Leading American experimental film poet and academic Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is known for combining the chromatic skills of the artist with hard-hitting political commentary.
With explorations into gender, queer sexuality, and ecopoetics the screen becomes a critique of any system (e.g. consumer advertising) that attempts to label us, project a media vacuum of real life, or wreak devastation on this planet.
She often creates Surrealist filmic interventions in existing material, using colour, assemblage and atmospheric, layered sound collages: ‘I often use “fake happy” colours to draw attention to dire political events or ideas. It is a decided jab against gender normativity as much as it is a jab against the art world. I am not one to do as I am told, as a bisexual + genderqueer feminist artist.’
Desire Market (3:16, 2017) uses seductive marketing images and texts against themselves, as Foster says, to highlight the underlying ideology in accord with the Situationist identification of film as the most effective medium for détournement. Here colour aligns with the marketing barrage that sustains our received concepts of self-worth. Many of the words are reversed, and as the film is in slow-motion the viewer takes time working out what they ‘say’, whilst also becoming aware of their own culpability. Occasionally a word appears in a mandala-like circle, bottom left.
Foster also employs an insistent, almost clunky, repetitive soundscape, which sounds like an old-fashioned telex machine (at times fading and then beginning again). This underpins the jarring colouration: reds and blues with her trademark neon pink. At one point these too temporarily abate, and the word ‘peace’ appears in the mandala circle.
As desirous consumers, yet cultural viewers, we battle two forces: just as seductive effects with spot words trigger our receptors, so the first minute of Desire Market is a consummate editing lesson in how changing chromatics can perform as an unfolding watercolour painting. On the other hand, the soundscape reminds us that we must not become too immersed in the aesthetic surface – nor image as a belief system. However, ultimately, the final shot points the barrel of a cold camera back at us, as if we are already captured.