#tooFEW

March 15, 2013

There’s the good news, the bad news, and the good news again:

  • sistersaredoingitforourselves;

Join us!

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.

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.

I just blogged at fembot for their section called “Laundry Day” (“short, teachable pieces of feminist media criticism about ongoing controversies and issues.”) My writing is in conversation with Wendy Hsu and Carey Sargent, who write about “Grrrltronica, Plasticity, and Friendship ” for their entry for this special focus on “feminist media production.”

My entry focuses upon the many little media things I received from audience members after my talks last year, like this video by Wendy (after I spoke at Occidental college), who (like many others at many places) responded to my mantrafesto and other thoughts about feminist (and otherwise) online spaces.

(This is re-posted from my Online Feminist Spaces project)

I’m back from Colby College in Maine which also signals the almost-end to the six-month experiment I’ve been running on my Feminist Online Spaces project, and at real places across the country (Concordia in Montreal, UCLA, Rutgers in NJ, Yale in CT, Occidental in CA, Re:Humanities in PA, Feminist Documentary at Smith in MA , and Colby) as I attempt to use an Online Space to enact and hold a set of media objects and circular (Call and Response and Call Again) movements that might propel feminists from:

  • Reception to Production
  • Commenting to Connection
  • Production to Collaboration
  • and the Internet to the Real World (and back again)

The successes seem notable: the primary being the palpable sense of excitement, shock, playfulness, worry, and community that was produced in each and every place on my road trip when I unmade protocol by asking audience members to respond to my scholarly talk by making something quick and rudimentary that would last, that would become public, that would leave their place and sit on mine, that represented each one of them and their place and their ideas about feminism and place, and that would give them each some small piece of authorial control in a situation not typically structured to do so. Make they did, and many of the objects were quite extraordinary (especially given how quickly they were made), and all of them were generous and generative.

My main goal, however–again, I think successfully played out–was less things than process based: not to acquire the objects and more to turn the room into something holding interactions akin to those of the Internet, and then allowing the felt experience of this altered interaction to shed light on the different ways we form community and connection in live, digital, and their linked places.

But lots of this didn’t work so well, too, in ways that were informative. First off, there was a structuring power imbalance between me, the outsider (with the website, and the plane ticket and speaker’s stipend, and the carefully crafted and long talk) and the placed audience (who freely gave up their words but with only five minutes to author them) that most closely mirrors the imbalance of (corporate) websites. The impulse or call was mine and my feminist audiences playfully or politely responded. For the most part, they then produced the expendable, one-off objects that define most of our interactions online, albeit, in this case, more focused on one sustained question and politics.

This led me to try to imagine how I might enable more careful, and communal, interaction and towards this I began collaborating with some of the people I had met along the way, most critically with Wendy Hsu and Carey Sargent (Grapefruit Experiment), who I met at Occidental College, where they are post-docs in the Digital Humanities. I invited them to remix something from the Gallery of audience-made objects, which led to the “But I Like Kittens Remix,” and I then connected them to Marty Fink, at Concordia, who worked with them, and others from her local community, to make the song’s cover art.

Then, when I went to the Tri-College Digital Humanities Conference and to Women, Social Justice and Documentary at Smith, I tried (working with Wendy and Carey) to more strongly align community response towards building something together, and requested that people provide sounds that would be used in a song made again by Grapefruit Experiment. From this was made Kong Jian. At Colby, we asked for cover art, and got great stuff again.

Needless to say, while I love all the things people made, and even the process(es), I learned that the ownership, structure, impulse, and infrastructure, while certainly dispersed, stay locked or perhaps laced to me: the instigator and authority. While I am aware that seeds have been planted in many places by using the road, and planes, and rooms, and from those many theres, people will take these ideas and use them as they will, I am still interested in thinking about the best uses of on and offline spaces for making production, connection, collaboration and community, something yet unrealized (by me, online).

After my return from the Women, Social Justice, Documentary conference at Smith last weekend it took me awhile to name a certain disquiet that was raised for me there. Critically, my concerns had nothing to do with the strength of the presentations or the commitment of the community. It was reaffirmed for me there that:

  • women need documentaries that represent female experience from a feminist perspective
  • women hunger to make documentaries about their own worlds and experiences with their own voices.

However, Charlie Musser’s post about the same conference helped me to name some of my qualms through questioning how we know and frame this field of practice: are we women documentarians victims, adventurers, heroes, or champions? And if none of the above, what is or should be our trope or role of choice?

In other posts here, I have discussed how male documentarians (and fiction filmmakers in the documentary mode) often represent their documentary filmmaking about adventures as if they themselves were the hapless explorers, as if they were the rugged spelunker or fearless soldier; as if making a film was a war or a similarly endangering undertaking.  Keeping men’s fantasies about such rugged film roles in mind, it seems particularly noteworthy that many feminist documentarians, who are themselves making films about women’s oppression, voicelessness, and sometimes even physical or emotional danger and violence, cast themselves and particularly their filmmaking in this light: as if documentary making is a form of victimhood and suffering.

Thus, as often as we discussed documentary-making as achievement, I heard this feminist mode presented as an expression of oppression: in that the industry is patriarchal, funds are scarce, the nation is conservative, and infrastructure is capitalist. And of course, all that is true. Many of the battles of current feminist filmmakers are the same as those of the generations before us; and in some arenas, it seems we’ve seen as much backlash as we have growth. And certainly, many women have and still come to their filmmaking as a first stop after, or as a response to lived oppression. However, the disadvantages we might encounter as women in film are similar to but not the same as the human rights violations we might document, or even the voicelessness that may have brought us to the medium, and when we tell the story of our film practice only using the disempowered tropes and experiences that brought us there we end up failing to build upon, yet alone even acknowledge, the successes we have made: the many, many films, careers, awards, institutions, festivals, books, or classes in the field. For, the conference also confirmed that:

  • the history of earlier work, makers, and institutions are lost unless we reconstitute them
  • and harder to admit, we get something from this perpetual losing

Which is to say, that once we do have some (more) power than we did, when we do have foremothers (now across a few generations) and a robust, generative, diverse, and amazing body of film, now that we are feminist documentarians with a real history and future (evidenced at the conference through the fire power of the “new” generation: Sonali Gulati, Anayansi Prado, Michelle Medina), how might we enact our self-representation as a field through and with power?

What are the metaphors and practices for having and using an empowered feminist voice amongst many?

We don’t have look far! Here’s just a small sample of some of the inspiring models presented at the conference:

Cynthia Wade: links her power with responsibility.

Barbara Hammer: lusty adventurer with politics.

Su Friedrich: angry citizen challenging film and social norms

Rea Tajiri: loving daughter and respectful neighbor reaching out with poetry

Lourdes Portillo: mother-maker opening our hearts in service or memory, justice, and complexity

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