Love and rockets to everyone who loved and was entangled with Jess Search.
I’ve recently started a PhD in impact producing – it’s practice-lead and the new climate film that Maya Donna and our Unquiet team are developing will be part of the research.
I’ve been reading widely trying to find a way to frame the dynamics of impact producing – beyond the ethics of how we make the content and before the audience reception, the place of strategy, communications, partnerships and collaboration with community and participants that makes the web and weave of this work.
A friend (photographer Jesse Boylan) put me on to feminist physicist Karen Barad and their notion of agency as not something existing in individuals, but instead to be understood as existing through relationships and what they call intra-action*.
As I process the loss of Jess Search I am struck by Jess’s amazing work of intra-action – of her ability to recognise and accelerate entangled agency. Not just between herself and others but between others and others, connecting, convening, introducing, listening. A network weaver, an agent of entangling.
I met Sandi DuBowski at the Crossover Labs in 2009 and this is where I first discovered there were others like me out there, working at the intersection of film, art and changemaking and that there was a growing field and practice coming in to focus. Through Sandi I discovered Working Films and BRITDOC (now Doc Society). (Side note of timing in the way of loops, I met Working Films as they were facing the loss of founder Robert West and this makes me draw breath now).
I applied for a Churchill Fellowship to explore film and change practices worldwide in 2012 which I undertook in 2013. Between applying and undertaking the fellowship in 2012 BRITDOC had held a retreat on Osea Island, UK and along with practitioners who attended had coined the term Impact Producer. London was my first stop on the Churchill (which I combined with brokering the relationships for the Namatjira family to visit Buckingham Palace alongside the show’s tour to London in 2013). I emailed Beadie and then hotdesked out of BRITDOC’s offices for 6 weeks, absorbing, listening, learning, connecting.
There’s so many moments rushing back to me — Good Pitch Chicago, cocktails at CPH DOX, japanese dinner in Sydney, raves and ideas at IDFA, texts over whatsapp working out strategies to intervene in the terf narratives, dancing to Peaches in a Sundance condo, so many memories of Jess and the networks she has woven.
She did of course, not weave these in isolation and I honour too the wisdom of Beadie, Maxyne, Sandra and the extended Doc Society team in unleashing all of this beauty and power and networking and entangling. I am also thinking of Sandi, Jennifer, Brenda, Nancy, Lina, Ingrid, Justine, Joanna, Sonya, Molly, Hollie, Sahar Judith, Rebecca, Pamela, Paco and so many other wonders I have met and loved through these networks.
I am grieving not just Jess, but also her commitment to struggle. Oh how we need joy and strategy and vision and struggle. The work will continue, the struggle will continue and I promise Jess I will triple down on my commitment. I will share everything, I will listen for signals, not noise, I will connect, I will remain curious and I will be brave.
Thank you Jess and my deepest love to everyone weeping and mourning across our entangled networks as we weave stories and strategies for justice.
Love and solidarity forever, Rest In Power, Jess.
Intra-action is a concept introduced by Karen Barad. It describes the mutual constitution of entangled agency, that is the mutual constitution of our ability to act. When two entities intra-act, they do so in co-constituitive ways. This means that agency is not a preexisting given. The ability to act emerges from within the relationship not outside of it. And this ability constantly changes and adapts according to processes it is involved in. – Make Commoning Work wiki
Watch this powerful spotlight conversation with Jess Search from BFI London Film Festival 2021.