Michelle Williams Gamaker

Michelle Williams Gamaker

Michelle Williams Gamaker explores fictional activism; where marginalised characters return as brown protagonists to challenge the fictional injustices to which they have been historically consigned.

Michelle Williams Gamaker (b.1979) lives and works in London, working with moving image, performance and installation. Through a wider interrogation of the artificial nature of cinematic construction, she recasts characters proposing critical alternatives to the colonial and imperialist approaches to storytelling in early 20th Century British and Hollywood studio films. Scriptwriting, workshopping with actors, acquiring film paraphernalia and producing props for the intricate staging of her film sets are all vital elements in the re-enactment of the set-constructed landscapes that shaped Michelle Williams Gamaker’s love of cinema.

She recently completed a trilogy of films entitled ‘Dissolution’ (2019), 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 screened and staged realities. Her film House of Women (2017) screened at BFI’s LFF Experimenta Programme (2018) and has been part of three Arts Council of England collection shows: ‘Women, Power, Protest’ at BMAG, Birmingham, ‘As Seen on Screen’, Walker Art Museum, Liverpool, ‘Go On Being So’ at Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance (2019-2020) She is currently completing the ‘Untold Stories’ commission at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, which will result in a new film ‘The Silver Wave’ (2020) and four-month exhibition.

Michelle Williams Gamaker is a graduate of Middlesex University (2001), de ateliers, Amsterdam (2005) and Goldsmiths (2012). She is represented by Tintype, London that featured her solo show ‘Distant Relative’ (2019). Her work is exhibited widely, with upcoming shows at Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance and Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds. She was a recipient of FLAMIN’s ‘New Approaches’ feature film development scheme. As a result she is co-writing her first feature ‘The Imperial’ with Elan Gamaker, with the support of co-producers Somebody Nobody and Sevana Films.

House of Women

HD Video / 14:17 min / 2017

Michelle Williams Gamaker, Excerpt from ‘House of Women’ (2017) Arts Council England

House of Women revisits the audition for the character of Kanchi, the silent Indian dancer in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 film Black Narcissus. The coveted role went to Jean Simmons (famous for playing Estella in Great Expectations, 1946). To become the “exotic temptress” of Rumer Godden’s novel of the same name, the white English actor participates in a racist make-up technique; wearing dark Panstick make-up and a jewel in her nose.

Shot on 16mm film, the four auditionees come face to face with the inherent violence of the process; discussing the history of photography, colonialism and race, class and gender politics with an anonymous reader, who interrogates their motivation for applying. By auditioning only Indian ex-pat or first-generation British Asian women and non-binary individuals, Williams Gamaker re-casts a Kanchi for the 21st Century, who crucially speaks.

The Fruit is There to be Eaten

HD Video / 05:00 min / 2018

'The Fruit is There To Be Eaten' is based on the 1947 film Black Narcissus, by British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger., set in India. The work echoes the style of the source material in that it is set in India, but replaces painted backdrops with back projection, stock footage and revealed sets to reimagine the relationship between lower-caste dancing girl Kanchi and missionary nun Sister Clodagh. In a schoolroom and in the gardens of a Himalayan convent, Kanchi and Clodagh recognise they are trapped in a film set in 2016. With the colonies a distant memory, Clodagh has lost her role as sister superior. This allows Kanchi to introduce her gods in order to challenge an imposed belief system, and in so doing to break down the civility of the colonies into something more carnal.

Encore (Resurrection Manifestations)

HD Video / 06:00 min / 2018

Michelle Williams Gamaker, 'Encore (Resurrection Manifestations)' (2018) For Essex Road 5, Tintype Gallery, and Commissioned by Arts Council England