Practice

30 YEARS OF MY PRACTICE

For 30 years I’ve explored methods to express and represent my own body and physicality, whilst avoiding direct self-portraiture. Prior to 2010 I approached this through animated film, where the figure was imagined, often distorted and located in unstable environs. Production of these 16mm animations was dependent on analogue film equipment and laboratories, and so when this industry declined I embarked on phase 2 (2010-20): animation made without cameras by marking directly onto the filmstrip, forcing a focus on movement and rhythm, with the body now inscribed as gesture, pressure and trace. This set of works I termed: Physical Films. The most recent work, Not (a) part (2019), photo-grams objects that exist in the world, using the method of contact printing to emphasise fragility of materials, and foregrounding dimensions of tactility as a means to consider the body in relation to a broader ecology of vulnerability. The next phase of my practice will progress the photogram method of imagery made through physical contact toward camera/lens-based techniques of proximity, where use of close-up maintains a quality of the physical and gestural in filmmaking.
                                SELECT FILMOGRAPHY
All on 16mm/most on digital/avaialble to hire from Lux and/or Lightcone 

The Pecking Order (1989)

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-the-pecking-order-1989-online

‘ An innovative animation touching on a series of interlinked concerns around issues of intensive farming, animal slaughter, famine, the Food Mountains of the West and devastation of the rain forests. The reality of violence is represented by live action black and white shots of two knives being sharpened for the slaughter. Different sound effects relate to the collage of diverse animated images chaotically linked together to signify global distress ‘ BFI Online

My Moon, Her World (1995)

An exploration of intimacy and the material environment of the home, using paint, drawing and stop- motion. Bodies in contact, heavy and earthbound, distort, become more animated then spin and fly off into the cosmos.

. Rash (1997)

Skin and flesh erupt as memories penetrate and distort the surface and the film emulsion is also ripped open.

. Fixation (2001)

Over exposure to light generates a set of stained contact printed compositions.

Stacking (2006)

liquid animation describes an unstable environment

More about these works in EM Arts:

https://em-arts.org/en/film-makers/vicky-smith

‘Physical Films’

are performed or performative films. They depart from the manual method of marking directly on film, employing instead actions that are repetitive and semi-automatic, such as walking and licking . The 16mm filmstrip is narrow and so the event of marking it is composed of restricted gestures. This effects a reversal, in that the body making contact with film becomes mechanized, while film is corporealised, generating imagery that is neither purely organic nor mechanical. The traces of semi -irregular impressions that remain on the film index the difficulty of attempting to perform along this long thin surface. The patterned, repetitive yet uneven imagery suggest the mixed non- camera marking sources of body and bike.

‘ Having watched you make work live such as, Agitations, for Analogue Ensembles’[i] programme for Whitstable Biennale, performed Bicycle Tyre Track and project Noisy Licking, Dribbling & Spitting I’ve observed your whole body is invested in each step of your process, from making, performing and showing.  You may preserve the language of cinema; the frame as unit of cinema, universal projection speeds, the close up and notions of genre as noted in your use of ‘the weepie’ but that’s where the alliance ends.  Instead we’re treated to loud, sensitive, aesthetic explosions of raw physical manifestations of emotion, feeling and action but without any of the drama.’ Cathy Rogers


[i] Cathy programmes Analogue Ensemble, artists experimental film nights based in Ramsgate. analogueensemble.co.uk.

Bicycle Tyre Track (2012)

This physical performance with film reassigns the bicycle into a camera. The idea developed in relation to methods deployed by former tutors of mine who made films and performances from ‘womens’ tools of the sewing machine and the pram to exploit the features these objects shared with the cinema apparatus. This piece continues my research into how to register the image on film without using a camera, and involves aim, balance and pressure. It draws attention to the fallible human body as it wavers from mechanic efficiency and regulation.

. Noisy Licking, Dribbling & Spitting (2104)

Vicky Smith creates works which she describes as ‘Full Body Film’.
‘ Smith uses bodily fluids such as spit and tears as the material basis for the film’s imagery, interspersed with animated scratches on the surface of the celluloid. Smith invites an almost clinical engagement with these internal fluids. Enlarged on the screen, they resemble scientific microscopic images that bring us into an uncanny physical proximity with the artist’s body. The choice of material support – clear leader rather than negative stock – bestows on the film an ethereal quality that elicits both fascination and discomfort.’ Kim Knowles

. 33 Frames a Foot (2013)

In this piece I stamp my painted foot on the filmstrip, which, at 33 frames, falls short of the universal measure of 40 frames. The work is very much about how to disrupt the conventions of cinema by breaking the pre-existing measurements and divisions of film, but further I conceive it as a feminist gesture in the way that Carolee Schneemann does in her referring to her daubing of her own cum on film material as ‘feminising film’.

. Primal (2016)

Primal is an abstract animation made directly onto the filmstrip. Through contact actions of rubbing and scraping, marks are made onto unprocessed fogged negative. Similarly the sounds are made through tactile processes of rubbing materials against the mic. The film is a meditation upon light, energy, matter and the animating principle.

. Agitations (2017)

The idea here was that the filmstrip has 2 surfaces that can be worn away through friction; one bore marks created by my own body as I performed a series of actions upon it, while the other surface became impressed with inscriptions of the ground.   I had in mind Max Ernst’s frottage pieces and was inspired by Surrealist aspects of chance.   Above all, I’m interested in how forms of tactility communicate themes of fragility. Camera-less practice necessitates holding film material and this handling suggests avenues for practice that for the last 10 years I’ve been exploring.

. Small Things Moving in Unison (2018)

. Not (a)part (2019)

Not (a) part was conceived in relation to both the rapid decline of flying insects and the high recurrence of animation, handmade or contact film that works with the subject and/or material of flying insects. Numerous dead bees found on walks were positioned directly onto negative film and contact printed. Occupying approximately 24 frames they run at a rate of 1 bee per second. The length of the film is determined by how many specimens are found over a specified period of time.

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