Unknown Woman
Year of release: 1991
Original format: 16mm
Running time: 8 minutes 45 seconds
Screening format: 16mm comopt print; digital screening versions available
Credits: A film by Kayla Parker
Director/producer/animator/editor: Kayla Parker
Performer: Lorrie Parker
Crow mask construction: Ellen McDouall
Live action camera: Joy Elliott
Sound: Stuart Moore
Sound design: Kayla Parker
Dubbing mixer: Paul Roberts
Thanks: Lefkos Greco
Funded by The Arts Council of Great Britain and South West Arts
Distribution and sales: Sundog Media sundogmedia@gmail.com and LUX Distribution; also available from EMAF (European Media Arts Festival) distribution@emaf.de Tel: 00 49 / (0)541 / 2 16 58

A woman's psychological journey filled with suspense and pursuit, which uses a mixture of drawn animation, stop-motion and live-action footage; originated from dreams of a woman and a crow, in which the two beings shared one sentience.

Unknown Woman is the first of a group of three 16mm films which explore interior female landscape from a personal perspective - Cage of Flame (1992) is the second, Walking Out (2000) the third.

Production notes
“The man looks the world full in the face, as if it were made for his uses and fashioned to his liking. The woman takes a sidelong glance at it, full of subtlety, even of suspicion.”
‘Orlando’ Virginia Woolf Selected works of Virginia Woolf p. 490

A small grant enabled me to film some experimental performance to camera, and to begin development of a non/narrative stream through the ‘automatic drawing’ of 2-D animation sequences. I drew as much as I remembered of my dream, and made a giant crow mask with Ellen McDouall, a theatrical props-maker, using a stuffed bird for reference, lent to me by Kelvin Boot, then the natural history curator at the Royal Devon and Exeter museum. The bird was actually a rook: the corvid closest to a crow in the musem collection, but I was able to photograph it from all angles, and study the weave of its feathers.

As I became immersed in this intuitive film-making process, further ‘sidelong’ dreams led me to the locations which feature in the film: the seashore at Dawlish Warren, the secret bluebell wood in east Devon, Haytor on Dartmoor, and, finally, the sea itself in Plymouth Sound: each of these places is resonant with my ‘sidelong glance’ and interior sense of place in the world.

Publication and comments
“The theorist Christian Metz was one of the first to apply psychoanalytic thinking to the cinema, and positioned film as a way of connecting with our unconscious.
The filmmaker Kayla Parker has described the ‘director’ of her films as being her ‘unconscious’ – perhaps this is the ultimate origin of the messages we try to transmit, the starting point of all starting points. Perhaps if we go back one step to this origin, we can reassess the full range of approaches available to us, to try to express and communicate emotions and meanings, and choose which to use.”
Zata Kitowski Send & Receive: Poetry, Film and Technology in the 21st Century symposium at FACT Liverpool, in association with the University of Liverpool, PoetryFilm and The Poetry Society (5 February 2015)

Zata Kitowski, PoetryFilm Archive: Unknown Woman by Kayla Parker in PoetryFilm (29 August 2014)

Who’s who: Kayla Parker wuemme experimental film: Re-Interpretation for the avant-garde / experimental films (online) (8 April 2005) (Google Japanese > English translation)

A directory of British film and video artists David Curtis (ed.) (1996) Luton: John Libbey and Arts Council of England. Kayla Parker pp. 138 - 139

Arrows of Desire: the second biennial of independent film and video. New directions in British film and video (1992) selected by Peter Wollen. Catalogue published for international touring programme. London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, with the British Council and the Arts Council of England
“The Brothers Quay ... have led the revival of British animation, just as Derek Jarman has blazed the way for gay film-makers, and their example has helped to propel British animated film into the realms of the surreal and the magical. Kayla Parker’s Unknown Woman brings together animation, feminism and myth.”
Peter Wollen (1993) Arrows of Desire introduction p. 14
Unknown Woman depicts a woman’s psychological journey using a mixture of drawn animation and found-footage. The latter is dyed and scratched in a free improvisatory manner and then intercut with sequences of drawn animation to conjure up a somewhat anxious and menacing dream-like world based very freely on the Aphrodite myth.
Throughout the film appears the image of the crow - a sharply intelligent being at once wise and fierce in its scavenging existence. At times reminiscent of Len Lye in the matching of painting on the image track aligned to music and of Maya Deren in its externalization of the inner through the device of a mythological journey in displaced time and space, Unknown Woman is an exciting, energetic and serious confrontation with the possibilities of animation.”
Michael O’Pray (1993) Arrows of Desire programme notes p. 42

PIX 1 (1993) Ilona Halberstadt (ed.) Inside front cover: x 2 enlarged Unknown Woman 16mm film frames. ISSN 0967 8727

Women and animation: a compendium (1992) Jayne Pilling (ed.) London: British Film Institute ISBN 0-85170-377-1Unknown Woman colour enlargement 16mm film frame, Animation in the UK pp. 80 – 81; and International biographical dictionary A-Z: Parker, Kayla pp. 133 - 134

1991 There was a review (by Nik Houghton?) of the premiere screening in Soho

Unknown Woman from Sundog Media on Vimeo.

Exhibition selected
Flatpack Festival Invisible Women programme, MAC Birmingham, Hexagon Theatre; "This selection of boundary-pushing films demonstrates how women have seized the imaginative possibilities offered by animation to create witty, warm and wildly inventive explorations of identity, authorship and desire." (programme notes) (4 May 2019)

Making Tracks, London Short Film Festival, Rich Mix, London. The Cabinet of Living Cinema perform their new score live to the film, projected from 16mm by The Suitcase Cinema; event presented by Whirlygig Cinema. See programme (14 January 2012)

Hand Eye Visions: the Films of Kayla Parker and Stuart Moore Cine-City, the Brighton film festival; Lighthouse, Brighton, UK. We presented a programme of 17 direct animation films, made over the last 20 years, for the third and final Hand Eye Visions event, curated by Ian Helliwell (27 November 2010)
The Measure of It 16mm film-drawing performance and screening with artist’s talk; Unknown Woman projected from 16mm print, Studio One at Plymouth Arts Centre, UK (6pm - 8.30pm 28 April 2010)

PoetryFilm Party hosted by Malgorzata Kitowski, featuring a selection of PoetryFilms on the theme of dream. Curzon Soho Bar, London, UK (22 April 2009)

Aeon festival, Devon, UK. Film programme curated by Siobhan Mckeown (August 2008)

Freedom and Dream presentation of "rare avant-garde film" by PoetryFilm director Malgorzata Kitowski, Tate Britain, London, UK. For National Poetry Month. (5 October 2007)


Frame by Frame from Sundog Media on Vimeo.

Frame by Frame Plymouth Arts Centre, UK. Solo exhibition. Film projected from S-VHS in gallery; with installation of Unknown Woman crow mask and feather cloak costume on display stand made by Miles Parker, with looped audio recording of crow calling concealed within; and a selection of large colour photographs printed from 16mm film frames (November and December 1994)
Art into Film event to coincide with the opening of the Tate Gallery’s R.B. Kitaj retorospective; organised by Sarah Stephens, Adam Hodgkins and Maryannick Le Cohu; sponsored by Sight and Sound magazine, The Arts Council of England and the Tate Gallery. National Film Theatre, London, UK. See Art into Film programme with notes compiled by Liese Spencer (17 and 18 June 1994)
Mutations de l'Image: Deuxiemes Rencontres Internationales Art Cinéma / Vidéo / Ordinateur Pientures mouvantes, émulsions sculptées programme, Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki, A.S.T.A.R.T.I., Vidéotheque de Paris, France (2 to 6 March 1994)

Animation and Women National Film Theatre, London, UK (1993)
Ashton Court Festival Creative Video and Electronic Arts Marquee, Bristol Community Festival, Ashton Court, Bristol, UK. The Electronic Arts programme featured six short films by Kayla Parker: Cage of Flame, Fanny and Johnny on Acid, Looks Familiar, Night Sounding, Nuclear Family, and Unknown Woman.“...showcasing the most exciting, creative and innovative new film and video in the South West. Over the weekend the programme will provide wider exposure for a range of rarely-seen experimental works which challenge and shift our perceptions of video art” (programme notes) (7 and 8 August 1993)
Forces of Nature exhibition of artists’ film and the figure in landscape, curated by Sarah Glennie, Tate St Ives, Kernow, UK; Night Sounding also shown (7 July to 29 September 1993)
Innovation ’93: The First Manchester International Film Forum curated by Moira Sweeney, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK. Unknown Woman was screened in Arrows of Desire: ICA Biennial Programme 5. The following panel discussion A Television Affair explored the effectiveness of strategies to get experimental and innovative moving image onto television screens: with Ana De Skalon, producer, The South; Jorge Furtodo, Brazilian film-maker; Kayla Parker, film-maker based in the South West; Rod Stoneman, commissioning editor, Channel 4; chaired by Moirta Sweeney (30 March to 4 April 1993)

Arrows of Desire: The Second ICA Biennial of Independent Film and Video worldwide touring programme selected by Peter Wollen, with programme notes by Michael O’Pray. Unknown Woman was the first film shown in Programme Five: Film, which also included Chris Newby’s Relax and Jayne Parker’s The Pool (launch at ICA, London 23 November to 6 December 1992)
IMPAKT Festival voor Experimentele Kunst, Utrecht, Nertherlands. A is for Animation programme, which also included Cage of Flame (25 to 29 November 1992)
Internationales Film-Festival Mannheim, Germany (9 to 14 November 1992)
The Dazzling Image II produced by Jane Thornburn, Channel 4. Programme introduced by Spike Milligan (...er, why?). Film-makers whose films appeared in the programme were featured in the title sequence: I wore the crow mask for the shoot at a studio in Brixton. The people at the production company were lovely; at lunch Sandra Lahire (awesome) sat on my left, and Richard Heslop (trés cool in full leathers) sat on my right. Television broadcast, UK
New British Filmmakers Tate Gallery London, UK (September 1992)
San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain (16 to 24 September 1992)
Edinburgh International Film Festival Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (August 1992)
Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Germany (June 1992)
Hiroshima ’92 4th International Animation Festival: Panorama programme, Hiroshima, Japan (1992)
Rocking the Boat: International Animation Festival, Programme Two: British Animation. The programme of British premieres also included new films by Brothers Quay (Are We Still Married?), Dave Borthwick (The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb pilot), and Marie-Cecile Pattison (Prayer to Viracocha) Cardiff, Cymru, UK (10 to 15 March 1992)
11th International Women in the Director’s Chair Chicago Filmmakers, Chicago Illinois, USA (March 1992)
4. Uluslararasi Istanbul Kisa Film, programme of English film, which also included Tina Keane’s Neon Diver (1991) and Andrew Kötting’s Acumen (1991) Istanbul, Turkey (2 to 7 March 1992)

European Media Art Festival Tour Film Programme, Germany (1991 to 1992)
WRO 91 Sound Basis Visual Art Festival, Wroclaw, Poland (December 1991)
35th London Film Festival Animation at the Cutting Edge programme (by invitation); and A Twenty Five Year Celebration LFMC: The Manipulated Image programme, London Film Makers’ Co-op cinema, London, UK (8 to 24 November 1991)
7th Fringe Film and Video Festival Animated or Insane? programme, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (November 1991)
VIPER ’91 International Film und Videotage Luzern, Switzerland (22 to 26 October 1991)
European Media Art Festival Society of Predetermination programme, Osnabrück, Germany (September 1991)
Arts Council Film and Video at the Birmingham Film & TV Festival, Screening Two, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (26 September 1991)
Figueira da Foz: 20 Festival Internacional de Cinema, Portugal (5 to 15 September 1991)
Arts Council premiere at posh preview cinema in Soho. My first London screening since the ICA New Contemporaries exhibition and Air Gallery shows in the mid-1980s, when I was a Fine Art student at Newport Art School. The Arts Council presented new films from three artist film-makers: as well as my film Unknown Woman, a new film by Michael Mazière was screened; the third film was (possibly) by Vivienne Dick.
On the Make programme of shorts, animation and experimental pieces from Devon and Cornwall, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, UK (2 July 1991)
Independent Image: the event focused on “the nature of independent film/video and the direction/s it might be taking in the 90s” (programme notes). Speakers included: Rod Stoneman, commissioning editor at Channel 4; David Curtis, Arts Council of Great Britain; Frank Wintle, TSW Television South West; Judith Higginbottom, Film and TV Officer South West Arts; and Moira Sweeney, Film and Video Umbrella, Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth, UK (Premiere, work in progress: 1 June 1991)