Hi, can you please introduce yourselves?
M: Hi! My name is Mara, I’m Italian born and bred. I work between London and Milan with mixed media including installations, videos and images which are often combined in the same body of work. My films celebrate the collaboration between writers, poets anD actors exploring identity in our contemporary society. Most of my work features a combination my expertise in visual arts, fashion and dance. All films are planned with specific conceptual aims. I co-funded a film label called EXT. ANGST in 2020 with Jessamine.
J: I’m Jessamine, I am British of East-Asian descent and I grew up between London and Paris. I then went to study acting in New York and currently am based back in London. I am an actor and have featured in an array of TV, feature and short films, as well as most recently delving into a more docu-fiction genre which I find really exciting (Imogen; 2019 We Are Lief Alma Har’el and Margo Mars, Everything Will Change ; 2020 Flare Films & Wim Wenders Foundation) Mara and I have been working on our films with EXT.ANGST over the last few years.
How did you meet ?
M: Jessamine is the first person I met in London when I moved there around 10 years ago. I met her at a club the night I moved to London. We were very young, I was about to start working in fashion after my studies and Jessamine was still at high school. We were both very creative and we became really good friends.
J: I remember that Mara barely spoke English, and I was way too underage to even be in the club. But it was one of those meetings where language and context seemed to be of no importance, we just inherently understood each other. I was also stoked to have a cool older Italian friend.
What made you want to work together?
M: We shared many interests over the years and I think our special way of understanding each other made us a real dream team. It was very spontaneous, I was starting to make more films than photographs, we were always talking about working together, that’s how “A Study On Behaviour” was born.
J: I think Mara and I always had this innate mutual understanding, and also a shared frustration at the world and at people. We were always finding ourselves asking questions we had no answers to, those discussions led to an evident oath of collaboration. I guess we see the world through the same glasses and that’s refreshing. It also makes me feel less mad sometimes, or at least less lonely in the madness!
So you both created an independent film label called ext.Angst, why?
M: We felt that we needed to put all the work we were creating into a bigger box. After a few years, our work has a very defined curatorial line, we are excited also about the idea of producing work with others in the future, that’s why we decided to create our label, to give a name to a shared path.
J: Our work was getting more and more specific, it was clear we were only just starting out on this journey. I wanted us to create a space for our work, give it a name as Mara says. It gave it some traction, like ‘woah this is happening’ It was like our new baby and it has since felt very exciting.
What is an experimental film? What are your favorite experimental films?
M: Avant-garde and experimental cinema is a way of film-making that is not conventional, it promotes a personal voice, it gives priority to research, it mixes disciplines and most of the time it is developed in a non narrative form. My favourite experimental films are usually the ones where the artist has a strong personal voice and visual aesthetics. I really like Maya Deren’s work, Jonas Mekas, Hollis Frampton, Derek Jarman among others… It would be very hard for me to pick one. Let’s say today’s favourite is Process Red -Directed by Hollis Frampton (1966, 3 Mins)
J: Mara has defined it perfectly. For me it is freedom ; no boundaries, no rules. I love film that is not necessarily narrative, it feels like a common path to how I think a lot of the time. I’m a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth… In a way the whole neo-realism movement was experimental at the time, and I love Fellini’s 8 ½.
What is your favorite video artist?
M: I can’t pick just one favorite! But here are some artists that strongly influenced my research: Pipilotti Rist – Ever is Over All, 1997, Bruce Nauman – Walking in an Exaggerated Manner around the Perimeter of a Square 1967, Vito Acconci – Three Adaptation Studies 1970, Guido Van Der Werve – Nummer acht, everything is going to be alright, 2007 and Nummer Twee – 2003.
Do you think there’s a future for Art films?
M: Of course there is, there will always be artists that will experiment and work with film. It is still a very small segment of the market that is always in between cinema and art but I am pretty confident that it will always exist, I just hope it won’t be so niche in the future.
J: I think there is. With the world becoming more and more visual, no doubt a lot of artists will continue to use this medium and develop it. I hope there will be more of a blurring of lines between disciplines. I think people often have the wrong idea of what art film actually is and I think partly that is because we need to make them more accessible.
Where do you think those films should live and where and how many times should you watch it?
M: We constantly ask ourselves this question. In the past few years we have been lucky with streaming platforms such as Mubi among others, that are spreading independent films so people can finally have access to them. Because our trilogy is a conceptual work we see it in galleries but then again, it could be anywhere really ;the cinema, museums, online platforms… I watch short films sometimes in a loop, they are very inspirational, it’s like reading poetry. You never read a poem just once.
J: I could totally see our trilogy in a gallery, but definitely in a cinema too. I think it’s great that they can be eternalised online, even on social media because this does make them accessible to all. However it is such a different experience to watch them on big screen with proper sound. I think it’s worth watching them a few times over. Much like scripts and plays, I think the more you read or watch a piece, the more you get from them, you can have completely different interpretations of things depending on your head space, and sometimes things that didn’t make sense originally just click. I love it when that happens.
What would you like to do in the future?
M: I would love to be able to continue my research and produce the work that I am interested in, I would love to keep collaborating with great talents and galleries. I think our next step will be a feature film.
J: I want to keep acting, exploring more and more challenging roles. I definitely want to keep writing as well. Mara and I have been talking about a feature, it’s the obvious next step. I have a few other projects that are in development too.
If you were a film which one would you be?
M: I would probably answer this question differently if you asked me again tomorrow but let’s say today I would be “The Double Life of Veronique” by Krzysztof Kieślowski
J: Wow I have never thought about that before. Impossible to choose one. If I was going on performance, I would undoubtedly be A Woman Under The Influence by Cassavetes. Gena Rowlands blows my mind. If I were going on vibes and ultimate cool it would be Natural Born Killers. If I was going on childhood memories it would be a hard tie between The Wizard Of Oz and Labyrinth.
How did the confinement affect you personally?
M: Apart from the general feeling of uncertainty that we are all experiencing, old memories keep coming back to me. There are hundreds of specific memories from my childhood and adolescence. It mostly feels like I am dealing with my past self somehow, it feels like a dream.
J: I didn’t necessarily have a bad experience with it. It really allowed me to sit with myself and be comfortable with my own company. Making the film A Study On Behaviour In Isolation during it was a real challenge and subsequently an accomplishment. I think I also was confronted with myself and it was a necessary milestone personally and professionally.
What is the first thing you’d do if you’d wake up one day and everything was back to ‘normal’?
M: Could you please define normal? Eheh I would probably go to the seaside and then get together with my best friends.
J: Party. Fucking. Hard. And. Sweaty.