Film is documentation of experience. You film a moment in time and that moment can be relived periphery over and again. Jennifer West approaches the moment film captures from a different angle. The moment that is being recorder is a mark West directly makes into the celluloid of the film. Where the impression film usually picks up is made by light bouncing off mirrors West’s marks are made in direct contact with the film. Light and mirrors are replaced with things like urine and nail polish. Her work with film can be seen as painterly and performative as she enlist the help of others in marking the film; usually based around some sort of event. Whatever ephemera are left from the event becomes a tool that is used to interact with the celluloid corroding it in ways that create a bouquet of colors and reactions that become the final work. Sometimes the film used has shot an event, been processed, and then is subjected to whatever purveyors of corrosion she chooses to use. Distinguishable imagery dances between interruptions of abstracted color and form. Other times the film is untouched before taken through the ringer.
I see the role of film in West work serving as a participant as much as a medium. The film is a medium in that it is used as a canvas by which West paints her pictures, but I think it serves a much more important function. Here the film is not a distant third party participant documenting the event that is taking place in front of it with no effect on what is unfolding. Rather the film is the event itself that participants gather around. Participants make their mark on the memory of the film. It no longer is capable of merely giving a mirrored projection of he event that is happening around it. Like in people, the films memory is the event that happened to it instead of around it. The memory is fractured and unpredictable. The chemical reactions of the celluloid and West’s chosen corrosives are unpredictable and vary from film to film. What you are left with are the results of the events affect on the film.
When I look at the film like “Idyllwild Campfire Smell” I get the sense I’m being thrust through the mind of another person. Flashes of what resembles blood cells and microscopic tissue give way suddenly to a fractured image of a marshmallow burning over a campfire. The image is lost again and again being interrupted by the reemergence of flashes of color and amoebas forms. What I’m looking at is the physical memory of film. The physical scars that West and her participants left behind play out in front of you. The film is then the main character of the show and the story being told is its story. We become privy to a shared experience between the film, West, and her participants. This then redefines film as not serving solely as means of documenting events but also being capable of effecting and being affected by the events themselves.