One-on-one with Filmmaker Stephanie Barber - "Death, corporeality and spirituality"
Stephanie Barber (U.S.) is a writer and artist who has created a poetic, conceptual and philosophical body of work in a variety of media, often literary/visual hybrids that dissolve boundaries between narrative, essay and dialectic works. Her work considers the basic philosophical questions of human existence (its morbidity, profundity and banality) with play and humor.
Barber’s films and videos have screened nationally and internationally in solo and group shows at MOMA, NY; The Tate Modern, London; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Paris Cinematheque; The Walker Art Center, MN; MOCA Los Angeles, The Wexner Center for Art, OH, among other galleries, museums and festivals.
On her 2020 film 'another horizon', Barber writes:
"I made a 36-foot scrolling collage of photographs of horizons (ripped from optimistic books and magazines.) I shot and processed the 16mm film and then scratched each frame with a razor along the horizon line. The tedium of the process a kind of joy and discovery.
"The soundtrack is also a manipulated collage of words and sounds. Here, the space between narrative and documentary, fact and fiction, is literally scratched between two voices, cleaved apart or brought beside. Jayne Love reads a text I wrote for her––short sentences on the concept of the horizon and the briefest suggestion of narrative collide with pieces of Richard (Oswan) Williams' beautiful, rum-fueled living room sermons to me as a young person. [Editor's note: Richard "Oswan" Williams is a priest in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans.]
"I lived, for a few months, in Richard, and his wife Mary’s, apartment, the site of their voodoo spiritual temple in New Orleans. Of course, as priests and priestesses, Richard and Mary spoke often of death, transcendence, ethics and health. Our days were slow and filled with philosophical rumination. I recorded most everything on cassette tapes back then and some of those have made it here to the present. To this horizon we’re at now.
"The horizon, where the sky and the earth meet, is always elsewhere, a promised place where these two elements come together. A metaphor, an orienting, a promise of transition, change, transcendence. A place where the corporeal and spiritual meet, or are cleaved apart."
Excerpt: another horizon (2020)
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Barber: "My film 'another horizon', the third short piece I've made thinking about the horizon and how humans understand and rely on this phenomenon. Here, the horizon is a stand in for the line between life and death, corporeality and spirituality."
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
Barber: "The key challenges to making this were building the 120ft collage of horizon lines and then hand scratching each frame of the 16mm film."
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
Barber: "I never know just what pride means. I love to hear Richard's voice , it is a voice I heard regularly for a few months many years ago, and the tenor of his words and pacings, his repetitions and the profound content of what he is saying is particularly moving to me. I am deeply moved by huge, brilliant, profound thoughts expressed with light humor or a contrasting crudeness. Richard had tight handling of this alluring balance."
Thank you Stephanie for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 18 February 2021