Arc, and an interview with visual artist Vasilisa Forbes

It is difficult for anyone to try to put into words the complex relationship between women and men, or to describe the ways in which women have been treated as "other" across many cultures. It is perhaps even more difficult to do this in sound and image alone, but London-based visual artist Vasilisa Forbes comes very, very close.

I caught this arresting film at Shorts on Tap in London last month, and was left deeply curious about the roots of the story. It was great to have a short chat with Vasilisa about the makings of Arc

Miriam Lee: Was the film solely intended to be about women?

Vasilisa Forbes: The story actually came from a separate project, that has to do with looking at the way historical stories and art, information, teachings and writings from a historical perspective could come across in newer works in a way that would look toward the future. Within this project we'd decided to make two films that would explore this theme. Arc was influenced by certain films from the 1960's, and the influences of those films came from historical European, Middle Eastern, and varied roots. Arc was specifically influenced by the film The Color of Pomegranates, which has Russian and Middle Eastern roots like myself. 

MLWhat was the purpose of the religious symbolism/allusions in the film?

VFThe religious references can be interpreted in different ways. There were several people at the screening who immediately interpreted the black clothing as an Islamic reference, which wasn't the intention whatsoever. The questions about Islam kept coming, and I suppose it's easy for people to immediately consider a headscarf, or a covered female character, to immediately represent Islam. But the clothing actually takes its roots from more medieval themes. The perception of women throughout time has been of that secondary, "other" figure, in comparison to the man. As Simone de Beauvoir often discussed, the woman is given the role of the night, the other, the shadow of the man who is the yang and the light, the active force. The woman always remains the passive, darker, mysterious force. Religions like Islam, Christianity and so on, all give women this role, and she's the dark, mysterious, cloaked object. 

MLWhat else is coming up now with this film or any other projects? 

I'm working on releasing the second film that comes within this project, and I've also written a cinematic series composed of five films, which are about strange human relationships. Similar to the story that's briefly shown in Arc, where there's a hint to the relationship between male and female, in the new project, the five stories are derived from word of mouth stories, stories from friends, and others are personal experiences. They focus on strange, intimate relationships that people can have between each other, and things that happen between closed doors basically. It'll be interesting to show couples and individuals who have eccentricities and behaviours that they act on in private, and then to display their personalities in public. It's an interesting exercise as it relates to personalities, that I hope people can relate to quite strongly. I am looking at creating the series, all five, instead of releasing them all at once, and partner up with a channel or a host that would be interested in carrying the series as a whole.
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You can find more of Vasilisa's work on her website here. My thanks again to Vasilisa!

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