Plural Dreams of Social Life marks the first exhibition in North America by Franco-British filmmaker Beatrice Gibson. Its title derives from Bernadette Mayer’s The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters (1994), written during and in response to the gestation of Mayer’s third pregnancy. Her book is comprised of a series of crabby and ecstatic letters—to friends, contemporaries, objects, and the dead—chronicling and connecting the labour of childbearing and the labour of writing, while situating both in a profoundly communal space. In similar fashion, Gibson’s two new films, I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead (2018) and Deux Soeurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Soeurs (2019), co-commissioned by Mercer Union, see the artist seeking out a more explicitly female lineage while addressing the anxiety and intimacy of motherhood as it interfaces with a world mediated by images of terror.
Featuring celebrated American poets Eileen Myles and CAConrad, I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead was developed on the eve of the 45th American presidential inauguration in 2017, and filmed throughout the following year in America and Western Europe. Titled after a poem by CAConrad, the work is an intimate 16mm film weaving together images of the artist’s children with poems by Conrad and Myles, alongside the words of fellow poets Adrienne Rich, Alice Notley, and Audre Lorde. In bringing these words together across time, Gibson summons a collective spirit to reckon with an increasingly turbulent present. Her connection to the Grenfell fire in London and asylum seekers off the coast of Sicily give urgent and personal cause to the film. Solaced by prose and possibility, Gibson casts the poet as prophet fit to navigate the complexities of human experience during times of fear and fragility.
Made over the same period, Deux Soeurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Soeurs takes Gertrude Stein’s eponymously named screenplay as its point of departure. Stein’s script was written in 1929 amid rising fascism across Europe. Set almost a century later, Gibson’s adaption deploys Stein’s original as a talismanic guide through a contemporary moment beset with social and political unrest. Featuring a close network of friends and practitioners and playing on Stein’s interest in autobiography and fiction, Deux Soeurs eschews conventional narrative form in favour of a more dreamlike and associative montage. Two serendipitous pregnancies and the election of yet another authoritarian nationalist become the trigger for a deeper personal exploration of ideas around inheritance, responsibility, ethics, and futurity.
I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead is commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto; Bergen Kunsthall; Camden Arts Centre, London; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. The work is produced with support from the Julia Stoschek Collection, Outset Germany_Switzerland, and Arts Council Norway.
Deux Soeurs is commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto; Bergen Kunsthall, Borealis Festival, Bergen; Camden Arts Centre, London; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. The work is produced with support from Fluxus Art Projects and Arts Council England, and features a score by Laurence Crane commissioned with support from Arts Council Norway.