Jennifer West uses standard products to process her films: coal-tar dye, eyeliner, whiskey, hot sauce, urine, deodorant, aphrodisiacs, skateboard wheels. And she likes to finish them in equally conventional ways, either “rubbed with Jimson Weed Trumpet flowers, or dripped and splattered with nail polish, or sprayed with Lavender Mist air freshener”. Or why not with all three? West explains her approach as a product of Pacific Northwest art of the ’90s, and hastens to add that “it’s more DIY than Heroic Sublime.” But she also feels very much part of a tradition of visceral film-making and painting, citing Tony Conrad’s electrocuting and pickling of film, Carolee Schneemann’s emulsion handworking, Ed Ruscha’s use of beet juice and Pepto-Bismol in his paintings, Stan Brakhage spitting on and scratching his negatives with his fingernails, and so on.
The works in Out of Focus are made from West’s film negatives and prints, and represent (or as she puts it, “picture”) a half-second of moving film, meaning around 12 or 15 frames. The filmstrips hang on the wall and spill onto the floor, suggesting the passage of film through a projector and the eventual wastage of much of it on the proverbial cutting-room floor. It should surprise no one to learn that’s where she often finds it in the first place.