SELF MADE

SELF MADE
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SELF MADE



18 Monday 18th October 2010

Continuing the trend started by fellow YBAs Sam Taylor Wood and Steve McQueen, British artist Gillian Wearing has turned her sights to celluloid. The result is Self Made: a stunning feature-length documentary which expands on the themes of Wearings’ work to date, namely identity and the constantly shifting boundary between our inner life and the self we present to the world.
 
Wearing placed an advert in newspapers that read, “Would you like to be in a film? You can play yourself or a fictional character. Call Gillian.” Of those that responded, seven people were selected. Their backgrounds were diverse but they all had one thing in common: a traumatic past that they could draw on, using the techniques of Method acting, to create their own dramatic performance. Interweaving interviews and footage of the Method workshops with clips from the final performances, Self Made charts the participants’ progress as drama teacher Sam Rumbelow takes them on an intense journey of self-discovery.
 
 
The set is a dank warehouse, there’s no hint of an audience and Rumbelow is certainly no Trinny or Susanna but there’s something about Self Made that mirrors the reality TV ‘self improvement’ format.  It’s only through giving up control and exposing their vulnerabilities that the participants can reinvent themselves as their fantasy characters. It makes for unsettling viewing. We see them stripped of their social masks in a trance like state, chanting or weeping uncontrollably. Each final performance relates to the personal issues of the participant in interesting ways that are revealed as the film goes on. Lian, a flight attendant plays out fatherly rejection in a scene from King Lear while Dave opts to play Mussolini because he “loved his manner”. The film also gives a fascinating insight into how the Method technique works. The participants’ newfound capacity to invoke and switch between emotions is astonishing.
 
 
It’s striking how little of the final performances we actually see. In the end though this doesn’t matter. Wearing isn’t trying to show us the end product of a project but the process, the method, of its realisation. And she excels. Self Made is moving, disturbing and utterly compelling. 
 
Self Made is currently showing at the BFI London Film Festival.
 
Self Made on LFF website - http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff/node/817
 

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