Undead Voices focuses on the archive as a subject rather than a repository of material, and invites us to reflect critically on the absences it encompasses, on the politics of knowledge, on possible alternative ways of writing history. The starting point is a Super 8mm amateur film, Donne emergete!, made in 1975 by filmmaker Isabella Bruno. Examination of the reel, recently rediscovered and consigned to the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia ANCI, revealed that the film is, according to archival criteria, damaged beyond repair. Reviewing its devastated chemical emulsions, the project exposes the effects of the marginalisation of “minor cinemas” and the dissemination or destruction of the material culture related to the movements of contestation in Italy in the 1970s. It nevertheless manages to retrieve the ghostly sequences documenting feminist demonstrations and assemblies, gestures of resistance and love, as well as the several songs that constitute the soundtrack – that reveal strange and transgressive invocations of undead voices calling out to us from the afterlife.
Undead Voices emphasises the spectral, hauntological quality of cinema and becomes an experiment with its potential for reanimation. The film creates a temporality in which past and present feminist artistic practices can reach out to each other across time and resonate together. It invents a form that combines different generations and registers of images, interweaving narration and song, breaking the hierarchy between the semantic and the vocal.
This first version took the form of a video installation that also includes banners, source material, collected documents and LPs. The work is the result of discussions with film historian Annamaria Licciardello. It has developed through a series of collective listening sessions and collaborations with performers Alessandra Eramo and Anna Frei (aka DJ Fred Hystère). The project will continue with additional research into feminist archives, with filming sessions on the lakeside of Lago di Vico (where Isabella Bruno lived the last years of her life), and with conversations with several of the protagonists involved in the cine-clubs and feminist movement in Rome.