By 2016, London-based artist and filmmaker Beatrice Gibson had won two Tiger Awards in Rotterdam for her short films and Art Basel’s Baloise Art Prize. She’d just given birth to her daughter when, as she recently wrote in an open letter to the poet Eileen Myles, “Britain voted to leave the EU, Donald Trump got elected as U.S. president, Grenfell Tower in London burnt to the ground, the #MeToo movement happened, and I suffered an acute bout of hormonally and politically induced anxiety.” She was also “consciously trying to widen the predominantly male influences that had informed my films. I was consciously seeking out a community of voices that I could pass onto my daughter that would draw a picture for her of a more inclusive and diverse world but also of a world that valued feeling as much as it did fact.”
So she began work on two projects simultaneously, I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead (2018) and Deux soeurs qui ne sont pas soeurs (Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters, 2019). Each of these films has been given its own gallery space at the Camden Arts Centre in London, where a third gallery has been devoted to readings, performances, workshops, and screenings of films Gibson has selected, including work by Chantal Akerman, Basma Alsharif, Barbara Hammer, Laida Lertxundi, and Chick Strand. Both Crone Music, the Camden show that takes its name from a 1990 album by composer Pauline Oliveros, and I Couldn’t Sleep in My Dream, a related exhibition at the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway, are on view through March 31. On Thursday, the Public Cinema in Knoxville will screen I Hope I’m Loud as part of the film program it’s put together in collaboration with the University of Tennessee’s UT Downtown Gallery and the Big Ears Festival. That program, running through Sunday, also includes three other shorts by Gibson as well as recent work by Wang Bing, Johann Lurf, and Jodie Mack.
When I Hope I’m Loud screened as part of the Wavelengths program in Toronto last fall, Michael Sicinski, writing for the Notebook, called it “one the most painful pieces in this year’s series,” but also, “ultimately, the most hopeful.” The film, conceived as a love letter to her daughter, poses what Sicinski calls “the fundamental question that underpins every other creative gesture” in this time of crisis, namely, “What can art really do, especially given the horrid state of the world?” The title is taken from a poem by CAConrad, “and as it would indicate, one possible answer to this crisis of confidence is futurity. We make art in order to articulate our vision of a world that does not yet exist, for those who will come after we are gone.”
I Hope I’m Loud wraps with Gibson and her five-year-old son reenacting Denis Lavant’s dance at the end of Claire Denis’s Beau travail (1999), which Gibson, talking to Vladimir Seput in the Notebook, declares is “the best scene ever in the history of cinema.” The Guardian’s Adrian Searle finds that I Hope I’m Loud “repeatedly turns from the apocalyptic to the intimate,” and adds: “What a strange and ambitious thing this unguarded and intense film is.”
Deux soeurs is loosely based on an unrealised screenplay by Gertrude Stein, written in 1929, when fascism was on the rise in Europe. “Stein is the godmother of everything, in my opinion,” Gibson tells Ellen Mara De Wachter in frieze. As with I Hope I’m Loud, Gibson has once again worked with a cast and crew drawn from her own community, and two of the actors became pregnant during the making of Deux soeurs. It’s a film, she says, that’s “also a reflection of the lives of the people in it. It was important to me that the focus on pregnancy not be saccharine; it’s an ethical relationship that is interesting to push out into questions of how to be in the world.”
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