Two films by Trinity Laban dance lecturer Susan Sentler, featured at UK and European film festivals recently.
exposed (2012) has been shown at Dancing bodies, moving images (2012) for Decoda at Coventry University, HangArtFEST (2012) in Pesaro, AWA Gallery Overtoom 301 (2013) in Amsterdam, and the Open Screening Whitechapel Gallery (2013) in London. It was also exhibited at Light Moves Screendance Festival in Limerick in November 2014.
See, Sea was first shown as an installation at Trinity Laban. The films have been further exhibited at HangArtFEST (2013) and SBAM (2013) in Candelara, both with Trinity Laban alumnus Masako Matsushita performing a live physical response.
Susan took time away from her busy schedule to talk about her films, the creative process and her influences.
What are the films about?
“exposed was created through a starting point of light and working with interiors/rooms, predicaments, memory, layers, grids, and gaps. The dancer is transported through explorative improvisational journeys of light falling into four episodes: welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence (absorbing moisture from the atmosphere until it dissolves). A personal abstract voyage is revealed through the rhythmic play of still and moving images.”
“See, Sea is influenced by a significant episode with water that I experienced at the age of 5. At my aunt’s swimming pool, I took a step too deep and found myself underwater, drowning. In the moments I was under the water I remember it to be a calm, joyous sensation. My mother pulled me out, and saved me. From that moment on, I have had an extraordinary relation with water, wanting to stay in it for as long as I could. This has developed into a meditative and positive relationship with the sea and with the activity of swimming. The films can be shown alone or with a response from an external performer. In this mode, the viewer is encouraged to allow time to open to the sensorial association.”
How did you get into film?
“While I was studying my Masters in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban. I took two modules – Dance & the Moving Image taught by Tom Paine and Investigative Practice with Rosemary Butcher – which were life changing. Frankly I was more into visual art before I started dance so I felt that I was revisiting a past love of mine. And that’s a key thing I want to highlight about these films – despite the fact that my dance career has influenced and guided these films, I’d describe it more as visual art than dance, or a beautiful blurred vision of the two. My MA opened up a new creative mode for me.”
So, are your past interests a big influence?
“Yes. I’ve always found visual art interesting and used to take photographic stills when I was a student. I find that there’s a
sense of rhythm and vibrational energy with them so a big feature of my films is juxtaposing the still image with that of the moving image.
“I also wanted to convey the beauty of the everyday and unnoticed. There’s a Japanese term called Wabi-Sabi – finding beauty in the imperfections – which I think is apt for my work.
“However, although this work is autobiographical, there’s no narrative to my film – it’s all abstract and concentrates on a flux of emotions and rhythmic play of images. I try to stay away from using my body as a recognisable personal image in the films.”
And how do you go about constructing your films?
“I don’t work from storyboards, I work through improvisation, working directly with the dancer while filming. First I take stills and footage and collect them into groups. For example, exposed fell into the groups of welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence. This then becomes the nest to form and give shape to the whole work. When it comes to filming, I specifically use a handheld camera so that it becomes an extension of my body. I have also used a GoPro camera in See, Sea, which is attached to my pulses, forehead and ankles.
“Sound is very important as well. In exposed, I worked directly with a score from the composers C-Schultz & Hajsch. This guided my editing process. In See, Sea, I worked collaboratively with Ronen Kozokaro who is an amazing musician and composer and one of our wonderful accompanists at Trinity Laban.”
Why use film rather than live performance?
“I still work with live performers but I enjoy the precision and detail of choice in the editing of film. However, even though I wanted complete control when making my films it doesn’t mean I have a particular way I want the audience to interpret it. I wanted to make sure the films were subjective and open.”
Who are your main inspirations?
“Rosemary Butcher and Tom Paine as my teachers were extraordinary. Their interests were very similar to mine so I found their work riveting. Looking more generally at visual art, Pipilotti Rist, Mona Hatoum, and David Claerbout, to name a few.
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