Graduating from MA Performance Design and Practice, Yifat Shir-Moskovitz talks to us about her film Under Con(s)traction in which she parallels the months of her pregnancy with a nine-phase baking recipe.
Tell us about your project and why you chose to focus on this subject.
The project is an 18-minute video composed of nine fragments which refer to the nine months of pregnancy. It is a self-documentary made with a lot of honesty and humour about my existential position as a pregnant woman.
For me, the starting point for any new artwork is always an individual experience of the world. I put it in the middle of a blank page – sometimes a real one and sometimes an imaginary one in my head – and it stays with me for a few weeks. Firstly, if it lasts then it means it is truly a meaningful matter for me. Secondly, the length of time that it stays with me – or in me – brings about a new, multi-layered understanding. Then I feel the idea which had sprouted in me, is "baked" enough to become an artwork.
For this project, I didn’t think I would ever produce such an intimate work – exposing myself and my life in such a way. Although previously I have made works which inherently involve my personal life, I made a decision that in this project I didn't want to focus on myself. But, apparently the universe had its own plans! My physical and mental position as a pregnant woman became the most important thing happening in my life at that point. So, I put myself both behind and in front of the camera. When you are heavily pregnant, being on camera can be challenging: your physical resistance, memory and patience are nothing like they usually are. Luckily for me, my husband could act as a cinematographer behind the camera. His compassion and insistence helped me to get this project done, on time!
How did coronavirus and the lockdown impact your practice?
My original plan was to direct a live performance piece called No Woman's Land. I had already recruited three performers and we had started rehearsals. But, I had to cancel it when the pandemic broke out. We had to leave London very quickly and go back to Israel, as we were worried that we wouldn't be able to return home in time for the delivery of our baby otherwise.
As an independent artist you are used to being flexible – for instance, when it comes to budget constraints. Coronavirus shrunk our creative worlds to four visible walls without any live feedback. The fact that I couldn’t have an audience as an active ingredient in my work forced me to work in a different medium which I wasn’t familiar with. I think this is the main thing which concerns me during the pandemic – the lack of immediate, human feedback. Everything is filtered through a screen. So, it has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone. My project became a video work because that's the best outcome I could have produced in May 2020 – when there was an active lockdown in Israel.
Moving forward, how do you hope to work and what changes are you keen to see in the future of your discipline?
Now, I want to bring something else into my professional world as a performance-maker. I want to work with a combination of mediums for the sake of preserving art making. I can’t just give up and stop creating if theatres are closed. I need to keep going, shouting out relevant matters in our society. Artists must keep making for the sake of everyone’s sanity.
As a performance director, I have always wanted to try film directing; now is my chance to work in a medium which doesn’t depend on a live audience. I am developing a script for a short film, with our house as the main location. My husband will be the camera man, editor and soundman and I am the scriptwriter, producer and director. It makes us humbler in a way, managing only with what we have inside our home. This is also paired with getting used to my new status as a mother, which has shifted my life completely. I'm sure this will bring significant changes and developments to my professional life.
What does it mean to you to be part of the “Class of 2020”?
I am definitely part of a very large community of "injured" art makers. But this virus which sabotaged our plans also forced us all to be really creative. If I thought I was adaptable before, this has made me even more so. By necessity, this has also helped me maintain relevancy in the culture and society I am part of.
Thinking about your fellow students (from any course), whose work should we take a look at next and why?
Yuan Yue – my course mate on MA Performance Design and Practice. Yuan brings such a rare innocence to her work. She has the ability to observe life both with a camera lens and her own exploring eyes. She is an expert in capturing small moments from daily life and bringing them to the stage or screen. Yuan has lots of experience and knowledge in film and cinema, which she combines with performance making. She also has an honest courage to explore beyond medium boundaries and to work in new, ambitious artistic languages. We have collaborated several times over the past two years and I hope we can do it again in the future.