Rest & Digest
We held our private view on the 26th of September and spent the day as a cohort putting the exhibition together. We worked well together, and seeing how organically and calmly the exhibition came to be was incredible.
For the exhibition, I am showing:
five small sculptures,
and my sketchbooks from the past six months.
For the film, I used a bespoke program authored through the Processing software (Welcome to Processing! / Processing.org) by artist Nicola Schauerman of Genetic Moo. Until now, I had only used the program to code and mix Polaroid photographs that had been digitised and so became moving images.
It has been interesting to think about using the programme differently because I wanted the film to incorporate my work and also illustrate the joint collaborative practice and process from the last six months.
In the film, I have included photographs from our wellness walks, drawings from my various sketchbooks and photographs of sculptures made during our supervision (art therapy) sessions. We had an hour of practice-based art therapy each month in which we discussed how we felt and would commence from an agreed starting point to create a piece of work. I found the process fascinating. I have always been interested in art therapy and feel that the art and film I make often become therapeutic.
What I liked about making the small sculptures, mostly made from egg boxes, was that I made them with no intentions but worked intuitively from the materials available and the theme agreed at the beginning of the session. Often, it was only at the end of the session, when the work was discussed, that I realised how much the work represented me. I felt like I was hidden in the work, which I liked, and photographing the sculptures and taking them into the coding software has allowed me to investigate my feelings about the work further.
The coding works by functioning between two sets of identical photographs, bringing the pixels of the digitised images forward and backwards, and rotating the pixels either left or right so that the image becomes 3D. At points, the program can take over as the images rotate, allowing me to focus on mixing the two images and letting them dissolve and blend. Often, the images hold a particular emotion for me and mixing them can bring about new meanings, which I like. It is astonishing how much the work I have done resonates.
For the film length, I decided on six minutes, the length of a piece of voice work we made with the genuinely delightful Magic Acorns on one of our professional development days.
The exhibition runs until the 8th of October at PrimeYarc - opening hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday - 12:00-16:00.
Identical - Twin Documentary - Black Cube vs White Cube
Not long ago I had a helpful meeting with an art consultant and we talked about being neurodivergent and dyslexic. We spent an hour discussing my various projects, including my twin documentary and how I find it challenging to work linearly. A couple of years ago, when I was (still) editing the twin documentary, I discussed with my then-film mentor, Clare Oakley, if the work could be a gallery piece, which at the time interested me, but I didn’t pursue this idea.
However, returning to my art practice has liberated my film practice. I love filmmaking and being on set, but I’ve also felt restrained by the pre-production planning element, post-production, and editing process. Don’t get me wrong, I love the art and skill involved in editing. However, I often don't like the manipulation of the footage that can take place in the hands of the wrong editor. When I have looked at editing any of my moving image work, as opposed to my narrative or documentary work, I’ve often felt my director's head is arguing with my artist's head - even though they are the same!
When editing a narrative drama or documentary, or sitting next to the editor, I am very clear on the conventions that allow the story to make sense in time and space. However, with fine art or moving image work, there doesn’t seem to be any conventions, which feels pretty freeing. I like the idea of playing with film form within a gallery setting, seeing the footage massive within a white cube space and being able to make editorial decisions room by room of the gallery. Instead of editing the film linearly - in the edit.
I often feel like I’m waiting for external help, such as a producer or curator to see my work. I don’t always have the skills to organise shoots, which I used to do frequently when I was younger, even working as a production manager on various budgeted shorts. But I want to bring the twin documentary to a conclusion. I know how long some of the twins involved in the project have been waiting to see a finished film. However, producing a feature documentary can be complicated and delicate, and my feelings about being a twin have understandably fed into this.
I was reminded recently of a film I saw a couple of years ago called Black Bear (2020), which plays with the idea of a movie within a movie. So it is a film about filmmaking, a genre I have always loved, especially when done as a dark comedy.
Another film that plays with the drama documentary format is The Reunion (2015) by Artist Filmmaker Anna Odell. Bullied at school, twenty years later, she finds out she was not invited to the reunion party and makes a film about it. She then shows it to the people who bullied her and therefore there is a tension between the drama and documentary elements, which I love.
These films reminded me of some of my previous ideas for Identical - that I would enter the film myself and have an actor play me as a character. As we went on to discuss my thinking around the twin documentary, it was helpful to reflect and it helped me make some decisions. I intended to screen or test the documentary this autumn, but this hasn’t happened due to being overwhelmed and probably taking on too much and having an unwell father.
The feedback I have received about Identical is that a feature-length film of talking heads would be too much. But when I look at the conventions around putting together documentaries, they don’t often excite or inspire me. I like films that play with form or convention. It’s time to give the work an external life.
The other day, I was sitting with my father who has been in hospital for two months. He turned to me and said, "no one ever sees your work, Jean."
I was surprised by this, but he was (of course) correct.
Dad, I will do better.
I will do a test screening of the twin documentary, maybe a screening for twins and singletons. This film has become an anthropological study about relationships which will resonate with twins and singletons alike.
Dyslexia & Storytelling
I feel like a broken record so often talking about my dyslexia. But I do this because it’s significantly impacted my ability to progress my career, and a lot of this comes from feeling like I’m not very clever. But a lot of this has to do with the systems in place not being set up for those who are neurodiverse.
I have worked in social care for the past ten years alongside my art, film and community practice. I have met so many dyslexic people, and they often comment that they are not very clever. This is so sad and entirely not true. This is a big part of why I am designing this new project through Campbell Cloud Films CIC with my fabulous new advisory board members around storytelling and neurodiversity.
We plan to apply for funding to run workshops exploring creative storytelling, links with oral history, and modern audio storytelling. We will look at imaginative play and improvisation as an aid to storytelling and scriptwriting. I am interested in collaborative writing or writers’ rooms and ways to explore moving physical action and play onto the page.
I have worked with actors and improvisation, often the Meisner technique, working with repetition exercises and independent activity as a starting point for studying relationships and how this action can move onto the page to be a script. I worked this way with Gone Far Away and Diamond Girls (contains adult themes), and felt the films had a certain spontaneity and honesty.
Gone Far Away
A big part of doing this project is to reach out to other dyslexic writers/directors who have established careers and learn about their coping strategies and ways of working. Then, we invite a younger cohort of creatives so that we can learn from each other and devise a system for using our neurodiversity in a positive way to write.
Funders and broadcasters within the film and TV need a better understanding of neurodiversity. They are letting down many creatives who must fit their neurotypical systems to gain funding or produce work. I therefore want everyone on the cohort, experienced or just starting to learn from each other, to share skills and, in this way, evidence a system that works to write scripts if you find it hard to sit in front of a computer and just write. With me, I will capture workshopped scenes on video and write from them; this allows me time to process what is happening physically rather than having to hold it all in my head and put it down on paper. I cannot do that as my working memory isn’t good and I am sure I am not alone in this.
Through the workshops and making a film document, I hope we can make a call to action and start a conversation to make a change. It’s hard enough to make films without working with systems that do not work with your brain.
If you are interested in becoming involved in this project, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.