The Museo Reina Sofía’s Juan Antonio Ramírez Chair invites film-maker, poet and writer Margarita Ledo (Castro de Rei, Lugo, 1951) to take part in its programme of master lectures. Exiled in Portugal at the end of Franco’s dictatorship after being persecuted for her affiliation with the Unión do Povo Galego, Margarita Ledo is today a member of the Real Academia Galega and a lecturer in Audiovisual Communication at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Her filmography is a unique utterance in auteur cinema by virtue of its ongoing shaping of recurrent themes that take root in the search for an ever greater formal complexity. Noteworthy among these themes is the emphasis she places on recovering migrant women’s voices and their accounts marked by diaspora and exile.
This edition of the Chair, comprising a master lecture, sees Margarita Ledo set forth a reflection on the body as a remnant, as a point of arrival after tracing an invisible thread that extends across film based on memory, anti-establishment practices, the marginalisation of women in public spaces, the estrangement of their own bodies and the power of essay films as an artistic practice.
To present and initiate the debate, we recount these words by the film-maker:
“The different writings of ‘I’ with the body as an artefact, as an archive of remnants and interferences, as a subject of desire, as a place to make film, distinguish one from another, for in each of its fragments resides a footprint in which this elemental unease entailing the production of an image and gaze is inscribed. Therefore, somehow or other in each work these ‘knocks behind the door’ reverberate and normally lie dormant in notes, ledgers, and situations we reminisce about and bring into our hands these creators of unreconciled attitude, which, intellectually and personally, passed through the night, exposing, close-up, their existence; they made film an experience for whoever gazes.
To travel through the folds, the line of shadow in which variations of this different gaze are strung together, that female gaze feminist studies pursue and which expands beyond works made by women, that is our commitment with female and male artists that, in terms of thought — from Benjamin to Stuart Hall — are still strong, with those practices that, from the material history of culture, take up a position that chimes with Adrienne Rich and her reflections in her seminal essay ‘Notes toward a Politics of Location’ (1985) or with a present generation in which a work with a phenomenological flavour such as Iris Brey’s Le regard féminin (2020) is a joyous symptom that stretches to women artists who reach the world of performance to transit the darkness, anchoring themselves in the canonical incorporation of patriarchal images and the decision to resignify them.
In its double perception — which starts at that moment of grace tying you to a determined sequence of a journey towards the production of that ‘other’ image and continues in that of the person gazing — the body becomes an utterance against fetishization. It is a journey in which a reverberating multiple object formalises in the flow of thought around lived experience, in the ‘dark feelings’ around certain episodes which perhaps must remain in the dark, unrevealed, and which Chantal Akerman offers us in Ma mère rit. Traits et portraits (2013). Although, ad-libbing, sometimes it is important to look for the truth, because when it is there we feel it in books and in films, Akerman tells herself. We feel there is something ‘happening underground, slowly, sometimes very slowly; when you don’t even think about it, the truth appears and comes about at an extraordinary moment that does not come every day; a good moment, so good that suddenly we feel calm and light’.
This dark truth was exile and annihilation, something hard to name. It was the marginalisation of women in public space, the estrangement of their own bodies. It is the century’s inner-history. Yet from darkness the essay film emerges on the screen as a landscape, as an artistic practice, as an encounter between flesh and body. And that latent, dark truth takes on meaning. As in 1928, while Walter Benjamin interviewed André Gide in Berlin. At one point the writer quotes the admiral de Bougainville: ‘When we left the island we gave it the name Salvador Island’. And Benjamin remarks that then, and precisely then, Gide adds that chilling phrase: ‘Ce n’est qu’en quittant une chose que nous la nommons’ (Only when we abandon something do we give it a name). At that moment the narrative begins. Memory is now raw material for a work that perhaps is useful to us to fill the gaps. Fractures in the historical process. Fears”.
Margarita Ledo, February 2021
Margarita Ledo Andión is a film-maker, writer, teacher and researcher. She also lectures in Audiovisual Communication at the University of Santiago de Compostela and is director of the Audiovisual Studies Group at the same university. Her studies around the politics of representation in photographic and filmic documentary imagery are reflected in works such as
Del Cine Ojo a Dogma 95 (Paidós, 2004) and Cine de fotógrafos (Gustavo Gili, 2005), while her films most notably include the documentary Santa Liberdade (2004), Liste, pronunciado Líster (2007) and A cicatriz branca (2012). In 2008 she received the National Award for Galician Culture in the category of film and audiovisuals and since then has been a numerary member of the Real Academia Galega.
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