Ursula Mayer choreographs female protagonists against a background of iconic architecture and clues drawn from cultural history. The Austrian-born filmmaker cuts between monochrome and colour, erotic movement and statuesque pose. Her films distill space and time.
Interiors (2006) is set in the home of the Hungarian émigré architect Erno Goldfinger and his wife, artist and heiress, Ursula Blackwell. Their famous modernist apartment in Hampstead, London, which houses sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Max Ernst, is occupied by two women, who like chameleons, take on the appearance of works of twentieth-century avantgarde cinema and art. They ascend and descend the spiral staircase and occupy the rooms through movement and touch— do not meet. Their focus is a rotating sculpture by Barbara Hepworth that becomes a beacon for silent communication between two generations
The art deco Eltham Palace in South London provides the set for The Crystal Gaze (2007), which features three women, each embodying a distinct era of glamour. The refrain of the American singer Peggy Lee’s song ‘Is That All There Is?’ (Lieber and Stoller, 1969) and the crystalline refraction and looping structure of the film explore aesthetics and female subjectivity.
The Lunch in Fur (2008) reflects on the influence of femininity and race on surrealism, with an encounter between entertainer and activist Josephine Baker, photographer, poet, and muse Dora Maar, and surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim—brought together in middle age.
Mayer studied in Vienna and London, where now lives. This project is presented as part of ‘Art in the Auditorium’, a collaboration organised by the Whitechapel Gallery with institutions from Europe, Asia, South America, and the US to provide a showcase for artists working with film, video, and animation.