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Vivienne Dick
Visibility Moderate: A Tourist Film (1981) offers a more in-depth exploration of migrant identity, combined with an investigation of the connection between power and vision.

The title is taken from a weather report but it also describes the prospects for avant-garde filmmaking in Ireland in the early 1980s (on the eve of the establishment of the first Irish Film Board). The film traces an Irish-American woman's tour of Irish landmarks, such as the Blarney Stone and the Ring of Kerry, apparently echoing elements of John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952). The journey is, however, punctuated by a montage of TV ads and several comic interludes in which the glamorous urban tourist imagines herself as a 'Celt' running through a mystical rural landscape.

Visibility Moderate is by no means exclusively concerned with cultural tourism, and the journey to Ireland is book-ended by images of the Twin Towers. In the opening shot, the camera pans from the spectacular view across New York city back to the central character, who is slicing a pineapple (a graphic symbol of global trade). This alignment between spectacle and power becomes more overt in the second part of the film as the tourist leaves the rural landscape for Dublin and Belfast and encounters street protests against the H Block prisons in the North of Ireland. The journey ends in an interview with the political prisoner Maureen Gibson, who delivers an account of the ritual humiliations enacted by prison authorities against Republican women. Gibson's image is inter-cut with computerised titles detailing her history and her experience of the Diplock court system. This sequence is filmed straight to camera, in the manner of a press conference, but it is also reminiscent of Dick's earlier interview film Guérillière Talks. The tourist's eventual return to the Twin Towers, in the final moments, seems to hint at a possible, albeit oblique, connection between the architectures of state surveillance and globalised capital.

Following the completion of Visibility Moderate, Dick left New York for Ireland, and subsequently London. She continued to explore aspects of Irish history and landscape in films such as Like Dawn to Dust (1983) and Rothach (1985) but retained an engagement with the international networks that she had established outside Ireland. In London Suite: Getting Sucked In (1989), made on 16mm with funding from Channel 4, she extends her exploration of migrant identity beyond Ireland and the US. Again, the dominant image is architectural, and the film is organised around a London tower block. As is typical of earlier works, documentary elements are interspersed with staged scenes, including a series of interviews with migrants living and working in London. The city is represented as a focal point for artists and filmmakers, in keeping with Dick's investment in metropolitan subcultures and networks. But the focus on living conditions and the struggle to make ends meet, documented in various ways, also hints at the precariousness of these cultures. New York Conversations (1991), produced on video for a broadcast context, explores similar territory but is more directly concerned with the experiences of women. Structured around a series of interviews, this work moves fluidly between public and private spaces, interspersing fragments of overheard city sound with more intimate exchanges.

Top: Still from London Suite, 1989
Bottom: Still from Visibility: Moderate, 1981 by Vivienne Dick
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