Statement (Winter 1987-88)

Mike_cartmell (79)

My work as a filmmaker is pitched on a terrain demarcated by history (personal and communal), sexuality, and language. Uncertainties surrounding my own origin due to foundlinghood and adoption led to a (terrified) fascination with ancestry, geneology, descent. My filmmaking is concerned with the issue of its’ my artistic parentage, and often finds itself up against the (impossible) problematic of origin/originality: this has much to do with the modes of adaptation I’ve investigated in some of my films, and with the ongoing interest in proper names.

The geneological has rather close ties with the sexual. My concerns in this regard have been with desire on the familial (oedipal drama, quotidian sexual relations), textual (struggles of interpretation, intertextual anxieties of influence), and imagistic (visual pleasure, pornography) levels. Ultimately, these various desirings find their limit point in an articulation with Death.

Language finds its way into my work in a number of ways: the interplay between word or text and image; the verbal component of the visual image; the “language” of cinema. In my series Narratives of Egypt, I’ve tried to integrate film within a “hieroglyphic” paradigm of communication, hoping to bring into play the variety of dimensions of hieroglyphic writings; the phonetic within the pictorial; the question of translation and the function of the name within that question; the funerary function – cinema as a crypt.

I came to filmmaking from cultural studies/critical theory background and so, not surprisingly, I’m very interested in the issue of the relation(s) between the theoretical and the productive in artmaking. This seems to me a crucial question for contemporary culture (for “post-modernism” if you will), and however difficult and contradictory the fit(s) found between the two, the articulation of theory and practice remains a site of profound exhilaration and challenge.