. Conversations at the Edge (CATE)

The Dance Camera: Locked & Loaded

Posted by | Conversations at the Edge | Posted on | February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009, 6pm | Curator Danièle Wilmouth in person!

Read the Chicago Reader capsule by Andrea Gronvall here.

Miranda Pennell, Tattoo (2001). Image courtesy of the artist.
Miranda Pennell, Tattoo (2001). Image courtesy of the artist.

In an effort to dispel the notion that the dance film is largely a decorative and apolitical genre, The Dance Camera: Locked & Loaded is an international collection of films and videos that confront the camera’s power to manipulate identity, create celebrity, and automate the viewer’s gaze. Curated by filmmaker and SAIC faculty member Danièle Wilmouth, these charged works serve as compelling activist documents against a range of global injustices, including sexism, xenophobia, and colonialism. Works include: Je Suis Une Bombe (Elodie Pong, Switzerland, 2006), You Made Me Love You (Miranda Pennell & John Smith, UK, 2005), Dansons (Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Algeria/France, 2003), Element (Amy Greenfield, USA, 1973), Tattoo (Miranda Pennell, UK, 2001), Black Spring (Heddy Maalem, Algeria/France/Nigeria, 2002), Familie Tezcan (Nevin Aladag, Turkey/Germany, 2001), Elegy (Douglas Wright & Chris Graves, New Zealand, 1993). Special thanks to Kali Heitholt, who assisted with this program. 1973–2006, multiple artists, multiple countries, multiple formats, ca 80 min.


You Made Me Love You

Miranda Pennell & John Smith UK, 2005, 3.5 min

Twenty-one dancers are held by your gaze. Losing contact can be traumatic.

“…On the one hand, this is like looking at a group of aliens who have never seen anything like the camera (or you) before. The concentration of the faces on what is before them takes away their self-consciousness, and like a series of Thomas Ruff portraits, they have an unsettling air of insouciance. But ultimately, the thought one is drawn to, and the allegory the title suggests, concern the contemporary obsession with becoming visible through some sort of brush with celebrity, however brief, demeaning or meaningless that might be.”  — Dr. Stephen Riley

Je Suis Une Bombe

Elodie Pong, Switzerland, 2006, 6:12 min.

A figure in a panda bear costume performs an erotic pole dance. On removing the panda’s head, a woman is revealed, and she addresses the camera. She delivers her own praises of a complex image of woman, simultaneously strong and vulnerable—a potential powder keg. Performer: Carine Charaire. Music: Michael Hilton


Dir: Hilary Harris, Choreography/Performer: Amy Greenfield, USA, 1973, 12 min

Element raises issues of the active image of a woman’s body on film. Greenfield’s body is covered, like a moving sculpture, entirely with black, wet, clay-like mud in an environment of this element. She falls into and rises out of this glistening substance, over and over, until she is seen against the sky and falls one last time, ending with her black body sliding along the mud glittering in the jewel-like sun. The whole film is a human cycle, which is both birthlike and deathlike, and summons up through visceral imagery a very primal concept of female sensuality.” — Canyon Cinema


Dir: Chris Graves, Choreography/Performer: Douglas Wright, New Zealand, 1993, 10 min

Douglas Wright is an openly gay dancer and choreographer from New Zealand. He danced with Limbs Dance Company of New Zealand (1980-1983), the Paul Taylor Company of New York (1983-87) and DV8 Physical Theatre of London (1988) before forming the Douglas Wright Dance Company in Auckland in 1989. In 2004, his first book Ghost Dance was released, part love story, part memoir, a deeply felt meditation on the art of performance. The 2006 season of his stage work Black Milk was accompanied by the publication of his second book Terra Incognito. In October 2007 a poetry collection, Laughing Mirror was published, at which time Wright announced his retirement from dance.

“The self-confident innovator, the prime mover with an incredible athletic ability, Douglas Wright, in the late 1980s and early 90s established himself as possibly the best—the most profound—choreographer New Zealand has ever produced. Certainly, he is the most visceral, the most gutsy, creating dance works that combined a kind of unstoppable callisthenic zest with philosophical ideas done out as images: dance as an articulation of the human condition.” — David Eggleton

“Anger is not just mine, anger is like petrol if somebody gets angry someone nearby will catch fire. It’s about exploring the way energy can be transformed through art. I’m lucky, I’ve been given more than my share of anger, so I’ve got a lot of it to transform.” — Douglas Wright


Miranda Pennell, UK, 2001, 9 min

Trees, insects and birds look-on as the countryside is invaded by a lost regiment of soldiers engaged in a repetitive display. The senseless beauty of a military drill dwarfed by the landscape, is by turns absurd and disturbing. The choreography of military drill here is entirely drawn from the tradition of the Light Division of the British Army. Soldiers and band of the Light Division filmed on Salisbury Plane. Music for military-band scored for the film by Graeme Miller.

Dansons (Let Us Dance)

Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Algeria/France, 2003, 5:35 min

The brilliantly concise Dansons shows in a single take the midriff of a woman belly-dancing to La Marseillaise. It is a startlingly clear image of the clash of colonialism with indigenous culture. The military relentlessness of the anthem is in deep contrast to the sensuousness of the body wrapped in the colours of the French tricolour.

Familie Tezcan (The Tezcan Family)

Nevin Aladag, Turkey/Germany, 2001, 6:40 min

A video portrait of a German family with Turkish heritage, practicing breakdance and singing in four different languages.

“Aladag, born in 1972 in Van in eastern Turkey and now living in Berlin, often focuses on foreignness and self-determination as they are experienced by young people of Turkish origin in Germany today. Demarcation and amalgamation, the search for cultural roots and social connection: Aladag is trying to create individual meaning within the larger context of the production of identity.”  — Harald Fricke, Artforum

Black Spring

Dir: Benoit Dervaux, Choreographer: Heddy Maalem, Algeria/France/Nigeria, 2002, 26 min

“Born in Algiers to a French mother and Algerian father, now living in Toulouse and creating tribal-infused contemporary choreography for dancers from Francophone African countries, Heddy Maalem creates stark investigations of race and identity. — Sharon Hoyer


Danièle Wilmouth creates hybrids of performance art, dance, installation and cinema, which exploit the shifting hierarchies between live and screen space. Her works—Curtain of Eyes (1997), Tracing a Vein (2001), Round (2002), Hula Lou (2007), and A Heretic’s Primer on Love and Exertion (2007), have screened in festivals, museums, galleries, and on television worldwide. In 1990 she began a six-year residency in the Kansai region of Japan, where she cofounded “Hairless Films,” an independent filmmaking collective. While in Japan, she also studied the Japanese contemporary dance form Butoh under Katsura Kan, and performed with his troupe “The Saltimbanques.” She is currently on faculty in the film and video departments of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College. More info at Hairless Films.