Long Story Short, NYC

February 22, 2013

3_5_13_Long Story ShortNatalie’s film is an inspiring mix of digital storytelling and artistic vision. Hope to see New Yorkers there!

Visual AIDS: What will be the benefits of Queer Archive Activism? (Specifically I am hoping you can comment on the benefits for those who made video and film art in early response to HIV/AIDS, and those who are recontexualizing it now. And of course, generally what are the benefits.)

The benefits to our nostalgic return are threefold:

1)  it fosters our own public and interactive remembering, “healing” (although this is not something I am seeking, personally: I don’t really want to heal, I’d rather stay angry or at least contemplative), and interaction.

Read the rest of the second part of this two-part interview on Visual AIDS.

“How can we understand this moment of ‘AIDS Crisis Revisitation’, exemplified by the success of films like United in Anger and How to Survive a Plague. Video artist, activist, and academic Alexandra Juhasz provides some insight.

Making and thinking about AIDS activist video since the mid 80’s, Juhasz coined the term “Queer Archive Activism”. In this first of two blog post Visual AIDS interviews her about her term and in the next post we flesh how Queer Archive Activism works in the world. Visit Alexandra Juhasz’s website.

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Visual AIDS: Can you tell me about your phrase Queer Archive Activism? What does it mean? Where did it come from?

see my answers on Visual AIDS’ website!

Please do pass the word, as reported on Palms Springs Life:

“Although the day is titled, A Day With(out) Art, the opposite will be true Saturday (Dec. 1) at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

The museum will present a series of art forms to coincide with the World Health Organization’s World AIDS Day, which began in 1989. Admission is free.

Robert Atkins, co-founder of Visual AIDS, which created A Day With(out) Art 24 years ago as a day to use art to raise awareness and honors those who have died of AIDS, will lecture on In Mourning and In Rage as part of the day’s theme: – In Memoriam: Loss, Identity and History in the Age of AIDS.

There will also be a screening of the film, Video Remains, a documentary by filmmaker Alexandra Juhasz to honor her best friend in his final days, and a panel discussion about memory and loss.”

The schedule of events is here.

The documentary film, Video Remains, will be shown followed by a Q&A with director Alexander Juhasz.

Alex and Michael, at Rudy’s Barbershop, Silverlake, still from Video Remains.

Grrr-Ls

April 20, 2012

That’s grrr, like annoying, not Riot. Cuz there’s none of that in Girls (not to mention women of color).

In the early 1990s, I was around 25 and I already thought of myself as a woman when the grrrls played New York (I remember seeing them at ABC No Rio when my friend Alex Sichel was planning to make a movie about the scene [All Over Me, Sichel, 1997]).

But those nineties girls—a little younger, perhaps somewhat all-around less privileged, and still pretty white—fell back upon their generation’s love of Grunge, connected to a previous generation’s feminist rage, and espoused their own avowedly political commitment to the politics of expression. Meanwhile, Dunham’s new girls—yes, just one visualization of “her generation”—are separated, sequestered, cocooned off from the any sense of history, community, or body of (feminist) work or (political) thinking or (artistic) practice beyond their narcissistic dreams of socially-mediated “artistic” cross-over (or selling-out as we called it) and passing sexual pleasures (perhaps one of them will be lucky enough to become someone like Lena Dunham, although cuter). I do like some of it to be sure: their world-of-women and -self sometimes separated from men or hetero-coupledom; the unromantic depiction of young-hetero-sex and girls’ desire; Dunham’s funny, quick patter. However, I mourn the loss of Tiny Furniture’s uniquely 2000′s DIY sensibility (not so much grunge as google), where a YouTube-inflected sensibility, even if a tad studied, prevailed: “bad” camera-work and acting, no make-up, and a plot-line about Lena’s own YouTube celebrity. The HBO girls have been prettied up, as has Dunham’s craft, thanks to the goodies of her rise out of social media.

But it’s Dunham’s inability to connect (and not in that Facebook makes us lonely way) that leaves me the most enervated. I spoke about this generational phenomenon (my qualms about the return to the personal in works by the “younger generation”) in my responses to Pariah which I think allows us to re-think the real race-problem in Dunham’s work as also a generational-political one.

Radical Links

October 12, 2011

Here are some links to radical media actions:

  • feminist academic blogging: “The Three Things I Learned at the Purdue Conference for Pre-Tenure Women,” by Kate Clancy
  • dispatches from  Occupy Wall Street by the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
  • my sister, Antonia, interviewed by Real News TV Network on Afghanistan’s Energy Wars
  •  my own early-work on my new blog, FeministOnlineSpaces
  • my graduate student, Timothy Mallone’s video coverage of Occupy LA

Enjoy!

The third day of my show PerpiTube: Repurposing Social Media Spaces brought this remarkable and unexpected video by Shu Lea Cheang.

Unexpected in two senses. First, I had thought my old friend Shu Lea would push the limits of this show by presenting some aspect of her vast and cutting edge cyber/porn/viral/performance oeuvre. I was prepared to gently remind her that we were showing the work to young people, and an YouTube. No such conversation needed to ensue because instead she allowed us to see les cles. And here’s the second unforeseen experience. I write and think about almost too many media objects that sit on YouTube and smugly mark the line between documentary and fiction in ways that have become ever more predictable, benign, and expected. I have conjectured  this saturation may not be good for queer artists. And yet, Shu Lea’s quiet meditation on family love, intimacy, and the profound in the mundane is ever more interesting as an unstated exploration of the relationship between these themes and technology and visibility. Who is shooting these seemingly real people? If it is Shu Lea, how ever could this radical gender-queer new media pioneer be close enough to these seemingly working-class French people  that she could capture a moment of such intimacy and quiet? If it’s not Shu Lea, how is this her film? Did she chance upon the footage? Find it online, to then edit it with such grace? What ever could it mean to remake moments of others daily familiarity? And if they are actors, how could she script such a delicate and strange interaction, the kind that life produces in a way that fiction seemingly can not? And what does such complex and tranquil artistry mean when made visible in the frantic frenzy of YouTube? The mystery of the Mother’s angels meets the unfamiliar of Shu Lea’s forms in an elegant coupling that reminds me that the internet, and YouTube, has the capacity for depth, in the making strange of its own consolidating norms of volume, speed, over-sharing, spectacle, and irony.

In the past few days, I’ve seen two powerful film screenings featuring works that historicize AIDS in the 1980s: We Were Here (“the first documentary to take a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco”) and United in Anger: A History of ACTUP.

Now, most people weren’t AIDS activists, and fewer still are professional AIDS remembers (a role several of us seem to have been gifted in the last few years), but I am both, and in the second role, have been asked to write or speak about the remembering of AIDS in three upcoming venues: a publication on the 25 year anniversary of ACTUP with the Quarterly Journal of Speech, a talk about recent AIDS video at Visible Evidence documentary conference in August, and a lecture in October at Concordia University for their nineteen-year long community lecture series and course on AIDS, Concordia HIV/AIDS Project. Most people don’t remember AIDS: in particular how we fought, how we cared and loved, how we raged, what we won, who we lost. This non-remembering of AIDS is a kind of recollection crisis in its own right, particularly affecting younger queers (of color) who don’t somehow know that there was unimaginable death, anger, activism, community-building, and art made because of AIDS, practices that continue to be highly relevant (if absent) to AIDS, queer youth, and the dearth of activism more generally.

I find that these two video projects (and Jean Carlomusto’s Sex in an Epidemic, and my own Video Remains, and others) each approach this recent remembering project with different forms, themselves reflective of the aims of their remembering goals. In short, We Were Here emotes and United in Anger rages–these feelings evident already in their titles–but also in their documentary approaches. WWH personalizes the crisis, focusing closely on six people with a soft and warm camera, evocative music, stories of personal loss and commitment, and a camera that lingers on tears (producing the same in its audience). Meanwhile, UIA moblizes a cold, sharp video look at a large group of speakers, and an even more clinical body of activist documentation of demonstrations and meetings, allowing us to feel that these images stand in for a mass of similar voices and a compendium of events and actions, and inviting us to enter through their anger and action (just another player in a movement of individuals that can lead to change). Both approaches feed us, although in different ways. Remembering AIDS–which was itself a complex amalgam of emotion, action, living, dying, loving, politics, and representation–demands as many complimentary approaches as we can afford and can bear. While we are all not professional AIDS remembers, nor need we be, we can all learn from this history, particularly in relation to its sustaining models of personal and political action in the name of human rights, health care, and the power of people to help themselves and thereby better their community and world.

My friend Brian Goldfarb and I just released Distraction Span: Technologies of Productive Disruption at MediaCommons. “With this cluster of The New Everyday we initiate a conversation about social media that sidesteps the panic over youth and digital distraction while not being afraid to look head-on at their everyday engagements with mobile devices and social networking.” Now we hope you will join the conversation.

We Walked Out

April 5, 2011

About an hour into my course on Feminist Spaces Online a student informed us that an absent class member had just texted her suggesting that we should leave class and join her at the USC Walkout for a Safer Campus. This we did, and I couldn’t have scripted a better “teachable moment” for our class.

While we are certain that the distinction between online and offline experience is no longer useful to describe most of our lived experience of self or community, in our many conversations about place, activism, self-authoring and self-representation, I have always held the protest up as a sort of litmus test of embodiment. Given that the vast majority of my students had never been in (or witnessed) a protest, the sustaining  gap between (my) lived, bodily experience and (their) experience via representation would then function in our classroom to authorize and alienate, albeit kindly. That is, until they voted to walk out.

The heat of the sun, the surge of eighty voices together, the stares of suspicious classmates and smiles of fellow protesters, the sense that we had transformed a normative space along feminist and anti-racist values, the understanding that many bodies are both more visible and also more safe than any one alone, the pride in taking action in the name of principle, and the weak and strong pull of the ever-present media in relation to these actions and experiences taught my students and I about feminist place and the Internet in a way that this blog (and my classroom teaching, and our books, and incessantly accessible protest videos) will not, can not, and need not.

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