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Stephen Dwoskin
Dwoskin began making films in New York in 1959 when the avant-garde was led - in contrasting ways - by the twin poles of Jonas Mekas' Film Co-op and, a little later, by Andy Warhol's Factory.

Dwoskin began making films in New York in 1959 when the avant-garde was led - in contrasting ways - by the twin poles of Jonas Mekas' Film Co-op and, a little later, by Andy Warhol's Factory.

Dwoskin identifies himself more with the beat cinema that produced Shadows (dir: Cassavetes), Pull My Daisy (dirs:Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie) and the films of Ron Rice. He brought an authentic whiff of this heady climate to the UK when he moved here in the mid-1960s. Here, around 1966, a cluster of cineastes, social radicals and artists made up the first audiences and makers of the new experimental film. Internal battle lines had not yet been drawn between the factions, so that European New Wave fiction, international political documentaries and underground movies all jostled for attention among the diverse enthusiasts for a new cinema. Dwoskin remains faithful to this inclusive vision, where film culture meets social activism.

The libertarian wing of this movement weakened over the next decade, as bigger hopes for revolution faded. The film groups reformed in stricter and straighter guise in 1976 as the Independent Filmmaker's Association. Its message, and similar pleas for cultural cinema, spread into the television policies that, already in Germany and soon in the UK, funded major experimental films - including some of Dwoskin's - in the 1970's and 1980's. But while Dwoskin has long made the transition from improvised Co-op screening to TV output, he is loyal to the first phase of the underground movement. He preserves a fiercely personal stance with a wider understanding of film beyond film, in its social and documentary aspect. His latest and also more private films are still examples of this.

'When attitude becomes form' might sum up one of Dwoskin's key insights. Both elements are expressed in his incisive account of the experimental film, Film Is, of 1975. An early exponent of the structural film, especially in the related transgressive themes and styles of the Austrian Kurt Kren, and a pioneer of the UK Co-op avant-garde along with Malcolm Le Grice and Peter Gidal, he became disaffected with the theoretical turn made by the movement in the mid-1970s. Increasingly, his films made room for psychodrama, or inner life seen at the extreme. The tilt and pan of the moving camera, or the abrupt patterning of shots that make up his editing matrix, caught the flux of live action.

While his peers and younger filmmakers took this new film rhetoric to more formal and objective ends, Dwoskin remained fixed on the performative act in film. Where Gidal excluded the human figure altogether, avoiding the sense of merged identity between viewer and screen image, Dwoskin courted the human face and body. As with the girl covered in paint for Take Me, or in the implied masturbation of Alone, the discomfort of the woman's stare at the camera in Girl matches the viewer's own gaze at the screen. This Sartrean look of exposure is underlined by the direct address of an actress who calls out for aid in Dyn Amo. By taking private acts and making them public, the film elicits the viewer's uneasy participation. "To use the camera as a character", he said in 1978, "to use the camera so as the viewer is within the action." The voyeurism of cinema is made visible. Absorption becomes theatricality.

Still from Girl by Stephen Dwoskin, 1975
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