Holly Márie Parnell is one of six artist filmmakers who have been on The FLAMIN Fellowship in 2020-2021, FLAMIN's year-long programme offering development funding, mentoring and support to early-career moving image artists. She recently had her first solo exhibition at Jupiter Woods, London, and has performed at Humber Street Gallery, Hull, and Cell Project Space, London. She also has extended practice in arts journalism, most recently involving an interview commission for MOSTYN, Llandudno.
Holly spoke to us about her new experimental documentary project looking at the relationship between her mother and brother and its reflection of wider institutions of care, as well as her work with live video performance and her experiences of being part of The FLAMIN Fellowship programme.
Video: interview with Holly Márie Parnell
A full transcript of the video interview is available to download here.
FLAMIN in conversation with Holly Márie Parnell
FLAMIN: Could you tell us about your practice?
Holly Márie Parnell: I primarily work with moving image, sound and installation as well as live video performances. And the work is mainly built out of my own personal archive of material that I've been gathering over the years through filmed footage and field recordings and fragments of the everyday. The point of departure for that is really led by personal encounters or relationships. So in that sense I've always taken a documentary approach in my work, and I seek out a kind of intimacy or proximity to the people I'm filming so it can reveal more subtle but powerful truths about embodied knowledge and lived experience.
I've always been drawn to the kind of in between moments, the unfixed or the incomplete - these limbo spaces. And using those fragments to build new narratives through rhythm, arrangement and composition. It's a nonlinear framework that my filmmaking language has developed inside of - led by poetics. For me, that's where new meanings emerge, in this sort of reshuffling or unravelling. I think it's because it allows something more sensory or sublingual, or new forms of communication can be discovered in that way of making. So it's about that dance for me, when different elements of movement are rubbing up against each other, which is why I use film in the first place. It’s a language that helps me explore what I'm interested in, which is ultimately, theories of interdependence, gestures of care and communal forms of resistance - and particularly this space between what is decaying, but also what's emerging, looking at the joyful as being profoundly political as well.
Could you tell us about the project you developed with FLAMIN?
The project, which is a collaboration with my family, looks at the deeply woven relationship between my mother and brother - and his disability - and the complexities of interdependence and care. It will explore the role ‘voice’ plays in (dis)empowerment and the absurd way a human life gets measured and valued within language. As my brother is non-verbal and non-mobile, my mother is his main advocate and voice. And at the same time, my brother - David - has recently been learning to communicate using eye gaze technology, which tracks the movement of his retinas through a computer. He's been using this tool creatively as well, such as writing poetry and taking photographs. So there's this beautifully rich and complex dynamic between language and communication playing out that I wanted to elevate, particularly in the details - the details of care, but also in the quieter pockets where fragments of conversation and reflections can interact.
What was your experience of being on The FLAMIN Fellowship?
The FLAMIN Fellowship has been unbelievably beneficial, because it not only holds your hand through making the actual work, but also the infrastructure around the work and around having a practice. Especially if you come from an art school background, the emphasis is never on this area of support, and it's such a vital support structure for making a work and sustaining a practice.
The career of an artist is such a precarious thing really, so having all these different invited artists speaking, and to hear about their journeys - how they're making it, how they're juggling it, how they got there - is really helpful. It's a good reminder that there is no one way to be an artist, it's much more wiggly, nuanced and individual. Also looking at the lifespan of a work, the journey it goes on from development to completion, and how complicated and complex that is and it's really great to have more tools to understand how that happens. The programme gives you space and time for feedback; to have time and attention is really the best gift you can give an artist.
I do feel like I've come so far on The FLAMIN Fellowship. It's given me such great tools and the confidence to explore a real turning point in my practice, which is working on my first project with a linear framework. This is a new space for me - a work having a beginning and end and not just structured by the loop. But it was more about bridging the language I've been developing as an artist filmmaker, and exploring how that can collaborate with the formalisms of story and presenting it within a cinematic space. I just didn't have the tools or knowledge beforehand, it always made me hesitant to jump into this realm. But The FLAMIN Fellowship has made me feel thoroughly equipped and given me confidence to be able to take those next steps in my practice, which has been amazing.
Do you have any advice for anyone applying to The FLAMIN Fellowship?
What I've noticed from being on the programme is that it's not so much about what stage you're at in your career, and to not let that be something to hold you back or hinder you from applying. But I would say that everyone on the Fellowship does have their own language as a filmmaker that they've spent time developing - you can tell that people have spent time with themselves. And this doesn't have to mean in a career sense, but just with exploring. So I'd say you'd get the most out of the programme if you felt that you were ready to take that language as a filmmaker and move forward with it to professionalise your practice more.