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Maeve ConnollyClick here to Print this Page
Vivienne Dick
If both London Suite and New York Conversations are focused upon the mobile international communities that sustained Vivienne Dick's practice during the 1980s, more recent works seem to represent a reassessment of familial relationships.

A Skinny Little Man Attacked Daddy (1994) - the title of which references a childhood nightmare - documents a return journey to Dick's family home in Donegal, still occupied by siblings, nephews and nieces. Within this world, Dick sometimes seems to function as a detached observer, more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. But this position is not one of evasion and as a filmmaker she has confronted, and documented, every aspect of family life - refusing to excise even the most difficult memories of illness and loss

While A Skinny Little Man Attacked Daddy makes extensive use of voiceover narration, it does not articulate an explicitly authoritative account of the past. A sense of fragmentation is introduced through the juxtaposition of several different forms of commentary, including ambiguous imagery of the landscape and onscreen handwritten comments. This exploration of multiplicity is extended further in a three-screen video, Excluded by the Nature of Things (2002), developed for gallery installation. This work foregrounds the senses of smell, touch, hearing, but is principally concerned with the spatial arrangement of visual and acoustic components. The soundtrack is presented on six speakers and encompasses a complex layering of predominantly natural elements, such as the noise of driving rain on the camera lens and windowpanes.

Excluded by the Nature of Things focuses on the tension between Irish Catholicism and earlier forms of spirituality, which are rooted in the experience of place. But it is also seems to consciously draw together themes and images from earlier works. The scenes of pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick, for example, clearly evoke the 'Irish-American' segments in Liberty's Booty and Visibility Moderate, while the inclusion of fragments of animation suggests a nod towards the cut-up aesthetic of the No Wave films. In addition, Excluded features a Gothic female presence - a mysterious woman dressed in black - recalling various performances by Lydia Lunch.

Within Excluded by the Nature of Things, Dick's feminist critique finds clear expression in the interplay between two performers (one male, one female), as they move across the three screens. These figures first appear to the left and right of the main screen - each approaches the camera, retreats, approaches again and then jumps off-screen - suggesting the need for (and also the possibility of) an interstitial or 'third' space, between genders. The staging of this exploration within the physical space of a gallery suggests a new departure in Vivienne Dick's practice - and the extension of a project of self-exploration that remains informed by the experience of many different places, and many different notions of community, identity and history.

Maeve Connolly
Maeve Connolly is a writer and a lecturer in film and visual culture at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dublin.
Top: Still from Excluded By The Nature Of Things, 2002
Bottom: Still from Saccade, 2004 by Vivienne Dick
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