This was a new experience for me as my first visit to Flare this year was for my own screening. Over the last year I have been busily shooting, processing and editing footage for my film Love/Sick, a reflection on my experience of solitude and illness. Saturday was its world premiere as part of the larger QLQH project. We had the first screening of the day in NFT3, which was a thrill for me as I have been attending screenings at the Southbank Centre since my student days in the 1980s. To screen there was a huge privilege.
I had a chance to check the file played well and then sat down with the other artists and some guests, including my friend B., for some herbal tea to calm the nerves. Then off we trooped just before 12 to the venue, which was pretty full. Officially, it was sold out but there were a few spare seats next to me, from some of the co-sponsors that didn't turn up. I was second up after Nina Wakeford's live performance accompanying her footage of Greenham Common via artefacts and flowers gathered from the peace garden. I was one of the people who tagged along on a field trip to the Common last year, which was very exciting, and I think there may have been a few frames I shot, but I am not sure. She had a very complicated set-up of three screens behind her mic, and one of them did not play properly, but none of us realised it at the time. There were audible chuckles as she listed the sexual orientations given by women who lived at the camps: Lesbian, Lesbian, Het, and then there orientations when they gave interviews later: Lesbian, Lesbian, Lesbian, Lesbian. Hmmm.
My film was a digital output, so much less complex in exhibition and I watched with some anxiety, trying to sense the reception in the room to what is rather a difficult watch, as there is some explicit surgery footage. My heart rate crept up as a certain moment approached and then I calmed down.
Third up was Renee Vaughan Sutherland's much lighter in tone film which is a queering of Hollywood cinema's most cherished tropes of finding one's prince. A dazzling array of processed images featured, including several views of Julia Roberts' retracting tongue from Pretty Woman. This drew laughs every time. She had also soaked the film in hormones, thus influencing the fabric of the film itself, something she discussed in the Q&A. I had been especially nervous about the Q&A which followed our three films, but felt much better when we were on the stage and the feedback I got was I managed to be articulate. I recall I spoke about embracing DIY and the imperfect, so that covers a lot of ground.
The second half of the programme featured films more concerned with science and history. First up was the collaboration of Juliet Jacques and Ker Wallwork, which features beautifully wrought sculptures and narration on the experience of working out one's gender identity and its relationship to hormones. Next up was Sam Ashby's drama-doc staging an unfilmed script by Elizabeth Montagu on blackmail and gay men, which is quite timely as this year marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the UK. The drama was played against items from LGBT archives, including some T-shirts I remember well from Lesbian Avengers and other activist groups. The concluding film was Jacob Love's dual screen exploration of chemsex and ADHD, an at times abstract and at times figurative depiction of cascading stimuli. I was struck by how many different paths we all took and everyone was really articulate in discussing the work. I hope there will be more screenings and opportunities to discuss the project, which I found fascinating to work on.
Then it was time to celebrate, which took most of the day.