Haunted by last season’s video letters­­

amateur films performing spectrality

by Lisa Stuckey



The analytic approach to the archive of my great-grandmother’s and grandmother’s films on 8mm (released 1932) and Super 8 (released 1965 by Kodak) films, which starts in the 1930s and reaches to the present, is relevant because three-quarters of all amateur filmmakers at that time were men. It is also of historical significance that these films helped the grandmother (my great-grandmother) get a visual impression of her daughter’s life after she had migrated to the United States with her young family (my grandmother married an American soldier who had been stationed with the Allies in Austria) after the State Treaty of 1955. My great-grandmother sent dollars that her daughter (my grandmother) used to purchase rolls of film; after shooting video letters on the rolls of film, they were sent to Vienna where they were developed and watched.

This evokes a subject concept reminiscent of the analytic situation (object, analyst, and analysand), forming triangular/polygonal relations that continue into my own practice in the present. The dissemination of the physical rolls of film must be considered, as the films were shot in one place and archived in another (again, the separation of the eyes and gaze).

Within the filmic topologies, which one can imagine as being different, Vienna is always present as an absence, being the place to which the films were sent. This absence exists in its visual material as well as its symbolic and social spatial order. Instead of the city, the films focus on the American suburban lifestyle, which seems to have evoked fascination and was filmed with the curiosity of the tourist gaze. I suppose that the unconscious of these amateur films is marked by exile, which becomes part of the video letters.

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M.: The dear granny, admiration for granny, granny the strong woman, granny who manages everything, takes care of everything, simply the great granny. She somehow bought her way into the heart. Beautiful shoes, beautiful trousers, a beautiful coat, and a beautiful jacket for a beautiful boy.


⇒ Mail correspondence between C. and me: ‘In her way, our grandmother L. was a strong woman and, in her independence and determination, certainly ahead of time. From one day to the other, after her husband’s death, she had to slip into a male role to become the head of the family. As far as I know, she studied pharmaceutics to avoid having the family drugstore taken away from her. Thus, quite clearly, she became the matriarch.’