New review: Body of Work

Gemma Sharpe reviews a retrospective of feminist video art

As part of this year’s London Short Film Festival, queer feminist film club Club Des Femmes put on a programme called ‘Body of Work’ at the ICA. The programme collected six films made by female artists that exhibit and/or examine the naked female body.

This included a long extract from Martha Rosler’s most pointedly feminist-political film Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained, VALIE EXPORT’s Tap and Touch Cinema, Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance and Marina Abramovic’s Imponderabilia, along with two works by lesser-known video artist Jayne Parker.

‘Body of Work’ opened with Parker’s Almost Out (1984), a film that alternates between scenes of the artist naked before a camera, involved in a scripted dialogue with the camera-operator, and of her mother – also naked – answering and deflecting questions from her daughter, who at these points takes the role of camera-operator herself. Its provocative title – Almost Out – is a reference to unfinished birth and homosexuality, and it is an appropriate title for a film that studies the libidinous entanglements that run through this close mother-daughter relationship. The film is highly ambivalent though, for in directly steering a number of psychoanalytical theories through a very real relationship – that between Parker and her mother – it regularly sways between sincerity and forgery. Parker seems to be impersonating and also evidencing many token principles of psychoanalysis within her dialogues, such that the viewer never quite knows what to believe.

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