At once personal and detached, intimate but distancing, Julia Dogra-Brazell’s work casts a spell all of its own. Helen De Witt, Head of Cinemas The British Film Institute.
Julia Dogra-Brazell is a British artist working with film, video, sound and the still image. She studied literature at London and Cambridge Universities in the early eighties and, in the late nineties, when at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design, shifted an acquired interest in storytelling, poetry, history and memory to the context of visual culture. She holds degrees in literature, photography and fine art and is a visiting lecturer in moving image and photography. Her films are included in the British Council Films Directory, the BFI film archive and the British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection.
Common to all Dogra-Brazell’s works, irrespective of medium, is the idea of art as a prime means of resistance to habitual modes of analysis. As Jason Oddy points out in terms of her photography,’at once imprecise and over-determined’, what we see ‘alludes … to an elusive past irreducible to a single event’. (‘The Impossibility of Storytelling’ Next Level Ed 1 Vol 2). We experience this early on in simple and sustained film works, such as The Garden (2007), as well as in more complex pieces that eschew straightforward narrative intention, causation or chronological structure; in the audio works We (2001) and Voiceover (2001), for example, or her first film, Plot (2006). Even when alluding to specific, identifiable historic moments, this is art whose formal, linguistic or temporal support is rent in pieces. In films, Dogra-Brazell engages all manner of visual contrivances, incorporating randomly reconstituted literary texts, extended soundscapes, overlaid voices or, when one voice, the impression of a ‘confidant’ who wanders like a ghost through these ‘shattered ecologies’ (Elaine Smollin ‘Vision Scored for Voice’ DVD essay 2015).
As a logical extension to her practice, in 2013, she embarked on a number of short films (the ‘Point Series’) that, over time and as they proliferate, can be brought together in different configurations. ‘Units’ can be shown individually, built into a single structure or can take the form of expanded cinema with multiple screens. The idea followed an interview with the BFI’s Helen DeWitt in which Dogra-Brazell spoke about the contrasting experiences of the cinema and the gallery. I don’t set out to make something for one type of experience. I like to think that anything I produce is, in any case, only one remove from being taken apart and rearranged. There is nothing heartless or perfunctory about this enterprise. For as Elaine Smollin, who lends voice to many of Dogra-Brazell’s films, suggests, there can be no dispassion to a project where an artist seems so intent on celebrating ‘the rites of spontaneous renewal of our faith in the filmic arts.’ (Elaine Smollin ‘Vision Scored for Voice’ DVD essay 2015)