Laura Jean Healey Goes For Gold

We are pleased to announce that Debut artist Laura Jean Healey has been awarded one of the Passion For Freedom Awards for her film piece “The Siren”. This eerily beautiful film is an examination of audience voyeurism and its relation with cinema. Whether she has won bronze, silver or gold will be announced at the Passion For Freedom Festival on the 2nd of November. You can find out more about Laura on her website, or by following her on Twitter or Facebook. For more information about the Passion For Freedom Festival, click here.

Read below for Laura’s reaction to the award, a meditation on the nature of the image, and the nuances of her relationship with Feminism.

EDIT: Laura Healey has since won the Gold Award for her work: don’t miss the final screening on Friday 8th at the Tea Embassy gallery, 195-205 Union Street


1. So “The Siren” has won one of the Passion for Freedom Film Awards! You must be excited – tell us more!

I am thrilled to have received this award.  Passion for Freedom is an inspiring international art festival that showcases the work of Artists, Filmmakers and Writers that explore controversial subjects, such as racism, sexual and gender politics, in order to invite an open and uninhibited discussion that gives both the artists and the audience the opportunity to openly debate and exercise freedom of speech.

This year Passion for Freedom have added the film category to the art programme and created the PFF Film Award.  ‘The Siren’ has been awarded for it’s “artistic value and powerful visual message embodying the freedom of women”.  I will find out if I have won the Gold, Silver or Bronze Award on Saturday 2nd November at the Private View and Award Ceremony – so fingers crossed!

2. Can you describe your work for those of us who haven’t seen it yet?

 I am an artist filmmaker who specialises in large-scale cinematic film and holographic installations.  Having supplemented my artistic career by working as a Freelance Camera Technician predominantly within the Film industry, I have become intrigued with the nature of the camera’s gaze and the way in which the camera can be used by the artist to engage and to solicit the viewers’ curiosity in order to foster an emotional and physical awareness of the spectators own voyeuristic look.

I use the mediums of film, performance and installation to explore the role of the artist as Director (or Performer) and the personal interplay and the effect of intimacy that can arise between the artist and their audience.

3. I read that you were interested in Anne Friedberg’s writing, which emphasises the differences between seeing things on a screen and seeing them in real life – do you care to elucidate?

Yes! Anne Friedberg’s ‘The Virtual Window’ (2006) has been a great source of inspiration for my practice.  It is not so much the difference between seeing the moving images on the screen and seeing them in real life – although as a cameraperson, I find this to be an interesting debate in itself – but rather Friedberg’s definition of the screen as a theatrical space of pure exhibition. A 2-dimensional image is projected onto a tactile screen within a 3-dimensional space.  This means there is a tension is realised between the material space (the screen and the auditorium) and the immaterial (projected) image. An illusion of depth is created by the physical screen, through which the audience seem to gaze into a real space; producing a paradox in which the actors within the film plane are present and yet do not actually exist within the real physical space.I guess that it is this paradox (or spectacle even) that fascinates me the most.  The fact that something, that does not physically exist can have such a profound and engaging effect upon the audience.

4. Passion For Freedom’s stated aim is to “create space for artists and writers who discuss subjects omitted in politically correct circles” – do you consider yourself one of those artists?

 Yes and No. For a long time, I tried to shy away from murky areas such as gender politics and feminist film theory.  But the more I explored the role of the camera and its inherently voyeuristic gaze, I had to acknowledge the issues surrounding the representation of the female body – especially the female nude – and the way in which it has been objectified through the use of the camera lens and have found that this is something that I can not and do not want to ignore.

It’s funny, but I never considered myself to be a ‘Feminist’ artist, as I felt that the word had become too convoluted and bogged down with too many negative connotations.  I preferred to consider myself to be more of an ‘Equalist’ – if such a word even exists?  Another artist at Debut Contemporary, however, argued that to be a Feminist and to believe in equality for all was one and the same thing.  That to be a Feminist was to advocate social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men – a far cry from the derogatory ‘Raging Man Hater’ perception that has overshadowed the word for too long.

In ‘The Siren’, I used a naked mythical temptress to explore the role of film and to question who really is in control of the gaze: the Audience, the Director or the Siren herself?  Through exhibiting ‘The Siren’, I have found that even though the film transcends the sexual clichés attached to the perception of classical Sirens, some exhibitors have been cautious in how to exhibit the film, as if it were almost a taboo.

I am thrilled that the curators of Passion for Freedom have awarded my film and am proud to be apart of such an open and uninhibited platform.

5. Your film will be screened on the 5th of November, and you will join a subsequent panel discussion – tell us what this is about and why you’re participating.

As mentioned before, my work seeks to explore the image existing as pure spectacle and I have found through this line of investigation that I keep returning to the way in which the female form has been objectified within art, film and more recently in advertising.

‘The Siren’ will be screened alongside the documentary ‘Girl Rising’, an inspiring film that documents the true stories of nine incredible young women, who each fought for their right to equality and education.  The screenings will be followed by a Q&A session in which we will explore the themes that arise in both films: equal rights, freedom, and the role of women in the cultural world and society as a whole.

6. What’s next for Laura Jean Healey?

I am currently seeking funding for my next project ‘Tableau Vivant’, which is a direct response to ‘The Siren’ and will explore the notions of objectification versus subjectification.  I hope to be able to film and exhibit this with Debut Contemporary in 2014.  I am also in the very early stages of researching another underwater film, but don’t really want to say much more about this time, as I am still trying to figure out exactly what I want to question with this film.



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