Jennifer West, Dawn Surf Jellybowl Film, 2011, TRT 8:15 minutes
Jennifer West(b. Topanga Beach, lives and works in Los Angeles) approaches filmmaking like an alchemist, experimenting and transforming the surfaces of blank film stock, shot footage, found photographs or off-cuts from Hollywood blockbusters into abstract kaleidoscopes of colour, allusion and direct reference.
Deeply rooted within the history of experimental and more specifically, structural film, West produces camera-less films through a number of processes and actions that reference influential avant-garde artists including, Tony Conrad, Carolee Schneemann, Allan Kaprow, Linda Benglis and Ed Ruscha. As a former student of Mike Kelley and Diana Thater, it was Thater who encouraged West to consider how the form or structure of any artwork can meet the subject or content as they each produce their own meaning.
Working directly onto 16, 35 and 70mm film leader, West subjects the film’s surface to a catalogue of materials, chemicals and substances that she describes as ‘marinades’. These include anything from nail varnish, mascara, pizza and whiskey to cigarette smoke, LSD, lithium and urine. West applies and exposes these substances directly to the film allowing their natural properties to alter the celluloid in unpredictable ways. Strips of film simultaneously undergo processes of destruction such as scraping, cooking, burning, drumming, head-banging and licking; a series of performed assaults and collective gestures delivered by willing participants.
In several of West’s videos, actions or events portrayed or embodied within source or shot footage, like – ‘Dawn Surf Jellybowl Film…’ from 2011 – are directly repeated on the celluloid to permeate the film with the qualities, substances and physical actions the film simply cannot convey. As West herself describes, “it’s a really disjunctive thing where film goes through a performative process and it becomes the residual marks from that experience”.