Close Up

8 September 2023: In Focus: Mary Helena Clark 3


The Eyelid Clicks considers the unsettled space between person and object, between separation and attachment. Jennifer Montgomery’s Transitional Objects quotes psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott: “The only real thing is the gap”. Such gaps structure the programme through the various ways each artist images, constructs, and plays with the affective and psychic marks on the material world. Eat captures vom Gröller removing her dentures, at the moment when her teeth stop being her and become a thing outside herself. Squeezing Sorrow, a wry ventriloquizing gesture, imagines an ashtray as the source of a symphony. In scenes of othering and projection – the face as canvas, the gendered microwave – distinctions of body, person, and thing blur.” – Mary Helena Clark

It Was a Lover and His Lass
Stephen Sutcliffe, 2020, 1 min

It Was a Lover and His Lass, a single-channel, video collage by Stephen Sutcliffe takes its title and soundtrack from a song in Act 5, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare’s play As You like It (c.1599). A woman sings along to a recording of the song whilst sharpening a knife. Loaded with innuendo and celebrating the promise of spring, Shakespeare’s lyric is disrupted by the sinister scraping of steel. The soundtrack is accompanied by found footage (re-rendered by Sutcliffe through a digital e-reader) of a fish tank. What could initially seem to be playful courting is in fact a fight to the death performed by a pair of Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens). This work continues Sutcliffe’s interest in iconoclasm, collage, the incongruity of digital and analogue technologies and in the collision of literature and film.

Untitled Sequence of Gaps
Vika Kirchenbauer, 2020, 13 min

Composed of short vignettes in different techniques and materialities, Untitled Sequence of Gaps uses the form of an essay film to approach trauma-related memory loss via reflections on light outside the visible spectrum – on what is felt but never seen. Carefully shifting between planetary macro scales, physical phenomena and individual accounts of affective subject formation, the artist's voice considers violence and its workings, class and queerness not through representation but from within.

Game on Actress’s Face
Kwie Kulik, 1971, 3 min

One of nine sequences of a film realised by a group of students between 8th and 14th February 1971. This scene from Open Form, entitled Game on an Actress’s Face, presents a multi-layered reflection on processuality, participation, media and mediatisation. It uses the “public face” of an actress as if it was a neutral surface for a collective and collaborative artistic act. The camera shows a close-up of the actress’s face, the “players” remain outside the frame. The actress Ewa Lemańska became very popular in the early 1970s as Maryna, the fiancée of the main hero in the film series Janosik.

Transitional Objects
Jennifer Montgomery, 1999, 20 min

“Begun as a consideration of the upgrading from manual to digital film editing techniques, Transitional Objects explores the anxiety and loss inevitable in such a transition while also suggesting the consequences of other life transitions. The video takes its title from D.W. Winnicott's theory of children's use of transitional objects to negotiate the gaps between internal reality and the shared reality of people and things. Remarkably layered, Transitional Objects weaves together considerations of splicing, Winnicott, sewing, motherhood, new technology and loss of mastery.” – Carl Bogner

Squeezing Sorrow from an Ashtray
Steve Reinke, 1997, 5 min

“We’ve been working on ashtrays for a couple of months now. Basically, we put an ashtray in the chamber and subject it to a series of pulses of a specific frequency”. Part of The Hundred Videos, a project undertaken by prolific video artist Steve Reinke, including 100 video works made from 1989-1996. Discussing death, sex, the body, philosophy, and contemporary art, The Hundred Videos defines a unique style of video-essay for the end of the 20th Century.

Friedl vom Gröller, 1999, 3 min, 16mm

In Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller’s work, the moving image and still photography are always interrelated. For many of her film projects she first photographs her protagonists as a way of getting closer to them. Eat captures vom Gröller removing her dentures, at the moment when her teeth stop being her and become a thing outside herself.

Miss Jesus Fries on Grill
Dorothy Wiley, 1973, 12 min, 16mm

Miss Jesus Fries on Grill is a mysterious striking evocation of pain and the short-circuiting sensations of living in this predicament of death. It is a short film and again the colour is fine and sharp as a good paring knife. Beginning with a newspaper clipping, written in a remarkably detailed manner of a bizarre accident in which a Miss Jesus was killed when a car smashed into the cafe where she was eating. The impact threw her on the grill, heated to 500 degrees. (…) It is impossible to convey the combination of counterpointing feelings this film arouses. Like all great art, it is mysterious in its working. Dorothy Wiley has such a clear but tender eye for life. Tender, not sentimental. Miss Jesus is a simply constructed, highly poetical film.” –Mike Reynolds

Followed by a Q&A with Mary Helena Clark

Presented as part of Open City Documentary Festival – The Art of Non-Fiction