n. pl. cor·po·ra (-pr-)
1. A large collection of writings of a specific kind or on a specific subject.
2. A collection of writings or recorded remarks used for linguistic analysis.
3. The main part of a bodily structure or organ.
//Reviews of art. Art and language. Art and the body.
Friday, 16 February 2018
Q&A with Sarah Pucill
16/02/18 Q&A with Sarah Pucill on the occasion of 3x3: An exhibition of nine women photographers New Art Projects, London 11 January - 4 March 2018
Anna McNay: What are
the key concerns or themes running through your practice?
Sarah Pucill: Gender
and sexuality are a part, although saying this sounds so limiting. Maybe vision
would be better, what can be said without speaking or without words… So images
in motion and images in stasis and then sometimes with the shock of words.
Maybe an overriding concern has been to attempt to give voice to that which is
mostly silent, which comes out of feminist examination of power relations of
what takes up space and what doesn’t.
AMc: How much a part
of your work does self-portraiture form?
SP: Probably all
of my work – films and photographs – but in an indirect way.
AMc: As a woman
looking at a woman (herself – but perhaps also other women, if you also make
portraits of others), how aware are you of the conventions and load of the male
gaze? To what extent do you work with or subvert these?
difficult questions because we are all part of a world where we unconsciously
learn from our environment, whether through choice or not. The idea of a
lesbian gaze has been given so little space in cultural discussion – it’s quite
strange, I think. In the images of my late partner Sandra Lahire and myself, I
wanted to show something of the specificity of a lesbian looking. The question
is whether this is possible and the answer might be that it is clearer to do in
a medium that isn’t
image-based but, at the same time, I am and always have been interested in this
problem, and have wanted to work it through. Many of my images of Sandra and
myself show a mirror being held. This speaks directly of a female gaze as it is
close up and involves the camera. I made a film of my mother and myself where
we hold mirrors for and to each other. With Sandra, for me, the images speak of
a love, of a unity between two women.It
feels as if there is an absence of discussion on issues like this, i.e. how a
lesbian gaze might differ from a straight male gaze. The importance of this is
a feminist issue, in other words, to free up what women can have and enjoy
because the insistence on heterosexuality isn’t just homophobic, it is
AMc: How – if at all
– does your sexuality influence or shape your work, especially your
SP: Well, I can’t
compare to anything, so I can’t know. I can consciously decide to speak about
such matters, as I have done. Deviant choices of one’s sexuality certainly
impact on one’s life. Without a doubt.
AMc: As a woman who
likes women, looking at women, do you feel your gaze is different from the gaze
of a heterosexual woman artist? In what way?
SP: Yes, I do
think it is different and I think it’s a shame that difference hasn’t had a
space to be articulated. For me, that difference is very important on feminist
grounds because women relating with women is important for a feminist utopia or
just for a feminist future. These ideas were explored in French feminist theory
– that in patriarchy men have relations with men which makes up the homosocial
world (Irigaray), men have relations with women, but women don’t have relations
with women, instead they compete for power. To say something about the
difference of a lesbian gaze: I think it’s something one really can’t put words
to, except to say that the figure of difference is less and so there is a kind
of closerness, the homoerotic of difference within sameness. Something that has
its origins in one’s early relation with the mother that is different from a
heterosexual encounter. But this is probably psychoanalytic talk that maybe
doesn’t describe anything tangible.
AMc: Can you say
something about the work you are submitting for this exhibition? How are you
seeking to portray yourself? What are the key aspects you’re drawing forth? Physical,
SP: The images of
myself and Sandra were attempts to explore a lesbian gaze, in terms also of a
labyrinth, from an idea of the lesbian uncanny, which is subject matter
explored by the duo of artists Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki (lesbian
Greek filmmakers), who explore this idea in their Super 8 film Double Labyrinth, as part of their
series Cinema Of The Body.
AMc: Do you seek to
portray yourself as object, subject, or both? How does this dynamic come
through in your work?
SP: In the still
images, it’s a hovering between, definitely it’s about striving for a subjectivity,
but acknowledging that objectness is part of that. The state of being over here
and over there, being an object for another and a subject for oneself at the
same time, are themes I have been exploring over a long time. The mirror has
been an image long used in my work that speaks about a state of being split
(where a figure doubles) but also about surveillance and, at the same time, it
offers the potential for reflexivity.
AMc: Do you work in
media other than photography? If so, how does the gaze offered by the camera
differ from the viewpoint obtained through other media? How does the experience
as artist differ? Does it make the act of looking easier or more difficult? If
you don’t work with other media, what is it about the gaze of the camera that
attracts you to working with photography?
SP:The gaze in a film offers more in terms of bringing
subjectivity and is a great medium for playing between these roles.Swollen Stigma(21min, 1998) andCast(20min, 2000) both attempt to explore
the hovering between subjectivity and objectivity in lesbian relations. Also,
2004), these themes are present, but the theme of a lesbian gaze suddenly
shifts into a gaze between the living and the dead. In my recent films Magic Mirror (75min, 2013) and Confessions To The Mirror (68min, 2016),
gaze is present in Claude Cahun looking at
her lover Suzanne Malherbe but also possibly my gaze at Cahun, but this gaze
works as much in the written voice of Cahun and the ways in which I have put
voices and images together in both films. Although photography and film are
distinct mediums, I have worked between these mediums. I have written about
intermediality in Magic Mirror and Confessions To The Mirror where I bring
photography into my films and in this way the photograph becomes a part of the
AMc: What one work of
art, depicting a woman as object – or subject, have you been most
influenced/impressed by and what is it about this work that captures you?
SP: The image of
Claude Cahun hiding in a cupboard, lying on a shelf dressed as a puppet
doll.Why this image evokes so much I
can only guess at and I think this not knowing is to do with its power. Is it
because she is asleep? What is it she is unconscious of and how does that
resonate for the viewer? Is it because she is both exhibiting herself (as an
object? As a subject?) and yet she is also hiding, or ‘as if’ hiding? Is it
because it is the activity of a child? The child within the adult.It is certainly a space of inbetweeness,
child-adult, exposed-hidden, inanimate-alive, awake-asleep. It’s a beautiful
image and I have re-enacted it in my film Confessions
To The Mirror (68min, 2016) with a voice over of text by Cahun, which is
equally very much a self-portrait through Cahun’s self-portrait.