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Between seeing and knowing: Stephen Dwoskin’s Behindert and the camera’s caress

Garfield, R. (2017) Between seeing and knowing: Stephen Dwoskin’s Behindert and the camera’s caress. In: Clayton, S. and Mulvey, L. (eds.) Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and British Experimental Film in the 1970s. IB Taurus, London. ISBN 9781784537180

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Abstract/Summary

The personal portrait, abstraction and ambivalence: Behindert as a microcosm of the work of Stephen Dwoskin (working title) Dr Rachel Garfield, University of Reading Stephen Dwoskin came to the UK in 1964 as a successful designer aiming to take time out of professional commitments to explore art and develop his work as an artist1. He quickly became an important animateur on the London scene, drawing from his experiences and contacts in the Underground in New York. As well as continuing his design, he painted and then made films for which he won awards and built his reputation as a film maker above all2. In the 1980s in the UK interest in his work waned due to schisms and shifts in expectations of the artist and ideologies of representation. While Dwoskin has continued to maintain a considerable reputation in continental Europe, in the UK, by contrast, he is generally mentioned, in passing, as one of the founders of the LFMC or as merely an exemplar of sexually explicit films, subject to censorship in the 1960s. The well-worn and false dichotomy in the UK between subject and form served to elide the considerable contribution Dwoskin made to film language where he stands between the further usual antimonies of the political or painterly3. The “Personal film” of Dwoskin encompassed a rich interplay between form and content, intent and experience, refusing categorisation and the partisan schisms with which the British film scene has been riven. Dwoskin’s oeuvre above all aimed to bridge the divide between people, exploring the complexity of close friendship, intimacy and desire. This is countered, within his films, by the tacit inscription of its opposite: the impossibility of real connection and ultimate alienation of the subject, as he states, ‘people look at films in the same way that they look at each other – very distant from it all. In other words they “look at” but are seldom involved in’4. Of the three feature films Dwoskin made in the mid 1970s, Dyn Amo, Behindert and Central Bazaar, Behindert was the most personal in its poignant depiction of the arc of a relationship, through the re-enactment of his own love affair with Carola Regnier while he was on the DAAD fellowship. This paper aims to offer a reflective and critical reading of the film Behindert through its formal structure of an innovative cinematic visuality, both minimalist and maximalist, and painterly formalism that offered existential insights into the complexities of relationships; the challenge to the formation of subjectivity and questions around normativity through differentiation; complex embodiment, claustrophobia and authenticity.5 1 From a statement in the Dwoskin archive Special Collections, accessed 2 Nov 2015 2 He also wrote and continued to design. His writings are ‘New Cinema’ with Simon Hartog, Counter Culture, ed. Joseph Berke, Peter Owen, 1969, Film Is...The International Free Cinema, Peter Owen, 1978, Ha! Ha! La Solution Imaginaire, The Smith, 1993. 3 The Essential Raymond Durgnat, Henry K Miller, BFI 2015,p 198 4 Dwoskin, ‘If a Film’, Cinim, no. 2, 1967, p. 9. 5 Ray Durgnat ‘They think its Lacan, but actually its Sartre”, quoted in Henry K Miller, Dwoskin Dossier Screen, Jan 2016 (forthcoming) I will also consider the tension between re-enactment and authenticity in the film.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
ID Code:66961
Publisher:IB Taurus

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