Roberta Hunter Henderson, Silvia Stevens, Sonia Knox, Tina Keane
This work is part of the rewind archive.
Duration: 20m 57s
Year: 1975Original formats:
1/2 inch EIAJ reel-to-reelMedia types:
Funding source: Self
First exhibited: 1975 Paris, Femme Film Festival and 1975 The Video Show, Serpentine Gallery
Notes re collaborative video project “Hands”, 1975 by Lynn MacRitchie, 2019
The piece was commissioned in spring 1975 as part of the Femmes Films festival, Paris, 23-29 April 1975. The video programme was screened on Saturday, 26 April, in the auditorium of FNAC Montparnasse, 136, Rue de Rennes.
The commission was last minute, initiated by David Medalla, who was a friend of Lea Lublin who was involved with the video part of the festival. The work is not listed in the official programme, only in the typewritten sheets of the programme for the day. A far as I recall, no money was given to make the work. The British Council paid our fares to go to Paris to present it.
The artists were Roberta Hunter Henderson, Tina Keane, Sonia Knox, Lynn MacRitchie and Sylvia Stevens. We had all been involved in the Arts Festival for Democracy in Chile in 1974 and had continued to meet after that.
We were committed to making a collaborative work and inevitably this involved considerable discussion about the content of the work and the process of making it. We were all individually involved in women’s groups and women artists’ groups at the time and so were very conscious of the debates around women’s issues in general and also about how women’s art work was produced and exhibited. These informed our approach to making the work.
We eventually arrived at the concept of a card game, with a pack made up of images of women, divided into “suits” representing the types of image that women were likely to be “dealt” in the course of their lives. The “cards” were dealt out face down to each of the four “players” who then placed the cards one by one face up into the centre of a square which had been chalked on the floor. Each was also given several small white plastic slide frames with which to pick out parts of the image to emphasise. There were four sequences – body image, family, work and activism. As each sequence came to an end – signalled by the image of the hand with the large pair of scissors – one side of the chalked rectangle was rubbed out. In the final sequence, the players’ hands come together over an image of the Women’s Liberation symbol, after which the word Audience is shown written on the floor, after which there is a switch to a live camera feed trained on the audience.
All the images came from found sources eg magazines and were reshot and printed by me (in Guy Brett’s darkroom) in black and white and all the same size to make the “cards” for the game.
All the filming and editing was done by me. At the time, I was the only member of the group with experience of making video, having video recorded the Arts Festival for Democracy in Chile. There was much debate about “direction”. Although I operated the camera, I was not “the director” as such. The composition – the four players grouped around the square chalked on the floor – was agreed collectively. Only the participants’ hands were shown. I think it must have been left to me to decide on close ups, zoom shots etc. No one spoke during the action and there was no separate soundtrack, only the ambient sound as recorded. This worked well throughout and especially during the very last section in which there was a switch to a live camera trained on the audience, who suddenly saw and heard themselves on the monitors.