Super 8 & 16mm film transferred to video, stereo sound
Introduced by Alice Butler
A dream of becoming twenty four eyes four parallel brains and three hundred and sixty degree vision comments on abstract thoughts which relate to consciousness, transgender experience, movement and space perception. The film is a compilation of fragments and citations of Doireann O’Malley’s personal archive, comprising moments and experiences that float on a mirage of time.
Alice Butler: A dream of becoming twenty four eyes, four parallel brains and three hundred and sixty degree vision is comprised of extracts of footage from your personal archive. While we see a snapshot of Luis Buñuel’s Un chien andalou (1929) and footage of Bruce Lee in a brief but memorable appearance, most of the film’s sequences capture an intimate, un-staged reality. Can you talk about how you assembled and selected material for this film and what factors governed your choices in this respect?
Doireann O’Malley: Yes, that’s true, the images in the film were assembled from a larger archive of collected material which I gathered between 2008 and 2012 and were chosen with several equivocal themes in my mind: gender, sexuality, metaphysics, duality and mortality, to name a few. During that time I was living in Liebig34, in Berlin, an anarchic house project for women, lesbian, trans and intersex persons, where some of the footage was shot. My camera and film were a constant companion and came with me on trips to Ireland, Iceland and Portugal. Fundamentally, I wanted to capture what I saw in an ambiguous way, questioning the notion of reality and lived experience... the failure of representation to document subjectivity. I used a super 8 camera to facilitate this distance between the material world and perception whilst at the same time my compulsion to film grew out of my awareness of difference... living in a leftist separatist community, observing the mainstream from a critical perspective behind the lens… looking out... looking in... it also provided a cocoon where gender and sexuality was a more fluid experience than the binary version which I had been presented with growing up in Ireland. Having grown up in a catholic boarding school run by nuns, I have always had an affinity to alternative communities and modes of embodiment... laced behind the spectrum of the institution… and this time, I wanted to create a film as a representation of disidentification… to enact a potential becoming Other.
AB: The first shots of the film are presented in black and white negative. What inspired your decision to open the film in this way? Did you manipulate much of the film material that you worked with? What kind of processes did you employ in making the discrete film passages work together?
DOM: The images in the beginning were part of a roll of 16mm negative I developed at the DIY film laboratory Labor, in Berlin. The result was a mistake in the process where I used colour developer and didn't make a reversal copy, which is required to make a positive print. I liked the effect as most of the images were of buildings around Berlin. I felt it evoked a sense of opaqueness which thematically lends itself very well to the thematic concerns inherent in the work as well as to filmmaking itself and its relation to gender and visibility. I spent many days in the dark room, experimenting with developing processes, and nights, projecting the material at home and filming off the wall. It’s a very intimate and singular experience, spending time in the dark rendering images visible alone with one’s thoughts, which I think also influenced the writing process. I exhibited part of the film on a super 8 projector once on a home-made looping machine so the film often got stuck in the projector creating tears and splits which were quite ethereal.
The original film now exists in many fragments in a box with a typed text of the narration. I think it’s a beautiful object in this incomplete form.
AB: Besides the direct reference to dreams in the title, the film is also dream-like in nature and form. Can you describe how dream images and dream analysis influence your writing and filmmaking?
DOM: Dream images have always been an alluring force which drives my desire to make films. I have always been fascinated by my dreams and have kept a dream journal intermittently since I was in school. Corridors, rooms, buildings have always contained the surreal encounters visualized... The architecture of the convent seemed to occupy my dreams and would re-occur in different forms until now. I think the lasting spectrum of one’s environment inhabits dreams in a fantastical manner... which has always conjured up a de-stabilizing notion of reality. I have used dream analysis in my work in many ways also.
AB: There is a really effective interplay between the disembodied voice that narrates the film at a slow, steady pace and the subtle chord changes that either play in the background or take over where the voice dips out. The mellow delivery of the lines is also intriguing - can you describe your intention around this aspect of the film?
DOM: It is in-fact my voice with a slight reverb. The choice to use my own voice was, I guess, in relation to the intimacy of this stream of consciousness method of writing. I also was questioning authenticity in relation to the act of making art, the potential to be influenced by other artists and how quickly this could become a style which may become influential. I was trying to be wary of replicating the tone and rhythm of other spoken word artists.
I directly reference this in the line “Maybe I should simply mimic my heroes…”, which was then collaged with the youtube clip of Bruce Lee, which is the only digital image in the film and which I realized afterwards was coincidentally also used by Hito Steyerl, amusingly illustrating my point.
AB: Your most recent moving image work, Prototypes (2018), communicates a desire to dissolve a patriarchal gaze through an escape from subjectivity - a desire that is also apparent in this work. The jellyfish - a creature known to have 24 eyes and 360 degree vision - appears at the end of the film to propose an alternative, hypothetical way of seeing, something perhaps that cinema has the potential to offer us. Do you view the moving image as a tool through which established, prevailing perspectives can be challenged or de-stabilised?
DOM: Questioning of subjectivity is at the core of both films. In Prototypes, the protagonists participate in several methodologies drawn from psycho-analysis, schizo-analysis and explore alternative modes of gendered embodiment through these methods of speaking and listening to the self with and through Others. The agenda is not to obliterate subjectivity but perhaps to transform our notions of subjectivity and through this process, to obliterate the gender binary. The Institute proposes the possibility to transcend the gender binary and also to potentially live in a world without gender, yet this in itself is a hypothetical proposition, as much as an attempt to de-stabilize the dualistic structure of western systems of language, thought and subjectivity. The title references the anatomy of the Box Jellyfish which has 24 eyes and 4 parallel brains and thus has the ability of 360° vision. It is a faint hope or dream of embodying this experience and of transcending the limits of human embodiment and perception.
Sound by Nigel Farrelly.
Funded by The Arts Council of Ireland.