At the close of three successful MFA thesis exhibitions at Gallery 400, we highlight the work of graduating MFAs by looking more closely at their individual practices. Liz Cambron has produced work for Public Radio, Planned Parenthood, and the internet series New Left Media. She is a co-founder of Women Working Collective and co-founded the punk band C-Storm.
Your shift from documentary and narrative filmmaking to more experimental videos is notable, but they seem more connected for you than is immediately evident. What possibilities does experimental video hold for you that was missing from documentary?
I am interested in the aesthetics of truth and authenticity, and the appropriation of those aesthetics in filmmaking. A video work does not have to represent reality to be truthful; fiction can be as harsh or as strange as non-fiction. I find that the “realness” lies in-between these genres because the way we narrativize reality is so different from person to person. I find that certain genres not usually related to documentary—like science fiction, horror, and fantasy—can reflect our lived experience more honestly. We do not always understand our lives and our stories are often confused. Some things are unknowable, and I seek that depth in my work.
Liz Cambron, Penetration at the White House, 2016, 6:34 min (installation view).
Your work takes up both the aesthetics of camp and the feminine (sometimes conflating the two). What is the potential in exploring these aesthetic forms for you? Are you attempting to elevate them, or are you more interested in taking a more complicated look at these overlooked and dismissed forms?
Camp is a wonderful genre that has been used in very political and critical ways. It has also often been historically associated with the feminine. I am interested in that association since the feminine is seen as secondary to masculinity and camp is seen as inferior to modernist aesthetics. I consider my work to be postmodern. I think these aesthetics are radical. But I am not sure if my work could elevate these forms. It would mean that something larger in the system has changed in order for these forms to become more important in the broader culture.
Liz Cambron, Fuck the Fasces (film still), 2016, 11:04 min.
The materials of some of your recent work are quite playful, even messy. What is the relation between engaging with materials such as glitter or other craft materials and the technological processes of producing a video editing?
These materials can transform a space or a character. Their use suggests a break from normative mediums and material. It is also kind of fun to use these materials. I try not to discount play in my work, especially because so much of it over the past several years has been so serious. Not that my work is not serious now; I just seek an alternate way to communicate. The inherent clash with the craft object and the digital tech-object is kind of a new frontier. They are also symbols of femininity and masculinity. It is interesting to think about both craft and digital editing as technologies. In terms of video editing, I have been incorporating more clunky effects into my films and editing in a circular rather than linear timeline. I think that the concept of a story or a narrative structure should be reflected in the editing process.
Liz in her studio in Art & Exhibition Hall at UIC.
What was valuable about studying at UIC?
So many things. I learned to trust myself and to not give into fear. I have a lot of anxiety around representation. I work with living breathing humans and use their likeness. Not everyone is going to like your work. I think I learned to own that.
What is next for you and your work?
I have several projects that I am planning on producing over the next year independently and with co-creators. Currently, I am editing a project entitled SHE WHO BRINGS IN THE TIDE, about an urban punk who brings in the tide change in Lake Michigan. Storytelling and video-making are how I make sense of the world, so to keep producing is a top priority. I have a few things lined up. I am moving to Ohio to take a visiting position at Wright State University’s film school, which I am really excited about. It’s a really good, small Midwestern film school and they are all really rad there.