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Catherine Elwes
Recently Elwes has been working on a series called War Stories, which are based on the testament of WW2 veterans.

In 1997 Elwes began this series with The Liaison Officer, a 45-minute film that was inspired by her father's obituary, which described a man that she hardly recognised. The work is structured in three sections. 'Part One: Exposition' opens with a long one-take shot of the artist's hands, rummaging through the objects that belonged to her father: a watch, hairbrush, cigarette lighter, golf tees, war medals and eyeglasses. The artist speaks in French, interspersed with English, in conversation with someone while she examines her father's life as a decorated career soldier.

In 'Part Two: Training in Scotland' Elwes interviews Paul Robineau, a former French SAS colleague of her father, who describes their training in Scotland during the second world war. This section is shot in a mirror, which grows steamy because Robineau is shaving as he speaks. The viewer sees the artist moving in and out of the shot while she converses with him in French. Here subtitles are introduced and play an important role: instead of directly translating their conversation, they relate Elwes' personal response to the conversation. The artist subverts the notion of the subtitle, which she writes "are often inaccurate and biased to the point of censorship."

'Part Three: Operation Lost A Reconstruction' takes place in France, where Elwes and others reconstruct her father's dangerous SAS mission. Elwes again uses subtitles and adds clips of found footage in sepia tones.The sense of chasing fictions with fictions heightens the artist's frustration in recovering only the bare bones of her father's tale. Elwes' quest for answers is not fulfilled as the witnesses' memories are resistant to scrutiny; hence, the story is underscored by the artist's own need to recover a part of her lost parent.

For the artist the video is an investigation of identity within a blood relationship, in this case father and daughter. It is also a vehicle for cross identification between the female author and the masculine subject. An intensely autobiographical piece, The Liaison Officer relates to earlier work including Sleep and With Child. While these videos interrogated her feelings around pregnancy and motherhood, The Liaison Officer examines her role as daughter. For Elwes, an artist steeped in feminist enquiry, the changing roles of mother, wife and daughter are rooted in her work. This examination of the personal, which is inextricably linked to the political, is an ongoing concern in her work. The second work in the War Stories series, The Boy Scout Soldier, tells the story of Roger Hourdin, a parachutist. Like The Liaison Officer, it questions the notions of documentary and investigates masculine themes. Elwes is planning to conclude the trilogy with Scars, a video that will feature Paul Robineau, who appears in Part Two of The Liaison Officer. Here, Robineau retraces the map of his military past through the scars on his body, each with a violent story to tell.

Still from The Liaison Officer by Catherine Elwes, 1997
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