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Sarah Pucill
In speaking of film-making traditions which reflect her broader concerns, Pucill refers to Maya Deren's films of the 1940s and their legacy in the work of Pucill's contemporaries Jayne Parker, Tanya Syed and Isaac Julien.

In their work, Pucill sees a modernist concern with formal issues - with choreography and composition - but one which still maintains "an interest in subject matter:" [I am interested in] artists constructing something in relation to poetry, and constructing [it] in a conceptual way.... I am not interested in abstraction ... but in trying to strike a balance with where there is a person [in the film space], so it is not just a camera looking ... [but] a person in a place: being situated ...

In creating a "situated" space of enquiry in her own films, Pucill opens up representation both to the impacts of the external world and to the recesses of the imagination. In Cast (1997) and Swollen Stigma (1998), Pucill stages key exchanges in the formation of her own subjective position as a film-maker and as a woman. In these complex later films, Pucill addresses the question of psychological projection onto an external object and the creation of an internal object or phantasm from the imagination; and gives equal status to the internal, imaginary, self-generated image and to the representation of the external object seen. This oscillation creates the "hallucinatory quality" she is interested in and which she cites as a development out of Surrealism: a hyper-realism ... a hallucinatory quality ... in which people are moving - just - but it is still all an image.

In Swollen Stigma the sound of a bird's wing accompanies the process of thought - even "startles" the mind into the process of association, ruptures its own fixed position, and signals its creative passage or movement. This is an explicit narrative of the processes of perception and imagination. A seated figure reflects on her own stillness, is startled into thought, and proceeds to construct an image. Suddenly the figure of a woman hangs suspended from the ceiling - inverted like the light which, from an external object, hits the retina. She swings in colour, lies prostrate on the ground, hues leaking from her costumed surface; her knees creak open like cupboards. There is a link between literal and metaphorical perceptions of the body; and a confusing of the internal and external status of the object. But certain taboos are also approached directly: a rose is red enough to be eaten, its image bleeds into the colours of her imagination.

Cast explores the processes of imaginative construction differently. A group of actors in period costume - equally representing a doll and the person who regards it - fluidly occupy the positions of object of desire and subject. There is in the film-maker's words a "bleeding" of identities, as the editing process carries the movement of one psyche through different cast members. These strange characters occupy an airless quiet atmosphere, where a mirror frames the enclosed space of their reflected interaction, and there is a literal movement of rocking and mirroring before this 'breaks' into the open space outside.

Pucill relates her psychological, and at the same time political, concerns with subjectivity, and with the female position, to a mode of representation which materialises the object in poetic terms: roses, liquid in glass, hunger, the touch mediated via film or mirroring, exact sound, the senses.

The principle of disruption in her work allows Pucill to explore both the visual and the conceptual limits of these acts of representation, and to work with rupture as a creative space for the imagination. In her later films, we inhabit the interior 'site' of such psychic ruptures and juxtapositions: the theatre of the imagination. Pucill's work explores the complexities of an inner and outer relationship to the world by addressing her own consciousness and its capacity for image-making. Beyond the formal and aesthetic composition of the image, it is these perceptual and imaginative negotiations, the negotiation of subjectivity through visual images, and the analytical and irrational power of the visual imagination, that are her primary concern and the content of her work.

Helena Blaker is an artist and writer who has researched and managed new commissions in public art for international artists working in Britain, and curated a number of exhibitions of artists' work in performance, video and experimental film.

Helena Blaker
Still from Cast by Sarah Pucill, 1999
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