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Drawing on IMMA’s recent programme featuring the work of pioneering women filmmakers such as Yvonne Rainer, Helen de Witt, curator, advisor BFI London Film Festival, discusses new directions in experimental and artists film concentrating on Rainer’s influence on feminist film practices from the 1970’s to present. This talk traces the key themes, narratives and practitioners that have preoccupied this highly influential period in artists cinema and experimental film practice. To follow, de Witt selects a series of feminist experimental films by Sandra Lahire for a special screening of the renowned film trilogy – ‘Living on Air’. See screening programme below.

About the Speaker

Helen de Witt is a UK-based curator, lecturer and writer. She teaches at Birkbeck, University College and University of the Arts London and at the National Film and Television School. She is programme advisor for the BFI London Film Festival Experimenta section for international artists’ moving image and consults for the BFI and Film London. Previously Helen was Head of Cinemas at the BFI, and Festivals Producer for the London Film Festival and Flare: London LGBTQ Film Festival. Helen is also a director of The Service Co-op, an independent production company that makes films about social justice, the arts and creative collaborations. She has published on independent cinema and artists’ film. See further details here:

SCREENING PROGRAMME: 7.00pm – 8.30pm

Sandra Lahire, Trilogy: Living on Air

Lady Lazarus 1991, 25 mins / Night Dances 1995, 15 mins / Johnny Panic, 2000, 46 mins

“Sandra Lahire was an incredible artist who sadly died aged 50. She was the generation that followed Rainer and her concerns are similar- lesbian feminist identity, the body and movement, disease and aging, the aesthetics of representation, the mind and the act of creation. The trilogy was inspired by Sylvia Plath; her earlier work was concerned with the labouring body and the capitalist exploitation of workers, particularly women, and the earth particularly in the nuclear industry. Process was very important to Lahire’s work, made on an optical printer, providing a multilayered and deep image, like Rainer, to combine text on screen”. Helen de Witte.

More Details
Born in 1950, Sandra Lahire studied Philosophy at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne (BA), Fine Art Film at St Martins School of Art (BA 1984) and Film & Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art (MA 1986). Her films have been shown nationally and internationally at cinemas and festivals including Creteil, Locarno, Berlin, Montreal, Sao Paolo, Turin, Jerusalem, Australia and the Philippines. Writings include Lesbians in Media Education published in Visibly Female(ed Hilary Robinson, Camden Press 1987) and articles for Undercut. She also wrote a musical score for Lis Rhodes’ film Just About Now. She passed away in 2001.

Lady Lazarus, Sandra Lahire : UK, 1991, 25 minutes, B&W / Colour /Original format: 16mm film / HD Video
Sylvia Plath introduced her ‘Lady Lazarus’ reading by saying: “The speaker is a woman who has a great and terrible gift of being reborn. The only trouble is, she has to die first. She is the phoenix… She is also just a good plain resourceful woman.” In this film Lady Lazarus is a woman irresistibly drawn towards Plath’s voice. She becomes a medium for Sylvia, as in a seance, as the film travels between Massachusetts and Camden, on actual locations of the poet. Lady Lazarus explores a cinematic alphabet for Plath’s own readings of her poetry and extracts from an interview given just before her death. The film provides an anchor for her macabre humour; a carousel of images in windows; an atmosphere of constant metamorphosis.

Sandra Lahire, Night Dances: UK, 1995, 15 minutes, Colour / Original format: 16mm film/ HD Video
Night Dances is for my mother, who died whilst helping me to make this piano musical. The Dance of Death is bound to life – Lechaim – as we whirl together by Hebrew gravestones. A dreaming woman is ferried through our decaying city. This is the age of the Personal Computer – the Private Catacomb for the switched-on elite.

Sandra Lahire, Johnny Panic: UK, 2000, 46 minutes, Colour / Original formats: 16mm / SD Digital file
Within this film Lahire deftly combines the fictional aspects of [Sylvia] Plath’s writing with the stark reality of her life. Johnny Panic is a filmic and poetic text that evokes and adds to Plath’s own dreams in the story ‘Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams’, and which grounds Plath’s own recorded statement: ‘one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying – like madness and being tortured – Gill Addison

Screenings courtesy of LUX

Yvonne Rainer Film Programme
Yvonne Rainer is one America’s greatest living artists and one of the most important feminist, political and avant-garde filmmakers of the Twentieth Century. Avant-garde dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker, her influence on experimental film practice is unrivalled. Her art shaped new ways of watching as well as performing and connected the 1960s avant-garde to politics and activism. Her radical choreography prefigured investigations into the body and display, the gaze and performativity, the haptic and affect. Her films, full of wit and candor, dealt with very current themes of sexuality and identity, violence and war, and illness within the context of personal and political histories. See details here:

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.