery in Ronda, Spain. The multi-media, multi-part work Sorelle Povere di Santa Chiara (2015-18) was made in collaboration with the enclosed community in the monastery of Santa Chiara in San Marino, Italy which includes a 16mm film, a 6-channel audio, a video of interviews and an artists’ publication. It has been shown in three large scale installations. These works combine structural and feminist approaches with self representations of women within institutional and individual devotional space. 


Her next film  I Die of Sadness Crying For You” (2019) encompasses the strand of her work on the voice expanding to mainstream forms of music and song.  This project stems from a long period of research  from her cultural background into popular music cultures of Latin American and Spain focussing on songs of yearning, longing and rejection called copla. Amassing a wealth of materials for further works on this topic, the film is a synthesis of this research in a personal essay film on her mother and copla as a reclamation of this lyrical form from the perspective of women’s experiences of love, rejection and social marginalisation.  “I Die of Sadness Cry For You “ (2019)  was shown at the London International Film Festival and at Seville European Film Festival.   


In 2020 she started doing performances that can be framed within the history of women’s performance to camera and in the address to the gaze. She has also started recording song video works that enjoy and reclaim masculinist forms such as rock and psychedelia through the concept of ‘feminine’ jouissance and as an immersive experience for the private self.  The performances bring these mainstream forms of music into art practice.


Singing enables communication of profound emotion and an embodied practice of exaltation in the process.  Thus, she considers singing as having a liminal relationship to embodied jouissance which in psychoanalysis touches the Real beyond the Symbolic and also captures impulses bordering on religious experience. The singer is presented as a figure with privileged access to the expression of profound emotion such as sorrow as well as performing a creative act of surplus production. Her current projects explore the act of singing in these terms as itself as a ‘feminine’ production and in relation to film as a practice of self-inscription into her own films.


In relation to this, she is producing a diptych of two feature-length films based on two different forms – opera and avant-garde Gothic rock through two iconic singers Maria Callas (1923-1977) and Nico (Christa Paffgen) (1938-1988). This project explores the contralto and operatic voice through their associations with darkness and  with transcendence and the demonic.  The relationship of iconicity and the presence of the image to Transcendence.


Part one is her new feature-length film Solitude (2022) which is completed and is comprised of an assembly from four underground-experimental films which feature the singer Nico and newly filmed and newly composed sound including the recital of poetry.   These materials also deal with the inherent power of cultural iconic materials and at the same time the limits and thresholds of art’s power to transform them anew.  


She is currently producing and making part two of this project which is a feature-length experimental film on Maria Callas. 


Since Close to Home (1982-85), a strand of Nina Danino’s work returns to the geographic and cultural ambit of the south of Spain and Gibraltar where she was born –  to the epic geography of the bay, the straits and the region of the  ‘far south’.  She has made installations, artists’ book, audio, videos, film and writing as intersubjective maps of this region including Meteorologies (2013, 2018) She has  a multi-part future film project developing in this strand of her work under the title “The Far South”.


Her films are in the collection of the British Film Institute National Film Archive. Visionary Landscapes is an illustrated monograph published by Black Dog Publishing (2005).


She is Reader in Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives and works in London.


Filming First Memory, Royal College of Art, 1981

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