Ellen Scally was at the Cork Film Festival for Aideen Barry presentation of four video works: Levitating, Possession, Not to be Known or Named and Enshrine.
Aideen Barry makes films – but she doesn’t really call herself a filmmaker. Rejecting the traditional collaborative nature of filmmaking, Barry, an internationally acclaimed visual artist, prefers to work on her films totally alone: she is the set designer, the sole performer, and often goes to great lengths to simultaneously operate the camera (often using a remote device). According to Barry herself, an artist differs from a conventional filmmaker because they “pervert the standards again and again” in order to set themselves apart and create something different. Barry has a name for her pieces of film – she calls them “visual fictions”.
While her fictions are intense, solo undertakings, Barry’s style of public speaking is easy and open (perhaps unsurprising given her work as a lecturer in her field) and she suggests that the discussion be an “organic” one, with the audience free to jump in with comments or questions at any time. The theatre is packed. The fictions are played on a screen behind Barry, and between each short piece, she explains her process and takes questions.
The “visual fictions” all share similar themes of repetition, obsession, and of women’s place in society and the monstrous female (Barry cites her own preoccupation with the Irish constitution and its assertion in Article 41.2 that “a woman’s place is in the home”). Her work explores the expectations and pressures put on women to embody a certain image of domesticity, as well as the concept of woman as object, and her fictions show us these ideas manifesting themselves in ways that are at once absurd, disturbing and often very funny.
In “Possession”(2011), a hoover hose extends itself from Barry’s mouth and she proceeds to clean the floor with it, seemingly consuming the dirt herself. In another scene, several scissors emerge from her hair with which she mows the lawn, lying face down and moving forward in jumpy stop motion. She becomes an object, a twisted vision of domesticity.
The theme of endurance also comes up on more than one occasion. Stop-motion is a notoriously tricky, time-consuming style of filmmaking. Barry describes the process of performing 64,000 jumps in order to capture the floating movement seen in “Levitating” (2007), and other similarly grueling feats. It’s a labour of love, though, and Barry’s passion and enthusiasm for her work shines through as she discusses each piece.
Her use of slapstick humour, as well as the home-made video feel given to the pieces by her use of her own home and the type of camera used, makes these films very accessible. Funny moments get big laughs, and it’s inspiring for young artists and filmmakers to see what can be done with practically no budget to speak of. The crowd is full of such creative types, who are keen to engage with Barry on her thought-provoking work.
Visual Fictions screened on 16th November 2016 as part of the Cork Film Festival 2016 (11 – 20 November)