Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Artists Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Lisa Le FeuvreClick here to Print this Page
Lis Rhodes
"I thought, and indeed I think, that Light Music was motivated as much by conditions as by intentions - i.e. where you are, who you are and your wherewithal . . . The gender bias in the canons of classical European composition certainly provided a reason but not the film." Lis Rhodes, Shoot Shoot Shoot symposium, 2002

Assumptions are based on assumptions rather than fact. If a film, for example, is articulated as being 'good' after a number of times it will come to be so. But perhaps these qualities are not solely a characteristic of culture; they extend into society as a whole. Culture after all is a product of society existing within visual, textual and aural meaning. Meaning, however, is not just in language - it is in the spaces between language. Language is after all a set of representing symbols that require to be understood in terms outside of the spoken words themselves. Even in the most casual conversation it is easy not to actually say what one means, and to be understood in a different way than intended.

Orifso (1999, colour, sound, 13m) focuses on specific geographical sites as symbols of power relationships, looking to lines of demarcation. Beginning with traces of the erasure of memories the film moves to two locations, firstly, a road in France sitting between the Occupied Zone and Vichy. Even though there are no immediate indicators of historical significance on this road, it is in a landscape scarred by conflict. The camera shifts to streets signs in the area, named after individuals deported from France to Germany.

Memorial stones listing the names of entire families and an identity photograph of someone condemned to Auschwitz underline that this is a location steeped in history. Can a landscape act as a memorial? As streets named after specific people identified as being deported to Germany become a part of the everyday landscape their existence becomes normalised, and it is easy to forget their significance.

Secondly the so-called 'ring of steel' in the city of London is depicted. A tight security ring was created around the city's commercial centre in response to fears of terrorism in the 1990s - roads became narrowed and police lookout points became scattered around the border. The original justification for the protective line has become no longer relevant, yet it still exists and its effect on movement has become normalised. One has to ask what is being protected here - it could only be the power structures of capitalist society.

Language holds its power not just in its existence, but also in its invisibility. If memory cannot be turned into language a story or a situation cannot be communicated. Running Light communicates through spoken language the invisible situation of migrant workers - a scenario that "cannot be seen therefore cannot be said with any accuracy". The situation of forced labourers is recounted, individuals who cannot have any communication outside of their workplace as they have no idea where they are. Running Light describes how groups of workers live 22 to 3 rooms, where the air is better outside than inside, and there is no guarantee of payment, and when it does appear the payment often is turned over to the crew leaders in return for alcohol. This information is communicated through the soundtrack, through a number of voices describing a situation where the invisibility is rationalised as an inevitable result of an economic system. "They have got to have that cheap labour - you've got to have a pool of quite cheap workers."

Based on a power structure rooted in fear the atrocities of these migrant camps remain unspoken. The camps exist within the powerful nations of America and Europe - individuals without papers become trapped in situations close to slavery. Men become manual labourers, and women prostitutes. The workers are required to pay off debts before they receive an income, but these debts never become paid.

In her Filmwaves article (winter 1999) Lis Rhodes states "records tend to record the symptoms not the causes". In Running Light and Orifso she moves beyond the symptoms and their assumed inevitability to question normalised power.

Still from Orifso by Lis Rhodes, 1999
Go to top of                             page