Narcisa Hirsch is a key figure in the history of Argentine and Latin American experimental film. Narcisa Hirsch was born in Germany in 1928, though she has lived in Argentina since childhood. Her name has remained obscure for too long due to her double eccentricity: of being a woman and of making films far from major centers where the history of experimental film has mainly been made: The United States and Europe.
This double, uncentered condition did not, however, prevent her from keeping up with world movements in experimental and video art, and her work--simultaneously personal, domestic, mystical, and characteristically unique--maintained a relationship with the authoritative names and films (in many cases, without ever being able to see them) in video and experimental art, though always shying away from imitation and claiming cinema as a space for freedom.
“The freedom of working with very little money is the freedom from having to sell, it is the freedom of working at home and by hand, without big crews or sets. Nor any time constraints. One shot is taken per day, or one per year. Each one chooses their time and space. For that reason, and for everything else, experimental film is a subversive art, more so than documentary or political cinema. More subversive than intellectual or conceptual cinema. Which is why so few go into it, and even fewer stay”. Narcisa Hirsch
Hirsch began working in art as a painter and illustrator in the 1960s and quickly made the leap into the public sphere performing happenings in search of a new audience. Understanding cinema and creation as a collective process of work and thought, she built up a close-knit community around her film and artistic practice from the start of her career, a dispersed network of experimental artists and filmmakers who came together through the Unión de Cineastas de Paso Reducido (UNCIPAR) around the Goethe Institute and the Di Tella Institute, and which originally included names such as Marie Louise Alemann, Claudio Caldini, Jorge Honik, Juan José Mugni, Horacio Vallereggio and Juan Villola, who ended up being crucial to the formation of the independent and experimental scene in Argentina. A network and a powerful concept of the collective that continues to this day, when, at over ninety years of age, Hirsch holds weekly meetings (in-person before the pandemic, now via video-conferencing) with an extensive network of young filmmakers and experimental film buff whom she has taken under her wing.
This three-session retrospective brings together some of her most important films (pioneering in many ways, Narcisa's work also includes installations, graffiti, and performances) made since the 1970s, chosen in dialogue with the filmmaker herself as a way of presenting work that focuses on spiritual and existential issues, love, birth, death, eroticism and feminine power, taking the materiality of the body as its lynchpin. In Narcisa Hirsch's work, the domestic landscapes, interiors and exteriors, of Buenos Aires and Patagonia serve as an extension of an exploration that is simultaneously formal and personal: the body, the eternal, the interior, the exterior, that which moves, that which remains, the intimate and the collective.
Session 1: First steps (filming the performance)
Narcisa Hirsch. / 7’55’’ / 1967 / Argentina
MUÑECOS/HAVE A BABY
Narcisa Hirsch. / 15’31’’ / 1972 / Argentina, United States and United Kingdom
Narcisa Hirsch. / 4’ / 1973 / Argentina
LA NOCHE BENGALÍ
Narcisa Hirsch y Werner Nekes. / 6’30’’ / 1980 / Argentina
TESTAMENTO Y VIDA INTERIOR
Narcisa Hirsch. / 10’38’’ / 1976 / Argentina
RETRATO DE UNA ARTISTA COMO SER HUMANO
Narcisa Hirsch / 15’51’’ / 1973/ Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch's early forays into filmmaking come in the form of recordings of her performances and happenings in public areas. Collective actions, first recorded on 8 or 16mm, and later on video, in which Narcisa and the artists she worked with sought out a different, more direct relationship with a randomly selected spectator. Already in this early work can be found the themes and issues Hirsch would develop in her purely cinematographic work: the mystery of birth and death, and the relationship with nature.
Session 2: Landscape and experience
Narcisa Hirsch. / 27’ / 1995-1999 / Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 22’ / 1989 / Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 9’56’ / 1976 / Argentina
In Narcisa Hirsch's film work, Patagonia plays an essential and major role as a natural meeting place, one of communion between the body and the eternal, one of dialogue between the intimate and the immense. This third session in the series takes us through some of the films where Narcisa Hirsch explores the Patagonian landscapes and builds her relationship with them.
Session 3: Experiments with the experimental
Narcisa Hirsch. / 10’ / 1971 / Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 11’ / 1971 / Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 10’38’’ / 1983 / Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 10’ / 1971/ Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 1’ / 2005/ Argentina
Narcisa Hirsch. / 15’ / 2019/ Argentina
The second program more clearly shows the relationships that Narcisa Hirsch's work has with many ideas and trends in experimental cinema: from structural cinema to a more sensorial or poetic cinema by way of abstraction, Hirsch explores the various paths of the experimental in this work, making them her own and always bringing them closer to her own themes: the female body, the Argentine tradition, the landscape, nature.
* This program would not have been possible without the invaluable support of the “Narcisa Hirsch Film Archive”, run by Daniela Muttis and Tomas Rautenstrauch