From no wave to national cinema: the cultural landscape of Vivienne Dick's early films (1978-1985)
Maeve Connolly locates Vivienne Dick's early films. From National Cinema and Beyond, Four Courts Press 2004.
MAC DONALD: How about the title Visibility: Moderate. Does it refer to the view from the [World] Trade Center?
DICK: No, just to the weather reports you hear all the time on the radio: 'visibility moderate to fair'. It's like a little comment of my own on the film, which I felt was really a surface thing; it was the best I could do under the circumstances, moneywise and with the pressures on me. While I was doing it, and as I was finishing it, I met all these other people; it could have been quite different. I was just getting into living in Ireland again. I want to make more films there, better films.
Vivienne Dick interviewed by Scott MacDonald (2)
At the beginning of the 1980s the Irish filmmaker Vivienne Dick was perhaps the most celebrated figure in New York's 'No Wave' or Punk cinema. She
had produced a series of Super-8 film narratives, which were 'hailed as contemporary underground classics'(3) and her work featured prominently in a special 1982 issue of the journal October, focusing on contemporary developments in avant-garde film. It included an interview, by Scott MacDonald, and an article by Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, dealing with the development of No Wave cinema since its emergence in I978.(4) Yet, as the above quote suggests, the focus of Vivienne Dick's work was already shifting towards Ireland and in the same year she left New York for Dublin.
Another journey is also signalled by this special issue of October; the migration of No Wave cinema from its birthplace in the bars and rock clubs of the East Village, towards the established institutions of avant-garde film. No Wave cinema did not retain its position at the critical edge of avant-garde practice for very long. By 1984, the movement (if it ever had any such coherency) had dissipated and its history was being re-written by formerly supportive critics such as Hoberman. In an overview of developments in American filmaking, entitled 'After Avant-garde Film', Hoberman dismissed No Wave cinema as a 'postmodernist repetition' of an earlier cultural moment, associated with pop art and underground film and compared this repetition to the nostalgic 'genre pastiches', such as American Graffiti, Star Wars and Body Heat, produced by Hollywood during the same period.(5)
The No Wave movement retains a place within American film history, however, and in recent years a number of major retrospective exhibitions have been staged. Vivienne Dick's work has featured in two: No Wave Cinema,1978-87 at the Whitney Museum (1996) and Big as Life: An American History of 8mm films (1999), at the Museum of Modern Art. Even though she has not lived in the US since 1982, these events have confirmed her status as an important 'American' filmmaker. But Dick's prominence within the No Wave has also worked to limit analysis of her work in the US and in Ireland. For the most part, American curators and critics have paid little attention to her later films, made in Ireland and in London.(6)
No Wave cinema has always been theorized in terms of a definitively American tradition, not least because of the fact that Vivienne Dick and her contemporaries Beth and Scott B, James Nares and Eric Mitchell were all based in New York during the late 1970s and early 1980s. J. Hoberman was also instrumental in shaping the processes of reception and historicization, through his articles in the Village Voice and an influential programme of screenings at Anthology Archives in I981.(7) He consistently situated the movement in relation to a specifically American tradition of narrow-gauge filmmaking, an approach that did not allow for an extended analysis of either Dick's feminism or issues of cultural specificity.
It was only when Vivienne Dick began to focus on overtly 'Irish' themes, in Visibility: Moderate - A Tourist Film (1981), that critics such as Hoberman began to emphasize the fact that she was Irish.(8) Her association with No Wave cinema has also presented problems of categorization for Irish curators and critics, particularly in relation to the dominant practices in Irish cinema or visual art.(9) Until relatively recently, her work was outside the canon in its most literal sense: the national film archive. (10) This is despite the fact that she has made a large number of films in Ireland since the early 1980s and has represented Ireland in a small number of international exhibitions and festivals. (11)
A critical analysis of Vivienne Dick's work, from the late 1970s to the present, is clearly long overdue. But my own research centres on avant-garde currents in Irish filmmaking during the 1970s and I980s and, as such, this paper deals only with a small selection of Dick's films. My aim is to highlight thematic parallels between her work and that of contemporary Irish filmmakers and I focus on the representation of the family and on the relationship between public and private space. In the process, I identify continuities between Dick's 'American' and 'Irish' films, centring on the notion of a cultural landscape that is mediated by Hollywood and by the experience of migration. Visibility: Moderate - A Tourist Film provides a focal point for my analysis because it is explicitly concerned with Dick's own position as a migrant filmmaker, positioned between Ireland and the US.
My analysis of Vivienne Dick's work, and Irish filmmaking in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, is informed by reference to contemporary theories of the avant-garde. In particular, it relies heavily upon Paul Willemen's 'An Avant Garde for the Eighties' and Claire Johnston's analysis of Pat Murphy's film Maeve. (12) Although Willemen does not reference No Wave cinema directly, he traces a turn towards narrative across a range of feminist and anti-colonial practices. He theorizes an avant-garde that is structured by a critical engagement with specificities of cultural production and reception and he focuses, in particular, on the representation of landscape. Noting a shift away from modernist aesthetics and towards a critical engagement with the conventions of realism, he emphasizes that the new avant-garde may mobilize landscape ‘as a layered set of discourses, is a text in its own right'.(13) This contrasts with conventional representations of landscape:
In conventional narrative [...] a tourist's point of view is adopted as opposed to the point of view of those whose history is traced in [the landscape], or for whom the land is a crucial element in the relations of production that govern their lives. The tourist sees in the landscape only mirrors or projections of his/her own phantasms. (14)
Many of the filmmakers foregrounded by Willemen (Chantal Akerman, Cinema Action, Pat Murphy, Thaddeus O'Sullivan) are positioned between, rather than firmly within, national formations. Vivienne Dick's work, which transects a number of quite distinct contexts for avant-garde practice, also seems to have been formed by this productive position of ‘outside-otherness'.
FROM THE MARGINS TO THE METROPOLIS
Before turning to the analysis of specific films, it may be useful to provide a brief biography of Vivienne Dick, tracing her various journeys between Ireland and the US. Born in Donegal in 1950 Vivienne Dick studied arts (Archaeology and French) at University College Dublin and then toured Europe, India and Mexico before finally moving to New York in I975. There, she joined the Millennium Film Co-op and began exploring Super-8 film. It was not until she became involved with the Colab film collective, which included Beth B, Scott B, James Nares and Eric Mitchell, that she began to make and exhibit her own work. At this time she was also heavily involved in the Punk music scene and she collaborated with performers such as Lydia Lunch and Pat Place on film, performance and music projects.(15)
In the late 1970s New York was at the centre of the American avant-garde. It was home to a number of established institutions, from the Filmmakers' Co-op and Anthology Archives (associated with New American Cinema and the 'structuralism' of Michael Snow and Hollis Frampton) to the Whitney Museum (associated with the feminist and conceptual film of Yvonne Rainer and Vito Acconci, among others). The Lower East Side also hosted an increasing number of artists' studios, galleries and performance spaces. The No Wave filmmakers, however, rejected both the established and 'alternative' art spaces, in favour of bars such as Max's Kansas City, temporary storefront cinemas, such as the New Cinema on St Mark's Place, as well as newer film clubs such as the Collective for Living Cinema and the Millennium. Instead of Anthology's reverence towards the medium of film and the Whitney's critical rigour, No Wave filmmakers sought to recapture something of the populist appeal of 1960s underground cinema by screening their films in rock clubs between the bands.,/p>
Super-8 appealed to the No Wave filmmakers because of its accessibility and its long association with home movies. In the mid-1970s it also became possible to record sync sound and the 'anti-aesthetic' of Super-8 became associated with Punk. The No Wave featured a number of prominent women performers and this is was highlighted in Vivienne Dick's first completed film, Guérillière Talks(1978), which consists of a series of 'interviews', each running for the length of a three minute reel. Despite this 'structuralist' approach, however, Guérillière Talks is clearly less concerned with the specificity of film than with issues of gender.(16) Her subsequent films, Staten Island (1978), She Had Her Gun All
Ready (1978), Beauty Becomes the Beast (1979) and Libery's Booty (I980) retain something of this quasi-documentary quality. Yet, with the exception of Liberty's Booty, they are also notable for the way in which they cast No Wave 'stars', such as Lydia Lunch and Pat Place, as characters in trash melodrama.
Although all of these works were produced on a very low budget, funded entirely by Vivienne Dick's earnings, their circulation was supported by an established network of clubs and societies and by the early 1980s, Dick was touring with her work to film clubs and colleges throughout the US.(17) Her films were shown on Manhattan Cable, a public access television station, at international festivals such as Berlin, Genoa and Edinburgh (18) and, in 1981, a programme of her films was screened at San Francisco's Pacific Cinemathéque. Finally, in 1983, Visibility: Moderate (1981) was included in the film programme of the Whitney Biennial, a prestigious survey of contemporary art.(19)
But by this time, however, Vivienne Dick had relocated to Ireland.
Her decision to return to Ireland was prompted, in part, by positive encounters with Irish filmmakers in New York and in Ireland. She met Bob Quinn and later Thaddeus O'Sullivan and Pat Murphy in New York, while attending screenings of Irish film, including O'Sullivan's A Pint of Plain (1975) and Murphy’s Rituals of Memory (1977).(20) On a brief visit to Dublin, in 1979, she followed Quinn's recommendation to contact Project Arts Centre and arranged screenings of her own work for filmmakers such as Cathal Black At this time, Project was at the centre of a vibrant indigenous film culture, which was supported by new initiatives in arts policy.(21) When Dick returned in 1982, however, Project Cinema Club was less active and, although the Irish Film Board had been established, the facilities for Iow budget avant-garde production were underdeveloped at best. Dick continued to exhibit her work at film clubs such as the Ha'penny, at festivals outside Dublin and in colleges. She also became involved in running one of Ireland's first film production courses, at the College of Commerce, Rathmines (now part of DIT).
While in Ireland, Vivienne Dick completed a number of short Super-8 films, including Trailer (1983) and Like Dawn to Dust (1983). The latter film, set within the Irish rural landscape, features a performance by Lydia Lunch and was subsequently broadcast by Channel Four. But in the absence of recognition from funding agencies for her previous Super-8 work, she found it difficult to continue her film practice.(22) In 1984 she left Dublin for London, where she became a member (and later a director) of the London Film-makers' Co-op. Almost immediately after arriving in London, she received funding from the British Arts Council to complete Rothach (1985), a 16mm film photographed in Donegal. She subsequently secured a number of commissions and awards from both Irish and British agencies and continued to explore Irish subjects in films such as Images/ Ireland (1988) Pobal-Portrait of an Artist (1988) and A Skinny Little Man Attacted Daddy (1994).(23)
BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE: VIVIENNE DICK'S NEW YORK
As I have already noted, New York occupied a key place within the American avant-gardes of the late 1970s. It boasted both the established cultural institutions, such as MoMA and the Whitney, and the alternative spaces of the Lower East Side, some of which had witnessed the emergence of underground cinema. But the city also served as the privileged symbol, if not the actual centre, of globalized capitalism and it remained a focal point for migrants from all parts of the world. New York's doubled identity, as both 'subcultural' haven and global trade centre was, of course, most evident in the Lower East Side, located in close proximity to the twin towers. Towards the end of the 1970s these contradictory aspects of New York city life became particularly pronounced when rents in the Lower East Side began to rise, driven by a process of gentrification to which artists had perhaps (unwittingly) contributed.(24)
Vivienne Dick's early Super-8 narratives figure New York as a site of conspicuous consumption and waste. One of her first films, Staten Island (1978), is actually set in what appears to be a dump. In this short work, an androgynous female figure (the No Wave musician and performer Pat Place) investigates various abandoned objects, adopting the manner and wearing the costume of a visitor from outer space. The distinctive No Wave or Punk 'anti-aesthetic' becomes more pronounced in later films, through the accumulation of mass-produced goods and the referencing of retro fashion and pop music (as well as Punk). This aesthetic seems to suggest a convergence of formerly distinct eras, a form of time-space compression that David Harvey has identified as characteristic of postmodernity.(25)
Pat Place also features in She Had Her Gun All Ready (1978) which remains one of Vivienne Dick's most acclaimed films. This is a narrative of obsessive desire focusing on the relationship between Place and the 'femme fatale' Lydia Lunch. It is set within iconic New York settings such as East Village diners and Coney Island and it explores the dark side of American culture, with fleeting references to serial killers and stalkers. Dick's next film, Beauty Becomes the Beast (1979), also explores the flip side of the American dream and it shares some of the same themes as Taxi Driver. The central character in this mock-documentary (played by Lydia Lunch) is a teenage runaway, turned prostitute. Much of the action takes place in the contemporary Lower East Side, complete with vacant industrial lots, but this 'realism' is disrupted by the casting of Lunch, and by the use of melodramatic flashbacks which hint at a history of abuse.
Liberty’s Booty (1980), Vivienne Dick's subsequent film, also explores the theme of sexual exploitation, focusing on a group of prostitutes working in a New York brothel. This film developed out of a series of interviews and many of the participants are not actors. But, like much of Dick's work, it resists easy categorization as the 'documentary’ sections are framed by a short animation and interspersed with some obviously staged elements. Despite the apparent sensationalism of its subject matter, the narrative is resolutely focused on the everyday, calling attention to the domestic details of these women's lives. The women are, in fact, represented primarily as exploited workers and in the latter part of the film the critique of gender relations is displaced by a broader interrogation of US capitalism, when Dick suggests an analogy between the brothel and employment practices of McDonald's restaurants. (26)
Despite an evident fascination with American culture, Vivienne Dick's early films offer a number of thematic and formal parallels with the work of Irish contemporaries. For example, Beauty Becomes the Beast and Liberty’s Booty both explore memories of abuse, exploitation and violence, as do Cathal Black's Our Boys (1981) and Joe Comerford's Traveller (1981). Yet, while the films of Black and Comerford have been theorized as explorations of national identity and national history(27) Dick's work seems to lack any overt reference to foundational narratives or myths of the Irish nation. But in Liberty's Booty, the exploration of gender stereotypes is informed by critique of the mythic tropes through which the American nation has been imagined. The figure of 'Liberty'(28) becomes a symbol of exploitation as well as freedom and is aligned with another signifier of globalized capitalism, the golden arches of MacDonald's.
The representation of public and private space in Dick's New York films might also be read in terms of an exploration of Irish identity. She Had Her Gun All Ready, Beauty Becomes the Beast and Liberty 's Booty are initially set within domestic environments. Yet, despite the deeply personal character of the themes explored in the two earlier films, the central characters end up playing out their fears and fantasies on the street. Liberty's Booty also disrupts fixed concepts of personal space because it is set within an apartment that doubles as a brothel. In Transformations in Irish Culture, Luke Gibbons highlights a 'blurring of boundaries between the personal and the political', associated with the experience of colonization.(29) He notes both that the colonized nation may be conceptualized as a literal 'body politic' and that an 'alternative "feminised" public sphere (imagined as the nation)' can serve to turn the colonial stereotype against itself, providing a critique of the official patriarchal order of the state. The confusion of public and private in Dick's work could be read in these terms, as an attempt to negotiate the relationship between the nation, the state and the female body. Arguably, however, this project is also informed by the No Wave's particular investment in New York as both a site of cultural opposition and a global symbol.
LOOKING TOWARDS IRELAND: MYTH AND MEMORY
Tourist Land is always make-believe land in a certain way. You work most of the year and in America you get two weeks off, only two weeks. [...] You escape into this fantasy land, where everything has to be beautiful and fabulous. If it's Ireland you see lush green countryside and horses and carts and the Blarney Stone. [...] It's totally unreal; it's all memory and myth. (30)
The final section of Liberty’s Booty features a number of references to Ireland, and specifically to a strike by Irish McDonald's workers, which was apparently broken by 'heavies from America'. Ireland is represented initially by images of rolling fields viewed from above, and by a tourist postcard of Irish dancing. In the closing shots, however, news coverage of Pope John Paul II, identified by the newscaster as 'the superstar Pope', seem to suggest a convergence between Irish and American popular culture, mediated by communication technology. Vivienne Dick's next film, Visibility: Moderate, examines this mediated relationship between Ireland and the US in further detail, focusing on advertising and tourism. But it also considers the way in which the lived experience of place is structured by traditions of representation associated with the colonial state and with projects of resistance.
Visibility: Moderate is perhaps Vivienne Dick's most self-reflexive work. Although the title is taken from a weather report overheard at one point in the narrative, it could also be said to describe the prospects for avant-garde filmmaking in Ireland and the economic interdependencies between Ireland and the US. The first part of the film follows American woman, dressed in fashionably retro clothes, on a tour of Irish landmarks and seems to take the form of a home movie. This 'tourist' poses in the ruins of Irish monasteries, visits the Puck Fair, kisses the Blarney stone and travels on a horse drawn cart, recalling images from iconic John Hinde postcards and, most obviously, the romantic landscape of John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952). The 'tour' is, however, punctuated by a montage of TV ads (ranging from the amateurish animation of 'Jack Ryan truck rental' to the slick suburban fantasy offered by Blueband margarine) and by several comic interludes in which the tourist imagines herself as a 'Celt' running through a mystical rural landscape.(31)
As the tour progresses it becomes apparent that the visitor is in fact Irish-American, and her fantasies acquire an even greater resonance. But Visilibilty: Moderate is not exclusively concerned with cultural tourism, or even ethnicity, and the journey to Ireland is book-ended by images of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The pre-credit sequence introduces the connection between power and vision; the camera pans from the spectacular view over New York city back to the central character, who is slicing a pineapple, a graphic symbol of global trade. This alignment between spectacle and power becomes overt in the second part of the film, which deals primarily with surveillance. The tourist embarks on an alternative sightseeing journey through the urban spaces of Dublin and Belfast. She encounters a series of unlikely characters, from kitsch religious singers to labour activists and Hare Krishnas. These sequences, and specifically the street protests against the H Block prisons, are reminiscent of certain sections in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's A Pint of Plain,/em> (1975), just as the earlier images of the Puck Fair echo scenes from O'Sullivan's On a Paving Stone Mounted (1978). (32)
The tour ends with an interview with the former political prisoner Maureen Gibson. It is filmed straight to camera, in the manner of a press conference. But the inclusion of a visible microphone is also reminiscent of Dick's earlier 'interview' film Guérillière Talks. As Gibson describes the ritual humiliations(33) enacted by prison authorities, the discourse of the interview is disrupted, by the motion of the camera (slowly zooming in and out) and by the insertion of computerized titles, detailing Gibson's history. So, despite an initial focus on tourism and performative ethnicity, Visibility: Moderate is ultimately concerned with the politics of representations, both in relation to the 'troubles' and the experience of women.
Like Dawn to Dust, made two years later, takes up the exploration of the rural landscape initiated in Visibility: Moderate but it is characterized by a very different mode of address. Instead of appropriating from radio, television or film, Dick develops a more overtly 'poetic' aesthetic, through performance, cinematography and sound. The opening shots of a decaying 'Big House', bearing the scorch marks of a fire, are accompanied by an off-key piano, recalling stage melodrama or early cinema. The house, most likely a remnant of Anglo-Irish society, is abandoned but for the figure of Lydia Lunch, wearing her signature New York 'Goth' make-up and clothes. Lunch delivers a poetic monologue, both on screen and in voice-over, over a traditional soundtrack and her final words emphasize the circularity of Irish narratives: 'the past never dies, it just continually repeats itself'.
Rothach, (1985), Vivienne Dick's next film, extends this exploration of narrative and the poetic. It was filmed on 16mm in the Donegal countryside and is composed of a rhythmic series of pans across a barren rural landscape that recalls the setting for Michael Snow's monumental work La Region Centrale. Unlike Snow's rocky landscape, however, Rothach is filled with evidence of activity. Scenes of a child playing the fiddle are interspersed with shots of farm machinery and turf-cutting on the bog. Many of these images are strikingly picturesque and reminiscent of iconic Irish colour postcards. But the serenity of the location is gradually undercut, both by the soundtrack, which changes from a melody into a series of shifting electronic pulses, and by the uncanny presence of the same child in different locations. It soon becomes apparent that this landscape is highly constructed.
The word 'Rothach' can be translated from Irish to mean cycle or wheel and the film closes with a recitation of Seán Ó Riordáin's Irish-language poem. 'An Roithleán', which evokes a moment between sleep and wakefulness. Despite the relatively conventional nature of the images, this use of oral narration (particularly in the Irish language) seems to work against a 'tourist' perspective. In the process, the film seems to mobilize the landscape as a text to be read. So while Visibility Moderate foregrounds the difficulty of finding a vocabulary adequate to the representation of the landscape, Rothach seems to privilege an historical relationship between image, language and landscape.
CONCLUSION: FROM NO WAVE TO NATIONAL CINEMA
There are pronounced differences, in setting, format and mode of address, between Vivienne Dick's 'American' and 'Irish' films. But her practice, through the late 1970s and early 1980s remains structured by the need to develop a filmic vocabulary adequate to the articulation of Irish experience. Of necessity this vocabulary encompasses, but is not limited to, the genres and conventions of narrative cinema. As I have already noted, J. Hoberman categorizes the No Wave aesthetic as a 'postmodern' return to Warhol and underground cinema. I would argue, however, that Vivienne Dick's work calls for a more complex interrogation of cultural exchange, with respect to avant-garde practice and popular culture.
Hoberman's account explicitly aims to counter Peter Wollen's influential genealogy of 'the two avant-gardes', which theorizes distinct aesthetic and political currents in American and European practice. But this attention to the history of avant-garde practice was itself informed by what Andreas Huyssen has identified as the postmodern 'search for tradition'.(34) Huyssen calls attention to the cultural and historical factors structuring the emergence of pop and underground film in the 1960s and he notes that what might have seemed new, or even revolutionary, to a US audience could also signify mere repetition to Europeans. His analysis highlights the fact that the avant-garde's alignment with the popular (and the oppositional) can take the form of a rejection or an endorsement of modernist aesthetics.
The parallels between Vivienne Dick's work, and that of her Irish contemporaries, must be situated in relation to a reconsideration of narrative form in avant-garde practice in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since No Wave cinema emerged as a rejection of institutional formations particular to the American context, its re-appropriation of Hollywood genres formed part of a populist mode of address. In the Irish context, however, the 'popular' was located in a revival of Brecht and in a recuperation of narrative forms associated with the anti-colonial project. But the work of filmmakers such as Bob Quinn, Pat Murphy, Joe Comerford and Thaddeus O'Sullivan also responded to a tradition of representation associated with Hollywood cinema. As such, No Wave and the emergent Irish national cinema share a certain investment in generic form and in the recuperation of earlier modes of oppositional practice.
While critical analysis of the intersections between the neo-avant-gardes and the emergent national cinemas of the 1970s and 1980s remains limited, Miriam Hansen has provided a useful account of the relationship between Hollywood and the historical avant-gardes of the 1920s and I930s.(35) She theorizes classical cinema as a form of 'vernacular modernism': an aesthetic idiom encompassing elements of the American everyday or quotidian which mediated competing cultural discourses on modernity and modernization.(36) As she points out, Hollywood film appealed to avant-garde artists and intellectuals in both the USA and 'the modernizing capitals of the world' and she goes on to trace this vernacular through the work of Eisenstein, among others.
The 'Americanism' of classical cinema may have intensified its appeal for European avant-gardes but, by this time, many Irish audiences were already familiar with aspects of the American everyday. Before the advent of cinema, mass emigration to America had contributed to the 'disintegration and frag-mentation' of Irish society and, as Luke Gibbons notes, it had accentuated the premature 'shock of modernity' on Irish culture, even in its most remote rural outposts.(37) Hollywood's subsequent incorporation, and mediation, of images of Ireland and Irishness only added a new dimension, then, to an already complex relationship between Irish and American modernity.
As theorists of recent Irish cinema such as McLoone have noted, America continues to retain a hold over the Irish imagination. It is this cultural landscape, emerging at the intersection of rural and metropolitan spaces through a process of exchange, that Vivienne Dick's films seem to chart. Miriam Hansen notes that the 'postmodernist challenge' has opened up a space for the understanding of 'alternative forms of modernism [...] that vary according to their social and geopolitical locations, often configured along the axis of post/coloniality and according to the specific subcultural and indigenous traditions to which they responded'.(38) Vivienne Dick's work, existing on the margins of avant-garde practice and national cinema, seems to constitute an important contribution to this critical project.
1. This paper forms part of a larger study of Irish film in the 197Os and 1980s. My research is funded by a Government of Ireland Scholarship, awarded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by the Irish Film Archive, by Vivienne Dick and by Luke Gibbons and Stephanie McBride, who provided comments on an earlier version of this paper. The extended earlier version is included in a forthcoming special issue of Boundary 2, edited by Seamus Deane, under the title ‘Visibility Moderate? Sighting an Irish avant-garde in the intersection of local and international film cultures'.
2. Scott MacDonald, 'Interview with Vivienne Dick', October, 20, Spring 1982: 98. A revised version of this interview is also reprinted in Scott MacDonald, A critical cinema: interviews with independent filmmakers, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988: 191-200.
3. Eric Knorr, 'Vivienne Dick', Moving Image, September/October 1981: 13.
4. J. Hoberman, 'A context for Vivienne Dick', October 20, Spring 1982: 102-6. Earlier articles by Hoberman include 'No wavelength: the para-punk underground', Village Voice, 21 May 1979: 42-3 and 'Notes on three films by Vivienne Dick', Millennium Film Journal 6, Spring 1980: 90-4.
5. J. Hoberman ‘After avant-garde film', in Brian Wallis (ed.), Art after modernism: rethinking representation, New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984: 68-9. Hoberman seeks to define the No Wave movement through reference to a definitively American avant-garde, which in his account seems to have developed largely in isolation from European practices.
6. With the notable exception of a 1988 screening at San Francisco's Pacific Cinemathèque.
7. Hoberman curated Home movies: towards a natural history of narrow gauge: avant-garde filmmaking in America, Anthology Film Archives, 1 May-30 June, 1981.
8. J. Hoberman, 'Partly cloudy', Village Voice, 4 March 1981: 44. Dick's nationality was noted, however, in earlier interviews. See, Amy Taubin, 'The other cinema', Soho Weekly News, 12 July 1979: 44, and Stephen Barth, 'Not your ordinary dick', East Village Eye 18 March 1980: 10.
9. Vivienne Dick is not mentioned in either Martin McLoone's Irish film: the emergence of a contemporary cinema, London: BFI, 2000 or Lance Pettitt's Screening Ireland: film and telvision representation, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. To be fair, neither publication claims to address avant-garde practice and Dick's work is also absent from surveys of Irish media art such as Shirley McWilliams's, 'Screen and screen again', ,em>Circa, 100, Summer 2002: 42-8.
10. It was only in the late 1990s, following the retrospectives at MoMA and the Whitney, that a number of Vivienne Dick's films were acquired by the Irish Film Archive, in the form of preservation prints.
11. Images/Ireland (1988) was included in Selected Images, an exhibition of Irish film (curated by Declan McGonagle and James Coleman) at Riverside Studios in London, as part of the 1988 Sense of Ireland cultural festival. This event explored the intersection between visual practice as narrative and situated Dick's work in relation to the work of Irish poets and writers as well as artists. More recently, She Had Her Gun All Ready, Rothach and London Suite were included in a season of Irish films (curated by Sheila Pratschke) included in the Island-Arts from Ireland festival at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2000.
12. See Paul Willemen, 'An avant garde for the eighties', Framework 24, 1984: 53-73.
13. Ibid., 53.
14. Ibid., 69.
15. Details in Dick's musical career can be found in Alan Licht, 'The Primer’, The Wire: adventures in modern music 225, November 2002: 34-41.
16. Dick's work during this period was specifically informed by Monique Wittig’s critique of gender.
17. These include the Walker Arts Center and Cal Arts. Dick discusses the distribution of her work in the US and in Ireland when interviewed by Scott MacDonald. See Scott MacDonald, 'Interview with Vivienne Dick', 98-.
18. Karen Kay, 'New York Super-8: Edinburgh Event, 1980'. Idiolects Winter 1980: 7-9.
19. Commenting on his own experience of seeing the film in New York in the early 1980s Tom Gunning has pointed out that Visibility: Moderate was not shown in Punk venues. I am indebted to Gunning for pointing this out because my subsequent research suggests that a shift in exhibition (and possibly in Dick's appraoch to practice) did take place around this time. But it may have happened even before 1981 since only Guérllière Talks and She Had Her Gun All Ready were actually first shown in rock clubs. Each of the subsequent films, including Visibility: Moderate was shown first in dedicated film clubs (either in the Millennium or in the Collective for LIving Cinema).
20. Vivienne Dick, interviewed by the author, 23 June 2001.
21. See Kevin Rockett, 'Constructing a film culture: Ireland’, Screen Education, 1978: 23-33.
22. Vivienne Dick, interviewed by the author, 23 June 2001.
23. The Pobal series was produced by Bob Quinn for RTE. London Suite (1989) was funded by an ‘Experimenta' award and and was shown on Channel Four and RTE. New York Conversations (1991) is funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain. Vivienne Dick has since returned to live in Ireland and is currently based in Galway. Her most recent work on, Excluded by the Nature of Things, made in 2002, is a multi-screen video installation funded by the Irish Film Board.
24. Many New York-based artists were politicised by the rent crisis and they participated in benefit gigs, exhibitions and rent strikes. For an analysis of the gentrification process, see Craig Owens, 'The Problem with Puerilism', Art in America, 6, 1984: 162-3 and Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan 'The fine art of gentrification', October, 31, 1984: 91-111.
25. David Harvey, The Condition of postmodernity, Oxford: Blackwell, I 1990: 201-326.
26. A fascniation with the sex industry, in terms of its relationship to other forms of commerce is also evident in the films of Beth and Scott B, such as G-Man and Black Box, wwhich reveal sado-masochistic desires at heart of corporate and security agencies.
27. See Kevin Rockett, Luke Gibbons and John Hill, Cinema and Ireland, London: Routledge, 1988: 127-44 and
McLoone, Irish Film, 131-50.
28. Marjorie Keller (a filmmaker loosely associated with the No Wave project) employs a home movie format to critique this symbol from a feminist perspective in Daughters of Chaos (1980).
29. Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish culture, Cork: Cork University Press, 1996: 21.
30. MacDonald, 'Interview with Vivenne Dick', 97.
31. The soundtrack also provides a counterpoint to the imagery, including a segment from RTE's Glenabbey Show, with the character of Festy (played by Frank Kelly) engaging in the kind of double-meaning commentary that has traditionally divided the tourist from the local.
32. For a discussion of the theme of the 'visual' in O'Sullivan's film, see Cheryl Herr, 'Addressing the eye in Ireland: Thaddeus O'SuIlivan's On a Paving Stone Mounted(1978)', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 20: 3, 2000: 367-74.
33. No Wave filmmakers Beth and Scott B also explore media constructions of political violence, but, in contrast with Visibility: Moderate, their work tends to mythologize (and sexualize) terrorism.
34. Andreas Huyssen, 'The search for tradition: avant-garde and postmodenisn in the 1970s', New German Critique, Winter 1998: 23-40.
35. Miriam Hansen, 'The mass production of the senses' in Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams (eds), Re-inventing film studies, London and New York: Arnold and Oxford University Press, 2000: 332-50.
36. Hansen, 'The mass production of the senses', 333-4.
37. Gibbons, Transformations in Irish culture, 6. While literature and music articulated the trauma of exile, the letters, remittances and commodities sent home by Irish emigrants structured Irish perceptions of America. See Kerby A. Miller, Emigrants and exiles: Ireland and the Irish exodus to North America, Oxford and New Y ork: Oxford University Press, 1985: 357-61.
38. Hansen, ‘The mass production of the senses', 332.
First published in National Cinema and Beyond, K. Rockett and J. Hill (eds) Four Courts Press, Ireland pp 61-73. Copyright 2004