On Saturday 30th March my work ‘Selected Scenes Woven From Star Wars IV A New Hope and V The Empire Strikes Back’ will be shown at an event at The Royal Standard in Liverpool. I meet regularly with a group of like-minded artists who work with the moving image in various formats at Rogue Studios in Manchester. The group meets under the name of Film-Material-Soup. The event is a spin off of the exhibition, Misdirect Movies which runs until Sunday 31st March, and is curated by Andrew Bracey and John Rimmer. The show has some great work from the curators (who are also practicing artists), plus Rosa Barba’s printed cinema books, Kathy Lomax who paints film diaries, Elizabeth McAlpine who has used the film ‘Don’t Look Now’ taking all the blinks of an eye out of it, John Reed’s looped projection and Dave Griffiths, a Film-Souper founding member who has made a work using cue-dots and microfiche. The event on Saturday 30th March will feature work from Ben Gwilliam, Clara Kasian, Jenny Baines, Dave Griffiths and there will be a handpainted 16mm film workshop as part of the Unravel project by Chris Paul Daniels.
Here’s photographs showing my installation made from woven super 8mm film, ‘Selected Scenes Woven From Star Wars IV A New Hope and Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back’, plus
- a cycle powered zoetrope by Jodie Mack
- a super 8mm looped film installation by Miro Hoffmann
- a super 8mm four projector performance by Tara Nelson
AND a 16mm 9 projector performance by Kristin Reeves
Looking back I’m so glad that I was invited to show my work and meet all the other brilliant inspiring artists and filmmakers. It was amazing!
Throwing a few crumbs to lure people to the exhibition at Kraak Gallery by the One Five Eight collective.
Here are three test strips giving a sample of the work made by myself and Helen Peart. The exhibition opens from 2pm on Saturday for one day only. All prints are for sale and are 100% delicious for the eyeballs.
After the exhibition, there’s also DJs making a racket, drinks and dancing etcetera in Kraak Space from 10pm til late.
Forget ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, this darkroom in my friend’s attic bedroom is a doorway to many pleasant hours lost making sparkling magical treasures. I’ve been working on a collaborative project with my friend and photographer Helen Peart. She has a dark room in a cupboard in her bedroom, just big enough for two keen beans to squeeze themselves into.
We’re showing the work at Kraak Gallery on 9th February as part of a group exhibition with the One Five Eight collective. I felt compelled to document the magical little space, the site of much fun and wonder over the last few weekends. We’ve been exploring the materiality of the photographic image using hands on experiments, which include… burning negatives, handwoven paper negatives, composite negatives and sewing into photographs. The event will celebrate the launch of the new One Five Eight website. It’s free from 2pm, with music from One Five Eight DJs and bands from 10pm for £4 entry.
I’ve been practicing in my studio in preparation for exhibiting, ‘From Fibre to Frock’, a 16mm black and white film made using a camera-less process that merges digital and analogue techniques. The film is part of my PhD practice as research investigating the shared language of textiles and film. I found an empty film can with the title ‘From Fibre to Frock’ on it at the North West Film Archive last year, after already beginning work exploring the links between tailoring and film editing. I have since been working on different edits.
I’ve been working in Photoshop, then taking digital negatives into the dark room. I first learnt this process in May 2012 at an Expanded Cinema and Optical Sound workshop at n.o.w.here artist film lab, led by Guy Sherwin and Lyn Loo. I’ve spent time editing at the North West Film Archive, but this test was actually made in my workspace at Rogue Studios, Manchester. After splicing lots of small pieces together, I’ve rigged up the one minute loop using empty cotton spools hanging from the ceiling. The work will be shown at Critical Costume, a symposium at Edge Hill University on 17th and 18th January.
About the work…’From Fibre to Frock’ delves into a seamstress’ sewing box transforming the event of costume making into a moving image. A de-constructed dress performs as fabrics flicker and fall, showing tactile material and moments of creation. Made using experimental camera-less techniques, the one minute film loop plays with pattern, text and image. ‘From Fabric to Frock’ investigates the idea of tailoring as film editing, and film as fabric and thread, alluding to early experimental film and the role of pre-1930s women editors, or ‘cutters’, who worked behind the scenes in early cinematic production. The looped film and 16mm projector have a sculptural presence drawing further attention to the materiality of filmmaking and garment construction.
I’m making a new piece of work for http://mononoawarefilm.com/ woven from selected scenes from the epic multi-part film by George Lucas, Star Wars. I have two films on super 8mm colour (with sound), A New Hope, released 1977, and The Empire Strikes Back, released 1980. Both condense a story lasting two hours into around eighteen minutes. I digitised the projection and sound last week so there may be digital work to come. But for now it’s all about the digits, my hands and celluloid strands, the edit as textile object. There are a number of ideas I have been thinking about in relation to this work.
Changing Technology -
I’ve watched both films streamed over the internet, which just shows how far technology has come. The super 8mm films were sold in the late 1970s pre-VHS, so that people could enjoy a taste of cinema in their own homes. I tried to get hold of the third film, Return of the Jedi, on super 8mm but apparently it is very rare, due to the fact that by 1983, technology had changed and videos became more commonly available.
In a moment of panic, I sought the advice of my supervisor, Jacqui Butler. We discussed my fears of being arrested and given a light saber beating by George Lucas himself. Jacqui pointed out that I am acknowledging the source material in full and am not claiming that the films are my own creation. I’m also not showing the film as it is meant to be shown, projecting it and charging money for people to come and watch it. The films I’m weaving are ‘selected scenes’; they’ve been translated, shortened and edited down. I’m applying my own thought and material process to a pre-existing material and creating something new. Therefore, I can breathe a sigh of relief and weave without worry.
In fact, George Lucas borrowed the story of Star Wars from mythology after reading a book written by Joseph Campbell, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’. In the book, Campbell examines some of the universal themes of myths and fairy tales from a variety of ages and cultures. So is this a truly original artwork anyway? And the question follows, can there ever be an ‘original’ artwork?
I recently read an essay by Jane McKeating in the book, Hand Stitch Perspectives, which has just been published. She discusses the way that “embroidery, unlike other crafts, often responds to something that already exists.” Although I am weaving, I actually completed a degree in Embroidery. Am I creating some sort of textile hybrid? I often feel when I am weaving, it is like a sewing action, as the thread moves over under, it’s like piercing fabric, the needle moves through and resurfaces again.
Narrative Structure –
I’ve been reading Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, by Mary Henderson. In the book, George Lucas explains his process of writing in an interview at Skywalker Ranch, California in 1996. He talks about multiple layers of narrative, “I’m very much of the painting school of filmmaking, which is you put a layer on, and you put another layer on, and you put another layer on. You look at it, see how it is, redo it. It doesn’t evolve linearly.” This comment is interesting in relation to what I am about to do, cut and layer narrative lines.
I’m interested to see what will happen by laying two stories on top of one another. How similarly structured are they? I’m layering them to see what might be revealed… I’m planning on taking the weave in the darkroom and making photographic prints to enlarge the action and examine the way the stories come together through the weave. I’m interested in Lucas’ unusual approach to narrative. He presented the first film, explaining it was actually the first of the middle trilogy. The story is set in the future and he further confuses our perception of time in relation to the story by beginning, not at the beginning(!), but in the middle.
I agree fully with Sadie Plant’s idea that, ‘Textiles themselves are very literally the software linings of all technology.” Textiles and technology is an area I’m planning on writing in depth about in future.
I’m using a satin weave structure for weaving Star Wars. According to Anni Albers, in her book ‘On Weaving’, there are three fundamental weave patterns, plain, twill and satin. Satin weave is believed to have been invented by the Chinese. Albers cites Luther Hooper, as noting this in his 1920 book, ‘Hand Loom Weaving’. However, what I find most fascinating is how she describes the nature of the finished fabric: “The wide separation between the points of interlacing in the satin weave makes for a very pliable, soft fabric, which, in addition, can be highly glossy when executed in a lustrous material.” According to Albers, plain weave is considered “the most serviceable construction”, whilst satin weave is “luxurious”. She tells us of “the soft drape, the gloss that usually goes with the weave” and how this predisposes it “for an extravagant existence. It is a weave made for splendor.”
Star Wars is a big budget film full of extravagance and special effects. The technology is cutting edge for its era. A New Hope, released in 1977, helped to mark the end of New Hollywood and the beginning of the Blockbuster Age.  It seems only right to use satin weave.
It’s a tense moment. My fingers are flexed. My stomach’s filled with apprehension. Ready, steady, go!
 Joseph Campbell, 2008. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell). Third Edition. New World Library.
 Jane McKeating, 2012, ‘Ground in Cloth and Thread’, a chapter in Hand Stitch Perspectives, London, Bloomsbury. p.30
 Mary Henderson, 1997, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth published as a companion to the same titled exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C, by Bantam Books, New York
 Sadie Plant, 1997, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture, New York, Doubleday
 Luther Hooper, 1920, Hand Loom Weaving, New York, Pitman Corp
 Anni Albers, 1965, On Weaving, Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, pp.42-43
 Blockbuster Age Of Hollywood – Television Tropes & Idioms. 2012.[ONLINE] Available at:http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlockbusterAgeOfHollywood. [Accessed 22 November 2012].
“I believe that, in every man, there is an area which speaks and hears in the poetic idiom…something in him which can still sing in the desert when the throat is almost too dry for speaking.”
A beautiful quote from Maya Deren, an American experimental filmmaker, from p.123 Film As Film: Formal Experiment in Film 1910-1975, The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1979. Hear more of her view on feminine creativity and working with film on this youtube clip. She has an amazing voice.