As part of Primavera 2017: Young Australian Artists, we’re welcoming Primavera artist Laura Hindmarsh to curate a special edition of Art + Film. Laura’s a video artist who lives and works between the United Kingdom and Australia. Her Primavera work, Finding Focus, plays out her interest in the cinematic tropes of women disappearing, from early optical illusions and Hitchcock mysteries, to more contemporary reiterations.
For the Art + Film program on Saturday 16 September, Laura’s presenting inspiring examples of feminist cinema from Australian and international artists and filmmakers. These works address historical sexism while also suggesting ways to disrupt dominant visual culture and media power structures through a series of alternative futures.
Catch Primitive Nostalgia (2014) by artist Caroline Garcia, as she places herself in classic cinematic dance sequences performed by ethnic troupes to confront Hollywood’s colonial gaze. Artist Kathryn Elkin transcribes Helen Mirren’s infamous 1975 interview on Parkinson to recite it as a choral song in Dame 2 (2016). For the finale, see cult director Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983). This feminist science fiction film follows a group of women who rebel against a corrupt socialist government.
Before the curtains rise, we caught up with Laura to discover the six films that changed her life, for better or worse.
I was naively attracted to this film because it presented an aesthetic that felt more familiar than the colour, sounds and light of European and American cinema. As a teenager I completely fell for its cult status but little did I know I was being drawn into yet another colonial mythologising of the perils of the Australian bush. Melbourne-based artist Amy Spiers is currently doing great work to unpack and reverse this myth and the negative impact of white settlement at Hanging Rock with the Miranda Must Go Campaign, which is a really successful merging of art, activism and cultural criticism. I wouldn’t say that the film changed my life but rather as my life has changed so to, has my position towards the film.
I have often come back to this film for its combination of visual poetry and realism. I love director Jean Cocteau’s use of manual special effects that reveal their own staging whilst also creating a compelling dream-like quality. The scene of Orpheus traversing the mirror and being led through the underworld is incredible. It’s filmed using a sequence of different camera angles, including sections where the film is played backwards and the actors interact with projections of themselves. Its clever camera use and optical trickery has certainly sparked many ideas for my work.
Man with Mirror is another clever work that flips spatial and temporal dimensions. Guy Sherwin’s film was first introduced to me by artist Lucas Ihlein during my undergraduate days. I was starting to play around with filming actions and interacting with projected performances when Lucas perceptively pointed out that I should look into Expanded Cinema and told me about Sherwin’s piece that he was working on recreating with Louise Curham at the artist-run-initiative Teaching and Learning Cinema. Flash forward eight years and I have just finished working with TLC to learn and create my own version of Sherwin’s work – Woman with Man with Mirror, featuring myself rendered in Super 8 twirling a mirror and screen to my own auto cue and a chorus of sulfur-crested cockatoos.
I would like to say Valie Export is a big influence on my practice with works such as Splitscreen – Solipsismus and Touch Cinema, however to be completely honest I find it difficult to sit through much of her work. Once at a screening of Export’s performance films I had a very visceral reaction, passing out only minutes into …Remote…Remote…. As she dug at her fingernails with a box cutter as a psychological investigation of the body in a tortured state, I with my aversion to blood, awoke groaning in a mild panic attack, sweaty and with half the cinema watching me rather than the screen.
Watch the trailer. [Content warning: please note this performance contains depictions of violence]
I came to Harun Farocki’s work late, just after his death, but like many others his films have had a lasting impact on me. Their potency and relevance to contemporary representation, politics, capitalism and violence remains. Inextinguishable Fire is part performance, part experimental film, part documentary fiction and part activism, and this defiance of genre is something I now aspire to in my own work. In an action not dissimilar to an Export or Chris Burden performance, holding a lit cigarette to his arm, Farocki critiques not only the Vietnam War but the invisible role of the industry that enables it.
‘When napalm is burning, it is too late to extinguish it. You have to fight napalm where it is produced: in the factories. It’s a voice that needs to continue to be heard.’
[Content warning: the below film discusses the effects of napalm burning and depicts a man burning his arm with a lit cigarette]
I first was introduced to this film by artist Becca Albee on a residency in Italy last year. It has since had a big resurgence and was recently screened in the London and Edinburgh film festivals. It was quite timely coming across this 1980s punk film as we witnessed the final failing optimism of the Obama years and faced an unknown future in the lead up to the US elections. I’m really pleased to be able to share this film with an Australian audience and hope they come away with the same taste for revolt that I did!
Watch the trailer. [Content warning: this film and accompanying trailer contains some nudity]