Figure Minus Fact (2020)

Mary Helena Clark

Figure Minus Fact Mary Helena Clark USA16mm > digital13 min2020

Some animals disguise themselves as plants for their protection. Can a film disguise itself as the night? Dressed predominantly in shades of black and blue, Figure Minus Fact explores mimicry by sensation. Sometimes it imitates a movement, at other times a way of associating with light, creating images and sounds that are almost tactile. As if, for a moment, those rare, ever so slightly recognizable objects we see and hear were there in the room with us. – Viennale

Night, like mourning, remakes space through absence: forms at the threshold of perception heighten sound and touch. When someone dies, there is a pull towards the concrete and tangible, but disbelief creates a world of unreliable objects. Figure Minus Fact draws and redraws coordinates between spaces, senses, and objects, groping in the dark, desiring to see something that’s not there. Spaces become evidentiary yet deceptive in a subjectless portrait of loss. 

In other films I’ve used ventriloquism as a metaphor for cinema, so there’s always been an emphasis on source and projection, particularly with the voice. In Figure Minus Fact, I’m more interested in inversions of sound relationships, amplifying the “wrong” sound. How can an alternative tuning articulate the threshold of perception, to make us think about our limits and capacities, what can’t be perceived or understood? And more formally, within a film, sound’s ability to re-animate an image, or when used as counterpoint, how it can unravel a sense of liveness or presence in an image. – Mary Helena Clark

Read an interview with Mary Helena Clark, conducted by Courtney Stephens for Now Instant, here.

Streaming Details

This film is available to stream globally.

Program Partners

This film is co-presented with Prismatic Ground.

Image credits: all artworks, stills, and portraits courtesy of the artist © Mary Helena Clark.

about the artist

Mary Helena Clark (USA) is an artist working in film, video, and installation born in Santee, South Carolina in 1983. Her montage-driven practice explores the potentials and limits of intelligibility, agency, and affect. She received a BA in Film from Emerson College (2005), and an MFA in Moving Image from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2012). Clark has completed 10+ films since 2008, including Sound Over Water (2009), The Plant (2012), The Dragon is the Frame (2014), Delphi Falls (2016), and The Glass Note (2018), which have been widely exhibited at festivals, museums, and galleries internationally, including Stedelijk Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma | Finnish National Gallery, Cinéma du Réel, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Vox Populi Gallery, New York Film Festival, Union Docs, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Toronto International Film Festival, Viennale, Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Shanghai Biennale, Metrograph, Rubicon Cinema, Moscow International Experimental Film Festival, Berkeley Museum of Art and Pacific Film Archive, Helsinki Contemporary, European Media Art Festival, Microscope Gallery, BFI London Film Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Museo Tamayo, e-flux, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kadist Art Foundation, Swedish Film Institute, Visual Studies Workshop, Laura Bartlett Gallery, Anthology Film Archives, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, including the 2017 Whitney Biennial. This is her fourth appearance at Media City Film Festival. She has undertaken residencies at Pioneer Works (2018), Experimental Sound Studio, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center (2016), and the Liaison for Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (2015). Clark’s practice has been written about extensively in publications including Art in America, BOMB, Frieze, Cinema Scope, Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, Art Agenda, Mubi, Reverse Shot, Sense of Cinema and Screen Slate. She lives and works in New York.

Artist interview