From the outset I knew I wanted to respond to this story with cine film. I use Standard 8 format rather than 16mm as it has a domestic home movie quality without grandiosity of expectation, as well as the practical fact of being affordable. Working with cine is difficult in so many ways: my standard 8 cameras are unreliable, there is only one film supplier of S8 in the UK, and he lives in London, 400 miles away. He provides very slow 10 ASA black and white film which requires a bright sunny day for anything to show, or much more expensive 50 ASA colour. I develop the films in my kitchen with chemicals that make my partner nervous, and half the film doesn’t come out or is bleached, and then the projector munches the good bits of my only print. This struggle and the attendant space for chance and accident are integral to the creative process, interfering with and subverting my didacticism; it means also, that the finished piece feels almost apart from me as the projected image flickers in the darkness. There is a tangibility to the thin line of celluloid, each perforated foot trapping a small amount of time, which as I hold it in my hands, seems somehow magical.
Cine is part of my family history, my mother was a keen user of cine when we were children and nowadays I use my grandfather’s cine camera and two elderly family projectors. I have film of my mother dating back to 1936 when she was a small child.
My response to the story of Thenew seems full of internal conflict. There is anger at the suffering she endured and anger at the injustice of slow erasure carried on since then to make her disappear from history. At the same time I find myself in awe at her courage and strength and the steadfastness of her integrity in the face of violence and hardship. I wanted the films I made to reflect this duality somehow. Given that St Thenew has been silenced by history I thought early on that my silent cine needed a voice and so I asked Sharon McBrearty to write and perform new songs for this work. The words below, written jointly, describes our hopes about the work:
Woven Narrative: An Ode to Saint Thenew
Speaking truth to power;
Navigating the landscape of conditioning;
freedom to be
This collaboration with Sharon was a new venture for me and a wonderful experience. I think her words and music and the projected images worked with one another beautifully. Below is an edited version of the performance put together for people who could not be there on the night..but it’s not the same as the real thing!