Magazine article Art Monthly

15mm Films: The Way Out

Magazine article Art Monthly

15mm Films: The Way Out

Article excerpt

The deaf acid messiah Jim Chosen plays guerrilla monopoly with a Japanese spy, the disabled underground glamour queen Peedy Starling loses herself in excessive headbanging at a punk concert, and Suzy leaves the terrorist camp in her wheelchair ready to face the ultimate suicide mission. These are some of the bizarre scenes from 'The Way Out', a series of new films by the artists' collective 15mm Films. 'The Way Out' presents seven trailers for a movie that never existed about a revolution that never occurred: the disabled revolution. This fictional revolution is hatched by a gang of disabled, distopian hippies-cumterrorists whose absurd plots are fuelled by drugs, violence and empty ideologies. Set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the railway arches of Beaconsfield, which commissioned the work, the films were shot with a handheld digital camera in order to evoke the domestic aesthetic of amateur filmmaking and 1970s Blaxploitation B-Movies, which is further highlighted by the cheesy soundtrack of James Bond music and loud explosions. One of the main qualities of the work is the skilful appropriation of the reduced ecology of the cinematic trailer; its effective, perfectly timed staccato of sound and image and catchy phrases that leave the audience in great anticipation of the film.

The films are marked by a high dose of humour, satire and over-the-top performances by the members of the collective. While the Japanese mole despairs over martial arts ('Confucius, it just confused me!'), terrorist Suzy sends her trembling chihuahua off on her suicide mission ('Go blow these pigs up, I want to smell that bacon!') and Starling plots the new revolution over the phone ('Some of my best friends are able-bodied. I can't ask them to just donate a limb!'). Transgressing the borders of political correctness, the collective's relentlessly honest approach to the subject of physical disability places the abled-bodied viewer in an uncomfortable position. While disabled persons historically have been disempowered through pity, fear and physical exclusion by a dominant abled-bodied society, 'The Way Out' is an act of empowerment of the subject of marginalisation. This subversion of power structures makes 'The Way Out' a deeply political work of art.

Another complexity lies in the conceptual structure of the work. In the light of a reemerging interest in western forms of terrorism, which has also been the subject of various films, such as Steve McQueen's Hunger and Uli Edel's The Baader-Meinhof Complex, 'The Way Out' stages a fictional revolution through the medium of cinema. While Gil Scott Heron claimed in 1970 that 'the revolution will not be televised', 15mm Films directly situates the disabled revolution within the imagination of mainstream media. Fiction becomes a key tool to work through the trauma of the real and its signification as an 'otherness' based on absence. In 'The Way Out', this absence, or lack, is twofold: there is the absence of the revolution, which historically never happened, and the absence of the film that the trailers announce. Absence also defines the tongue-in-cheek name of the collective itself, which refers to the standard 16mm film format 'but with a bit missing'.

15mm Films was founded in 2003 and consists of, among others, Aaron Williamson, Laurence Harvey, Juliet Robson and Katherine Araniello. …

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