Words by Liberty Antonia Sadler
Photography by Simon Harry Cox
What is MicroActs?
MicroActs is a program of short films, 6 minutes or less, exploring concentrated storytelling through moving image. From bold political expression to delicate personal memories to abstract experimental collages; MicroActs creates an evening of thought-provoking, informative and diverse films. Works can be narrative or non-linear, experimental or scripted, abstract emotions, comedy sketches, music videos, and more; MicroActs is selects works that share politics, intersectional experiences and tell stories. Now in its second year, and over 40 artist/filmmakers shown, MicroActs is going from strength to strength championing Artist Film in London from filmmakers & artists all over the world.
Why are personal stories important?
Sharing our stories and embracing personal identity, I believe, is a vital part of creative purpose; the artist becomes a contributor to a societal conversation, and engages in an exchange that generates reflection and understanding. Personal stories can educate, inform and may also act as a beacon of hope for someone facing the same experiences. Augusto Boal’s concept of “good empathy” between work and spectator in ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ argues that that performance “needs understanding in order to avoid the spectacle turning into an emotional orgy”, and I think that is true of the balance between personal and public. There was a phrase during my time at Central Saint Martins: ‘Personal Cultural Capital’, the importance of your voice, the context of where it began, and how you as a practitioner exist within the world and the work. One of my favourite directors, Pier Paolo Pasolini, in a 1965 interview, explained his “method consists simply of being sincere, honest, penetrating, and precise”;Pasolini described himself as a “a ‘non-professional’ director” who’s creativity came from “the urge to express oneself and the urge to bear witness of the world”, and I understand this feeling completely. An individual’s personal journey can be a shared moment with the audience, with the possibility of triggering private sources of memory, common emotional experience or sense of humour. The wholehearted subjectivity of an artist is a very powerful happening to witness, it can be uncontrolled, bizarre and raw, much like experiencing an emotion first hand.
Why artist film?
When developing the idea to create an artist film night, I began by pinpointing what I felt was missing from screenings and exhibitions, and I realized that it was a subjective edge. In ‘Cinema, Memory, Modernity, The Representation of Memory from Art Film to Transnational Cinema’ by Russell J.A. Kilbourn, we are asked to consider “cinema as a mode of collective memory”; and if film is shared life experience, I have wondered about the segregation of art film and mainstream cinema and whether it is fear of the personal? If this is the case, that art films tackling human emotion are not in the mainstream, then are the movie-going/gallery-going masses missing an emotional experience? In the essay collection ‘The Cinema of Me: The Self & Subjectivity in First Person Documentary’, the editor Alisa Lebow’s introduction discusses the preconceptions about autobiographical work, stating that the “all-too-readily accepted impression” is that “first person films are self-absorbed, myopic, ego-driven films that only a mother could love”. There is often hesitation before sharing a work that is personal, that fear of offering it to people who have not shared the experiences and that they will humiliate, isolate or generate a backlash; and at MicroActs, we want to remove this fear by creating a supportive screening environment. First person films have the potential to be, in Lebow’s words, “poetic, political, prophetic or absurd”,and making work from personal experience can “express our commonality, our plurality, our interrelatedness with a group”, and MicroActs aims to creates a space to put this into action. A place to find representation of women of all ages, trans/non-binary persons, intersectional feminism, queerness and non-normativity that you rarely find in the a mainstream gallery or screening. Using New Media has helped many artists and filmmakers express their political voice in new ways; making film doesn’t need to be a huge budget, narrative, ‘director-films-actor’, story arc outcome, it can be a no-budget, totally digital, a playscape of text, character and experimentation- it’s art, no filmschool rules apply. The role of the artist should be ever evolving with society to be able to reflect it, and include technology and communication. The art world and artists should embrace it fully, and many already have for example the rise of CGI art, GIF art and digital residences/artist ‘take overs’.
What is a MicroActs event like?
Opening at 6pm, many attendees arrive early to grab a drink and relax before the screening begins at 7.30pm; and even those who attend the event alone will soon find a friendly creative welcoming them to the space. A MicroActs programme is typically split into two half hour slots, with an interval for drinks and a breather, after which many artists and filmmakers who screened with us stay to discuss their work and network with the audience and each other. This supportive and community-building night stays open until close at 11pm, with the fully licensed Hotel Elephant bar serving local beers, cocktails and coffee. Our programmes often contains content that some may find sensitive or strong, such as nudity or language, so we recommend our screenings to over 18s only.
Thursday 25th October 2018
6 – 11pm
Liberty Antonia Sadler is an artist & filmmaker based in London who works with mediums of drawing, text and moving image to explore issues of 21st century body politics, with a focus on the experience of living in a large ‘femme’ body in a ‘photo-shopped’ world; the new visual rhetoric of perfection through digital manipulation. Working within a socio-political context, her work uses character and playfulness to discuss themes of food, queerness, ‘femininity’, vulnerability and sexuality. Liberty Antonia studied B.A.(Hons) Performance Design & Practice, Central Saint Martins & M.A. Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art and continues her academic research and works as a visiting practitioner and tutor on Performance Design & Practice Pathway at Central Saint Martins. Liberty is the founder and curator of artist film night MicroActs, currently based at Hotel Elephant, London. Her work has been featured at Whitechapel Gallery (London), ICA (London), BFI Southbank (London), HOME (Manchester), CCA (Glasgow) and internationally at Experimental Forum (Los Angeles, USA), Grrl Haus Cinema (Berlin, Germany), AVIFF Film Festival (Cannes, France) and CINEMQ (Shanghai, China); she has been featured in publications Nylon Magazine, Polyester Zine, WomenCinemakers, Metro.co.uk and KAVN Zine.