press release

Nottingham Contemporary presents a survey of works by pioneering experimental filmmaker Lis Rhodes, spanning the last 50 years.

Enabled by the Freelands Award 2017, Dissident Lines is Rhodes’ first major large-scale exhibition; it reflects the complexities of subjects, meanings and methodologies that have shaped her work. Throughout her career, Rhodes has consistently challenged the establishment—not only with her multifaceted art practice, but also through her influential role as a film programmer, or as an educator and campaigner for women's rights. Her practice encompasses film, installation, sound art, performance and writing.

Dissident Lines includes a wide selection of works, from Rhodes’ early film installations, which connect abstracted visuals to sound, to her multilayered works tackling global political issues. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Rhodes’s films actively engaged with feminist themes, questioning patriarchal oppression by way of musical notation, linguistic and cinematic languages—merging poetry with news and statistics. Since the 1990s, Rhodes has taken a stronger stance in denouncing structural inequalities and abuse of power on a global scale. She frequently uses images from news media, as well as her own recordings and photographs, which she crops, overlaps or distorts.

Dissident Lines will present Rhodes’s iconic Light Music (1975), an immersive and participatory installation. For this innovative experiment in light and sound, the artist composed a score of black and white lines that translates into an intense soundtrack. Set in a hazy room, viewers walk between two projections and become part of the artwork. The exhibition also includes Rhodes’s first work, Dresden Dynamo (1971), in which shapeshifting patterns—created with Letratone stickers placed directly onto the 16mm film—generate the audio.

The exhibition will be punctuated by a selection of one-minute films from the Hang on a Minute (1983–85) series, made with Jo Davis. Originally commissioned by Channel 4, these unexpected interventions engaged with a range of politically topical issues from domestic violence to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. Only six out of the 13 produced by Rhodes and Davis were broadcasted.

Since the 1990s, Rhodes’s films have responded to unfolding geopolitical events. Boldly composed, often as montages set to unsettling soundtracks, these potent and provocative works critique a range of issues, from domestic violence to nuclear power, from migrant labour to surveillance. Running Light (1996) examines fear in a migrant camp, while The Journal of Disbelief (2000–16) highlights the discriminatory nature of the justice system. Using diverse examples of corruption, war crimes and human rights violations, Rhodes investigates harmful social and political undercurrents. A new commission specially created for Nottingham Contemporary, Ambiguous Journeys, deals with questions of migration, labour and modern slavery.

Dissident Lines will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, designed by Åbäke, including new essays by Pablo de Ocampo, Patrice Kirchhofer, Bernardo Ortiz, Dr Lucy Reynolds and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa.

Curated by Irene Aristizábal.