blackShed Gallery, 17th February – 31st March

HIP talks to filmmaker and Electric Palace cinema owner, Rebecca E Marshall, as she prepares to unveil her latest project, Fever of the Light, which opens at the blackShed Gallery on 17th February.

Marshall is well known for her documentary film making, and this will be her first public video art piece. “I started as a video artist, my degree was in installation video”, Marshall says, “I’ve really enjoyed returning to this format.”

Fever of the Light is a visual letter to the future, made for when her son turns eighteen in 2033, which is also when humanity will be preparing for the first manned mission to Mars. Three screens will play three stories simultaneously – moments in the lives of a hermit, a child and an astronaut. Marshall hopes that by witnessing them, a sense of what connects these stories, and us all, will emerge in different and personal ways for everyone who sees it.  “I wanted a straightforward way to communicate something of what I’ve learned to my son. To do this I felt it was important to keep the visual language simple and honest.”

The project started with Marshall’s trip to Siberia to make a documentary about the famous hermit, Agafia Lykov. “I became obsessed with her story”, Marshall says, “but then when I had the chance to actually go I was struck by how my expectations were blown away. I thought I’d find someone living a very strange life, I’d seen all these drawings she’d made and saw this as an example of the human need to create and communicate. It turned out she only made the drawings for journalists because they’d asked her to. She doesn’t have time to draw, she’s busy just staying alive. And her life made so much sense! It was the rest of the world which seemed odd in comparison. I wanted to run a parallel project to the documentary which brought this to the surface.”

Marshall then looked to other examples of everyday life and her own family footage. Her experiences as a new mother form the second of these three stories.

The third screen shows a team of NASA scientist/astronauts who went into isolation for a year as training for the first manned mission to Mars. On a volcano in Hawaii, they explored ways to  keep themselves alive and able to cope with the experience over time. “I contacted them to see if I could ask them questions while they were there and they sent video diaries; of them exercising, walking on lava, rehydrating their food.” 

“As I was working I discovered more and more parallels across these stories. They’re all about being in a position where you have to take care of your immediate needs, contain invented rituals and speak to an expanded sense of time. It’s possible to see one as being about the past, one the present and one the future but these ideas can also shift between all three.”

And what is the message Marshall wants to pass on to her child? “Don’t forget to keep looking around you at all times, the world and details, and to question everything. To value storytelling, it’s all that links us. Technology changes but our desire to explore and share doesn’t.”

Fever of the Light is at The blackShed Gallery, Robertsbridge: 17 February – 31 March 2018, Free and the Hastings Museum talk and appearance, Saturday 10 March: 2pm – 3.30pm

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