Destroy, She Said - On Early Cinema’s Comediennes and Destruction as a Comic Strategy
Royal College of Art, London
Year of enrolment: 2014 -
The proposed thesis investigates comic strategies of female comediennes and artists in Western culture, specifically in early film and contemporary video and performance art. Point of departure to this research study are comic short films of the European cinema in the pre-‐war years 1910-‐1914, namely the serials Lea (1910-‐1914) Leontine (1910-‐1912), and Rosalie (1911-‐1912). By analysing strategies of comic vandalism employed by the female leads Lea Guinchi Guillaume, Leontine and Sarah Duhamel and relating them to existing theoretical discourses of feminist film, early cinema and the comic, this project aims to define the unique socio-‐cultural space occupied by the films. A body of video, drawing and performance work, culminating in an exhibition, will support the analytical and empirical approach to the study. From a close reading of the rampant performances of the comediennes Lea, Leontine and Rosalie -‐ who blissfully revert entire households into the state of complete destruction for the sake of laughter – this study wants to identify and address a larger gap in the research fabric on female comedy in film, art, sociological and anthropological discourses. Were the films were a lone aberration in a male dominated comedy culture and was the film industry only realm offering women the freedom of such rampant jesting? By analysing, and contextualising comic strategies of early cinema and contemporary visual art, I want to identify processes I can appropriate and experiment with in the practical part of the proposed investigation. In a new body of video and performance work I want to explore in great depth slapstick’s vocabulary like the pratfall and collapses of the ideal self, using the comic moment not only as critical strategy, but also as an invitation for the viewer into the work. Through continuous critical review of the interrelation of theory, ideas and practice, I hope to gain new insights and strengthen the nexus between my artwork and philosophical reflection.