The Legacies of Stephen Dwoskin's Personal Cinema

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Art

Abstract

Stephen Dwoskin (1939-2012) was an internationally respected experimental filmmaker. He was also a pioneer as a filmmaker with disabilities, having contracted polio in childhood. His large and varied output ranged from underground shorts to feature-length narratives, from essay films to video diaries. Appropriately, it was commissioned, presented, and collected internationally, by institutions spanning the art world, cinema, and broadcasting, including the British Film Institute and Channel 4 in the UK, Anthology Film Archives and the Museum of Modern Art in the US, ZDF and Arsenal in Germany, the Centre Pompidou in France, and the Cinematek in Belgium. His archive was deposited at the University of Reading's Museums and Special Collections in 2013 by Rachel Garfield, the executor of his estate.
From his arrival in London on a Fulbright scholarship in 1964, in parallel with his filmmaking career Dwoskin quickly became a key motivating force in the development and creation of an infrastructure for the production and dissemination of independent film. In 1966 he helped found the London Film-Makers' Co-Op (now LUX), went on to teach film at the Royal College of Art, and was the author of a major overview of the independent cinema of his time, Film Is...: The International Free Cinema, published in 1975. He also had a role in founding the Other Cinema, a key London venue for the cinematic avant-garde of the 1970s.
Dwoskin's oeuvre is indelibly marked by his experience of disability and illness, entwining questions of personhood and the struggle for independence, both physical and professional, with profoundly existential investigations of sexuality and sexual difference. Famously, it was in part through conversations with Dwoskin, and through exposure to his early films, that Laura Mulvey came to articulate the notion of the 'male gaze' in her seminal 1975 Screen article 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', an early draft of which actually included a discussion of Dwoskin's films.
Despite his seminal importance, Dwoskin's complex 'personal' aesthetic has largely been omitted from subsequent accounts of the era, in favour of the formalist 'structural' film championed by the theorists and filmmakers of the later LFMC. This project aims to provide a corrective to the dominant narrative, from which Dwoskin and other non-structural filmmakers, filmmakers with impairments, female filmmakers, and filmmakers of colour have historically been excluded. Dwoskin's presence unsettles established readings of British artists' moving image.
The opportunity to assess critically a comprehensive archive of over one hundred boxes of papers and photographs, and twenty hard drives, chronicling not only Dwoskin's life and work, but also the global network of individuals and institutions which made up the experimental film milieu between the 1960s and 2010s, is significant. Our project, through a combination of qualitative and practice-based research methods, and through new approaches drawn from the emerging fields of digital archiving, digital forensics, and data exploration, will directly benefit artists, film and art scholars, and curators. In the process of opening up the Dwoskin archive, digital and physical, it will originate a prototype methodology for the study of the humanities.
It is a timely critical intervention intended to develop Dwoskin's legacy at a moment when the histories of British and global artists' moving image are being written. In addition, the project marks a crucial point in the development of Dwoskin's legacy as an artist, especially as a beacon to many artists with physical impairments. The project's research is therefore also recuperative: it will challenge cultural perceptions about the creative leadership potential of people with impairments in the wider world, and reinvigorate creative practice and scholarship on and around art and disability.

Planned Impact

Stephen Dwoskin (1939-2012) was a groundbreaking experimental filmmaker who was and continues to be acclaimed throughout Europe for his technical and formal innovation. He was also a pioneer as filmmaker with disabilities, and as an activist for the rights of people with disabilities. However, in Britain his work remains largely unknown. This research and digitisation project will reinstate Dwoskin's legacy as an artist and animateur in British independent film through multidisciplinary work on his archive, which will be future-proofed for new generations of artists, film-goers, and researchers. The project will also establish a forum for younger artists to know and be inspired by his work to support and further their own careers and the development of their visual language.

Beneficiaries will include:

1. The British Film Institute (BFI), which will be enabled to archive Dwoskin's work in digital form, enabling greater access to his work for researchers, filmmakers and artists, and those with a general interest in British filmmaking. As well as increasing accessibility, the project will future-proof the Dwoskin film collection. It is anticipated that the project will also significantly reduce the costs involved in the distribution and viewing of his films. As caretakers of Dwoskin's film work, the BFI will be central to developing his international legacy, particularly from filmmakers, artists and researchers in France, Germany and Switzerland.

2. LUX (formerly the London Film-Makers' Co-Op), which is actively seeking to raise the profile of Dwoskin as a founder of the LFMC and as a key figure within the international experimental film movement, giving him a central place in the full story of experimental film. The pilot Dwoskin Award and Residency scheme will create a legacy for his artwork and establish a forum for new artists to know his work, as well as greatly enhancing the artists' profiles and career trajectories, and those of future artists in subsequent Dwoskin Awards. Through the greater dissemination and enhancement of Dwoskin's work, LUX will be enabled to restore a breadth to the vision of what is possible in art and film practice within the auspices of the organisation, ensuring the legacy of one of their founding artists. The publication by LUX of an edited collection on Dwoskin, including material from the archive, will serve the same end.

3. New artists and filmmakers. There will be a significant impact on the artists and filmmakers selected to participate in this project, as they will receive a significant boost to their careers that will be fostered by LUX. Their work will be show-cased by LUX and the BFI to an influential audience, as well as to the wider film-going public. They will work collaboratively and open a working forum with similar up-and-coming artists which will influence the development of the legacy of Dwoskin's works. The aim is to make the Dwoskin Award an annual event therefore cementing the legacy on future artists and filmmakers.

4. Archivists, particularly those responsible for digital collections, will also benefit from this project as it will open up possibilities for archivists to consider how they can meet the challenges of retrieving, storing, and presenting digital records - a challenging new frontier in the humanities. The new approach developed in this project offers the opportunity for archivists to change their archival procedures to better future-proof, preserve, and make accessible digital records.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 'Acts of Love (Reconstructed)', screening and event at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, 14 February 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project, organized and co-presented this screening at BIMI, which included the participation of a leading film scholar from outside the project, Elena Gorfinkel (KCL), and of two of Dwoskin's key collaborators, Clodagh Brown and Liz Bennet-Leyh.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://artreading.org/2020/02/05/acts-of-love-reconstructed/
 
Description 'Exploration of Dwoskin's digital legacy' ,Yunhyong Kim, Frank Hopfgartner, Zoe Bartliff, conference paper given at the Screen Studies conference, 29th June 2019 as part of the Stephen Dwoskin panel, Chaired by R Garfield (PI) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Exploration of Dwoskin's digital legacy
In this talk, we will outline how digital forensics and data exploration can be employed to understand Stephen Dwoskin's personal cinema. We will use digital forensics to unravel the rich resources (e.g. film, text, audio) contained within Dwoskin's legacy hard drive and demonstrate potential for text and video analysis in helping to map influences in Dwoskin's creative processes. More specifically, we will look at text analysis methods to detect persons and organisations, and examine state-of-the-art video analysis methods such as audio-visual content detectors, shot boundary detectors, semantic content analysis and similar techniques that aim to identify patterns in video material. We will discuss how these techniques can be employed to identify patterns in Dwoskin's relationships and work, e.g., leading to novel insights about his personal video directing and editing style.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_649424_smxx.pdf
 
Description 'Raising the Titanic', Henry Miller, conference paper given at the Screen Studies conference, 29th June 2019 as part of the Stephen Dwoskin panel, Chaired by R Garfield (PI) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The difficulties and opportunities which the rise of the digital presents to the discipline of life writing are a well-rehearsed theme within that field. Film Studies, despite its ambivalent relationship with the biographical mode, will find itself confronting similar questions, and the archive of Stephen Dwoskin provides a useful test case. Partly because he was an 'early adopter', Dwoskin's archive has much to tell about the effect of successive technological changes on the creative process.

Moreover, Dwoskin was an autobiographical filmmaker who drew directly on his own archive, which preserves materials for at least three autobiographical projects, beginning with taped conversations and ending with marked-up Word documents, emailed back and forth across the Atlantic. The former are often unreliably transcribed, and the latter pose significant challenges to the researcher, since the proper order of what are evidently drafts of the same work - an autobiography proper - is frequently obscured or falsified by the vagaries of the software.

This talk will reflect on the possibilities opened up the move from paper as well as the ghosts that haunt Dwoskin's various machines, and will draw connections between the research process and Dwoskin's career-long interest in refilmed footage and the instability of 'the original'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_649424_smxx.pdf
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #11: Delving Into Dwoskin's digital legacy came out 4th November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Work Package 3, consisiting of 2 Co-I's and PDRA, Yunhyong Kim, Frank Hopfgartner and Zoe Bartliff respectively, are working on the analysis and extraction of Dwoskin's hard drives. The blog discusses and explains the work carried out so far on the WP.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-11-delving-into-dwoskins-digital-legacy
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #1: The Captive Spirit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Henry miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost to introduce the project using the archive , early in its existence, to the community we intend to reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2018
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-1-the-captive-spirit
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #2: The Tottenham Street Film Collective 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PDRA workign on the project, Henry Miller, published a blogpost about Stephen Dwoskin's involvement in a BBC community programme as a vehicle for popularising his activities and life's work and the archive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-blog-2
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #3: Bergmania in New York 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project, published a blogpost about the influence of Ingmar Bergman on Stephen Dwoskin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-3-bergmania-in-new-york
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #4: Introducing Mr Transmedia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PDRA, Henry Miller, working on the project published a blogpost on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stephen Dwoskin's first solo exhibition of paintings, and the 'transmedia' aspect of his early work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-4-introducing-mr-transmedia
 
Description Dwoskin Project Blog #5: The Banquet Years Years 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Our PDRA, Henry Miller, published a blogpost on an unrealized Stephen Dwoskin project about Alfred Jarry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-5-the-banquet-years-years
 
Description Jenny Chamarette, conference paper given at the Screen Studies conference, 29th June 2019 as part of the Stephen Dwoskin panel, Chaired by R Garfield (PI) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Mapping creative process with speculative methodologies: Dwoskin at work
Feminist theories of visual cultures and critical disability studies have long offered critiques of normative discourse about filmmaking and film production, ranging from well-known theories of the male and able-bodied gaze, to the physicality of making and exhibiting film, including camera positioning, shot duration, proximity of composition, subject matter and access to distribution. The Dwoskin Project develops these more speculative methodologies of the lived and represented body, in relation to detailed empirical data exploration of the digital files in the Stephen Dwoskin archive. In particular, being able to map creative processes across multiple formats (film, email, audio-recording) at a granular level, may potentially reveal more than ever about the complexities of creative labour in the production of film. Read through the lens of feminist and critical disability studies, creative processes and labour can thus be visualised in a distinctive, theoretically complex, but nonetheless concrete way. This paper explores two of Dwoskin's early digital films relating to embodiment and disability, made at a moment of distinctive cultural and political change for disability rights in the UK: Face of Our Fear (1991), a television documentary commissioned by Channel 4, and the autobiographical essay film Trying to Kiss the Moon (1994).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_649424_smxx.pdf
 
Description LUX blog dated 1 Oct 2019: Dwoskin Project Blog #10: Everybody in The Place 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on The Place, primarily a dance school and performance space that was used by two key alternative film organizations, on the fiftieth anniversary of its opening in 1969.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-10-everybody-in-the-place
 
Description LUX blog dated 10 May: Dwoskin Project Blog #7: hummmmm intense 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on the Knokke experimental film festival, and his visit to the Belgian Cinematek's archive to research its history.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-7-hummmmm-intense
 
Description LUX blog dated 12 Feb 2020: Dwoskin Project Blog #13: 1 Love Film 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on the origins and legacies of the 'Acts of Love' programme, to coincide with the project event 'Acts of Love (Reconstructed)'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-14-1-love-film
 
Description LUX blog dated 28 Aug 2019: Dwoskin Project Blog #9: Dynamo Club (belatedly) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on the emerging artist Philomène Hoël's 'performative film' Dynamo Club, inspired by and using elements from Dwoskin's feature film Dyn Amo (1972).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://artreading.org/2019/10/23/dwoskin-project-blog-9-dynamo-club-belatedly/
 
Description LUX blog dated 28 Jun 2019: Dwoskin Project Blog #8: The Inner Space Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on the connections between Stephen Dwoskin and the underground filmmaker Peter Whitehead, who had died a week before it was published.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-8-the-inner-space-project
 
Description LUX blog dated 5 Apr 2019 Dwoskin Project Blog #6: Somewhat Reconciled 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Henry Miller, the PDRA working on the project published a blogpost on Dwoskin's connections with the filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, to coincide with a season of their work in London and on MUBI.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-6-somewhat-reconciled
 
Description LUX blog no 13, Broken Bodies and Hidden Voices, written by Dwoskin PhD student Darragh O'Donoghue 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Darragh O'Donoghue PhD student wrote a blog that drew out connections between Stephen Dwoskin and Samuel Beckett.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://lux.org.uk/writing/dwoskin-project-blog-13-broken-bodies-and-hidden-voices-stephen-dwoskin-a...
 
Description Rachel Garfield spoke at the University Collections Research Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Spoke about the Dwoskin project and how to build a successful project to other academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The PDRA Henry Miller appeared on the Soho on Screen podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Our PDRA Henry Miller appeared on the Soho on Screen podcast, an ongoing project which has previously featured the well-known film critic Peter Bradshaw. The pod is on iTunes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sohoonscreen/id1444212180?mt=2
 
Description our PDRA Henry Miller gave a paper at a conference on Austrian cinema at the University of Cambridge. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our PDRA gave a paper at a conference on Austrian cinema at the University of Cambridge, attended by about fifty international experts, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards. The conference was reported on in dmovies.org
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/news/picturing-austrian-cinema-symposium