A broad selection of Filmforms Gunvor Nelson experimental and autobiographical 16 mm film collection will be presented at the film festival EXFF at Frankfurt University’s Cinema Pupille e.V. between the 15th – 18th September in three separate programmes. The programmes have been curated by Martin Grennberger and Daniel A. Swarthnas.
Gunvor Nelson & Dorothy Wiley
Gunvor Nelson & Dorothy Wiley
FIELD STUDY #2
LIGHT YEARS EXPANDING
MY NAME IS OONA
Artist showcase : Gunvor Nelson
The filmmaker and artist Gunvor Nelson was born in 1931 in Stockholm, but grew up in the small town of Kristinehamn, Sweden. After studying art in Stockholm, she moved to San Francisco in 1953 where she studied and later taught art and film at San Francisco State University (1969–70) and the San Francisco Art Institute (1970–1992). In the 1960s, Nelson made the films Schmeerguntz (1966), Fog Pumas (1967) and My Name is Oona (1969) (the former two with Dorothy Wiley), all of which are considered classics of experimental film history for their personal, complex, innovative, distinctive and surreal montage, often with a feminist and absurdist perspective. Nelson, like many other filmmakers and artists active in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, hung out in the circles around Canyon Cinema, a group including personalities such as Bruce Baillie, Chick Strand, James Broughton and Robert Nelson.
In these four programmes, encompassing films completed between 1966 and 1991 all shot on 16mm, a plethora of formal approaches and areas of interest are explored, from the early work’s energetic playfulness, dictated by a multifarious montage straddling the overtly critical, absurdist, comic and even anarchic, to the latter work’s more emphasised engagement with memory, reconnection, family history and ageing.
Rather than seeing her work in terms of »experimental«, »avantgarde« or »feminist«, Nelson prefers »personal« as the most apt description of her way of working, and she has always filmed from a close and private perspective in her own way, and often things and people in her vicinity and the environment she lives in: herself, in her home, her garden, her family, her friends, the river outside her house in Kristinehamn, in San Francisco, at Muir Beach and not least in relation to her own painting.
In Nelson’s films, animation is often interspersed with filmed material in interlinked collages, in which she in various ways overpaints, ruptures, redirects and superimposes images in parallel and fluid montages. The films often move playfully and complexly in time and space without clear delineation, where unexpected collisions are followed by more documentary or narrative content. Central also is Nelson’s work with the interaction of sound (and voice) and the expansion of the image to achieve unforeseen constellations. There is an enhanced sense of the tactile here: multilayering, the expansion and contraction of movement, the image as palimpsest.
»I want my images to contain a kind of enigmatic depth, a charge and an energy that can convey more than what is discovered at a quick glance at the surface. The images must contain many dimensions and layers of meaning beyond the obvious. I see this as an advantage: film consists of more than one image and
is made up of many frames in a row, a number of images that can amplify or collide with each other in exciting and unexpected ways.«
In 1993, Nelson moved back to Kristinehamn, where she is still active as artist and videomaker.
— Martin Grennberger & Daniel A. Swarthnas