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Jun 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Holy Fluids and Absent Wounds

Screening to be followed by a discussion with Ruth Somalo, Vicky Smith, and Vanessa Renwick

Bodily fluids, like emotions, flow, seep, infiltrate. And if they belong to the female body they are systematically controlled, judged, stigmatized. Even today, the way that our fluids are understood is not a universal scientific concept, but emerged from our own history and cultural concepts. Re addressing one’s own body perceptions and reclaiming our secretions help us confront the notion of the body as a passive object that could be abused, transformed and subjugated.

How do misconceptions on the female body shape the cultural position of women? UnionDocs is excited to present Holy Fluids and Absent Wounds, a program by filmmaker & curator Ruth Somalo that presents the work of seven filmmakers that directly or indirectly deal with the female body, its secretions, its functions and its representation.


Sobbing, spitting, scratching

Vicky Smith, 16mm, 4 min., 2017, UK

Tears, signifiers of emotional excess – the use of the term ‘sobbing’ rather than ‘crying’ in the title relates specifically to an uncontrollable emotional outpouring – are to be wiped away (‘dry your eyes’), whilst spittle carries with it more negative connotations of loss of bodily control, even madness (‘frothing at the mouth’).[19] The clear leader as a signifier of nothingness and as a low-status waste product connects with the excess of these bodily secretions and their colorless, formless nature, creating an intricate dialogue between material and bodily economies. – Kim Knowles

Absent Wound

Maryam Tafakory, Video, 10 min., 2017, Iran/ UK

One space, two separate worlds: a room in which several men perform Persian warrior training rituals; a room where a young girl carries out purification practices. Through poetic and compelling language, the Iranian artist Maryam Tafakory does an exercise in resistance toward the idea of a woman’s body as an object of repression.

Noisy Licking, Dribbling and Spitting

Vicky Smith, 16mm, 4 min., 2014

Made with the mouth alone, ‘Noisy Licking Dribbling + Spitting’ is a direct animation that takes the idea of licking as a primary and semi-automatic action. Using the stained tongue as a tool and stamping pad, the first impression is made 40 frames (1 foot) into the film and then reduced by one frame with each new stamp, accelerating until the marks overlap. Mechanistic control is then rejected in favour of spitting and dribbling as random action, painterly like splats and dense swirling tangles roll along the filmstrip and spill into the audio track, generating noisy rasps and skidding sounds.

Neither Spring Nor Estuary / Não Há Foz Não Há Nascente

Valentina Homem, Video, 18 min., 2017, Brasil, Virgin British Islands

The fear of death is the driving force behind the camera from beginning. The return to the past, and the reorganization of the memories-images stored in miniDV tapes, reveals an impossible gesture of transmutation. Is it possible to overcome the fear? To dress the image, like dressing the skin of the other that I have never been and never will be.


Vicky Smith, Video, 7 min., 1983, USA

‘Rash takes a furtive look at female sexual fetishism through a voyage in and around the body. A surface manifestation of a hidden anxiety: erupting skin opens and seals. A visual approximation of the psychic processes at work in fetishism – simultaneous disavowal and recognition. Information is offered and withdrawn discontinuously through a number of destructive processes – which extend to removing the photographic emulsion itself. These endless cycles of creation and cancellation demonstrate that representations can be destroyed but compulsions remain.’ – V.S.

A Monthly Ritual

Ruth Somalo, Video, 2:16 min, 2018, USA

In this ritual of cinematic performance a variety of brooms sweep archetypal and symbolic objects under various carpets. The kinetic images latch on an audio collage that includes words from Mitt Romney and Bodyform’s CEO Caroline Williams; a K&B Drug Store Feminine Hygiene Products Sale Commercial from 1994 and distorted feminine health educational videos. It was devised to exorcise taboos about the female body, menstruation, the economy of feminine health, political rhetoric and pain.
Patriarchal historical shame can lead you to feel as though your whole self is flawed, bad, or subject to exclusion, so I propose a simple ritual to relocate it somewhere else while engaging in a conversation with the History of Bodily Fluids in Feminist Art.

Toxic Shock

Vanessa Renwick, 16mm, 3 min., 1983, USA

A visceral personal response to surviving a near-fatal case of Toxic Shock Syndrome. Toxic Shock combines intimate taboos of needles, blood, and tampons with tried and true hands-on self-defense, set to a spare, penetrating and unknown score provided by a cassette tape gifted by a forgotten friend. A call to arms; what will you do in defense of your body? “Penetration up the wazoo, blood, fire, gas, needles, tampons, liquid power and cocktails of the burning sort. My experimental response to sweating out near death with Toxic Shock Syndrome.”

Infinite Galatea

Julia Maura, Mariangela Pluchino, Ambra Reijnen, Maria Chatzi, Fátima Flores Rojas,
Vídeo, 17 min, 2017, Spain (french with english subtitles)

A visual essay on the female body as a socially constructed discourse, Infinite Galatea showcases the model for man’s experiments in privilege and power through time. From Greek mythology to Victorian gynecology to current AI technology, this is how gender, sexuality and desire have been ideologically shaped to fit a male fantasy

65 min

Founder and janitor of the Oregon Department of Kick Ass

Vanessa Renwick is an artist by nature, not by stress of research. She puts scholars to rout by embracing nature’s teaching problems that have fretted trained minds. Working in experimental and poetic documentary forms, her iconoclastic work embodies her interest in landscape and transformation, and relationships between bodies and landscapes, and all sorts of borders.

She has been a singular voice in the experimental cinema for over 20 years. Eschewing an allegiance to any one medium or form, Renwick builds authentic moving image works revealing an insatiable curiosity and unflinching engagement with the world around her. Often focusing her lens on themes of westward expansion and the locales of her adopted home, the Pacific Northwest, Renwick uses avant-garde formal elements to explore radical politics and environmental issues. An artist who often self-distributes, her screening history reads as a map of independent cinema worldwide. She has screened work in hundreds of venues internationally, institutional and not, including The Museum of Modern Art, Light Industry, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Art Basel, Oberhausen, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Centre Pompidou, Bread and Puppet Theater and True/False Film Festival, among many others.

Vanessa Olivia Renwick is an artist of Scottish and German descent, born on the traditional and unceded territory of the Illiniwek in what is now known as Chicago, Illinois. She lives and works as an uninvited guest on the traditional territory of the Chinookan peoples, now known as Portland, Oregon.

Vicky Smith has been practicing experimental animation for 25 years. Recent exhibitions include: Primal (16mm, 10 ‘ 2016) Crossroads Film Festival, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art (2017); Athens Ohio Film Festival (2017); Contact Film Festival (2016); Edinburgh Film Festival (2016); Visions in the Nunnery (2016). Noisy Licking, Dribbling and Spitting (16mm 4′ 2014) Flatpack Festival, Birmingham (2016); Parts & Labour, Animate Touring (2015); London Short Film Festival (2015); Cornerhouse Artist Film DVD; ICA, London (2015); ‘Explorative Sensoriums in Film and Video’, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (2014). Bicycle Tyre Track (16mm/performance) in ‘Assembly’ at Tate Britain (2014) and Exploding Cinema (2013). Rash (16mm 7′ 1997) Monstra Animation, Lisbon (2017) ; Tate Modern: From Reel to Real (2016). Stacking (16mm, 7′ 2006) at Edge of Frame, London (2016) and Alchemy Film Festival (April, 2015). Recent talks include Edges: an Animation Seminar (2016 Whitechapel Gallery) http://tinyurl.com/yda5najf.

Publications include: The Animator’s Body in Animation: an Interdisciplinary Journal (2015) http://tinyurl.com/ybqmrhg8 and Full Body Film in Sequence (2013). In collaboration with Nicky Hamlyn, Vicky is editing a book Experimental & Expanded Animation: Current Perspectives, to be published early 2018 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Ruth Somalo is a Spanish filmmaker, curator and researcher based in New York. Ruth has been working in non fiction for the past 15 years, her work has been shown in theaters, festivals and museums internationally, including the Verdi Cinema Theatre and Contemporary Art Center Matadero de Madrid, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Cinema du Réel (Paris), ADFF (NY), L’Alternativa (Barcelona), Documentamadrid, MOMA PS1 (Expo1) and at the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam (Spanish Cinema Without Fear). Her new work includes the themes of gendered illness, the economy of death, and the history of tears.

She works as Associate Festival Director and Programmer of the Human Rights Film Festival IIFF DOCS; as Programmer at DocumentaMadrid and DOC NYC and curated 2017’s Flaherty NYC Winter/Spring Series “Broken Senses” at the Anthology Film archives.

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Jun 14, 2018
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Free – $10.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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