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Sinopale 4 (Sinop Biennale)

Lecture: Shadow and solar individual – multiple subjectivities, and the question of visibility in the movies of Maya Deren, Eleonor Antin, Yvonne Rainer and Kara Walker

by Dimitrina Sevova

23 August 2012, 16h45

at the Archeology Museum in Sinop, Turkey

Sinopale 4: Lecture by Dimitrina Sevova; still from Maya Deren, Meshes of the AfternoonMaya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943. Film still.

In this talk, across four women artists from three generations who in their work use film as a media format in an experimental way, working with narrative, choreography and dance, entering the subject of shadow in different interpretations of otherness, migration, dependencies and social constraints, considering shadows to be inherent to the moving image and the very concept of cinematography, I will investigate the question of the construction of the subject in a post-colonial context, who is visible, who is not, who takes the position of the viewer, and who is gazed at. The avant-garde movie-maker Maya Deren is considered a pioneer of artistic uses of cinema. Her focus is on the movement of the body and the choreography of shadows, in her very poetic foray into the construction of spatio-temporal relations and the cinematic material itself. Eleonor Antin, Yvonne Rainer and Kara Walker raise questions in a Western context about migration, otherness and which voice and presence is audible and visible. Each of them has experimented with moving images and with performance and performativity. Even if they have each come up with a very recognizable language of their own, they share a care for telling a story from a multiplicity of positions (different characters appearing in the movie tell the story through their own eyes), by which they destabilize the matrix of the gaze and the relation between the viewer and the structure of the narrative. Eleonor Antin was one of the first artists working with performances and filming them, with politics of identity and becoming-woman, re-enacting a variety of social positions and subverting the expectations of the audience. Yvonne Rainer is a choreographer and filmmaker who succeeded in uniting such incompatible things as dance and fiction. The narrative voice in her movies builds an additional path through which the viewers can emancipate themselves and take an engaged position to the story and the cinematic material. Kara Walker refuses any identitarian position and true faces, in order to entirely get rid of the idea of the authentic. Her muppets, or their shadows, besides their own drives and urges, seem directed by an outside presence, missing in the movie but nonetheless felt.