‘Translating’ Frida Kahlo: The Film-Paintings
Abstract for the Impure Cinema Conference, Leeds, 2-5 December 2010
To account for the boundary-crossing media and art so prevalent today, in which ‘all specific artistic skills tend to leave their particular domain and swap places and powers’, Jacques Ranciére has proposed three different paradigms (The Emancipated Spectator, 2009 p. 21). First, Nietzsche—and then Wagner’s—idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk or total artwork, in which art would ultimately become life. Second, the view that hybridisation of artistic means is a logical outcome of the postmodern condition, characterised by eclecticism and the levelling off of hitherto entrenched hierarchies. And last, the idea that the various mixtures imply translations from one medium into another, as encountering the work(s) of art and making meaning is an active process: ‘an emancipated community is a community of narrators and translators’ (22). This paper brings these three paradigms to bear upon the making and reception of the films on the life and work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, namely Frida, Naturaleza Viva (Leduc, 1984) and Frida (Taymore, 2002), considering the different ways they set, as it were, her paintings in motion, and how the paintings in turn become hypertext devices, providing a commentary on the difference between the two media, while her iconic figure is made to transgress the boundaries of the ‘translating’ (as per Ranciére), (post) national communities.