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Two Halves // Dolly Sen and Peter Matthews

Published date
19 Nov 2014

Dolly and Peter final

Two Halves is a monthly thoughticle spotlighting two people connected by London College of Communication.

Our aim is to showcase the conceptual intentions, deeper thinking and personal insights that come with the creative process.

If you would like to nominate someone for Two Halves, please email Natalie Reiss (


“reality is a cheeky bastard”

• My name is Dolly Sen and I am a professional mad person. I spend my time creating art, mischief, things that don’t exist, and working in mental health as a trainer, speaker and consultant.

• I was a student at the London College of Communication (LCC) between 2007-2010, studying film and video, and last year I was commissioned to make a film – Outside – by Sal Anderson, who set up the Institute of Inner Vision, LCC.

• Outside is my experience of psychosis and was shown at the Barbican in 2013.

• Psychosis is akin to collage, a cutting out of reality to present a story/experience that can’t be faced in its purest form. I don’t know of any way to explore psychosis except through art.

• What prompts all my work is the interplay between concepts of ‘madness’ and ‘reality’, so it continues along that line.

• The source material is not a newspaper or magazine, but the complex human being. Without complexity, there would be no art.

• I don’t start with the medium. I start with the idea and then decide which medium is the best way to convey it.

• I do cross-pollinate a lot. If you go to one of my artistic blogs, you can see in the last year I have used visual and conceptual art, poetry, websites, participatory action, performance, subversion of everyday objects, film, writing, and comedy to explore my ideas.

• There are many films professing to show the experience of psychosis. Although there are a few exceptions, mostly it has been done very badly, made by people who have never experienced it and are informed by previous inaccurate cinematic portrayals of psychosis. Think about it this way: you may know the language, the food, the culture and the history of, say, France, but unless you live there, how can write about what it is to be French? There aren’t nearly enough films made on psychosis by people who know it first hand.

• I am not always so serious. In fact most of my art has a playful, irreverent element to it. I don’t know if you will be able to print this, but I think reality is a cheeky bastard, and I am putting him over my lap and slapping his naughty arse through my art.

Dolly Sen is currently training to be an occupational therapist and her film, Outside, has just featured in Mind Rights Film Festival.


“There’s very little reason to produce art if you don’t keep faith with reality”

• I’m a Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Film and Television at LCC. I recently started working on a short film with Sal Anderson (Reader in Interdisciplinary Art-Science Film), David Knight and Jaime Peschiera, who all teach on the course. The film is about bipolar disorder and I believe it marks the first time so many course team members have collaborated on research. It looks like I will be contributing as script advisor and facilitator. The film will be produced under the aegis of the Institute of Inner Vision.

• The first piece (of art) I recall doing that satisfied me creatively was a profile of the old Hollywood star Bette Davis for a long defunct journal called The Modern Review. I think the year was 1992.

• I’ve just written an article on Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant for The Criterion Collection, a New York-based distribution company, and I’m currently tinkering with the final draft.

• I have two degrees in English literature, and I always bring that knowledge to bear on teaching as well as my own writing practice. I encourage students to read widely beyond academic film texts, to attend exhibitions and generally enter into dialogue with other art forms.

• We live in an age of specialisation, and however quaint it sounds to policymakers, there’s still much to be said for the value of a traditional liberal arts education. I’m certainly one for tearing down the artificial barriers between disciplines. Film that looks only to itself is apt to grow sterile and solipsistic.

• My creative practice of writing essays and reviews necessitates spending a great deal of time alone. I will admit that I enjoy the feeling of single authorship. Yet inhabiting the ‘zone’ of writing can be scary. When the words aren’t flowing, I grow intensely aware of my isolation and it’s easy to lose perspective.

• Every artist learns both from tradition and contemporary work, but it can be paralysing if such influences become too dominant. Filmmakers who merely copy the effects of a Scorsese or even a Michael Haneke (to name two examples popular among the students) are apt to end up with a soulless exercise in technique. I think these sources of inspiration should be absorbed and then essentially forgotten about.

• There’s very little reason to produce art if you don’t keep faith with reality (I’m paraphrasing André Bazin here). It would be naïve to suppose we could ever capture it raw. The mediations of the artist may result in something quite phantasmagorical, but that in no way precludes reality – by which I mean a core of emotional truth.

• I believe that film criticism is a branch of writing, and when undertaken seriously, may approach the condition of art.

• I am most proud of an essay I wrote fifteen years ago for Sight & Sound on the French film theorist André Bazin. The runner-up would be a feature on Hitchcock’s Vertigo for the same magazine in 2012. Usually I’m frustrated by the enormous gap between intention and achievement, but I remain proud of these articles because in both cases I found the right words (more or less).

Peter Matthews’s short film will be complete by the end of 2015.

Read more about the Institute of Inner Vision

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