Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Artists Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Lisa Le FeuvreClick here to Print this Page
Lis Rhodes
"Meaning is not in things but in between" From Pictures on Pink Paper (1982, colour, sound, 35m)

Both words and images rely on their relationships to each other to create meaningful communication, with the spaces between language a realm of miscommunication as powerful as language itself. Take a well-known phrase such as 'I can see what you are saying' - it means, of course, 'I understand'. However, is it possible to see what is being said? These shifts between different modes of language are important in Lis Rhodes' films - as she says in her article for Filmwaves magazine, 'Flashback from a partisan filmmaker' (Winter 1999) with reference to A Cold Draft (1988): "sounds are affective. Images are instructive".

A Cold Draft begins with a blank screen with a voice over, which becomes silent as an image and the hand written title appear on the screen, then shifting from colour to black and white as the voice reappears. Making marks directly with the hand represents an act of thinking through or working out. Communication through speech, hand writing or typing involves a different set of thought processes.

Moving between colour and black and white, blank screen, hand drawn images, handwriting, photographic stills, speech and sounds A Cold Draft layers visual and spoken language. This film portrays the surveillance of woman deliberately certified as insane by unknown overseers. The woman as a hysteric is a notion that has returned throughout history. From witch burning to the birth of psychoanalysis women have been regarded by patriarchal society as being 'naturally' sedate and quiet individuals, and any deviation from this was down to dysfunctional madness, rooted in a female irrationality and closeness to nature opposed to culture. The unspecified control of this woman can be inferred to stem from power relations created through assumptions, which form language. Language can become the creator of perception through its structures and assumptions. Definitions of the 'objective' will always be subjective. Objectivity and subjectivity are not binary opposites, they work in terms of one another. One subjectively decides what will be the objective marker, which then exists as a comparative tool by which subjectivity is measured.

In Pictures on Pink Paper voices of three women describe experiences of domestic life, gradually becoming identifiable as belonging to specific individuals. Different generations are represented in the voices of the three women, and also in the generations of images used. Here, Rhodes engages with the representative quality of the images - throughout the film photocopies and super 8 film are blown up and re-presented. This film seeks to find a female voice, but avoids generalisation of a single narrative through the interweaving of these voices. In Pictures on Pink Paper the authoritative voice is slipping between appearing to be one woman's voice and thoughts, to the experiences of three different women. Minnie, a Cornishwoman, narrates the past, Kate imitates accents and voices, and Lis Rhodes' voice becomes identifiable as the filmmaker. This film asks how women's oppression can be articulated without mimicking that very expression and language which produces the unbalance. In spite of being structured around these voices this film denies narrative structure - even time here is broken down. Pictures on Pink Paper highlights the gaps between and explores language as a creator, rather than a symptom, of gender relations. It seeks to ask how a female voice can be found without reducing all female experience to a generalisation.

As with many of Lis Rhodes' films, Pictures on Pink Paper looks to the ways in which women are associated with nature. The alignment of women with nature and men with culture is embedded within language: unlike French and Spanish the English language is non-gendered grammatically, yet the female pronoun is regularly used for 'natural' objects. Language is powerful: we become inscribed within language, and Lis Rhodes challenges these assumptions by problematising language.

Still from Pictures on Pink Paper by Lis Rhodes, 1982
Go to top of                             page