EWVA European Women's Video Art

Elaine SHEMILT

Key Works

 

Doppelgänger (1979-81)

8m 57s

EIAJ 1/2"

 

Doppelgänger is a video performance in which Shemilt manipulates her body and her image into creating a phantasmal double of herself.

The piece begins with a close up of the face of Shemilt in front of the camera.

The mirror reflects her applying make-up to her face with very dry, precise gestures. During these actions two sound tracks can be heard: they are records of two psychological analysis on schizophrenia, evoking a double personality. At some point, the performance is suddenly interrupted by another image, showing the face of the artist.  Then the action goes back to what we could call the 'mirror scene'. At that point she drops the concealer and takes a dark drawing pen: and like on canvas, evoking the traditional image and position of the painter, and the use of mirror in self-portraits, she begins to draw on the mirror in front of her.

At the end of the performance other images of the body and the face of the artist with the overlapping layers of other body/face images appear, which evoke once more, a multifaceted personality.

Finally we get back to the mirror tableaux and the artist has gone: the doppelgänger has taken her place.

 

Women Soldiers (1984)

6m

Umatic

 

Women Soldiers addresses several feminist issues. The main theme of the video is the role of women in the military forces but it is also a starting point for Shemilt to widen her prospective to a more general critique of how women are represented by media and society and their role and status.

The viewer is guided in this reflection by several voice-over traces. The first is a script pillaged by Shemilt from a military recruitment campaign and read by her friend the artist June Raby, which with subtle irony and a critical approach describes the ‘requirements’ for an unspecified job (that from the images and the title the viewer can assume is in the army). A second sound track is a fake infomercial about skin rejuvenation, read by a male performer. Shemilt also employs some sound recordings of bombing in Beirut from 1981.

These issues are also addressed through the use of a series of photographs shot by Shemilt at a British army training camp and of the military paraphernalia (including weapons and gas masks), photo-documentation and prints from Shemilt’s performances, and images from beauty products’ commercial adverts.

The use of strong dramatic imaginary and the sound of shooting are a clear appeal of the artist for peace.

 

 

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