JENNY BRADY — RECEIVER
Quote—Unquote: Video Station presents Receiver by Jenny Brady, 2019, single-channel video.
To accompany the Video Station open call and commissioning programme for video works, Quote—Unquote presents a series of artists’ films and videos dealing with topics of speech and public speaking. A new work will be published online every two weeks between July and September 2020.
A crossed telephone line propels Receiver into a suite of heated and intimate conversations in which we encounter scenes of protest at a university for deaf students, Q&A cross-fire interrogation, vocal confrontations and lip-reading practice.
In its various moods the film presents a heady and multi-layered assemblage of Deaf history, drawing on research into The Milan Conference of 1880 which led to a ban on teaching sign language in schools for the deaf. Receiver considers how we both speak and listen, and the question of who has the right and capacity to be heard.
Infinite Conversation: Your film is a multilayered observation on deaf histories. How have the alternative methods of communication for the deaf informed your practice and approach?
Jenny Brady: My films often look at non-verbal modes of communication – in particular body language. So, I’ve been interested in sign language for some time, but the right project hadn’t presented itself. Receiver actually emerged from research into early telephone communications, and it was through this that I learned how contentious a figure Alexander Graham Bell is within the Deaf community. As an influential deaf educator, he played a significant role in passing a resolution which banned the teaching of sign language in schools. It’s now acknowledged as having had a devastating impact on Deaf culture and identity. So, I became interested in this paradoxical context of communications, where Alexander Graham Bell, a hearing man, who was responsible for an explosion in telephone communications, was at the same time throttling communication for D/deaf people. I wanted to make a film about the telephone that would not just contain these histories and contradictions, but that would embody them. So, the research presented me with a set of questions to begin making the film and with which to situate myself, sometimes uncomfortably, as a hearing filmmaker working through this material.
Between sender and receiver there are infinite trajectories of meaning, no matter how sharp are the words that travel between them. Your film operates on the same level with images, by assembling various instances that create commentaries on many levels. How do you control these untamed meanings? Or do you leave them to roam freely and see where the final project takes you?
I think Receiver is really a film that centres the audience. It’s predicated on the idea that films are ‘completed’ by them. The reception of a film is something that’s uncontrollable too, so maybe this accounts for this untamed quality.
The structure was definitely influenced by a screening programme I made as part of the research that included films by Carl Callam, Carolyn Lazard and Hollis Frampton. The energy that’s created by grouping distinct works together often produces unexpected meanings and associations. I wanted Receiver to have that feeling.
It also ties into my approach to working with these narratives, which are not really mine to tell. Receiver allowed me to draw connections between this material and some of the ongoing questions in my work around the voice, and to hold them together in a film. The film uses both newly shot and found footage which point to these histories rather than spelling them out. But, I’m working on a forthcoming project with LUX that will give greater visibility and space to this research.
What have you discovered about sound and language in an attempt to give the power back to the underrepresented?
I’m not sure I’d frame it this way, but it’s definitely a film about the way we speak as much as it is about what we say.
JENNY BRADY is an artist filmmaker based in Dublin, exploring ideas around speech, translation and communication. Her films have been presented at Projections at the New York Film Festival, LUX, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, MUBI, International Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, EMAF, Videonale at the Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Experimenta at BFI London Film Festival, Images Festival, November Film Festival, the Irish Film Institute, EVA International, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Whitechapel gallery and Tate Liverpool.
She was the inaugural IMMA 1000 artist-in-residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and is a studio artist at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios.