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Vivienne Dick
Vivienne Dick's first films were made in New York in the late 1970s, within the context of the No Wave super-8 film movement that centred around the Lower East Side.

Super-8 was the favoured format for No Wave filmmakers such as Beth and Scott B, James Nares and Eric Mitchell, offering an accessible form of sync-sound recording and echoing the low-fi, anti-aesthetic of punk music. Dick was also influenced by 1960s underground film culture and several of her early works were first screened in bars such as Max's Kansas City, between bands, rather than within established spaces for experimental and avant-garde cinema. Dick's first completed work, Guérillière Talks (1978) features many of the female stars of the scene and takes its title from Monique Wittig's feminist novel Les Guérillières. Structured as a series of separate documents, the film explores the personas created by women such as poet-performer Lydia Lunch and musician Pat Place. While the formal structure of the film is not typical of Dick's later works, Guérillière Talks initiates an investigation of performativity and identity that is extended in subsequent films set in and around New York

In the trash melodrama She Had Her Gun All Ready! (1978), both Pat Place and Lydia Lunch reappear, as an androgynous voyeur and nihilistic femme fatale, caught in a destructive relationship. The opening section, tinted in vivid shades of red and turquoise captures the growing frustration of the two characters and, as the narrative gathers pace, both become engaged in forms of surveillance - Lunch flicks through a series of TV channels, coming to rest on a BW image of her nemesis. The next sequence features various references to the gruesome story of serial killer Ed Gein, recounted by Lunch in a childlike, sing-song voiceover. A close up of the increasingly fraught Place confronting her own reflection in the mirror, suggests a final fragmentation of identity. The film then abruptly shifts gear, as the two characters exit the apartment and begin to track each other through the city streets, exchanging a series of looks before finally meeting again on the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island.

Dick's next film, Beauty Becomes the Beast (1979), is very directly concerned with popular cultural representations of violence, referencing aspects of Taxi Driver in its representation of a childlike, but evidently streetwise, central character played by Lunch. The narrative incorporates a series of temporally ambiguous flashbacks, featuring Lunch as a child, and hinting at a history of abuse and repression. The action moves fluidly between the Lower East Side and a remote, almost dreamlike, seaside location, accompanied by a soundtrack of confessional 1960s pop songs. In the final section, these two worlds seem to collide - so that the various versions of Lunch appear to co-exist within the same space, suggesting the convergence of past and present identities.

Top: Still from Beauty Becomes The Beast, 1979
Bottom: Still from Gurrillere Talks, 1978 by Vivienne Dick
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