FILMMAKER DEBORAH STRATMAN IN PERSON
Fresh from a long trek through the snowcapped mountains of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Western China, ever-itinerant film/video/large-object-maker (and two-time Magic Lantern participant in “The Fear and Anger Show”) Deborah Stratman has at long last snowshoed her way to the craggy peaks of Providence, Rhode Island. Along with the 10lbs of foil-sealed astronaut food and her reflecting heat blanket, Deborah has brought with her an assortment of her own films and videos that will certainly light your way through the blinding snowstorm known in these parts as “February.” Not unlike a New England flurry, Deborah’s work blurs the line between experimental and documentary genres and has been seen everywhere from the Whitney Biennial to the Rotterdam Film Festival to an apartment in Mexico City. So put on your winter scarf, buy yourself a hot cocoa, and settle in for a night of Icelandic Sheep-Sheering, Mystic Jellyfish, Scottish Physicists, and Oh So Much More.
Featuring: Upon a Time (10:00, 16mm, 1991), Waking (7:00, video, 1994), On the Various Nature of Things (25:00, 16mm, 1995), From Hetty to Nancy (44:00, 16mm, 1997)
Upon a Time (10:00, 16mm, 1991) A fanciful dissection of the traditional western storytelling form. Grimm Brothers redux.
Waking (7:00, video, 1994) A video in two parts about two states – being asleep and being awake – and the absurdity, or even impossibility, of bridging between them. The camera becomes a stethoscope examining light as if it were a state of mind. The attempt to image a threshold.
On the Various Nature of Things (25:00, 16mm, 1995) A 24-figure exploration of the natural forces at work in the world, based on Scottish physicist Michael Faraday’s 1859 Christmas lectures to the public. The film literally, metaphorically and whimsically reinterprets scientific convention to illustrate physical concepts. Faraday felt people needed to be more aware of the everyday reality of physics and how its laws affected their simplest actions. So in the late 1850s, he addressed the English public on the subject. He arranged for a series of lectures to be held, as a tradition, on Christmas day. As Faraday put it, “We come into this world, we live, and depart from it, without our thoughts being called specifically to consider how all this takes place.” The filmmaker takes up his challenge and considers the world around her with an infectiously playful, yet sometimes dark, curiosity.
The film is an homage to Faraday’s enthusiasm and his tactile approach to science. He was also a filmic forefather, having invented and experimented with one of the first kinematascopic devices. The film challenges the viewer to see beauty in the small details which surround us but go unnoticed or are taken for granted. “I say apparently,” says the physicist, “for you must not imagine that, because you cannot perceive any action, none has taken place”.
From Hetty to Nancy (44:00, 16mm, 1997) The stoic beauty the Icelandic landscape forms a backdrop for a series of witty and caustic letters written at the turn of the century by a woman named Hetty as she treks with her companion Masie, four school girls and their school marm. The film juxtaposes Hetty’s ironic cataloguing of the petty social interactions of her companions as they endure discomfort and boredom with historic accounts of catastrophes that reveal the Icelandic people subject to the awesome forces of nature.
“From Hetty to Nancy is a moving landscape film shot entirely in Iceland. Text is added to the wild, almost surreal vistas: rolling titles tell stories from Iceland’s history, a voice reads letters written by an English tourist, Hetty, to her friend as she travels about Iceland with a group of schoolgirls. The film’s primary irony stems from Hetty’s rather bored attitude: we see spectacular multicolored views of mountains and fields and sky and wildly beautiful rock, yet she complains that the land is mostly ‘stones’. A single movement within Stratman’s static images – the wake of a seal in still water, the movement of a lone wind sock beside a primitive airstrip – often makes them dynamic. The land seems complexly alive; the texts are layered with meaning, including a hint of lesbianism in Hetty’s detailed descriptions of her charges’ clothing and jewelry. The diverse stories of the text, most of which never intersect, remind us how differently the land can be viewed across cultures.” -Fred Camper, The Chicago Reader