I’ve worked with, written about, and been a fan of the work of Susan Mogul for quite awhile. A early practitioner of feminist video via her radical education at the LA Woman’s Building’s Feminist Art Program in the 1970s, Susan emailed me recently about the censorship (and related and ultimately successful on-line protest) of her seminal 1973 video, “Dressing Up,” by YouTube, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

And this is why YouTube bores me, even as I’m about (cross your fingers) to finally publish my YouTube book. YouTube hasn’t changed much in the three years I’ve been studying it seriously, other than getting larger in users, lengthier in videos, and more packed with corporate content. Don’t get me wrong: NicheTube rules, and there’s plenty to see if you ramble long and hard enough (garnering the site ad-revenue with every look), that is if the radical stuff you might like can last. For YouTube censors non-hegemonic (i.e. feminist) practices on the sheer philistinism of its beloved user/cops.

Please go to “Flow’s” Special Issue on The Archive to see a slightly modified selection (“The Views of the Feminist Archive”) from my longer essay “A Process Archive: The Grand Circularity of Woman’s Building Video,” which will be published in 2011 in the catalog for Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building, one of 15 Getty sponsored art shows, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA, 1945-80.”

By way of John Grierson  and Tom Gunning, I come to the conclusion:

“Their process led to no product (other than its video documentation), but rather to affection, collectivity, and self-expression. But, I’m starting to bore myself. That’s their theory, and it is represented in everything they made. Where patriarchy, and its documentary see linear, singular, goal oriented processes resulting in commodifiable products and places, Woman’s Building video produced and preserved a multiple, messy view of the development of collective experience, voice, and growth en route. In the 1970s, women at the Building augmented their feminist art making and education with video recordings (now archived) to allow for a permanent record of their developing theory of process: a multiple, collective point of view reverberating and transformative in and across people and places, the present as well as the future. At the Getty Research Institute today, watching their compelling if confusing and often outsized archive of process, I am wowed by the complexity and originality of their view.”

The archivist brings work to visibility by seeing it, knowing it in her way, and connecting it to other video and viewers that will frame and hold it: giving context, making friends, building arguments, forming associations. Unruly archives need curators. Their holdings nothing but inconsequential detritus until loved and re-purposed.

I have proposed a video archive love fest. I want to take the dead work of the L.A. Woman’s Building (recently archived at the Getty’s Research Institute) and re-purpose it on-line. Bring it back to life. Make it relevant. Make if visible and re-usable. Put it on YouTube.

A proposed (pending funding) continuation of my work with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Project, I hope to move old tapes on-line linking this inspiring (and too invisible) retro-video-vision to the hyper-mediated now. I am eager to re-purpose YouTube as a productive archive of video art that addresses some of the contradictions engendered by this unique process archive. Women’s Building video was made and saved by countless (often anonymous) women who were mutually developing and enjoying a uniquely feminist theory and practice of video fundamentally informed by a consciousness raising that was itself conversant with contemporary art and primarily engaged with video at its inception. Throughout feminist art education at the Building (video) process was valued, and itself documented as well as being document, and all of this was meant to be made public (often through video), and then saved for history (as video), even, counter-intuitively, as it was also, most critically, marking something entirely internal and ephemeral.

In videos from the Building, there is a consistent and self-aware project that evocatively links video across this archive to both feminist process and preservation. I would continue this past project, by selecting videos from the archive, with the artists’ permissions put them on-line, and produce prompts, frameworks, and tools for their contemporary use. In so doing, I would be attempting to making this archive newly usable for present-day digital (video) processes, thus unmooring it from its obscure, frozen, and misunderstood place as feminist history, and encouraging it to better engage with our feminist present (which was once its under-theorized future), in the meantime allowing past work to remain relevant, become active, and embark in dialogue with the present.

I will speak on this Saturday at the ASA Conference.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 216 other followers