Her dark materials: conjuring the feminine imaginary in practice
Dialogues at the Interlude: Between Body, Artifact and Discourse
Conference presented by Transtechnology Research with Plymouth University, and Plymouth Arts Centre
Friday 12 to Sunday 14 July 2013 at Plymouth Arts Centre
Abstract
My paper explores film-making ‘as (a) woman’, an audiovisual form of écriture féminine, a term used by Hélène Cixous and others to denote ‘feminine writing’, the transformative practices that come through the body, with reference to Maya Deren’s theorisation of cinema and her ethnographic study of Haitian voodoo belief systems.

In creative practice, I take the feminine position through an embodied layering of consciousness, entering a trance or dream state, which for Freud was, "the threshold between life and death ... a space of uncertainty in which boundaries blur between rational and the supernatural, the animate and the inanimate" (Mulvey, 2006).

Deren (1960) has written of the ‘invisible underlayer of an implicit double exposure’ that is unrolled beneath the stream of moving images when we watch a film. We construct meaning from the memories and dreams evoked, from the film itself and the space in which the experience takes place. Although Deren refers to the visual realm, reflecting the cultural primacy of the sense of sight, the sonic environment of the film also affects our understanding. The double exposure to which she refers is the unconscious interweaving of imaginary materials - our own subjectivity and the fictive reality we perceive.

As a maker, in giving agency to multiple strata of the self, I conjure the material specificities and repetitive rhythms of light and shadow that form the illusion of moving image. Life and representation entwine to the rapturous beat of animate and inanimate states of being, in the flux of the present moment, within which - to borrow Deren’s words - life and death become one and the same. Each material loop of space-time, telling and knowing, woven through its link to a maternal other, continually in process, making and unmaking.

Keywords: animation, artists’ moving image, Maya Deren, écriture féminine, trance

Session 3: Imaginary Materialities: Hypnosis as a Medium for Artistic and Creative Practice, with Dr Hannah Drayson (chair, and Transtechnology Research), and Matthew MacKisack (Goldsmiths, University of London); Saturday 13 July 2013, 9.00am - 10.15am.
Images: The woman’s eye, part-open/closed, and closed; 16mm frames from Meshes of the Afternoon directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid (1943)