Arrows, 1984, Sandra Lahire, courtesy of LUX

As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.


Is an art, like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.

Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath, 1960

I start writing this on Earth Day and when I open my web browser, Google greets me with real time-lapse images showing coral bleaching on Lizard Island, Australia. Several weeks go by and I open the same group of tabs that have been open all this time just humming away in the background, clicking through them in quick succession until I land on a tab, I don’t remember opening that holds a painting. Two Women was made in 1939 by surrealist artist Leonor Fini. One woman, impish and sharp, but light with it; her slender toes and halo of hair seem to float and her hair is filled with thin little lit candles. She glides across a snowy island; the sky is flat aqua. Her red tights match the gloves of the other women who, crouched behind a disembodied door, peeps through the keyhole at the ethereal candle-haired woman. The candle-haired woman is holding a small red bean-shaped object between her spiky thumb and forefinger, and I zoom into the red bean to try to see what it is until it dissolves into indecipherable thick crimson pixels.

Terminals, 1986, Sandra Lahire, courtesy of LUX

Arriving a few weeks later than anticipated, and after a call for donations on Instagram—‘So while we believe the state should support us, given that the UK doesn’t give a shit about culture, we turn to you… If you enjoy reading and/or watching us, we have a Patreon or you can make a one-off donation (links in bio). Thank you!’—A Moving X-Ray, seven films by Sandra Lahire lands on Another Screen. During the 80s and 90s, Lahire made ten 16mm films that focused on her dedications to the anti-nuclear campaign, a feminist and explicitly lesbian, anti-patriarchal politics, the poetry and life of Sylvia Plath, and her Jewishness. One of the most influential experimental queer filmmakers, her work has only recently received the recognition it deserves, having been honoured at the Courtisane Festival in Ghent in 2021 [1].

Depictions of her lifelong struggle with anorexia also appear throughout her work, creating parallels between the decay of her body and the earth, offering a poignant comment on climate catastrophe. As her friend and colleague Jacqueline Rose stated in her obituary: ‘Making films, animating, bringing to life, was, as she said repeatedly in her commentaries on her own films and in her critical writings, a way to reassert the body in the face of erosion. She never had any doubt about the life-and-death stakes of such a venture’ [2].

Specifically vital to Lahire’s practice is the centring of female relationships and collaboration in the fight against patriarchal societal control, experienced vividly by Lahire as a queer woman and staunch activist living in Thatcherite Britain. In Terminals (1986), set in the power stations at Dungeness—Lahire’s first anti-nuclear film that sits outside of the trilogy—two female voices laugh together and two others read a script together in syncopated unison, in a similar shaky fashion to the voices that we hear in Uranium Hex (1987) describing the uranium mining process and gender disparity in the Northern Ontario mines: ‘They [women] don’t use the jack drills, they do other kinds of work, they’re heavy!’ [3]

Uranium Hex, 1987, Sandra Lahire, courtesy of LUX

The voices speak about the risk of cancer and infertility from exposure to intense radiation working at the Visual Display Terminals in the nuclear power stations—‘It was like lying under an x-ray machine day and night’ [4]. The slow decay and exploitation of the female, and mainly indigenous workers bodies—as exposed in Serpent River (1989) and Uranium Hex—through hard labour and regular radiation exposure, Phoebe Campion comments in her essay for A Moving X-Ray, ‘illustrate[s] the literal internalisation and reproduction of the ‘techno-patriarchal’ logic of atomic industry’. [5]

The love of women, specifically lesbianism and in chosen friendships and relationships, as well as the love of the self, Lahire stated, is essential in generating the self-determination necessary for political change [6]. Lahire achieved this self-determination directly through the doubling of herself in her films, ‘building up a dialogue with herself’ through the use of a ‘double’, Sylvia Plath throughout the Living on Air trilogy (recalling Plath’s own doubling in The Bell Jar) [7]. By using Plath’s poems and referring to autobiographical moments, Plath becomes a stand-in for Lahire’s own concerns, for herself, there is a morbid attempt at creating lives and deaths in parallel.

A lifelong fascination, Lahire was part way through a PhD on Plath when she died in 2001. She also doubles literally, filming herself in the mirror. Repeated flickering, annotated, whirling ‘kaleidoscopic’ images of her own body by herself in a possible attempt to solidify her own decaying body, making her own images of her own body, not driven by any male fetishism or external unwanted sexual gaze [8]. The first two films in the Plath trilogy feature in A Moving X-Ray, and it is a notable decision not to include the final film, the feature-length, more stylistically commercial and narrative-driven, Johnny Panic (1995) which Another Screen Director Daniela Shrier comments to me in an email, is a financial and practical decision—‘curatorial decisions are almost always pragmatic ones too’—and one of personal taste.

Plutonium Blonde, 1987, Sandra Lahire, courtesy of LUX

Death is always present in Lahire’s work. The deterioration of her health, and other women’s bodies, run in parallel to the earth’s decay; ‘these films also encode a paradoxical sense of desire for entropic decline’, Campion remarks [9]. Like (nuclear) entropy, queerness is also concerned with a utopian embrace of living a life otherwise, ‘refusing the normative, linear labour of reproduction and associating instead with degeneration’ [10]. There is a macabre humour going on here, that isn’t completely understood when it comes to the anti-nuclear series, although as Lahire says, again nodding towards the complexities of emotion and a desire for the recognition of our inherent multiplicities, ‘there has to be an element of fun with something raw and close to the bone or you don’t come across to other people’ [11]. As Emily LaBarge comments on Lahire’s complex, dark and often uncomfortable humour in her essay for A Moving X-Ray, ‘a body—a person​​—is never just one thing, but, conversely, is an opening into multiplicity.’

Just because death is present does not mean that life is absent. I scroll down the A Moving X-Ray webpage to find Sarah Turner’s obituary laid out in black text on sickly beige on a hot pink background. It begins with an ode to Lahire’s raucous sense of humour, her laughter echoing through the rooms of London Film Makers Cooperative, Cinenova and the other spaces where she made her hugely influential imprint on experimental filmmaking during the 80s and 90s. It was here that she developed her signature style, turning the camera on herself and using rostrum tables, superimposition, changes in speed and overexposure to create her x-ray-like hyper-colourised images that we see throughout her films. I scroll further down the page. I can barely bring my eyes to read Clio Nicastro’s essay, the thin black text throbbing against the bright red background.

A Moving X-Ray comes to a close at the beginning, ending with Lahire’s first film, Arrows (1986). Made whilst studying at Central Saint Martin’s, Arrows is a deeply affecting portrait of her experience of anorexia. Harsh strings build in a sinister screeching as if emanating from caged blue owls at the top of the film. The screen then shifts into a glowing red as cut-out snakes devour the lifeless ‘Eve’. In swift rostrum camera work, the paper cut-out of her body sprayed white then lifted away to reveal the negative image. Her body becomes a representation of its own lack, its absence becomes its definition—‘always that body that is coming near the image of a spectre’, writes Maria Grizinic [12].

The snakes ‘enter’ Eve, she becomes compromised by external white sprayed phallic forces. As the film’s description tells us, in Arrows, Lahire ‘locat[es] the condition of anorexia firmly in Western patriarchal culture’ [13], also elucidated through her inclusion of a recording of Plath reading her poem The Thin People:

‘Now the thin people do not obliterate

Themselves as the dawn

Grayness blues, reddens, and the outline

Of the world comes clear and fills with color.’ [14]

Lahire draws flashing images of Egyptian mummies and paper cut-outs of starving children across the screen. She describes the process of liposuction and gastric band surgery over shattered images followed by a recording of her failed and desperate attempts to get therapeutic help. She admits blithely, however, that she likes herself at seven stone three pounds, she feels more interesting, younger. Her self observation is self critical; Lahire films her own slender body in the mirror, her ribs and clavicle pronounced, zooming her camera in and out, scanning her torso from left to right in a forensic self portrait.

Lady lazarus82
Terminals, 1986, Sandra Lahire, courtesy of LUX

Her depiction of her anorexia is so crushingly honest, presenting all of the illness’ cultural complexities whilst holding her own body with such fervent attention. As Rose continues in her obituary: ‘One of the things she leaves behind is the profoundest written and filmic commentary on anorexia’ [15]. Despite its visible frailty, in Arrows, it is impossible not to forget that Lahire’s body is an effervescent force. So dynamic and flickering that, to be completely sincere, brings me to tears, not in pity but awe.

Her body is a clawing bird, elongated like a pink flamingo, stretching, working out, preening in front of the mirror, legs crossed, uncrossed, spine curving back. In the final refrain the screeching pipes rage in again, and whilst holding firmly on to her camera in the centre of the screen, Lahire’s elbows jut out like sharp, sturdy wings, pinging determinedly up and down like a bird considering flight.

During Terminals, flickering repeatedly across a computer screen, are the words, ‘ARROWS >>>>>> ESCAPE’.

As well as Johnny Panic and Edge (1986), the super short Eerie (1992) is not included in A Moving X-Ray. I only notice this now, at the end of writing, and then double check in my emails with Daniella Shreir to confirm that, yes, it was supposed to be included in the original screening. Maybe another pragmatic or personal decision? But unlike Johnny Panic and Edge, Eerie isn’t missed unless you know it’s not there. The one minute long black and white ode to German expressionist filmmaking is a romantic portrait of two lovers in a cable car climbing Mount Pilatus in Switzerland—a ‘vertiginous lesbian kiss’. Indeed, as Lahire said, it is a ‘lesbian film’ set to the glittering piano of Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, the perfect amorous, soaring soundtrack [16].

Eerie stands alone. It is not about Plath or nuclear power, but epitomises Lahire’s deep concerns with exposing the processes and tropes of image making—the double exposures, the rattling projector sound, the cable car as a framing device—as well as presence: making your presence known, unambiguously and unapologetically, and, imperatively, specifically for and by female and queer bodies. As Lahire said, ‘When our work is forthright we illuminate for each other territories that we can no longer allow to be obscured’ [17].

Leonor fini two women 1939
Two Women, 1939, Leonor Fini

A Moving X-Ray’ continues until 15th June 2022 on Another Screen.

Donate to Another Gaze/Another Screen here.


Caitlin Merrett King is a writer and programmer living in Glasgow.


[1] Artist in Focus: Sandra Lahire, Courtisiane Film Festival,

[2] ‘Sandra Lahire’, 2001, Jacqueline Rose, The Guardian, Available at:

[3] Uranium Hex, 1987, Sandra Lahire

[4] Terminals, 1986, Sandra Lahire

[5] ‘Embracing Entropy: Sandra Lahire’s “Anti-Nuclear Trilogy”’, 2022, Phoebe Campion, Another Screen;

[6] ​​‘Lesbians in Media Education’, 1987, Sandra Lahire, inLiving on Air: the films and words of Sandra Lahire, 2021, Palacios Cruz, M., and Proctor, C., (Eds.), Ghent: Courtisiane;, p.15

[7] Ibid.

[8] ‘Introduction’, 2021, Maria Palacios Cruz in Living on Air;, p.6

[9] ‘Embracing Entropy: Sandra Lahire’s “Anti-Nuclear Trilogy”’, 2022, Phoebe Campion on Another Screen;

[10] Ibid.

[11] ‘Interview with Sandra Lahire: The Thin People’, 1996, Jo Buxton, in Boiling – Experimental Animation Journal, 1996, Harcombe, D., and Smith, V., (Eds.), London: LFMC, pp. 12-16.

[12] ‘Sandra Lahire’, Maria Grzinic, LuxOnline;

[13] ‘Arrows’, 2022, Lucy Reynolds, Another Screen;

[14] Arrows, 1984, Sandra Lahire

[15] ‘Sandra Lahire’, 2001, Jacqueline Rose, The Guardian;

[16] ‘Sandra Lahire’, 1996, Jo Comino in Living on Air;, p.11


The body, proximity, and place can be far-reaching and boundless—this series intends to question these complex questions through different experiments with language, art, cultural phenomena, and writing as practice, and is led by editor-in-residence Hatty Nestor.