I interview Carolee Schneeman on the MS. Blog Q&A. Here’s a taste.

Alex: So you are saying that even though your work was eventually, if perhaps belatedly canonized within art and film history, it was appreciated for only a small prism of your feminist activity, that which focuses upon the representation of your own sexuality and body.

Carolee: Yes, a very narrow prism: the ghetto of feminism. You can have this erotic, even prurient dynamic in your work that we are going to pay attention to, but the rest of it is too astonishing, complex, and beyond our need to control how we characterize women’s work.

This is such an important insight about your feminist work and legacy; and a very painful one. Is it possible to not diminish or simplify that part of the project, the body work, the representation of femal sexuality, which is so essential to your work and so essential to the needs of women?

It is as variable as women’s experience. There are aspects of sexuality that I’ve always had to fight for that are not available erotic experiences for lots of women. There’s just so much variation that I cannot represent more than the area that I know well.

But in the show, I saw for the first time your Sexuality Perameters Survey (1967-1971 + 1975) where you you “attempt to note main parameters of lovemaking. Only from a woman’s point of view” by interviewing scores of women and documenting their detailed, intimate answers about sex and sexuality on handmade typewritten grids. I love those charts! The PS1 show highlights work you made that catalogs your relationship to other people’s sexual and relational experience as well as your own sexual and domestic intimacy with male lovers and companions, and with your cats as well.

In film I was able to most clarify this area of contradiction. The films are constantly talking to each other. The ideality of Fuses (1965) gets impinged next with Viet-Flakes (1965; a compilation of Vietnam War-era horrors garnered from magazine and newspaper clippings) and the surround of that morbid suppression of life. I still get very upset when I look at it. Then, the destruction of Palestinian culture overwhelmed all my considerations of the mid 80s into the 90s and that has no resolution. No formal political clarification. Actually it’s more repressive than ever. Now, Palestinians have no right to represent themselves in any aspect of the U.S. government. That’s just been put through as a law.

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Over tea and croissants at her Westbeth Studio, filmmaker and artist Barbara Hammer met feminist film scholar and filmmaker Dr. Alexandra Juhasz for a lively back and forth about Hammer’s New York city-wide retrospective. Hammer’s vast, fifty-plus year oeuvre of film, performance, and never-before-seen art and ephemera is currently on view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (“Barbara Hammer: Evidentiary Bodies,” through January 28, 2018), and was recently on view at Company Gallery (“Truant: Photographs, 1970 – 1979,” October 22 through November 26). Performances, readings, and film programs are being staged at participating venues (including Queer|Art|Film at the IFC on December 4, and a screening of Sisters! [1974] at the Metrograph on December 17). Barbara and Alex had engaged in another lively interview twenty years earlier as part of Dr. Juhasz’s 1998 documentary and book Women of Vision: 18 Histories in Feminist Film and Video (viewable for free at snagfilms.com). Their decades-long intergenerational conversation focuses on the changing, growing powers of female, queer, and feminist artists. You can read it on The Brooklyn Rail. Our conclusion is below.

Women I Love, Barbara Hammer, 1976

Alex: Twenty years ago I asked you what is your place in feminist film history, and you were around fifty-five, and you said, “I hope that work will be seen as a progression of sophistication and development as it traces one lesbian’s life in the second half of the twentieth century. This is a space now filled, where before there was a lack, a void. Now I have sisters and brothers around me in queer cinema. I want to keep working with my eyes open, learning from others, going to see new work, trying to do the best I can to develop further my visual language.” What have you done since then to further your visual language?

Barbara: My retrospective brings in all the different branches of my work, from performance to photography to installations to journal keeping to writing, and of course to 16mm film, super 8 film, digital film and video. That’s the language: a diverse one that can move in any direction according to the idea or emotional motivation. I think many youth currently in art school are brought up with that language. They don’t define themselves as filmmakers as we were taught to do. So maybe we’ve arrived at the place where a young artist in art school begins from a place where everything is available.

“We have to be minimalist. A small event, if we can understand it, reconciles us a little bit with the world.” Agnès Varda

In my conversation with Agnès Varda about her current exhibition of video installation, photography, and sculpture showing at Blum & Poe (the full interview will run next month in The Brooklyn Rail), she emphasized that expanded vision occurs through close, returning attention to all that is caught in images of daily life: the complex and sustaining drama of living in time.

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Practicing strategic contemplation—what Rosylyn Rhee explains as having “to be comfortable being uncomfortable [because] so much of making documentary films is embracing the unknown”—is one of six “principles of feminist filmmaking” represented in Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition by Alexandra Hidalgo. The principles she elaborates point to one ethical media tradition that contemplates and thereby unmakes the frameworks that support fake news—truth/fiction, power and ownership within mediamaking and consumption—by engaging media logics outside of capital, including diversity, inter-dependence, mentorship, contemplation, and a primary commitment to social justice.

Contemplate Some More:

Shortly after November’s tumultuous election, I wrote an article for JStor Daily, “Four Hard Truths About Fake News.” It began with a preamble that actually had three more truths embedded and then quickly followed with four more: “the real internet is a fake, the fake news is very real, and thus Trump is indeed our rightful internet president.”

  1. Today’s internet is built on, with, and through an unruly sea of lies, deceptions, and distortions, as well as a few certainties, cables, and algorithms.
  2. This week’s viral-wonder—the crisis of “fake news” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election—is a logical and necessary outgrowth of the web’s sordid infrastructure, prurient daily pleasures, and neoliberal political economy.
  3. Today’s saccharine hand-wringing and the too-late fixes erupting from the mouthpieces for the corporate, media, and political interests responsible for this mess are as bogus as Lonelygirl15.
  4. Today’s media consumer cannot trust the internet, its news, or networks—fake or otherwise. Given the wretched state of today’s internet, skeptical, self-aware interaction with digital data is the critical foundation upon which democracy may be maintained.

Only 93 more to go to meet my vow …

I hereby pledge:

  • To disrupt the new President’s First 100 days by posting #100hardtruths-#fakenews with linked actions, analyses and organizations committed to digital media literacy.
  • In so doing, I will produce a 100 point digital primer to counter the purposeful confusion, lack of trust, and disorientation of the current administration’s relation to media, offering instead a steady, reasoned set of resources seeking clarity and justice.

Let me begin by here offering #100truths-fakenews #8: FAKE! by DOVEMAN + TOM KALIN + CRAIG PAULL, January 22, 2017, one of several video projects these activist-artists are making to counter the administration’s wile media moves.

Yes, producing 100 points by Day 100, April 29, 2017, seems a little daunting, but I will be counting on my reasoned, practiced, committed, talented colleagues, across the media spectrum, to ease the burden (just see above!). While this administration may seek to addle us with media misinformation, disruption, and lunacy, I put full trust in our clear-headed community of conscience. Please do share possible contributions—in the form of writings, links, images, or actions—to the #100truths-fakenews primer via email, comments on this blog, or on my twitter feed, where I’ll be building a paired-down version of the project @mediapraxisme. The full-version will build here over the next 70 days.

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Man-o Man-ifesto!

February 2, 2017

I hope you will go see my short review of Julian Rosefeldt’s impressive, spectacular art show, “Manifesto” now online on the Brooklyn Rail.  I conclude with my own (wo)manifesto, in homage of Zoe Leonard’s:

Every woman is entitled to her own ifesto: what we want when we are done with the putrid, immoral art of our time. And I want my (man)ifestos to be humble and maybe even cheap. I don’t want my (wo)manifestations(hu)manifestos to be corporate sponsored or sick with money! Actually, I need my (wo)manifestos to be exactly as big and expensive as is necessary to move people to think, feel, and act. I want these empowering words to be urgent to their place and time and alive within their own community. I want my (mac)ifestos to say who penned them and why. I want to know how words about art matter to their author and to me, and my friends, and to this country, and the world. I want my manifestos to help.

i_want_a_president_original

This is my third conversation with Ted Kerr. We begin to consider what might be needed so that many inheritances of AIDS could be salvaged, shepherded, and mothered into a legacy of plenty. Read it CUNY’s  Center for Humanities newsletter.

Still from Grandma's Legacy, Bebashi, mid-1980s.

Still from Grandma’s Legacy, Bebashi, mid-1980s.