In making her experimental films, Louise Bourque uses images from her family’s old home movies as well as other found footage and footage she shot, which she then alters with various unorthodox techniques and processes involving the direct manipulation of film’s photographic emulsion. The resulting short films (four of which are on display in the gallery) touch on themes of memory and loss.
Set to the scratchy hiccups of a skipping 78 record featuring a 1903 recording of Caruso singing “A Dream,” Imprint focuses obsessively on the image of Bourque’s ancestral home. To create the piece, she made some 25 print copies of a small section of a home movie and then applied a different technique to each, from batik style toning using lip balm to hole punching and repasting. The latter effect recalls a magnifying glass traveling erratically across the screen as if to remember, to process, to understand. In Self Portrait Post Mortem, Bourque buried random outtakes from her early directorial efforts in her family’s backyard. Five years later, she found images of herself (captured by chance) that were semi-preserved. The resulting film, as she has observed, is "an ‘exquisite corpse’ with nature as collaborator." Going Back Home, a 30-second piece shown twice to a found music box soundtrack, incorporates snippets of vernacular films (a well-known film from the FSA era, educational reels on fire safety, and generic footage of collapsing dwellings). Fissures is a film created by contact printing home movie footage using a flashlight and the constant manipulation of the film plane. The results were hand-processed and solarized, causing images to fluctuate, warp, and mutate much like surfacing memories and apparitions. In these films, ideas of the domestic and the home seem both strangely venerated and harshly challenged.
A French-Canadian filmmaker, Bourque has been teaching cinema in Boston since 1996. She received her BFA in film production from Concordia University in Montreal and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been presented in more than twenty-five countries and broadcast on the Sundance Channel. Her films have screened at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The San Francisco International Film Festival, as well as many international venues.
My process in creating these films can be compared to that of a fine artist working in the studio. Using recycled home movies, found footage, or footage I shot as basic source material, I proceed to transform these images through various kinds of manipulations.
In my work I seek to elicit dark and private feelings in a way that can resonate with other people and move them without the anecdotal details specific to my circumstances. I am interested in creating works that evoke in their very form and structure the often contradictory and ambiguous emotions connected to life-shaping experiences. I aim to communicate sensory and visceral impressions and for this I find film to be the perfect medium.
All the techniques I use are about finding ways to imbue the materiality of film with a metaphorical quality. I rework materials, teasing out new meanings and creating rhythmical patterns through the layering of sound and image. The process can be likened to orchestrating music: variations on a theme, repetition, and revision. In this regard, my approach is eclectic: I strive to find in the making of each piece methods, techniques, processes that best contribute to the meaning of the work. I am also interested in employing strategies that call attention to image-making as manipulation and construct. In doing so I hope to prompt a questioning of representation (inherent to the vernacular material appropriated as well as in my own work) and claim a space for other expression wherein the poetical and political meet.
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CAPTION: Louise Bourque (Malden, MA), still from Going Back Home, 2000, 35 mm and 16 mm motion picture film, color, sound, 2 x 30 seconds, courtesy of the artist. A French-Canadian filmmaker, Bourque received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has been teaching cinema in Boston since 1996. Her work has been presented in more than twenty-five countries, broadcast on the Sundance Channel, and screened at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The San Francisco International Film Festival, among others.