BORDERS TEXTILE TOWERHOUSE
THURSDAY 27 – SUNDAY 30 APRIL
11:00 – 16:00 / 8′ (looped)
Content warning: contains discussion of death, medical institutions.
by Michael Pattison
Emily Beaney returns to Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival following a spotlight in 2022 on her work Deviant. While that film was presented from a 16mm print projected from within the cinema auditorium, Risky Bodies is shown here as an analogue loop with digitally synced sound. Like Deviant, a collaborative compilation of testimonies from people living with endometriosis, Beaney’s follow-up is also the result of co-creation, made with her mother, Cherrie Beaney.
Risky Bodies is a mother-daughter dialogue on the concept of vulnerability, and its medical categorisation and political application during the COVID-19 pandemic. The literal dialogue here takes the form of a touching audio recording between the film’s two makers: an open, affectionate and intimate acknowledgement of their interdependence. But there are other dialogues at play too: if the audio articulates a warmth and bond between the speakers, it unfolds in contrast to the visceral sounds of distorted squelching that warbles beneath.
Likewise, the film’s monochromic imagery is at once an intriguingly beautiful arrangement of limbs and body parts in close-up, whose textures soon shift into something that feels more claustrophobic and unsettling. As the bubble-like creases of both human skin and translucent protective clothing begin to resemble decomposed (and discardable) textures, the conversation turns to questions of mortality, and to very real fears around what being categorised as vulnerable might mean in a system so heavily predicated on economic utility.
Risky Bodies is about the risk intrinsic to being a body. ‘Decisions about how people are cared for and how they are valued are related to how productive they are,’ says one of the filmmakers. ‘And when you can’t do something or when you can’t be productive in the way that you’re expected to, you’re just not valued in the same way.’ Here, exposure has a double meaning: to be exposed to a virus, in a society built on the categorisation of people according to their monetary use, is itself exposing. ‘Society doesn’t see sick people as an asset…’. If a thing that requires care is a thing that can also be exploited, then, the reverse is also true: anything open to exploitation requires active, thoughtful care.