Sarah Pucill has continuously been making 16mm short films that have received public funding since completing her MA at the Slade in 1990. Her films have been shown in galleries and won awards at Festivals internationally. The majority of her films take place within the confinements of domestic space, where the grounded reality of the house itself becomes a portal to a complex and multi layered psychical realm. In her explorations of the animate and inanimate, her work probes a journey between mirror and surface, in which questions of representation are negotiated. At the heart of much of the work is a concern with the image as a still, whether literally or symbolically. Relationships between self and other turn into a concern of relationships between women, mostly mother or lover.
Her first feature length film Magic Mirror (75min, b/w, 2013), which premiered at Tate Modern extends Pucills concern with the animation of a still image as well as her focus on relationships between women by paying homage to Claude Cahun through the tansposition of Cahuns images and words into film. Magic Mirror re-stages and animates many of Cahun’s photographs on 16mm black and white film, bringing movement and a chorus of voices to Cahuns writing from Aveux Non Avenus (Confessions Denied 1930). The film was screened at ICA, London Art Fair, Birkbeck Cinema, and toured internationally with LUX. A LUX DVD was published Autumn 2014. The film was staged as an exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery May and June 2015 alongside photographs from the film as well as by Claude Cahun.
Following Pucill’s commitment to bring the images and voice of Cahun and her partner’s collaborative work into the present as film, a second feature length film also shot on celluloid, Confessions To The Mirror (68min) this time in colour premiered at the London Film Festival in October 2016. The film focuses on Cahun’s lesser known still life images and her post-humously published incomplete text Confidences au miroir (1945-52), which covers aspects of her childhood and Cahun and her partner Suzanne Malherbe’s political activity and imprisonment in Jersey during World War II. The domestic space and art objects made within the film reflexively feature on screen in ways that cut between both Cahun and the filmmakers legacy of work. These objects are also staged as part of the ‘Evidence for Conviction’, at the couples trial which become indistinguishable from their artwork. In keeping with Pucills film language both Cahun films employ a method with the sets, props and costumes that are improvised with what is available to hand. This method is allied with the photographs that Cahun and Malherbe stage, creating costumes and sets in similar improvisatory mode.
Phantom Rhapsody (2010) premiered at Sainsburies Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich in a programme curated by Ben Cook (LUX), was screened at Edinburgh International Film Festival, at Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts Superieure in Paris, the Millennium, New York. It was part of the DVD compilation published by LUX in 2011 and which launched at BFI Southbank and in the same year was screened as part of Maya Deren’s 50th anniversary, in a retrospective of my films. More recently in 2013, it was selected for ‘Assembly: A Survey of Recent Artists: Film and Video in Britain 2008-13 at Tate Britain. Distinctive in its stark use of black and white, the film draws connections between canonical painting, early cinema and theatrical side-show ‘magic’ acts. The film examines the appearance and disappearance of the phantom as it relates to the present/absent dynamic of visible lesbian sexuality in the canons of both cinema and art history.
Fall In Frame (2009), toured leading venues in the US and Canada in 2009 (including Film Anthology Archives, AIR Gallery, New York and Pleasure Dome, Toronto and LA Filmforum, Los Angeles), was screened at Montreal Festival of New Cinema and at retrospective screenings in London including the Freud Museum and at N.O.WHERE. The film explores the materiality of the filmmaking process as part of a young woman’s constrained performance that blurs a distinction between the physical and consciousness.
Blind Light (2007), which was screened at Tate Modern in 2010 in a programme curated by Maxa Zoller, brings the filmmaking process as performance and image into the fold of a fragmented spoken narrative. Like Phantom Rhapsody and Fall in Frame, it was funded by the Arts Council of England and like many earlier works was also awarded funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council. It premiered at Millennium Film, NY and was shown at the European Media Arts Festival Osnabruck, the Louise T Blouin Foundation in London, and Aurora Media Arts Festival in 2008 and at VideoForms Festival, France 2009.
Taking My Skin (2006) was recipient of the Marion McMahon Award at the Images Festival in Toronto 2007 and together with Stages of Mourning (2004) received Directors Citation from the Black Maria Film Festival. Continuing Pucill’s experiments with the collapsing of space in front of and behind the camera, the film tracks a dialogue between the artist and her mother while each alternately instruct, position and direct. Exhibition stagings have included: ‘Mother Cuts: Experiments in Film, Video & Photography’ at New Jersey University Gallery in 2008 together with work by Mona Hatoum and Mary Kelly. In the same year in ‘MultiChannel’, Artsway Gallery curated by Peter Bonnell and in 2007 in ‘Intervention’ at Fieldgate Gallery, London curated by Richard Ducker. Later screenings include Xcentric Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona in 2011.
Pucill’s individual visual language emerged in the 1990s in the context of visual arts and experimental film and has been shown internationally in galleries and cinemas. You Be Mother, Pucill’s award winning film (Best Innovation, Atlanta, 1995; Best Experimental Film, Oberhausen, 1991) was exhibited in Moving Portrait at De La Warr Paviliion in 2011 and was exhibited in ‘A Century of Film and Video Artists’ (2004) at Tate Britain where her work has also enjoyed retrospective screening and in ‘A History of Artists Film and Video’ (2007) at BFI Southbank.
Her films have been screened at major international film festivals including: London Film Festival, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Osnabruck Media Arts Festival, Berlin International Film Festival and Montreal Festival of New Cinema. Television broadcasts include: BSB TV Australia (Mirrored Measure, 1996; bought by BSB), Carlton Television (Backcomb, 95; funded by Carlton), Granada TV (You Be Mother, 1990).
Sarah Pucill lives and works in London, has a doctorate and is Reader at University of Westminster. Her work is archived and distributed through LUX.