Geraldine Kim interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn at Weird Sister:
Geraldine Kim: When I was reading the meshes, I noticed multiple layers of gazing or “looking” throughout the text—the gaze of the filmmaker, of the author writing about the filmmaker’s work, etc. “looking resists. looking revises. looking interrogates. looking invents, to be stared at. looking at one another. looking back” (p.31) and “having performed seeing. seeing double. seeing doubles. having performed spectatorship. I describe the lens. the film itself. the both-ness. opposition of becoming. soft focus. caught the light. depth of surfaces. multiplications as limiting” (p. 54). Could you talk a bit more about these layers?
Brittany Billmeyer-Finn: Spectatorship is innate to the process of writing this book. An important part of the process is watching films. It also becomes a source of contention and critique that develops in the four sections of the book; “the poems,” “the essay,” “the play,” and “the annotated bibliography.”
“the poems” engages with a selection of Maya Deren’s silent films including; the meshes of the afternoon, ritual in transfigured time, witch’s cradle, choreography for camera, at land and meditation on violence. As I watched these films, I attempted to translate them into poetry by showing the experience of watching on the page.
Following Deren’s silent films, I came across her documentary, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. The course of the project shifted with the inclusion of this film. It felt important to push up against the passivity of watching. The process needed a form that allowed for more nuance beyond watching and translating. So, I changed the form to a poetic essay. “the essay” includes both the process of transcribing the film itself and also a research element in which I read books and essays on the Haitian Revolution, on Haitian Voudoun tradition including Deren’s own book, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. I read multiple genres in which Haiti is represented. This incorporation hoped to push up against the colonized archive and potential violence of ethnography as well as the passivity of spectatorship by asking, What are the ethics of this?
“the play” was an important shift in form. It reflects the process of writing the first two sections of the book and offers a self-awareness the first two sections do not. “the play” itself is a ritual of making this work. the meshes deals in iteration. As “the poems” and “the essay” become “the play” the position of the text shifts, starting as a collection written by a viewer and becomes that which is viewed.
Read the rest here!