Marne Lucas aka CuntemporaryArtist is an infrared video pioneer, using thermal imaging technology often associated with military, aerial or border surveillance. A New York based multidisciplinary artist, Marne works at the intersection of art, feminism and health. Inspired by the Dharma Art, and palliative care movements, using photography, video and sculpture, working in conceptual overlaps: life’s energy, the environment, beauty, identity and mortality and transformation. More at https://cuntemporaryartists.com/marne-lucas.
Interview conducted by Nathalie Launder, freelance writer at labocine.com
Tell us what inspired you to produce HAUTE FLASH?
'Haute Flash' was made specifically for Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science (2018), a touring video installation series in the U.K and Europe curated by Dr. Chiara Beccalossi (Lincoln University.)
I made Haute Flash in response to my own journey from perimenopause to menopause. I wanted to make an experimental film with a positive message about the challenging transition I was going through. I shot the film with a military-grade thermal hunting rifle scope, so the crosshairs are visible throughout the film, referencing the targeted feeling of sudden hot flashes and related symptoms. The subject of Menopause is culturally lacking in both information and dialogue about an inevitable change in women's lives. Making this film helped me to reexamine menopause as a positive one. While my reproductive years are at a close and I chose to be childless, I’m finding that I have much to offer in the nurturing, maternal sense, as I am an end-of-life doula -a volunteer role to assist the dying and their families gain a sense of peace- and am working an ongoing multi-disciplinary art project 'Bardo ∞ Project’ where I collaborate creatively with artists with terminal illness. My earlier work since my twenties was about intimacy, the body, sexuality and birth. Both ‘Haute Flash’ and 'Bardo ∞ Project’ have made me aware that the themes of my work are shifting in tune with menopause, I’m now more interested in making work about the later parts of life, death and transformation.
What led you to use infrared video, including how and why you chose this specific technology?
I use highly sensitive infrared technology in experimental videos and photographic work for its eerie aesthetic. Range Phenomenology (infrared) cameras often associated with military or aerial surveillance show actual surface temperature changes in the body and objects unseen by the human eye, so heat appears white and cold or wet areas are black. Warm veins, cold extremities and hot breath are all visible in real time with no special effects. The viewer experiences the literal glow from the human body demonstrating the idea that we are made of ancient star matter, that we really are beings of light! A subtle social message is about the advancement of surveillance culture that is changing human interactionin creative and philosophical ways; society has overtly accepted the electronic villain among us. There are security cameras tracking our every move, something that I am not comfortable with, that is until said surveillance prevents accidents, attacks or helps law enforcement to trace criminals. It is a slippery slope.
I have a long history with this technology, that began in collaborations with Jacob Pander. 'The Operation' (1995) is an erotic black & white, sci-fi short film, screening worldwide, garnering many awards and became a cult classic. ‘Incident Energy’ (2013) is our four-channel infrared video installation that depicted a simple creation story using modern dancers to depict a simple creation story, and we filmed a live hospital birth and the implied deaths of the characters. All three infrared films have been made under somewhat clandestine circumstances, each project was made with limited or surreptitious access to military-grade thermal surveillance gear. I’m currently looking to be an artist in residence for a thermal imaging company to produce my future solo projects!
What is the significance of the film set location in Maui and the reasoning behind your choice of a glass head to represent hormones?
While I live and work in New York City, 'Haute Flash' was shot entirely on Maui, a spiritual home that inspires my work as I spend time there yearly. I was born in Honolulu, Hawai'i, but my family left when I was two, and like a Salmon I keep returning to the islands to my natal sense of home. Nature is a recurring theme in all of my work, the ancient geological landscapes, the ocean, and plants of Maui are equally important elements in ‘Haute Flash’. I’m passionate about environmental conservation of the Hawai’ian Islands and will be making another infrared short film MĀLAMA 'ĀINA (Care of the Land).
The “head” is an iconic Western symbol signifying intellectual authority over the body. It is also way to reference hormones, while the ovaries produce most estrogen, the hypothalamus in the brain also secretes estrogen. The glass mannequin head is a perfect material for shooting in infrared because it holds heat and cold so well, making for drastically different appearances in water, wet sand, or on hot lava rocks. In some imagery its white hot as it heated up from the sun, other times grey or jet black when wet or the wind was cooling it.
What did you hope to get out your film, and do you think you achieved that goal?
I wanted to express the beauty of the aging female bodywhile conveying the transference of reproductive energy to an emergence of a new spiritual power- a rebirth of the Goddess. My aim is to shift the perception of menopause away from cultural associations of withering female energy,and promote the next phase in life as a wiser, more graceful, powerful path. The film is meant to be abstract and experimental, and illuminate the topic of menopause both literally and figuratively with visible heat. ‘Haute Flash’ has been in festivals throughout 2018 and 2019 and I’m exhibiting related digitally collaged photographs from infrared video stills from my films.
What is up next for you?
I will be participating in the upcoming FEMeeting: Women in Art, Science, and Technology conference in Lisbon and Milfontes, Portugal in late May. I’m looking forward to networking with professional women from around the world who are making cutting edge work within their diverse fields. My 4-channel video INCIDENT ENERGY will show in 'Other Suns' a science fiction group exhibition co-curated by Erin Coates and Jack Sargeant, partnership between Fremantle Arts Centre and Revelation Perth International Film Festival in Australia. July 27 - Sept 14, 2019.
I’m also an end of life doula, a volunteer role to assist the dying and their families. My ongoing related ‘Bardo ∞ Project’is a visual art and social practice endeavor about legacy work, death, dying and transformation. I sent the past five years collaborating with artists with terminal illnesses to help them express their legacy. l am continuing to do so along with making my own photography and sculpture work. My interview THE ART OF DYING- DEATH DOULA MARNE LUCAS IS CHANGING OUR END-OF-LIFE AESTHETICS BY SARAH WAMBOLD details this project.