Lis Rhodes’s 'Light Music' Challenges Perceptions of Film
The relatively obscure discipline of installation art finally receives some recognition with The Tanks at Tate Modern. This new exhibition space in London, formerly unused oil tanks, will host live art, performance art and installations. The Transformer Galleries will notably be presenting Light Music, an installation work by the British avant-garde filmmaker Lis Rhodes.
London born and based artist Lis Rhodes has been a key figure in the history of British avant-garde filmmaking. After studying Film and Television at the Royal College of Art, she pursued a career as a cinema programmer at the London Filmmakers' Co-op in the 1970s, cofounded 'Circles: Women's Work in Distribution' - the first British organization to distribute women artists' film and video works -Rhodes’s perception of art manifests itself in an inclusive way in her works. For her, art is a social striving, rather than an isolated practice. By challenging the traditional rules and references - moving image, narrative structure and conclusion – through which a film communicates, she refuses the concept of a passive audience sitting and receiving sound and images. The viewers’ interaction with the film and the active engagement of their senses and intellect are key to her work. Rhodes argues that ‘It is dangerous to step out of line - and lethal not to’, and this highlights her motivation and endeavour to question and change conventional ways of thinking.
The impact of language on perceptions, interactions and social relationships is at the heart of Rhodes’s filmic exploration. In fact, the artist adds through her work a significant political agenda to cultural practices. While maintaining her loyalty to experimental film, Rhodes also taps into performance, photography, writing, and political analysis. Her view that ‘women’s language’ is usually ignored or obfuscated drives her to utter that language in her own works.
In this groundbreaking
work, Rhodes plays with our preconception of film by
presenting the soundtrack as a series of horizontal and vertical lines that were
drawn with pen and ink on the optical edge of the filmstrip. These are
projected onto two opposite facing screens in a hazy room. As the films roll,
they appear as an ‘optical soundtrack’. What the viewer hears, on the other hand, is the audible equivalent of the
alternating images on thescreens. The space
between the two screens turns the beams into airy sculptural forms consisting of
light, shadow and smoke, which encourages the viewer
to move around the room. This in turns destroys conventional film watching
codes and turns the film into a collective practice where the audience is expected
to intervene into the work and thus, become the performer. This work was the artist’s reaction to what she
perceives as a lack of interest and appreciation of European women composers.Thus in Light Music, Lis Rhodes interweaves cinematic practices with a
range of topics from gender
politics to phenomenologicalexperience.
A retrospective show covering the last forty years of Rhodes’s career, Lis Rhodes: Dissonance and Disturbance, was exhibited at the ICAfrom January to March 2012. Her films are distributed by LUX.