Jennifer West

Jennifer WestArtist’s Statement

I approach filmmaking as a social practice in order to expand and deepen the tradition of direct filmmaking to which my work belongs. Direct filmmaking produces images (and therefore, subjects) without the intervention of a camera, and/or in addition to the use of a camera. In my films, celluloid is manipulated directly through physical actions and alternative chemical processes to capture the material world in ways that complicate the usual conversations around representation and documentation.

I first began using these techniques in 2005, and have since produced 82 films. Over these years, I have subjected Super 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm film stocks to a range of substances including pepper spray, gamma rays, paintballs, perfumes, coffee, lipstick, herbs, smoke, bug spray and water from California’s natural hot springs as well as the Great Salt Lake. I’ve also imprinted the celluloid in many ways: by skateboarding on it, shooting it, crushing it, immersing it, writing on it, dying it and smearing it with whatever elements I’ve chosen. The resulting footages are tactile, abstract documents of matter, action and idea, which I then transfer to digital format and install as an artwork alongside my photographs, drawings and artist books.

The choices of actions, materials and references for my films are conceptually driven, and are frequently influenced by history and popular culture as well as contemporary issues of the body, gender, memory and self-presentation. Some of my films are produced via public performances where people are invited to engage directly with a strip of film: to walk on it, scratch it, draw and write on it, or whatever they are encouraged (or moved) to do. In these films, performance is as essential as any material issues, as it’s both the film’s mode of production as well as its conceptual context.

Over the last three years, I have witnessed first hand the rapid disappearance of analogue film. In response, I have begun to develop new ways to work within the filmic medium, turning my attention to the subject of film memory, the art of projection and creating sculptural and wall works created with filmstrips, flashlights and lenses.



Select Solo Exhibitions from 2010-2014

Spiral of Time, Focal Point Gallery, Essex, UK

Spirals, Salt and The Pill, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Aloe Vera and Butter, S1 Artspace, Sheffield, UK

Perspectives 171: Jennifer West, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, TX

Select Group Exhibitions from 2010-2014

Words as Doors – in Language, Art, Film, Kunstlerhaus KM- Halle fur Kunst & Medien, Kunsterhaus Graz, Austria

La Fin de la Nuit, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France 

Second Nature: Abstract Photography Then and Now, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum,Lincoln, MA

Update no.2, White Columns, New York (catalogue)

Select Fellowships and Awards 

Fellows of Contemporary Art Mid Career Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA

Shortlist, 3rd Annual Nam June Paik Prize, Korea

Artist Resource for Completion Grant, Center for Cultural Innovation, Los Angeles

MIT List Visual Arts Center Residency, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Funded, in part, by the Nimoy Visual Artist Residencies program of the Nimoy Foundation

Select Community-based Artwork

Flashlight, Filmstrip, Projections, TBA Fest 2014, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR

One Mile Film Performance and Exhibition, High Line Art, Commissioned and produced by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation


M.F.A., 2004
Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA

The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA