Guest curator and San Francisco Cinematheque director Steve Polta speaks each Wednesday with artists in the Screening Room exhibition certainty is becoming our nemesis, which was interrupted by McEvoy Arts’ temporary closure due to the coronavirus. The program is now available to view online in its entirety.
Steve Polta: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current artistic concerns or projects? Where are you answering this Q&A from?
Alice Anne Parker: It seems irrelevant, but I’m thinking about all the old filmmaker friends of mine who are dead—Yikes! Bob Nelson, Scott and Freude Bartlett, John Knoop, Peter Hutton, the lurid and wonderful George Kuchar [and his equally wonderful brother Mike, still with us]—and what a great time we had making movies! I was an academic, working on my doctorate at UC Berkeley when I started teaching English at SFAI. Goodbye Ph.D. What could be more fun than making movies with these witty, brilliant pals?
I made movies of things I wanted to see.Alice Anne Parker
SP: How does your film in this program relate to your ongoing practice or body of work?
AP: I think I was interested in seeing a lot of people nude when I made Riverbody. Maybe it had something to do with being undefended. Exposed. Years later I became a professional psychic, which I suppose means being undefended in a completely different way. Being a psychic, for me anyway, involves poking around in someone’s consciousness. Someone has a problem and they need help. You go into them and do a little reorganizing until the problem dissolves—but of course, you are undefended and exposed as well. I didn’t ever think of myself as an artist. But maybe that’s how art works. It can change your awareness of something in a seemingly effortless way. Later I wrote a few books, one still in print after thirty years.
SP: As you know, certainty is becoming our nemesis is inspired by McEvoy Arts’ exhibition Orlando, itself inspired by Virginia’s Woolf’s 1928 novel and Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton. What, if any, is your prior relationship to the work of these artists?
AP: My only connection is that I’ve known Tilda for some years.
SP: The program explores themes of transformation, self-invention, and gender performance and suggests that ambiguity of identity can operate as an emotional survival strategy and act of defiance. Are these themes something you consider in your artistic process or as central to your work exhibited here?
AP: I didn’t ever consider themes or my artistic process. I made movies of things I wanted to see. The result appears to be much of the above, certainly transformation and ambiguity of identity… I’m not so sure about survival strategy or defiance.
SP: In what way has your inclusion in this program (or in conjunction with the larger Orlando exhibition) impacted your view of the work itself?
AP: It has certainly made me very happy! That is, I’m delighted that my movies are still being shown. So looking forward to watching the entire program.
SP: How are you coping with the current public health crisis? How has it impacted your approach to art-making?
AP: My husband and myself are old, both in our eighties. We’re not terrifically concerned about our own survival, but we also have kids and grand-kids. We speculate that this mess may be the forerunner of a brave new world, more conscious, less opportunistic—there seems to be some evidence for this. My husband is a novelist and a painter, I’m enjoying myself doing very little.
SP: Lastly, what’s the last piece of art, media, or culture that exerted a profound impact on you?
AP: Probably Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala —I’ve seen it so many times, but it always moves me.
You can watch Alice Anne Parker’s Riverbody (1970) here. For more from McEvoy Arts at Home, click here.
Alice Anne Parker is a psychic, author, radio host, and filmmaker, who has taught at Rutgers University, The University of California at Berkeley, and the San Francisco Art Institute.