My film House of Women has been nominated for the Film London Jarman Award 2020. As part of 'fictional activism', which restages politically problematic scenes from early 20th Century British and Hollywood studio films, the film reimagines the casting of Kanchi, the Indian beggar-maid from Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus, here featuring women of South Asian descent.
More info, including Film London interview, here.
A New Take on the Iconic NovelThe first floor of Ars Nova will be filled with the multi-part video installation Madame B. Explorations in Emotional Capitalism, created by Mieke Bal (link is external), from the Netherlands, and Michelle Williams Gamaker (link is external), from the UK. The work, comprised of eight acts, offers a new interpretation of the classic novel Madame Bovary (1857) by French author Gustave Flaubert.
The story, set in contemporary times, examines the temptations of romantic love and consumerist culture. The protagonist of both the original novel and this new installation, Emma, is bored and unsatisfied with her marriage. She craves luxury, passion and freedom and strives for these through romantic affairs and material purchases. Emma is ultimately brought to desperate means. She is trapped in her own fantasies and falls out of touch with reality.
The Price of HappinessThe artists consider Flaubert’s novel to be culturally topical and use the video installation to examine contemporary culture. Emma’s frantic actions are juxtaposed with the modern culture of consumption and its desire for sensational experiences, emotions and excitement that is impossible to achieve.
Besides the craving for romance, the artists also explore “emotional capitalism”, a concept created by Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz. This denotes a culture where transaction, trade and capital are involved in emotional experiences as well as commerce. Emotional capitalism frames emotion and economy within the same functional logic.
An International ProductionThe artists see Emma’s crisis as a contemporary and global one, which led to the work including dialogue in several languages: Finnish, French, English and Swedish. The lead roles are played by Finnish Marja Skaffari (Emma) as well as the French Thomas Germaine (Charles, Rodolphe and Léon) and Mathieu Montanier (Homais). The work was filmed in Åland and Paris in 2012 and 2013 with a large number of volunteers. The installation was finished in 2014.
The eight acts of the installation loosely follow the events of the novel. The videos can be watched in any order and for any length of time. The combined length of the installation is around two hours. The videos are presented in large projections as well as smaller screens. Some acts include multiple simultaneously presented videos. These blend together memories, dreams and reality. The fragmentary work invites alternative ways to see and conceptualize Emma’s story.
Viewers who have read the novel “Madame Bovary” will find several familiar events and lines in the videos. Reading the novel is still not required for understanding Emma B’s desperation and the artists’ vision. Anyone can take the plunge into Emma’s world.
Subtitles are offered in Finnish and English. The installation also includes a number of photos as well as costumes that were used during filming.
Madame B has previously been presented in Columbia, Australia and Poland, among others, as well as its latest presentation in Oslo’s Munch Museum (January 28 to April 17, 2017). In 2014 the work was presented at the Eckerö Mail and Customs House in Åland. Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova is the only venue to present the work in mainland Finland. Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker have also made a feature film of Madame B (2014).
As part of the Kochi Biennale, I will be in Kochi presenting my works House of Women and The Fruit is There to be Eaten. House of Women is presented as part of Video Vortex XI, Video in Flux: Art, Activism & Archives, 23-25 February 2017, as part of the Sristi Outpost, a collateral of the bienniale.
Opening reception: Tuesday, 21 February, 6 – 8 PM
Press preview in the presence of the curator: Tuesday, 21 February, 5 PM
Annka Kultys is pleased to present Concrete Jungle, an exhibition featuring video works curated by Alexandra White. Set within the iconic concrete architecture of the Brazilian Modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, the works on view explore the physical and psychological boundaries between the human and architectural body within the specific context of Brazil. Concrete Jungle includes work by Copenhagen-based Brazilian video artist Tamar Guimarães, as well as collaborative videos by the artists Michelle Williams Gamaker and Julia Kouneski.
As its title suggests, the exhibition plays with a series of dichotomies: concrete / jungle, man-made / nature, reality / fantasy. The most obvious juxtaposition, however, lies in contrasting the two buildings that serve as both backdrop and theme within the works. The Copan building, featured in Williams Gamaker and Kouneski’s Scaling Copan (2009) and Sensitising (plastic bags) (2009), is a monumental 38-story residential building in Sao Paulo, designed by Niemeyer in 1951, while Casa das Canoas, the setting for Guimarães’ Canoas (2010), was the architect’s family home, constructed the following year, 1952, in the arboraceous outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. At the time of the buildings’ construction, Brazil aspired to be a Modernist utopia led by Niemeyer’s and fellow architect and urban planner, Lucio Costa’s, government-backed plans for the development of the new greenfield capital Brasilia, located on a tabula rasa in Brazil’s hinterland with its catchy slogan “fifty years in five.” Out of this passion for progress came the shiny, undulating addition to São Paulo’s skyline, the Copan building, a social housing project intended to transcend class barriers and become the height of urban living.
Niemeyer, however, despite the urban-centric focus, preferred to build Casa das Canoas as his own home on the periphery of bustling Rio to escape the anxieties of city life, in the more natural setting of Barra da Tijuca, a would-be tropical paradise. Yet this era of accelerated industrialisation and socialist dreams, known as Brazil’s “Golden Age,” was cut short by the military coup of 1964 which installed a torturous dictatorship lasting two decades.
Influenced by the work of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, Williams Gamaker and Kouneski have worked collaboratively to produce two performative video pieces. In Scaling Copan the artists — on hands and knees — scale the curvilinear ledge of the 22nd floor of the Copan building. The anxiety-inducing performance lays bare the rawness of sensation; the climax being the point at which the artists dangle their feet over 22 floors. A second work from the series, Sensitising (plastic bags), is a five minute video of the artists on the same ledge breathing into plastic bags. An act reminiscent of hyperventilating, this work draws directly from Clark’s therapeutic practice, and her desire to abolish the borders between subject and object. The bag, for Clark, functions as an extended skin or connective tissue.
In Guimarães’ 16-mm film Canoas, Niemeyer’s home is the setting for a party as it unravels from beginning to end. With its large glass windows and distinctive Niemeyer curves, Casa das Canoas is on full display. The film shifts between discussions amongst invited guests — friends of the artist, academics and politicians — that range from Modernist architecture to the military dictatorship via the quality of Brazilian champagne. In one conversation, for example, guests lament the tendency for Brazilian Modernism to build luxury homes (such as Casa das Canoas) for the wealthy — on the backs of an underpaid labour force – rather than implementing the utopian vision of supplying social housing for the masses. While the guests discuss issues of race and class in Brazil, in between spurts of dancing and hanging out by the pool, black waiters serve champagne and cocktails. Through highlighting the contradictions of the intellectual elite, Canoas challenges the notion of Brazil as an exotic paradise, as mythologised in the writings of the anthropologist Gilberto Freyre, in which desire transcends class and racial divides.
Concrete Jungle is presented at a time when, notwithstanding the international focus brought by the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, the utopian possibilities of Brazil have once again become a distant memory. Today, Niemeyer’s structures are permanent reminders of the promise of Modernism but also of Brazil’s continued reliance on a political system where social hierarchies have exacerbated the distance between the Haves and the Have-Nots.
Tamar Guimarães film and installation works excavate the often unfamiliar or forgotten accounts of Brazilian and global history, calling into question the dominant histories of modernism. Through a process of gathering and manipulating images, texts and conversations, she confronts the viewer’s role within social and class structures without being overtly political. The resulting works form speculative narratives that are not interested in the past per se, but in the ways in which our simultaneous desires and repulsions continue into the present.
Michelle Williams Gamaker considers the intergenerational effects of colonialism through her performance and video works. Employing fiction and documentary modes, her work centres around conditions of exile, alienation, and physical and mental health issues. Williams Gamaker also explores performance as physical research; since 2009, she has collaborated with Julia Kouneski, revisiting the work of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark’s psychotherapeutic practice as inspiration for interventions with the body, architecture and landscape.
Julia Kouneski’s video and performative work engages empathy and embodiment through direct experience, often involving audience participation. Her research has led her to explore body-based healing practices, such as craniosacral therapy, and the connection between trauma and the body. In 2009, she spent several months in Rio de Janeiro researching and experiencing the work of Lygia Clark, and has since facilitated collective re-creations of Clark’s work for small groups. She collaborates with London-based artist and filmmaker Michelle Williams Gamaker to create interventions with the sensing body.
I am delighted to announce that I have been announced as winner of the Experimenta Speed Pitch 2016.
Each year, the London Film Festival teams up with Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) for the Experimenta Pitch Award of £1000 towards development costs for a new project.
Fifteen aspiring artist-filmmakers were given a maximum six-minute pitch, including images, to an international panel of leading artists’ film producers, including Kristin Irving (BFI Film Fund), Madeleine Molyneaux (Picture Palace Pictures) and Maggie Ellis (Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network).
This money will go towards development and production costs of my upcoming work Hypertorrid.
Art Sexism Racism and Resistance (ASRR) is pleased to present Little Indian as second artist, part of series of display exhibitions at Women's Art Library at Goldsmiths University. The exhibition is curated by Samia Malik.
Little Indian is a South London based artist and independent activist, who has worked in health and social support in the UK for over 15 years. She also worked in a boy’s remand centre in Labadi, Ghana and is in the process of setting up a worker’s cooperative with the friends she made during her time there. She also has family in Trinidad and is planning to collaborate with her cousin on a women and girl’s faction in the ghettos. She attended university in her late 20’s and gained a degree in politics with herself directed studies focussing on women and girls in the DRC and the feminisation of poverty, the collapse of African states over the last 25 years, a critique of the UN and global governance, Leonard Peltier and the American Indian movement and other indigenous uprisings.
Working so closely with vulnerable people in the UK and Ghana has influenced her art and politics and her current exhibition at The Women’s Art Library features Mexican folklore, history and politics inspired art in a solidarity protest against Donald Trump.
(Exhibition dates: Tuesday 28th June – Friday 15th July 2016)
Address: Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths University, New Cross, London SW14 6NW
I am proud to be part of the group exhibition Wayfaring at &Model Gallery, Leeds.
The show is curated by Laura White and features new work of mine alongside that of Laura White, Kreider+O'Leary and Zoë Mendelson. It looks at the territory White shares with other artists whose work asks similar questions around ‘how things come about’ and who also travel across disciplines, as writers, researchers, educators, makers, crafts-people, film-makers, architects, poets…
More images here and here.
Wayfaring runs from 29 April 2016 to 4 June 2016.
This five-screen installation puts forward different contexts of precarity in today’s global society. Everything, from health to relationships to labour rights and human rights as well as economic survival is precarious. We attempt to bind these areas together in their audio-visibility.
Based on Flaubert’s prophetic novel Madame Bovary from 1856, our five screens show the precariousness of an adult life beginning; the world that seduces her into risking what she has and craving for what she doesn’t; and when, grasping at last straws, she takes more and more dangerous turns, and thus, inevitably, she ends in misery, both economically, psychically, and physically.
Meanwhile, from the edge of the space where her life plays out on four screens, we see how this is not an individual ill nor a blameable transgression but something towards which she has been pushed all along by her surroundings. Especially the meddling pharmacist Homais represents the probing of the curious and the rejoicing in Emma’s misfortune and downfall, as we see in Probing and Meddling.
In Shaping and Moulding the young woman is being educated in and outside school, and educating herself with activities inspired by her cultural environment. In Seduction she is lured into adventures that promise her a more fulfilling life, but instead, give her heartbreak and unsolvable debts. Nothing is what it seems. Last Straw presents her ultimate, desperate attempts to happiness, but only confronts her with the impossibility of achieving it in the social passivity she has been raised to cultivate.
Hence, in Endings we witness the inevitable denouements such striving and failures entail: financial ruin, divorce, mental breakdown, death.
Delighted to be part of the group exhibition Wayfaring at &Model, 19 East Parade, Leeds LS1 2BH
29 April 2016 – 4 June 2016
Michelle Williams Gamaker
Wayfaring, curated by Laura White in collaboration with &Model Leeds, looks at the territory White shares with other artists whose work asks similar questions around ‘how things come about’ and who also travel across disciplines, as writers, researchers, educators, makers, crafts-people, film-makers, architects, poets...
“In wayfaring ... things are instantiated in the world as their paths of movement, not as objects located in space. They are their stories. Here it is the movement itself that counts, not the destination it connects. Indeed, wayfaring always overshoots its destinations, since wherever you may be at any particular moment, you are already on your way somewhere else.”
(Tim Ingold, Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description)
In the fluid movement between investigations and disciplines, processes are revealed uncompromisingly and are always open to further possibilities. This is evident in various ways in this exhibition – film that does not distinguish from its auditions; objects that are the process; architecture that navigates across physical space, documentation and poetic narrative; drawings that belong on no defined surface.
Materials drive the process as much as the artist handling them, so that what is being used (film, video, architecture, words, leather, clay, paper, photography) occupies intelligent material space in both digital and real environments. There is no separation between the hand and the mind in the production of the works, where thinking through making and understanding by doing is at the core.
Preview on Thursday 28 April 2016, 6pm–8pm, then open Wednesdays to Saturdays, 2pm–5pm
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