Michelle Williams Gamaker is 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 is currently working on the short film Encore (Resurrection Manifestations) and completing Dissolution (2019), 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 brown 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 paraphernalia 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 with Samia Malik and Rehana Zaman.
Further information on WOCI Reading Group:
The Women of Colour Index Reading Group was set up in October 2016 by artists, Samia Malik, Michelle Williams Gamaker and Rehana Zaman. The reading group meets on a monthly basis to discuss work within the Women of Colour Index (WOCI); a unique collection of slides and papers collated by artist Rita Keegan that chart the emergence of Women of Colour artists during the ‘critical decades’ of the 1980s and 1990s. Reading group sessions aim to improve the visibility of women of colour artists whilst using material in the archive to generate discussion, thought and practice around current social and political concerns. All people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, religions and race are welcome.
Between October 2016 and June 2017 the WOCI Reading Group held monthly workshops at the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths University, a reading group during the Radical Black Arts Convention Revisited as part of The Place is Here at Nottingham Contemporary, a reading group as part of 56 Artillery Lane, Raven Row, London, an in conversation for COOL ATMOSPHERES: Performing Inner Songs featuring Priya Srinivasan, Uthra Vijay and Andrea Campaneau at The Showroom, London, and a workshop for I/Mages of Tomorrow anti conference hosted by the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. Our sessions have focused on seminal exhibitions such as Testimony: Three Black Women Photographers (1986) and The Image Employed: the Use of Narrative in Black art (1987), and artists such as Zarina Bhimji, Martina Attile, Jagjit Chuhan, Sharon Curtis, Nina Edge, Maxine Walker, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce and Chila Kumari Burman.
The WOCI Reading Group is indebted to and inspired by the work of black women of colour artists and cultural practitioners who precede us, work alongside us and who, through their projects, art works and activities, have been influential to the critical practice and feminist politics of the reading group. Foremost amongst these is Rita Keegan, artist, lecturer and archivist, whose meticulous work compiling fragments and documents that detail the diverse practices of various women of colour artists, makes up the Index. We are acutely aware of the significance of the works and practices that are made visible within the archive as well as those that remain hidden – experiences and ideas that have been relegated to the past yet remain viscerally relevant to our present times. We hope by engaging these works we are able to activate the archive and locate this work firmly in the current moment.
We follow keenly in the footsteps of Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Lauren Craig, Mystique Holloway, Gina Nembhard and Zhi Holloway, who as the formidable art and art research collective X Marks the Spot (XMTS), took WOCI as the focus for their residency at the Women’s Art Library in 2012 culminating in the publication Human Endeavour. The residency was made possible by an endowment made on behalf of the feminist art historian and activist Gillian Elinor to the Women’s Art Library. Human Endeavour functions as ‘a creative finding aid’ for the Index bringing together a rich collection of interviews and responses that contextualise the archive whilst speaking to the present. The publication launched in October 2015 with the exhibition Show and Tell in the Special Collections and Archives at Goldsmiths University. Human Endeavour is a critical reference point for the activities of the WOCI Reading Group, which formed shortly after the event Celebrating the Women of Colour Index in conversation with Rita Keegan at The Showroom gallery in May 2016.
Williams Gamaker is represented by Tintype Gallery, London https://www.tintypegallery.com
2016 Postgraduate Certificate in the Management of Teaching and Learning (HEA)
2012 PhD in Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, University of London
2005-06 MA Visual Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London
1998-01 BA Fine Art (First Class Hons), Middlesex University
1997-98 BTEC Diploma in Art & Design, Middlesex University
2003-05 de Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Selected Exhibitions and Screenings
62nd BFI London Film Festival, Experimenta - Performing Invisibility (Programmed by Qila Gill) (screening of House of Women, 2017)
22nd Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Switzerland (The Female Gaze, screening of House of Women, 2017)
MIX Copenhagen LGBTQ Film Festival (screening of Brown Queers, 2017)
Pink Screens Film Festival, Cine Nova, Brussels (screening of Brown Queers, 2017)
Arts Council Collection, Women, Power, Protest, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, (10 Nov 2018 - 31 March 2019)
Queering the Collection, MIMA (curated by Claire Mead and Helen Welford)
Curious Arts Festival, Baltic, Newcastle (screening of Brown Queers, 2017 programmed by Gem Andrews)
The Palace International Film Festival 2018
Library Interventions: Moving Knowledge, Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds Art University (co curated by Michelle Williams Gamaker and Nick Norton)
Freud Museum, Solitary Pleasures, Freud Museum, London (curated by Marquard Smith)
Panorama, Dortmund/Cologne International Women’s Film Festival
BFI FLARE LGBTQ+ Film Festival (3 screenings of Brown Queers, 2017 in Brown is the Warmest Colour, programmed by Jay Bernard)
History Repeats Itself Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA)
Transmediale Festival: Face Value – White Balance and On Resentment
21st Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, Switzerland (screening of House of Women, 2017)
Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival (November 14 to 19 2017, (screening of House of Women, 2017)
l’Alternativa 2017 – 24th Barcelona Independent Film Festival (screening of House of Women, 2017)
Work Work curated by Jo Addison, Adam Gillam and Mark Harris) Tintype, London
The World Made New at Pi Projects, London (curated by Oliver Sumner)
Madame B Explorations in Emotional Capitalism, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, Finland
Video Vortex VI (curated by Rashmi Sawhney) Kochi-Muziris Biennial, India
Concrete Jungle (with Julia Kouneski) Annka Kultys Gallery, London (curated by Alexandra White)
Emma and Edvard, Love in the Time of Loneliness, Munch Museet, Oslo, Norway (curated by Mieke Bal)
Video Screening, Artist’s Films at The Swiss Church London
Wayfaring, &Model, Leeds (curated by Laura White)
Precarity (with Mieke Bal) Arts and Technology Research Lab, Dublin, Ireland
Precarity (with Mieke Bal) The Importance of Being a (Moving) Image”, The National Gallery, Prague (Adam Budak)
Cause & Effect (with Mieke Bal) VIVA festival, Valletta, Malta
Madame B Explorations in Emotional Capitalism (with Mieke Bal)
- World Premiere, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
- Gallery of Sydney, College of the Arts, Australia
- Sala de Arte, EAFIT Universidad, and Sala U Universidad Nacional, Medellín, Colombia
- The Post House, Eckerro, Åland, Finland
- Madame B: Emotions and Capitalism, Vaal Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
- Madame B: When Love Fails Us, Museum Bärengasse, Zürich, Switzerland
Head-On, Punt WG, Amsterdam
Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism, Museum Sztuki, Łódź, Poland
-ology, Amstel 41 gallery, Amsterdam
Saying It, Freud Museum, London (Arts Council of England)
Cosas imposibles, Nave Generadores, Monterrey, Mexico June 21-September 3, 2012
Past Landscape: Among Old Masters, Göttingen, Kunstsammlung der Georg-August Universität Göttingen
Eine zweite chance, VBKÖ, Vienna
Islands of Madness, Galleri Kakelhallen in Mariehamn, Åland
Madness as Insight, City Library, Turku, Finland
What Culture Silences, Festival on Wheels, Goethe Institute, Ankara, Turkey,
Landscapes of Madness, curated by Mia Hannula, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, Finland
Towards the Other, Museum of the city of Saint Petersburg, Peter & Paul Fortress, St Petersburg, Russia.
Facing It: Imaging Madness,” Broadcast Gallery, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland,
La última frontera / The Last Frontier, Fundación José García Jiménez, Murcia, Spain,
The Last Frontier, Fundación José Garcia Jiménez, Murcia, Spain
The Bioscope, Johannesburg, South Africa
Wexner Art Center, Ohio, USA
Bosch Art Film, Verkade Fabriek, Den Bosch, Netherlands
The Space In-Between, at “Images Moving Across the Arts and Disciplines” conference, Laterna Film Academy, Pécs, Hungary
Tony Zielgler: The Alienation of Objects, Zabludowicz Collection, London
Body/Space Mechanics, De Hallen, Haarlem, Netherlands (curated by Xander Karskens)
Adaptation: Between Species The Power Plant, Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada
Mère Folle, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, Mère Folle,
KIZ Royal, (Kunsthaus) Graz, Austria
Spatial Relations, Centrum Berlin, Germany,
The Space In-Between, (Bal & Williams Gamaker) Pécs, Hungary