Trying out the (Wo)Man With Mirror user’s manual with Laura Hindmarsh in March & April 2016

In the last post, I explained how the time delay of almost 12 months has bought some useful thinking time. Here’s a short narrative of what we did with Laura over the weekends of 19-20 March and 6-7 April, 2016:

In suburban Canberra, Lucas and Louise are working with young artist Laura Hindmarsh who is here to try out using the user’s manual produced in 2009 for the Teaching and Learning Cinema re-enactment (Wo)Man With Mirror. The work takes place in three stages.

The first stage is to amass the resources needed for Laura to make the work which involves buying and painting a mirror, buying film stock, organising Pete Humble, our cinematographer friend to assist with filming Laura’s (Wo)Man With Mirror. There is an earlier blog post about the first meeting with Laura and measuring her up for her mirror.

We then work slowly through how the piece works – the choreography with the mirror is filmed while it takes place outdoors. This film is then projected while the performer repeats the choreography. The mirror is used to map the film to the live performance. The projection is set up to match the live mirror size and position. At  intervals through the performance, the live mirror and the projected mirror map exactly. To understand how this works, we watch video documentation of Guy Sherwin performing Man With Mirror (the piece TLC re-enacted as (Wo)Man With Mirror). We also watch footage of Lucas, Louise, Louise’s mother Valerie and Lucas’ father Owen. By comparing these, we start to see what properties work best in the performance.

We are all very focused in this watching session. Content that we have enough information about the choreography, we then move outdoors to look for the location where the filming should take place. We need some shadow falling on the mirror and we want to capture the hills and bushland we can see in the distance, a Canberra response to Guy’s footage shot on Hampstead Heath. Lucas then talks Laura through the movements.  As Laura goes through the choreography, we video tape it.

We come back the next morning to shoot Laura’s ‘hero’ footage on super 8 mm film. There is some cloud cover and it seems we will not get the desired shadow. The sun emerges just enough and we shoot the film with Lucas calling out the moves to Laura.

We return some weeks later with the film. Our task now is to put the film together with the choreography as a performance. It quickly emerges that the user’s manual instructions for this task tell us little or nothing about the task of super 8 film projection and we must fall back on our experience to achieve this. We refer to the user’s manual barely at all during this process. As it gets on to dusk, we videotape a performance in the location where the film was shot. It is very windy and wild and we are too late—the camera sees only black rather than twilight.

The next day we come together for a debrief. And it emerges that Laura would like to try a 16mm version. Because of other film work Laura and I have been doing, we have the resources on hand. It takes some time to work out the logistics as we will use wind-up 16mm cameras that shoot only 25 seconds at a time. This means Lucas and I must work in tandem – as one person winds, the other shoots and we must synchronise exactly. Lucas will  now be busy winding and shooting his camera so we must record his instructions for Laura. Lucas makes a voice recording on his phone (a podcast) and we test that she can hear this. There is a lot of repressed laughing during this shoot as the experience for  Lucas and Louise frantically winding between shots feels slapstick.
This shoot ends in a flurry to meet other commitments. Laura takes this film back to London with her where she processes it by hand in her Hackney darkroom. She opts to set it aside in favour of the super 8. In late 2016, she performs with this in London with a new ‘voice track’ she produced from video documentation of her footage. Immediately before the screening, she discovered an interesting slippage in timing between her voice track and her footage. This was created by the film projected at 18 frames per second while the video footage of this film was transferred to video at 24 frames per second.