Del Kathryn Barton's new short film Red
Article from SMH by Andrew Taylor, 22 September 2016
She is venomous, eats her partner after sex and weaves a tangled web.
With such a reputation, it is little wonder the Australian redback spider has inspired two of Australia’s greatest artists – Cate Blanchett and Del Kathryn Barton – to create a short film that will premiere at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of the 2017 Adelaide Festival.
RED is billed as a surreal, savage tale of female power inspired by the mating rituals of the redback spider, which stars Blanchett, actor Alex Russell and the Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap.
“In essence, the narrative in RED illuminates the unusual mating rituals of the Australian red-back spider,” Barton said. “Here, our brave little male after copulating with the monumental female gently somersaults into her mouth, offering himself as a meal postcoital. If she is not hungry she will store his bound, dying body on her web for later consumption.”
In a Q&A with the gallery, Barton said the mating habits evoked what she described as “the poetics of female power as an inherent and indeed, elemental force in the universe”.
“By intercutting human protagonists with extraordinary macro footage, RED has evolved into what I now consider to be an uncompromising celebration of female power.”
The dual-screen work delve into themes of passion, sex and death, drawing on the symbolism of the female redback spider. Barton’s portrait of Blanchett and her children, Mother (a portrait of Cate), was a finalist in the 2011 Archibald Prize.
Blanchett, a two-time Academy Award winner, can currently be seen in German artist Julian Rosefeldt art film Manifesto at the Art Gallery of NSW. The versatile actor will also make her debut on Broadway in December in the Sydney Theatre Company production ‘The Present’, Andrew Upton’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s ‘Platonov’, which also stars Richard Roxburgh.
Barton said she screamed out loud when Blanchett agreed to appear in the short film.
“On shoot day, she nailed the long cutting performance on the first take,” she said. “Her energy exploded off the monitor. We were all blown away. Cate is mother. At that point I knew that the stakes on RED had just gone to another level. I was actually shitting myself just a little bit.”
Barton embarked on the film after winning a $50,000 creative fellowship from the Australian Film Television and Radio School in 2015. A two-time Archibald Prize winner, Barton’s art often examines fertility and the psychology of relationships. Her previous films include the human dress (2012) and last year’s The Nightingale and the Rose.
The short film will be screened at AGSA and become part of the gallery’s collection. AGSA director Nick Mitzevich said the short film would take Barton’s “career to a new level and to new audiences”.
RED runs from January 26 to April 30 at the Art Gallery of South Australia.