The second in a series of “quilt films” that pay homage to the work of pioneering female artists, Athyrium filix-femina reimagines Anna Atkins’ founding work in photography as a moving image. In 1843, Anna Atkins published the first book of photography, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, an exploration of regional botany that classified different kinds of algae using direct prints of the plants. The cyanotype process was a relatively short-lived as a dominant form of photography, however, it found refuge in the domestic sphere where it was used to decorate fabric for pillows, drapes and clothing. By combining filmmaking and quilting, this film extends from the “domestication” of this photographic art by exploring experimental narrative and structural forms through the use of traditional “women’s work.” The “narrative” in this film is told through the symbolic patterning in quilt-making practices. (The first quilt, c: won eyed jail (2005) screened at Views from the Avant Garde. It was my thesis project for the Bard MFA…https://vimeo.com/53054730).
Even more than my first quilt film, c: won eyed jail (2005), Athyrium felix-femina combines structural filmmaking and process-based techniques in order to bring materiality of filmmaking to the forefront—but also with emphasis on the handmade aspects of the art form. I made the cyanotype emulsion from scratch using Atkin’s original cyanotype recipe from 1842, I coated the clear leader, I exposed the film to sun (sometimes for an excess of 2 hours) and processed the film by hand in order to make this one print/this one quilt. The images are a combination of photograms of plants (an homage to Atkins botanical images) and direct prints of found footage (that tells the story of a young girl tormented by a gang of bullies and an imprisoned spider).
By adapting and reframing historical photographic processes to highlight the unique temporality and liveness of film, this project explores not only its materiality of film, but also the interface between the histories and discourses of film and photography.