Dérives #3: With Stephen Dwoskin
Author/Editor: Association net4image
Brixton tube station, at the heart of London’s busy African neighbourhood. Down the road and round the corner, to Beechdale Road. In this quiet terraced side street Stephen Dwoskin’s house-and-world is to be found, the scene of his cinematographic experiments. A house-and-world for, with the passing of time, Stephen, who contracted polio at the age of nine, has become rooted here, amidst his objects, his paintings, the tree in his garden, his editing table upstairs and the rooms which are his film studios.
We came to visit him in 2009. We wanted to talk to him about his films, which we had recently experienced (Moment, Trixi, Behindert, Girl, Central Bazaar, Oblivion, The Sun and the Moon), and in which he gives his spectators the opportunity to share the intensity of his gaze. Seeing his films had prompted a whole series of questions for us: on sexuality, on pain, on the relationship between the body and politics; on the use we make of our freedom; on the meaning of embodiment; and on love.
We spent three days in his company, and on occasion that of some friends, exploring a part of his life and his work.
This publication gives an account of our conversations. It also includes graphic illustrations by and photographs of Dwoskin himself, as well as the hitherto unpublished films Trixi and The Sun and the Moon.
Almost 40 years separate the making of Trixi from that of The Sun and the Moon. Both works, using different technologies, feature the same performer, Beatrice Cordua. The first was made on film and the second on video.
9 Entretien en francais
21 Film Is
43 Pain is…
53 Central Bazar
35 Age is …
68-73 Images and Filmography
75 Interview in English
83 Film is
97 Pain is…
103 Central Bazar
108 Age is…
For more content, please visit the Dérives website.
Trixie, 1969, 26 min, 16mm
The Sun and the Moon, 2007, 60 min, DV
Stephen Dwoskin (1939–2012) was born in New York. His Russian grandfather was a dancer, and would have liked Stephen to become one too. At the age of nine however, Stephen Dwoskin contracted polio. He now needed mechanical appliances in order to move about. While in hospital, he began to paint book illustrations. On his release, he took up photography and after finishing school went on to study graphic design and painting. Cinema came later, in 1961, when he shot his wife’s feet for his first film, entitled Asleep.
The wind of change that swept through New York in the 1960s, a period of intense social, artistic and political protest, had a decisive influence on Stephen Dwoskin. He quickly adopted the cause of an other, non-industrial cinema, which included his own films and those of very many other artists. After he came to London in 1964, he co-founded Europe’s first film-maker’s cooperative. In his book Film is, published ten years later, he celebrates all the ground-breaking innovation of the time, giving it the name of International Free Cinema.
His physical immobility has largely contributed to the form his cinema has taken. Using the camera, he explores the space around him, moving with his eyes. And does so with great determination and lust for life. Physical limitations have become an integral part of his artistic reflection and practice, as have the processes of image taking and editing, which he pushes to their expressive extremes.
Stephen Dwoskin never went back to live in the United States. His first public success as a film-maker was at the Knokke-le-Zoute International Experimental Film Festival in 1967-1968, where he won a prize. A number of his subsequent films were produced by cultural television stations in various European countries (ZDF in Germany, Channel 4 in Britain, La Sept/Arte in France and Germany). He has received several tributes for his work, reflected in the following list of film retrospectives: Digne (1980); Geneva (1981); Documentary Film Festival in Marseille in 1995; Bilbao (1996); Côté Court Festival in Paris/Pantin (2004); International Film Festival Rotterdam (2006); British Film Institute in London 2009; German Kinemathek/Arsenal in Berlin in 2010. His last film was completed in the summer of 2012. The world première was during the Locarno film festival in August of the same year, just after he had died. (from the Dérives website)