My style of filmmaking reflects the same approach I have to life and adventures. Adaptability. My limits are the architecture of my creative expression. I don't attempt to defy or overcome them as much as find the flow and movement within them. In the case of filming, the most notable restriction for me is needing my hands to move around and the fact that my torso can't support itself. Without the ability to hold both of my arms above my waist for any length of time, using professional cameras for photography or video is tediously prohibitive for me. I prefer low key adaptations - what solves the problem efficiently and with the skills and resources I have in this moment? In this case, I adapt by using an iPhone to capture all my footage. I can carry it easily, I can hold it up with one hand, pass it off to someone If I need my hands free to maneuver, I can edit right off it so I don't need to worry about carrying a heady laptop. It sometimes means I am not shooting my own footage, I am always the subject and the active, directing agent.
The flexibility and quality of the footage, the length of what I can shoot, and the complexity or flare with which I can film and edit are all affected. But instead of feeling diminished by these, I feel that they layer each film with a sense of what it's like to live in and be an artist in my body. The limits of the equipment I can work with reflect the limits I am experiencing as I'm filming and engaging in my environment. Likewise, the emotional and landscape narrative that comes through in response to those limits reflects the way my creative expression and lived experience responds to the limits of my body.
Moving a wheelchair through nature is strenuous. And nature is my favorite place to be. While my efforts are incessantly praised as brave, inspiring and impressive - I experience the effort as meditative. Physical effort, especially involving problem solving to reach a remote destination, is a pleasure that anyone who has been mountain climbing or wilderness trekking understands. Your body and mind working as one. Adding a wheelchair doesn’t change the fundamental motivation or reward. The struggle is considered tragic in the case of disability and intrepid without it. My determination and skill in maneuvering my wheelchair is internal, personal and for my own benefit - not a moral or motivational statement. I made these series of films while in the Fjords in Norway in September 2016
Hamnøy by Erin Clark. Published by Deaf Poets Society
Skrova by Erin Clark
In Hamnøy the focus is on the Fjord, the weather, the birds. I intend to simply be a part of the landscape. My love for nature, my profound love of Norway in particular, compel me to get closer to it. My body is made of the earth. Including the metal inside me and the metal of my wheelchair. This effort is not intended as defiance, it is devotional.
A Mossy Scramble by Erin Clark
In 'A Mossy Scramble' my body leaves my wheelchair and finds a path up a mossy incline. Being paralyzed, when I move around without my chair, I get very close to the ground. My hands are in the dirt. what I grip onto, I smell. I feel all the textures of the ground cover just by passing over them. As a child, this way of moving around was natural and acceptable, but as I got older it started to make people uneasy. I would let people help me to make them more comfortable, not because It was easier or better for me. Lately, in my life, I have been deliberately going into wild places my chair can't go and insisting on moving my way and feeling the terrain more fully. In this video, there was no goal beyond pleasure. To go up, and for as long as I could manage. The pointlessness of it reminded me of playing similar games in nature as a child.
The airbnb is a converted oil tanker on the top of a hill on an island in Norway accessible only by ferry. In 'Skrova' the filming was done by one of my travel companions in a continuous shot. I chose not to add any cuts to leave in the real time it took to maneuver the multiple changes in terrain. It was deliberate to leave in the moments when I direct the camera to show that, as the subject, I am also framing the narrative. I also left in the shots where another friend is visible stepping out of the way as I pass, while refraining from interfering. This was to evoke the contrast between the typical sense that a disabled person in this scenario is struggling and requiring help and this situation in which I am playing and exercising my agility and strength.
Crawling in the Forest by Erin Clark
I was really inspired by the 5 day, television marathon live broadcast of the Hurtigruten voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back where millions of people tuned in to watch the scenery pass by the ship. One because I took that same voyage and found that just watching the fjords pass and the lights dance for 10 days was a surprisingly soothing entertainment. But also, it inspired me as a form of art - to present an even with no plot, no added intensity or narrative - just untouched scenery and movement. One of my filmmaking goals is to recreate the intangible magic of that by filming a multi day hike or canoeing excursion. The problem solving, the interaction with the adventure companions that help me accomplish the task, the slow settle of nature doing nothing but being there. Crawling in the Forest was an experiment in filming my process in long, sweeping, calm shots without keeping an eye on any particular payoff. Letting the journey, the colors, sounds, and the strangeness of my movements, the feel of the time it takes me to accomplish strenuous things put the viewer in connection with the nature in a way they don’t get when a hike is a simple task.
First Solo Flight by Erin Clark
First Solo Flight was originally posted to Facebook along with a story (which can be read here). The theme I was exploring in this film is the relationship between independence/freedom and interconnectedness. The film itself is pieced together from footage from 5 different cameras: three at the takeoff, one at the landing and the go pro attached to my paragliding harness. The flight itself happened because of the invested and creative support of a team of incredible instructors and the close friendships that formed between me and the other pilots learning to fly the same week. Interconnectedness made both the flight and the film possible. But the drive to be able to fly solo came from the perpetual craving I have for independence. A feeling of autonomy is a constant drive for me, and it is always vulnerable. From the moments when I need help, to the times when help is thrust on me. Being overtaken on a regular basis by the assumptions and lack of accommodations made by the society I live in. Autonomy is precious. But to achieve autonomy at the expense of what is possible with interconnectedness is a loss of beauty. I made First Solo Flight to celebrate and explore the potency of moments and relationships where autonomy and freedom are in harmony with interconnectedness.