Cinenova Distribution Hysteria and the Hybrid Body

Cafe OTO

17 February 2018 – 7.30pm


PS/Y’s Hysteria and Cinenova Distribution present a programme of moving image work made by women that utilises the female body or feminist perspective to redefine iterations of the term hysteria as a tool for colonial power.

This evening takes its title from an essay written by Priyadarshini Vigneswaran about Sri Lankan-born filmmaker Laleen Jayamanne’s A Song of Ceylon, which will be screened in 16 mm alongside work by Tran, T. Kim-Trang, Lana Lin and Pia Arke, with a DJ set by Evan Ifekoya.


Laleen Jayamanne, A Song of Ceylon (1985, Australia), 16 mm

The title A Song of Ceylon mimics Basil Wright’s 1934 documentary about the then British colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). However, where Wright’s film employs a colonial voice to narrate the life of the island’s inhabitants, Laleen Jayamanne invokes a woman’s ritual exorcism – expanding the language of filmmaking into a study of perception, emotion and hybrid states of being.

A new essay by Jayamanne about A Song of Ceylon will be available on the evening.


Tran, T. Kim-Trang, ekleipsis (1998, USA), SD Video to Digital

ekleipsis delves into two histories: the history of hysteria and the Cambodian civil war. Tran, T. Kim-Trang weaves together texts of these histories along with a composite case study of Cambodian women living in California who are suffering from hysterical blindness – that is, sight loss brought about by traumatic stress – and the artist’s mother. The video speaks about the somatisation of pain and loss and expresses the inspiration found in those who survive traumatic events and utilise their experiences to reflect on life in positive ways.


Lana Lin, Stranger Baby (1995, USA), 16 mm

Substituting sly metaphor for political rhetoric on immigration, Lana Lin examines our world of ethical and racial complexities. Framed as a mock science fiction, Stranger Baby, offers different perspectives on what it means to be human and what is labelled alien: A woman is haunted by an androgynous apparition; female characters peer out of sci-fi past; curious faces flicker on a TV screen. Their often anxiety-ridden communications issue from technology, memory and fantasy. Excerpts from interviews and scripted narrative weave into an internal monologue that addresses both the threatening and attractive aspects of the alien.


Pia Arke, Arktisk hysteri [Arctic Hysteria] (1996, Denmark), S-VHS to Digital

The term ‘Arctic Hysteria’ was coined by western explorers to describe an allegedly culture-specific psychopathological phenomenon affecting Inuit people living within the Arctic Circle. The condition, which manifested as screams, convulsions and loss of self-control, supposedly appeared in the winter and especially in women. In Arktisk hysteri, Greenlandic-born artist Pia Arke crawls naked across a photographic image of the landscape of Nuugaarsuk, Greenland. Padding, stroking, sniffing and rolling around, she penetrates the landscape of her childhood home and slowly destroys the image.


Pia Arke was born in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, and lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark. Arke is recognised as one of the Nordic region’s most important postcolonial critics. Through photography, collage, video, installation and writing, Arke examined the places where she lived as a child and the historical colonial relationship between Denmark and Greenland. Her work encouraged Denmark to re-examine the colonial history of Greenland. While she participated in a number of exhibitions during her lifetime, the first major survey of her work did not take place until after her death in 2007 with Tupilakosaurus at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Denmark (2010), Copenhagen, both curated by Kuratorisk Aktion. Arkes’ work has recently been shown and collected by museums including Louisiana, Copenhagen, Denmark; Brandts Museum of Art and Visual Culture, Odense, Denmark; and Moderna Museet Malmö, Sweden. Most recently, her work has been shown as part of the exhibition Muros Blandos [Soft Walls] at Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile (2017-18).

Evan Ifekoya’s work investigates the possibility of an erotic and poetic occupation using film, performative writing and sound, focused on co-authored, intimate forms of knowledge production and the radical potential of spectacle. Ifekoya’s recent work has been presented at: Contemporary Arts Centre New Orleans as part of Prospect 4; Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh, New Art Exchange, Nottingham; Plymouth Arts Centre; Serpentine Galleries, London; Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire; (2017); Transmission Gallery, Glasgow; and, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town (2016). Recent performances have taken place at ICA, London and KW institute, Berlin (2017) and Jerwood Space, London and Whitstable Biennial (2016). Ifekoya was an Art Foundation Fellow in Live Art for 2017.

Laleen Jayamanne taught cinema Studies in the Department of Art History and Film Studies at the University of Sydney. She received her BA from the University of Ceylon, her MA from New York University and her PhD from the University of New South Wales. Her research focuses on cross-cultural film criticism, feminist film theory, and Deleuzean film theory. Some of Jayamanne’s published works include: The Epic Cinema of Kumar Shahani (2015), Towards Cinema and its Double: Cross-cultural Mimesis (2001), The Filmmaker and the Prostitute: Dennis O’Rourke’s The Good Woman of Bangkok (1997) and Kiss Me Deadly: Feminism and Cinema for the Moment (1995).

Lana Lin is an artist/filmmaker and scholar whose recent work concerns embodied vulnerabilities that emerge at the confluence of race, gender, technology and malignant cell growth. Lin has produced a body of experimental films and videos that interrogate the politics of identity and cultural translation through attention to the formal capacities and historical contingencies of moving image media. For over a decade she has also focused on collaborative multi-disciplinary research-based projects (as Lin + Lam) that examine the construction of history and collective memory. Her work has been shown at international venues including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, New Museum, The Kitchen, and the Queens Museum, New York, Mass MOCA, the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival, the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China. Her manuscript on the psychic effects of cancer, Freud’s Jaw and Other Lost Objects, is forthcoming from Fordham University Press.

Tran, T. Kim-Trang was born in Vietnam and emigrated to the USA in 1975. She received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and has been producing experimental videos since the early 1990s. Her work has been exhibited internationally. In 1999 Tran presented her Blindness Series in a solo screening at the Museum of Modern Art. Two of her videos were included in the Biennial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Blindness Series was featured at the 46th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, both in 2000. Her video project, an eight-video series investigating blindness and its metaphors was completed in 2006.  Tran has been nominated for a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts and was named a 2001 Rockefeller Film/Video/Multimedia Fellow. The fellowship has enabled her to develop an experimental narrative feature titled Call Me Sugar, based on the life of her mother.

Cinenova was founded in 1991 following the merger of two feminist film and video distributors, Circles and Cinema of Women. Each was formed in the early 1980s in response to the lack of recognition of women in the history of the moving image. Both organisations, although initially self-organised and unfunded, aimed to provide the means to support the production and distribution of women’s work in this area, and played critical roles in the creation of an independent and radical media. Cinenova currently distributes over 500 titles that include experimental film, narrative feature films, artists’ film and video, documentary and educational videos made from 1912 to 2001. Cinenova holds a large collection of paper materials, books and posters related to works it distributes, and the history and politics of film and video production. The thematics in the work at Cinenova include oppositional histories, postcolonial struggles, domestic and care work, representation of gender and sexuality, and importantly, the relations and alliances between these different struggles. Cinenova is a collectively organised volunteer led organisation.

Image: Laleen Jayamanne, A Song of Ceylon (1985, Australia), 16 mm. Still from film