Modern and Contemporary Lecture and Seminar Series

Daphne on film: Eco processing 16mm film with bay-laurel

Speaker: Catriona Gallagher

In Catriona Gallagher’s film Daphne was a torso ending in leaves (2024), the mythical metamorphosis of the nymph Daphne into a bay-laurel tree is reapproached in contemporary Rome, a landscape once surrounded by native laurel forests and still home to persistent depictions of the woman-tree-symbol. From hedges in parks & gardens to laureates for graduating students, Daphne (δἀφνη/alloro/bay-laurel) is both the subject of the film and the key ingredient of its making. The artist films making an infusion from a laurel wreath then hand-processes the black & white 16mm footage of its making.

This is a film made about Daphne, with daphne, foregrounding her story through the plant’s phytochemistry. The hand development process folds into the thematic exploration of the plant’s symbolism as the camera lingers on Daphne’s historic and persisting depiction in Etruscan burial grounds, the botanical code of Augustus’ Ara Pacis monument and the garden frescoes of the Villa di Livia. The Baroque sculpture of Apollo attempting to catch Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which art historian Griselda Pollock responded to with a gasp, is here answered with a sigh. This instigates an attempt to reverse-metamorphose Daphne, breaking Ovid’s symbol and envisioning metamorphosis from the inside.

This performance lecture and screening will explore the artist’s process of developing 16mm film in bay leaf infusions and phytogram prints on film and photographic paper, as well as her research on the metamorphosis of Daphne.

Catriona Gallagher: (UK/IE) is a visual artist working between the UK and Greece. Her work probes at the collision of manmade and natural worlds, navigating overlooked details in our physical surroundings and their mirroring psychological landscapes. She uses moving image, drawing, writing, and research processes to map physical and conceptual traces of human and non-human relations. Her work has been shown in film festivals and exhibitions in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Ireland and Greece, where she co-founded A – DASH project space in 2016. In 2022-23, Catriona Gallagher was the Bridget Riley Fellow at the British School at Rome.

Organised by Dr Lucy Bradnock (The Courtauld) as part of the Modern and Contemporary Lecture and Seminar Series

This event has passed.

25 Mar 2024

17:30 - 19:00

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square Campus, Lecture Theatre 2

This event takes place at our Vernon Square Campus (WC1X 9EW).


A still from the film 'Daphne' showing a woman holding a laurel wreath. She stands against a white wall.
Catriona Gallagher, Daphne was a torso ending in leaves (film still), 2024. Image courtesy the artist.