Photo by Laura Kelly

Vivienne Dick

Experimental film-maker Vivienne Dick moved from Ireland to New York in the late-70s and was at the heart of a scene called no-wave, an avant-garde music and art movement where people like director Jim Jarmusch, artist Basquiat, photographer Nan Goldin and musicians Sonic Youth and Debbie Harry mingled together.

 

Inspired by this DIY community downtown, she picked up a Super 8 camera and started shooting the women around her, in films like Guerillere Talks and She Had The Gun All Ready. Lydia Lunch, one of the most charismatic of Vivienne’s subjects, described No Wave as a “collective caterwaul that defied categorisation and despised convention” and called its output “audience unfriendly”. 

Presenter Kate Hutchinson first heard Vivienne’s name in the song Hot Topic by dance-punks Le Tigre, which reels off a list of artists, writers, activists and feminist firebrands, putting her alongside the likes of Yoko Ono and Sleater-Kinney.

 

 Vivienne is still an experimental film-maker to this day and has never sold out her vision.  

The Last Bohemians visited her at her Dublin home, as she was putting the finishing touches to her latest film New York, Our Time, which has since won the Film Critics Circle Award for Best Documentary. It transports Vivienne back to the city she left in 1982 and sees her reconnecting with some of her old friends. Our story starts, however, in Donegal, Ireland, where a young Vivienne couldn’t wait to leave...

This episode was produced by Ali Gardiner.

Music in this episode

(sourced via Bandcamp, freemusicarchive.org and archive.org):
Tryad – The Rising
Blue Dot Sessions – Campfire Rounds
Fields Ohio – Anti-Saloon League
Gallery Six – Moel
Plastic Sunday – No Tomorrow
Chocolate Billy - Assedic No Wave
Lee Rosevere – Ennui
Revolution Void – Someone Else’s Memories
Phlox.s – Obey The Sun
Gallery Six – Hydroscope
Chris Zabriskie – Virtues Inherited, Vices Passed On
Chris Zabriskie – Heliograph
Chris Zabriskie – Candlepower
Chris Zabriskie – Oxygen Garden

TRANSCRIPT: Vivienne Dick

 

INTRO

 

Vivienne Dick: I'm not so easily categorised, I don't think, as a filmmaker, and that's a good thing - I revel in that. I wanted to write the balance, and I would do that by just filming women. Men would be very much on the periphery of my stories. 

 

[Advert] Series two of The Last Bohemians is supported by Mr and Mrs Smith, the boutique hotel specialists who know how to celebrate the mischievous side of travel. They deal in exotic, exclusive and downright sexy stays, and they've handpicked 1400 of them over on mrandmrssmith.com. Whether you're looking for an eco-escape or an artistic city break, they'll have the bohemian sojourn you're looking for, and for this episode of The Last Bohemians, we actually did take a sojourn overseas to Dublin in Ireland, where we met the filmmaker Vivienne Dick. 

 

[Door knocking is heard and a creaking as the door is subsequently opened. The group greet each other]

 

Kate Hutchinson: Oh it smells delicious in here, Vivienne. 

 

Vivienne: There's a lot of smell, I'm making some soup, so... 

 

Kate: Yeah that's...

 

Vivienne: That's what it smells like...

 

[Background noise continues]

 

Kate: Was it your birthday? 

 

Vivienne: It was a few days ago, yeah. 

 

Kate: Happy birthday!

 

Vivienne: Thank you. A big one too!

 

[Pouring sound]

 

Vivienne: Yes, I know. Do you take sugar? 

 

Kate: Thank you. 

 

Vivienne: What made you think of me? What, how come I came into the picture? I don't think that many people have seen my films, they're sort of a little bit on the edge, you know? 

 

Kate: You know I'm a big Le Tigre fan, so...

 

Vivienne: Ok, ok. That's where it came from?

 

Kate: There's that song. That's how I first heard about you. That was like a feminist art introduction, right? 

 

Vivienne: I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that the films, the little films I was making at the time, would be shown today, you know, that people would be interested in seeing them now. 

 

[Cat miaows]

 

Kate: What's your cat called, Vivienne?

 

Vivienne: Ginny. 

 

Kate: Ginny [laughs]

 

Vivienne: I think she's telling me she didn't have any lunch. 

 

<musical interlude>

 

Kate Hutchinson intro: Filmmaker Vivienne Dick moved from Ireland to New York in the late 70s and was at the heart of a scene called no wave, an avant-garde music and art movement where people like the director Jim Jarmusch, the artist Basquiat, the photographer Nan Goldin and musicians Sonic Youth and Debbie Harry mingled together. Inspired by this very stylish DIY community downtown, Vivienne picked up a Super 8 camera and started shooting the women around her. Lydia Lunch, one of the most charismatic of Vivienne’s subjects, described No Wave as a “collective caterwaul that defied categorisation and despised convention”. I first heard Vivienne's name in one of my favourite songs by dance-punks Le Tigre, Hot Topic, which reels off a list of artists, writers, activists and feminist firebrands, putting her alongside the likes of Yoko Ono and Sleater Kinney. Vivienne is still an experimental film-maker to this day and has never sold out her vision. The Last Bohemians visited her at her Dublin home, as she was putting the finishing touches to her latest film New York Our Time. The film transports Vivienne back to the city she left in 1982 and sees her reconnecting with some of her old friends. Our story starts, however, in Donegal, Ireland, which a young Vivienne couldn’t wait to leave. 

 

<musical interlude>

 

MAIN INTERVIEW 

 

Vivienne: I grew up in 50s Donegal by the sea. It didn't feel like a place where you could grow - women were very much second class. It was pre-modern. If you went to college you could become a teacher. Work in the civil service was a job my father had imagined for me. I began to get interested in photography, and you simply could not even get on a course for photography - you could only get on a course if you were already working with a photographer; there was no way you'd get a job as a photographer's assistant as a woman. And yeah, I just couldn't wait to explore the world, you know, to move out. I went to France for a year, I went to Germany for a year, I was in London for a bit. I travelled to India, you met a variety of people, some of them were there for drugs, some of them were there for some kind of enlightenment. I was kind of, I felt like I was going back into the Middle Ages. It really was, you know, it felt amazing to me, and going through Afghanistan was incredible as well. Of course I did try the drugs as well, but everyone did. 

 

Kate: [Laughing] Were you a hippie before?

 

Vivienne: No, I didn't think I was a hippie, no. 

 

Kate: Because you came from Ireland, you came from outside. Did you feel like you truly fitted in?

 

Vivienne: Everyone was an oddball, that was the thing. I wasn't the only oddball, they were all oddballs, you know? All escaping from something. 

 

[City noises]

 

Vivienne: Being in New York, running away from something that was, they wanted to get away from, that was definitely how it was, and looking for another community that we'd make ourselves. I was completely blown away by everything that was going on around me, it was such a creative place and the most important thing for me was that it was women who were doing things there - who were choreographers, who were photographers, who were musicians who were playing instruments, they weren't just singing. And that was incredibly inspiring, I gravitated towards the music scene, the punk thing. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: I read a story that you'd seen a picture of Patti Smith and that was when you decided, "I want to go". 

 

Vivienne: Yeah, she was in the Village Voice and I just sort of thought she looks really really interesting and she's performing in CBGBs – I'd never heard of CBGBs before, so that was my first visit there, and shortly after that I moved downtown. I was with this guy and we split up and I said to myself I'm going to live down there, you know, because it seems much more interesting than uptown, and much cheaper as well. 

 

Kate: Can you tell us what Downtown New York in 1976 was like? 

 

Vivienne: I lived in the Lower East Side which was Polish and Ukrainian and some left over hippies knocking about, right, so it was quite grungy. The buildings were all 19th century railroad apartments and the rent was incredibly low because New York at that time, just a little bit further east of that into the A, B, C avenues, Alphabet City, it was completely abandoned and many of the buildings went on fire through arson or set on fire by the landlord to get insurance. Parts of New York there looked like Berlin after the war, just empty buildings and burnt out buildings, yeah, ruins. There was no one there. There were no cars, no traffic, a lot of drug dealing, that kind of thing, and people living in cars, you know, in abandoned cars. At that time there was a recession in America and something was happening there with music, and people started coming because it was a cheap place to live and because the rent wasn't high. I think there are certain times in history when there's just the right combinations of things going on, and I think New York was like that for a period, it was like that. But a lot of it's to do with being able to live and not having to spend all your energy making money to pay rent, for example, and having that anxiety, you know that people have now. I mean the living conditions at the apartments were very basic but we didn't care at all, you know. It felt like luxury for me to have my own place, it was warm – other people I know moved into abandoned buildings and didn't have any heating and had to work as a co-op to organise that, to start rebuilding and all that, that was very common too. It didn't feel dangerous, although I was, there were two attempted muggings on me. One of them I was just walking home on my own and got out my key and I could hear the footsteps behind me, somebody running, and I just swung around and I had an umbrella and just pointed the umbrella at the person running after me who had, he had something in his hand, a knife or something, and I just screamed at the top of my voice and my drug dealer friend Lee, who lived in the basement of my building, who lived in the ground floor, just burst out the door stark naked with a shotgun, and windows opened, heads came out, and the guy just ran off. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Vivienne: This was so much more interesting than being at university, you know, everything I was coming across and the people I was meeting and books I was being introduced to, the things I was hearing. There was a lot of different kinds of music happening as well, and there was kind of an energy there that reverberated around CBGBs for a few years. A lot of these people came to New York who were music trained, you know, they were classically trained or whatever, or they'd been to art college, and they kind of like dropped all their dreams of being sculptors or whatever and just ended up hanging out in CBGBs, "I want to be in a band", you know. So yeah, at the time you had people who were playing in bands, who were making films, who were painting, who were criss-crossing and doing all of these things at once, you know? 

 

Kate: Who were some of the people you were meeting? 

 

Vivienne: There were just a few bands I was interested in that I tend to go and see, and they were Contortions and Teenage Jesus and I suppose Mars and DNA as well. And, um, yeah, Suicide, of course. They were making their music and doing their thing really early on in the early 70s. You know there were just two of them and were just this keyboard thing going, and this really demented kind of voice, you know, and a very strong rhythm, and something kind of slightly ominous about it as well, kind of scary, you know, a little bit scary. It was exploring something because it wasn't that it was just noise, there was music there, but it was a new kind of sound that too many people came across as noise because you couldn't hear it initially. You know, when you kind of get used to it it's not noise, there is something there, you know, a pattern, there's something there. 

 

Kate: You joined Beirut Slump for a bit, what was that band like? 

 

Vivienne: That was a very loud, crazy band. But I mean what was wonderful about that band was that we would meet and we'd rehearse, we'd go to this place, I just made up whatever I wanted to play on this really old fashioned organ, it had a great sound. We'd play a song and then there'd be all this gossiping, and I really enjoyed all the rehearsals. We only played out about twice or three times, three times I think it was. 

 

Kate: Did you identify with the punk thing that was going on? 

 

Vivienne: Oh I did, yeah, but um, it was more anarchic than the Ramones' style, you know, earlier punk, although I really like that as well. It was, yeah, it was more experimental and more, probably jazz influences, free jazz influences, but when you listen to some of it now it sounds very contemporary. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Vivienne: I was more interested in the women who were in the punk thing, who were making music and who were questioning what it means to be female, and there was always a feminist thing going on amongst us, always. I really liked, for example, the guitarist Pat Place who played in Contortions and later Bush Tetras. She's a fantastic musician, you know, and she's in some of my films as well. 

 

Kate: You mentioned the Contortions

 

Vivienne: Mmm. 

 

Kate: You yourself played violin at one point with them, didn't you? Did you have any prior violin experience? 

 

Vivienne: This was just making squeaking noises, you know, but I did play [laughing] in a school orchestra for a while, and piano, yeah. 

 

Kate: When did hip-hop come in?

 

Vivienne: Oh, hip-hop was amazing when that started downtown. Hip-hop, they had a little club just very near where I lived in the basement and, um, it was the poster that they made that really caught my eye, it was a beautiful design, black and white, I still have one of the posters. And um, yeah, it was a pretty wild scene, these young lads from The Bronx, they were quite a wild bunch and that was the first time they came downtown to this place, forget the name of it now, and then they moved over to the Roxy and that was a much bigger place. I used to go there on a Saturday night, religiously every Saturday, I used to go there until four in the morning, so yeah, that was fun. 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Vivienne: People getting ready to go out, that was always a thing, you know. People would spend hours getting ready to go out, like drinking and chatting, putting on and trying on this and that clothes, costumes almost sort of like costumes, and then going out really late. 

 

Kate: What were you wearing at the time? You said you were sort of thrifting – what was the style? 

 

Vivienne: Going back to 60s gear, that was very popular. And of course you'd get brilliant dresses and things in the secondhand shops and vintage stores. It was funny for me because when I was growing up in Donegal and I was that age in the teenage years I used to religiously watch Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops, you know, that would be my big show of the week on television, and I'd think, "Oh, what the hell am I doing living here? Why am I not living there?", you know. And I had my favourites, you know what I mean, you had Sandie Shaw, of course Dusty Springfield. So when I went to New York and we were able to dress up in these clothes I felt like I was having a second chance at sort of, you know, playing this 60s thing. 

 

Kate: In your living room on this gorgeous turquoise wall above your fireplace there's that rather iconic photograph that Nan [Goldin] took of you in an emerald green ball gown. Where were you when she took that? 

 

Vivienne: That was my apartment in New York, 9th Street, and ah, the occasion, that occasion was Bette Gordon was making a film. Nan and I had parts in this film and we shot in my apartment, part of the action of the film was Nan taking pictures of me dressed in various outfits and me taking pictures of Nan. 

 

Kate: How do you feel when you look at that picture of you? 

 

Vivienne: Well I quite like it now, but I didn't for a long time. I used to feel embarrassed by it, I used to feel, "Oh no!", you know? But you know, I'm the sort of person that always feels squeamish about looking at images of myself, you know. It's just the way I am. 

 

Kate: How did you get into filmmaking?

 

Vivienne: Well I became a photographer, as I mentioned, and Millennium Film was a workshop on 4th Street and I used to pass by and wonder about it, you know. And they worked in Super 8 - they had 16mm equipment as well, but you join and take out a camera and, you know. It began that way but it was only until one evening I met a whole group of people, including Eric Mitchell and Beth B and James Nares, and they were all talking about making their own films and working with our friends, or people that we knew in the music scene, showing the films ourselves, and I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah! I'd love to do that", you know. It just started there, and the first film I made was Guerillere Talks, which is just a roll of film with each person, where they could do or say whatever they want in front of the camera, just let the camera run. So it's a little bit like Warhol or something. I didn't see myself as, "I'm making a film now" – it wasn't like that, it was just like one film at a time. I didn't even see the films being joined together, it was just one film with each person, the way you're doing your podcasts. It was a way for me to approach people as well, I was quite a shy person, so I approached Pat and Lydia, and I don't direct by saying, "Sit here, do that", I just set up the camera and told them that we could shoot this wherever they - they could choose a location, and they could speak or not speak as they wished, you know, so that's how it began really. 

 

Kate: So you never scripted anything? 

 

Vivienne: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not really interested in straight narratives anyway. I'm trying to get some ideas across in the films, and the person that I'm filming who I choose to film, that's incredibly important for me. There has to be some kind of energy there about that person that I find interesting. But it isn't all random and miss-mashed – the editing process is very important to give it shape. I'm very precise as an editor. 

 

Kate: Where do you get your best ideas? 

 

Vivienne: Ideas come from, sometimes, a piece of music, or they come from something I read, or they come from, I play something that really sort of affects me in some way. And a person, absolutely, from a person as well – I can meet somebody and, a spark, it just sparks something off in terms of the feeling of wanting to make a film. Something in the way they look or the way they move, or something about their energy. I was always interested in filming people who were playing themselves, you know, who were themselves, and a lot of the stuff I filmed was quite, not really candid as if it was hidden, but I appear to be messing around with the camera, and I get the most authentic kind of material then, because people were just being themselves at home. 

 

Kate: So when someone like Lydia Lunch comes along you must've been like, "Wow. Ok, this is a very different kind of woman". 

 

Vivienne: That's right, yeah. 

 

[Excerpt of Lydia Lunch talking: "Hi, I'm Lydia Lunch reporting with Herelle De Rivera, on the scene reporting. It's really a crime the way the youth of America is treated today. Just look at the recreational facilities we have. I mean you have to understand and sort of, it makes you really angry to think that the only kind of toys you get to have is the junk that all the other people leave out"]

 

Vivienne: I'm not sure if I saw her first on the street or performing in CBGBs in her band Teenage Jesus and The Jerks. But yeah, she certainly made an impression. I'd never seen the like before, and when I was making Guerillere Talks I said to myself, "I want to go and ask her to be in this film because I'd like to get to know her more". So that led to her being in the film, then she invited me along to rehearse, then I ended up playing in the band. And she's in a lot of other films I've made then, after that. Lydia had a very strong look which was almost, like, cartoonish nearly, you know what I mean? I think. And um, very fierce as well, incredibly fierce and she'd also be kind of completely off-putting - she'd say something dreadful to you, you know what I mean? You didn't know how she was going to respond. But if she was in the mood she could be extremely funny. I think I show sometimes a side of Lydia in my films that's not the same as say Beth B shows - she's more vulnerable somehow in some of my films? I think she's like a little girl, you know she's sort of, um... she's a very complex kind of person. 

 

Kate: You seem very interested in personas, the different sides that we present to the world as women? 

 

Vivienne: I certainly focussed on women. I decided from a very early time when I started working with film that I wanted to write a balance, and I would do that by just filming women – men would be very much on the periphery of my stories, because I spent all my life looking at films where it was the other way around. I mean one of the problems is that women want to make films today, and very often when they go to look for funding from bodies like the film boards say in Ireland – mostly guys on the panel, they just don't understand what they're on about. They're used to a certain kind of story as told from a male perspective, they don't understand that maybe there's other kinds of stories out there that need to be told. And anyway they don't really trust women, they don't see women as being creative, usually. And I certainly noticed when I was teaching in Galway for many years that the young girls in the class, they automatically thought the protagonist was male, you know, they very rarely wrote a script with a female protagonist, which is sort of sad, you know what I mean? Really? 

 

Kate: How do you feel when people call you a feminist filmmaker? 

 

Vivienne: Well I am a feminist filmmaker. It doesn't bother me. 

 

Kate: What about a female filmmaker? 

 

Vivienne: Well I am a female filmmaker as well, it doesn't mean my films are restricted in any way just because they're made by someone who happens to be female, you know. 

 

Kate: I mean there's a huge discussion going on at the moment, an ongoing discussion and rightly so about the lack of female filmmakers or...

 

Vivienne: Yeah. That's real, that's real, that's because of the money and who gives the money and who chooses the scripts and all that. That's true. But you could say if you're a black filmmaker, [it’s] the same issue, isn't it? You have the same thing. Certain voices are heard and other voices are not heard. That's how it is, and of course that's wrong. 

 

Kate: How long did it take you to find your voice? 

 

Vivienne: So I grew up in a culture here in Ireland where there's very much a sense, well first of all if you're a woman there was always this notion of – for everybody but especially for women – "Who do you think you are?", you could hear this, "Who do you think you are?", you know. Or this other phrase, "You're not qualified", you know, "You're not qualified". And in New York that did not exist, do you know what I mean? It did not exist. It didn't matter, you didn't have to be qualified, just go and do it! There's something about my films that they're imperfect, you know, they're kind of little wonky, do you know what I mean, a little, um, jagged. You felt that you had permission to try things, whether it was you wanted to have a blast on a saxophone, or you wanted to maybe be a clothes designer, you might have just a fancy to do something, everyone was doing all these things, just deciding, "I think I'm going to do this", you know? 

 

Kate: And people would come out to watch these films, you would screen them in the most unusual places

 

Vivienne: There was an audience, absolutely, ready made! I mean we'd show these films very often between bands in the clubs because we were part of the scene, we were at the clubs all the time. I didn't screen at CBGBs, I screened at Max's and a place called Tier 3, and a place that Eric Mitchell and a few others set up on 8th Street called The New Cinema, but they'd show these films there that were transferred to video and there was this really cumbersome video projector, like really crazy colours, yeah that was popular. It was terrifying of course, you know, putting on your film that had never shown before, and the audience was very receptive to what I was doing. But me, I was, and like I say, very shy and also tentative. I don't think I would've been a filmmaker, [it’s] only because I went there. It wouldn't have happened here, it wouldn't have happened in England, wouldn't have happened in France or Germany, no. 

 

<musical interlude>

 

Kate: The idea that people were part of a 'scene', that word has become a dirty word. Actually from what I'm getting the sense from talking to you is that being in a scene is brilliant because it just means a supportive community where you feel like you can do anything.

 

Vivienne: Totally. Yeah, it is a community. Everybody was coasting on this thing, you know, was surfing on this whole energy that was around and enjoying it. 

 

Kate: Did you get the sense at the time that you were part of something that people, decades later, would be so interested in? 

 

Vivienne: A little bit, I did, yeah. I felt it was something special going on, I did. I felt it was the centre of the world at the time. 

 

Kate: You were in this incredibly creative DIY scene, this moment. When you left New York it was just as loads of money was flooding into Downtown, no wave filmmakers went on to do bigger pictures, who are still making big pictures, like Jim Jarmusch or Steve Buscemi; Basquiat was suddenly this huge star. Was that deliberate? Was that a deliberate move on your part to get the hell out?

 

Vivienne: Who knows, you know. I mean I maybe felt a little bit overwhelmed. I got a lot of reviews and things written up on my films, and maybe it was all too much a little bit, for me personally at the time. I thought maybe there would be opportunities in Ireland, I really did, in terms of funding or support for making other work. I had been showing films all across in many, many cities, I kind of took off from reviews in the Village Voice and I got invited to places, it was a great opportunity for me to visit unusual places as well. So I thought, "Well, maybe people are making films in Ireland, maybe I can be a filmmaker in Ireland and do something there". So I went back, but it was very difficult. You know, I was completely slammed down because the first thing I was asked was, "Where's the script?", and I didn't work with scripts, and they could not get their heads around that at all. But, that's it, and I don't really regret it. I mean I had a really good 15 years in London and that was an amazing experience as well for me. It is very interesting, it's a real uprooting when you go and live in another place, another city, but it's very enriching also. 

 

Kate: You said you were shy but it takes an awful lot of balls to keep moving to different places and starting all over again

 

Vivienne: Yeah. Well I am kind of shy but not in certain ways, you know. I do like to travel. 

 

Kate: Do you become a different person when you travel almost? 

 

Vivienne: No, I just am curious about people and I've always been interested in trying to understand other human beings, you know? 

 

<musical interlude> 

 

Kate: What's the name of the new film? 

 

Vivienne: It's called New York Our Time. I think it's interesting, the idea of time passing, and ah, I felt that because I was there at the time, people are making films about this period who have never lived there when they were younger, you know, and there are so many different stories and so many different perspectives that no one can tell one definitive story. So I thought, "Well I'll do my own version" - it's just my little bit, people I knew and some of these people no one knows a thing about anyway, but I find them interesting. But I think I've just got the right balance really, because obviously some of the people in the film are well known like Nan Goldin or like Lydia, and lately Alexis Adler because of her connection to Jean-Michel Basquiat. I did go and seek out some people I haven't seen in quite a long time – there's a woman, Trixie, who's in that photograph that's on the wall there, the one that Nan took, and who's in my films, in Liberty's Booty. Found her of course really easy, she was in exactly the same apartment she was in then, she hasn't moved out of there and it was fantastic to see her again and see what she's doing now and all that. She's kind of the same as ever but just older, you know what I mean? It was completely the same as it was, just straight away, so quickly you know, we just settled in, as if we'd never, there hadn't been this gap in time. I mean that happens when you meet old friends often that you haven't seen in years, I mean sometimes there's a strangeness there, but no it wasn't, that's what we were all saying, it really wasn't like that, no. 

 

Kate: Did a lot of people die?

 

Vivienne: Yeah, a lot of Nan's friends died. She talks about that in the film, ah, and a lot of people I knew died too. A lot of people die anyway but I suppose there were quite a lot of people dying from drugs or from AIDS. 

 

Kate: It seemed to decimate an entire creative generation in New York?

 

Vivienne: Yeah I suppose quite a few people, I have a few people in the film who are not living any longer. You know, in New York everything changes all the time, and actually I enjoy watching the film and enjoy watching that footage and if there's an energy there that I think I've captured, you know. I have footage of Tompkins Square really back in the period, this was when I got to New York first, it must've been 1976, and it's like in transition, you know, it's before there's any sign of punk, anything. And these guys were in these dark coats and hats, kind of dressed up, polished shoes, they're just hanging out in the park playing cards and playing chess, and just because they've no jobs you know? I think many of them must've come from Eastern Europe, they'd been through things, they had a past. And you really feel it's really special, I just got a moment there. Because maybe the year after, two years later, it's all gone, it's sort of moved on, and New York's always like that. It's almost a shift, new flows of immigrants - I was one of those immigrants too. You know, nothing lasts forever, you're just living in this little bubble or something at the time, when you're living there you think there's nothing else. But it's not just about remembering what it was like then, but it's talking about how are they living now? What's New York now? How does it feel like being older, and their children are the same age we were - how is it for them? And like, what's next? There's a sense at the end of the film at the tops of the buildings, and I have this orange filter and you're looking at these really kind of fanciful almost science fiction type shapes, and you're thinking, "Is this New York? This could be Beijing. Where is this?", you know. And I love the music in it, there's a whole range of music from the time, but there's also new music composed by Martin Wheeler which is really great. He's used this eurorack thing, I don't know if you know, analog old equipment he gets in Eastern Europe and it makes this incredible, physical kind of sound. So it sounds, some scenes in the film suddenly switches to this kind of really alien, kind of, you don't know where you are, sort of the future. It has this sense of future in it. So it's the past, the 70s, it's now and the future. 

 

Kate: What do you think when you look back at that period? What's the first thing that comes to mind? 

 

Vivienne: I think maybe that how lucky I was to have ended up there at that time, because it was so formative for me, it really kind of - I wouldn't have been making films only that I landed myself there. And I've friends from that time I still have, you know. It was very enriching. 

 

Kate: Do you find it easier to make art in your 70s now? 

 

Vivienne: Often women artists do all their best work when they're older, you know. You feel stronger when you're older and you feel you've nothing to lose and you feel, I feel great, I think it's great being older. You're more invisible in the street, and some people don't like that but actually I don't mind being invisible, especially if I'm a filmmaker. You kind of like being invisible. 

 

Kate: Is there a sense that women have to create a more avant garde, we have to be more left field, in order to break through? 

 

Vivienne: Well I think it's quite fun just being left of field anyway without worrying about punching through anything! [Laughing]. I never set out to be a filmmaker, it was a way for me to speak. I'm not so easily categorised I don't think, and that's a good thing, I revel in that. Because I think when you make something, when you write something, when you write poetry, when you make music, whatever you're doing - you have to find your own voice with it, and there's no book that's going to teach you that. There's just not. You've got to try things yourself to make art, and to have your own thoughts about things is revolutionary. 
 

 

OUTRO 

 

Ali Gardiner: This episode of The Last Bohemians was produced by me, Ali Gardiner. Like and subscribe for further episodes, and check out the portrait photographs at thelastbohemians.co.uk. 

 

END

"New York was such a creative place. The most important thing for me was that it was women who were doing things there – we were choreographers, photographers, musicians, and not just singing.
That was incredibly inspiring"

CONTACT

For all enquiries please email kate@katehutchinson.co.uk 

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