Michelle Williams Gamaker
Michelle Williams Gamakeris a moving image and performance artist based in London. Her work explores the fiction-making machine of 20th Century British and Hollywood studio films by restaging sequences to reveal cinematic construction, and recasting characters to propose alternative endings that counter their often doom-laden plight. She recently completed Dissolution, a trilogy of films comprising House of Women (2017),The Fruit is There to be Eaten (2018) and The Eternal Return (2019) in which characters from Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 Black Narcissus unravel as they become aware of their screen and staged realities.
Williams Gamaker’s key focus is the development of ‘fictional activism’: the restoration of marginalised characters as central figures, who return in her works as vocal brown protagonists challenging the fictional injustices to which they have been historically consigned. Scriptwriting, workshopping with actors, acquiring film memorabilia and producing props for the intricate restaging of her film sets are all vital elements in the reenactment of the artificial landscapes that shaped Williams Gamaker’s love of cinema. These fictional activists are mutable subjects that can be played either by Williams Gamaker herself – such as her alter ego Violet Culbo – or by long-term collaborators who take on multiple personas, including Indian-born US film star Sabu or characters such as Kanchi from Black Narcissus (1947) or O-Lan from The Good Earth (1937).
Collaboration is also a crucial element of Williams Gamaker’s work; since 2009 she has worked with American artist Julia Kouneski, revisiting the psychotherapeutic work of Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, as inspiration for interventions with the body, architecture and landscape.
Williams Gamaker has also completed several videos and installations exploring migratory aesthetics, mental health, and the emotional complexities of capitalism and gender ideology. This overlaps with her 11-year collaboration with artist and cultural theorist Mieke Bal, and their experimental films which explore making as theoretical fiction.
Williams Gamaker is a Lecturer in BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, Chair of Trustees at Pavilion in Leeds and co-founder of the Women of Colour Index (WOCI) Reading Group working with the group between 2016-19 with Samia Malik and Rehana Zaman.