Slightly obscured by a mass of literary and cinematic citations Beatrice Gibson’s ‘Crone Music’ contains a powerful narration of maternal fantasies and a study of the anxieties of millennial parenthood. The two longer film pieces shown ‘Deux Soeurs Qui Ne Sont Pas Sours (Two Sisters Who Aren’t Sisters)’ (2018) and ‘I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead’ (2018) reference Gertrude Stein and Audre Lorde and feature the poets CAConrad, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley. Beyond this, a gallery is set aside for video and text study and a programme of performances. In Gibson’s films we hear the crew speaking on the soundtrack, the artist features herself and her family as characters and she uses structuralist film techniques to foreground the processes of making the work. A supplementary new piece has Myles and CAConrad on monitors reading their work as outtakes from their parts in the films. As a whole ‘Crone Music’ conveys that in Gibson’s work collaborations and assembling the material of the citations is a more complex and significant project than simply screening some highly produced film.
In ‘Two Sisters Who Aren’t Sisters’, overlaid with the sound and scenes of a thrillingly tortured performance by Adam Christensen, Notley reading a poem about motherhood as an American in Paris and a version of Stein’s search for a lost dog are vignettes that make a further set of visual citations embracing Film Noir, French New Wave and Cinema du look. Two pregnant women read letters to their unborn children recording their hopes and fears, a narration that recalls feminist film classics such as Julie Dash’s ‘Daughters of the Dust’ and more recently, Elizabeth Moss in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ TV series. One expectant mother recalls a dream about her baby becoming a fried egg that she might eat and later as she visits a launderette a voice from a radio announces ‘I am sorry I have never dreamed of devouring my child’ in a brilliant moment of Stein-inspired stream of conscious mirroring. The other mother to be speaks of her paranoia and wishing to delay birth to protect the child, while monitor screens behind her show a pregnant belly suggesting she is caught in some surveillance nightmare like Margaret Attwood’s Handmaids.
‘I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead’ begins with the manifestation of this generational nightmare with Trump’s inauguration and a montage of recent atrocities including Grenfell. The contemporary crisis is reflected on by CAConrad and Myles, who by recalling the violence they faced when coming out 50 years ago, forces us to face how little has changed. We see Gibson sitting with them in Myles’ studio surrounded by the new age tinged ephemera of their creative lives, consulting Tarot cards in what may be a suitable reference to Agnes Varda as the work evokes a similar existential angst. Gibson shows us the bubble of her own family life with clips of kids on the beach that have the seemingly authentic appeal of an Instagram feed. We hear her own letter to her child though even this is laced with quotes and when we see Gibson in a joyful sequence preparing for a night out and dancing with her child in a night club. These moments are re-enactments and citations.
Stein coined the phrase ‘lost generation’ to remark on the premature demise and unfulfilled promise of the artistic and social milieu of pre-war Paris that she recorded. In an early work ‘The Future’s Getting Old Like the Rest of Us’ (2010) - sadly not featured in this show - Gibson recorded elderly dementia sufferers, presenting the recollection of the generation preceding the Baby Boomers that had already been blanked out by society. There is the same sense from ‘Crone Music’ with its citations of earlier avant-garde moments - the same waning of another generation.