WASHINGTON, D.C.: It’s been 20 years since the death of Derek Jarman, the British independent filmmaker whose edgy, idiosyncratic vision drew on, and was entwined with, his gay identity. On the occasion of the anniversary, the Washington, D.C.—based interdisciplinary ensemble force/collision is premiering Jarman (all this maddening beauty), a new multimedia/solo performance work featuring a script by Caridad Svich. Force/collision founding director John Moletress shoulders the lead role in the production, running at D.C.’s Atlas Performing Arts Center April 17—27.
Moletress also directs the piece, which pairs Svich’s highly poetic original text with video projections, music and dance. (The creative team includes audio/video engineer David Crandall and video artist Benjamin Carver.) Any audacity in the aesthetic is purely intentional. “I felt an incredible responsibility to make sure that it is as go-for-broke as his work is,” says Svich, speaking of Jarman. “I felt that was the bar that was being set.”
Both Svich and Moletress are longtime fans of Jarman’s often baroque- and punk-inflected films, which included works like Edward II (based on Christopher Marlowe’s play), The Last of England (a cri de coeur against Thatcher-era Britain) and—just prior to his death from complications of AIDS—the monochromatic Blue.
“For me, he is the forefather of queer art,” says Moletress, “I would say ‘queer cinema,’ but really he did more than make films.”
That Jarman pursued art on multiple fronts—he was also a set designer, writer, painter and noted gardener—was inspiring to Svich, too. His life, in her view, testifies to the fact that artists don’t have to sell out. “You can keep making things, and you can keep following what your heart tells you to follow,” she says.
Indeed, she sees the force/collision production—which the company plans to tour nationally and internationally later this year—as a reminder of the value of recklessly heartfelt artistry. That reminder is all the more timely, she thinks, because these days even artists are pressured to think about branding and other commercial considerations.
“I hope in some weird way” that audiences who see Jarman will “think about how they think about art and beauty, and how that has its own place outside of marketability and keeping the economy flowing,” Svich says.