Unhomely Street was completed in 2016 following a three-year period of simultaneous conception, production, and editing. In this twenty-minute film, I employ new working methods that produce a film different to my previous work. It is experimental, not only in terms of its category — ‘experimental’ is often a catch-all term for anything that is not a fiction or documentary film — but also in its method of production through sustained creative play.


In my film career, I have existed on the margins of the film and television industry, having made short films for the BBC and BFI, a commercially distributed art-house feature film, and dramas for Channel Four. The institutional film funding process requires the production of several formal documents: a synopsis, outline, treatment, and script, which impose discipline on the writer and provide the funder with material to inform their decisions. While I appreciate these requirements of the commissioning process, they place constraints upon the filmmaker that inevitably shape the work into a conventional structure and promote rapid decision-making around creative ideas.


When planning Unhomely Street, I felt resistant to writing a script, so instead proceeded with the vague intention to explore how I felt about contemporary life. At this stage, I did not see the project in a research context, but rather as an experimental approach to extend the initial stage of what might be called creative dreaming. Although I did not proceed with a research question as such, following Hannes Rickli and Christoph Schenker, the film could be framed as a ‘make yourself a picture of the world’ approach.[1]


In their discussion of various aspects of artistic practices, they suggest the artist creates an environment that is comparable to that of an experimental system, a term taken from the sphere of scientific research, in which the output of the experimental process cannot be identified at the outset. The ‘aesthetic thing’, in this case a film, can be understood as an ‘epistemic thing’, in the sense that it is a vehicle for inquiry through artistic practice. 


In what follows I employ a reflective method to undertake a post-hoc analysis of Unhomely Street, exploring the role of intuition in art practice and what this can tell us about the creative process. This method involves reviewing the artistic interventions that transform would-be documentary rushes, and devising a film language that re-orientates the viewer towards understanding the material as representing interiority. In considering what sort of knowledge the experimental film produces, I reflect on the work as a conduit for the conveyance of emotion.


During the initial planning stages of the project, I sustained a head injury and developed post-concussive syndrome that lasted over two years. Unhomely Street became a personal film that charted the course of my recovery from mental illness. This aspect of the narrative only became fully apparent in the latter stages of post-production. The film, as an artefact, offers a point of reference to assess the filmmaking process as an agent in my recovery, and the representation of mental illness makes my subjective experience audible and visible. 


My interests lie in interdisciplinary approaches that deterritorialise the boundaries between art and science, including neuropsychoanalysis, a discipline that explores the neurological origins of Freudian psychoanalysis. In this conceptually informed reflection, I speculatively consider the filmmaking process as allowing the unconscious to speak, and contemplate what this could mean with reference to the work of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. 


In the third act, Unhomely Street refers to Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology.[2] I explore this analytical framework as a metaphorical model of mind that is anachronistic in its relation to past, present, and future. The film, through its referenced historical secrets, also relates to Mark Fisher’s reading of the concept: that we live in an age characterised by mental illness coupled with an inability to envisage a future different to current times.[3]



Susannah Gent

[1] Christoph Schenker and Hannes Rickli, ‘Experimentation’, 'Department of Art & Media, ZHdK (ed.): Practices of Experimentation - Research and Teaching in the Arts Today' (Scheidegger & Spiess: Zurich, 2012), 146–158  <https://www.academia.edu/22231863/Experimentation._In_Department_of_Art_and_Media_ZHdK_ed._Practices_of_Experimentation_-_Research_and_Teaching_in_the_Arts_Today._Scheidegger_and_Spiess_Zurich_2012._Pp._146-158> [accessed 7 September 2017]

[2] Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx, the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, & the New International, trans. by Peggy Kamuf (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994).

[3] Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Winchester: Zero Books, 2014).