November 6th, 2013 § § permalink
I am pleased to be one of the curator’s for In Media Res’s Vine and the Short Form Video week.
The 400 word blog post came out of some of the ideas Will Lockett & I had during the planning stages for our short paper for AOIR last winter. We decided to go into a different direction but I’m really excited about the potential of some of the ideas about embodiment, aesthetics and mobile phone practices raised by the blog post.
I was also able to coerce a good friend of mine, a PhD student in Film no less, Dominic Leppla to try Vine for the first time.
VINE from Magda O on Vimeo.
by Magdalena Olszanowski and Will Lockett
To better understand the creative capabilities of Vine’s limitations, we analyze its formal elements. The interface centers on a timeline: the video recording begins as the user touches the screen of their mobile device, and the recording takes place only so long as they’re touching the screen. Given this touch-and-hold interface, there’s no post-production editing: edits can be made by letting go of the touch before the end of the six seconds, framing a new shot, and then touching again to capture the next image in the montage.
One of the main reasons for Vine’s success is that its specific mode of video content production allows for, both, the appropriation of aesthetic tendencies, such as the GIF, and the distancing from other contemporary aesthetic tendencies, such as the faux vintage aesthetics of Instagram and Hipstamatic.
Vine’s developers insistently dissociate themselves from these apps:
Old things are beautiful, but new things should look, well… new. That’s why Vine doesn’t have a play button. It also doesn’t have a pause button, a timeline scrubber, a blinking red light, or dials and a brushed-metal finish to give you the impression that you’re using a dusty video camera. There’s only one nod to traditional filmmaking—the create button, which is an abstracted video camera. (vine.co/blog)
This description can be nuanced in two ways. First, Vine does have a play button; it’s simply the entire screen: Vine is relying on the user’s habituation to the touch screen interface to pare down the number of icons and avoid the simulation of an antique UI. Second, although apps such as 8mm (2010) and Cinemagram (2012) tried to use the faux vintage in order to popularize moving image mobile-social-networks—and Vine is perhaps wise to dissociate itself from these products—Vine is in fact relying on similar processes of appropriation to drive the development of new forms of individualized creative practice.
In other words, we’re arguing that, although Vine doesn’t use the faux vintage to do so, the basic parameters on Vine still allow users to tap into aesthetic attributes that are specific to preexisting image production technologies: particularly looping GIF animations, the jump cut, and framing tropes specific to the embodied practices of mobile image production. The former two appropriations are related to moving image technologies writ large, whereas the latter are common to mobile-device image production. These formal elements of Vine can be tied to the need to create an information-rich creative 6 second video loop within a system of constraints.
November 2nd, 2013 § § permalink
I was asked to be part of this fantastic panel for National Communication Association (NCA) at the end of the month.
Legal, Ethical and Technical Challenges in the Evolving Online and Mobile Visual Paradigm
Sponsor: Visual Communication Division
Chair: Leslie-Jean Thornton, Arizona State University
Respondent: Tori Ekstrand, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Feminist Self-Imaging and Instagram: Strategies of Circumventing Censorship
Author, Magdalena Olszanowski, Concordia University
Instagram is a free, what I term, IB-MSN (image-based mobile social network), centered on personal user-uploaded photographic content with strict rules about its uploaded content, (i.e., “You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service)” (http://instagram.com/legal/terms/). Like most censorship laws, the visual expression of sexuality and identity is conflated with violence and hate, reinforcing a reductive view of nudity as pornographic, and therefore inappropriate, unlawful, unethical and needing to be controlled. I argue that, despite Instagram’s content policies, users are finding creative strategies to maintain their imaging practices and circumvent censorship. Specifically, I focus on women and their feminist self-imagining artistic practices that include the body, often in nude or, what Instagram would signify in ‘sexually suggestive ways’ that employ certain technical and aesthetic strategies. These strategies include, but are not limited to, privatizing accounts, using photographic techniques to abstract the body and its parts, nuancing sexuality, but also taking the risk to create artistic nudes and dismiss the guidelines in favor of artistic communication. As such I ask, what are the effects of Instagram’s content management policies on feminist self-imagining practices? I historicize these practices within the lineage of 60s and 70s feminist body art that relied on breaking the boundaries of social and legal policies of what was ideologically acceptable as art. Specifically, I look to work of Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke whose work was often dismissed because of its sexual content (Jones, 2006). Using a mobile methods approach, I conduct interviews with five popular female Instagram users about their: 1) practice; 2) precarious position of posting nude images; 3) strategies for artistic intent; and 4) sharing of work on such a closed controlled IB-MSN. In part, I will also engage in a discourse analysis of their photos and its content and context, including hashtags used, captions, and so on. Finally, I question the ideological subjectivity of the Instagram nudity clause considering its pejorative rhetoric of: “keep your clothes on” (http://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/) that is resonant of commentary towards many feminist body artists.
Shiny Happy People Holding Guns: 21st Century Images of War
When US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan filter their war experiences through visual aesthetics characteristic of contemporary mobile messaging culture, they produce a new visual discourse for war in the internet age. My analysis of 250 Facebook photos reveals an emphasis on colloquial representations of young adult life: hanging out, goofing off, playing games, and wearing costumes. For example, one image depicts two Marines in full desert camouflage posing for a picture while wearing skeleton masks. The Marine on the left looks down at his digital camera, either reviewing a photo or getting ready to hand it off to the “shooter.” The gear in the photo (masks aside) suggests that they are prepared for a combat scenario. Mortars and rockets could hit their base at any moment. The silliness and nonchalance captured in the photo seems antithetical to their physical locale, especially a condition of immanent danger. Most audiences would not recognize this as a combat scenario. Photos like this reflect the ways in which our shifting visual repertoire-with emphases on friendship, domesticity, and spontaneity- modifies visual discourses for contemporary war. If knowledge of war hinges on its representation, then what do these images contribute?
Author: Lisa Silvestri The University of Iowa
The image is now live: Appropriation, copyright and collaboration on Instagram
In 2013, with more than 100 million registered users (a category that has grown rapidly and steadily since the image-sharing social network was launched in October 2010), Instagram is the giant among photo-sharing services. Although the Instagram application works only on iPhone and Android phones and the Apple iPad, its popularity is fueled by being able to simultaneously publish photos elsewhere as well, including to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Tumblr. Most users post photographs they have taken themselves, either with cell phones or other cameras. Any photo that can be accessed from the mobile device can be uploaded and published via Instagram. The program is famous for its ready-to-use filters to enhance and alter images. Many use them; many do not. Visual editing, however, is extremely popular on Instagram. Hundreds of applications (apps), mostly free or inexpensive, offer more complex and varied editing opportunities than the basic Instagram filters. Instagram provides unlimited comment space to facilitate discussion or photo details. Around those editing options, global communities have formed. One of the largest, Applifam, has more than 10,000 followers and an active membership from more than 20 countries, according to a recent survey. It offers daily challenges, coaching, and a nurturing climate. It recently formalized itself as ESAF, Electronic Social Art Foundation, based in France, and has held physical art shows of contributors’ work. Although this paper will contextualize Applifam by describing other groups, the focus is on the work produced there and observed over the past year. During that time, the group (led by a moderator) has grappled with ethical and legal ways to use images in a technological environment that makes image theft easy, a cultural “remix” environment that finds unauthorized uses natural, an artistic environment that values the symbolic statements of appropriation art, a legal environment that varies by country, and a socially collaborative environment that may or may not reward strict adherence to copyright standards despite the group’s policies. The result will be a rare look, through artifacts and comments produced by many people connected by explicit visual criteria, at evolving standards regarding our common visual heritage.
Author: Leslie-Jean Thornton Arizona State University
Remixing, reposting, and reblogging: Copyright law, visual works, and social media
Social media has changed the way people engage with content and each other. With social media, users can create, share, remix, edit, and collaborate together in ways unimaginable just a few short years ago. Social media has also challenged the ability of existing legal rules to deal with novel situations. Communication law-from defamation law to privacy law to intellectual property-has often struggled to keep up with digital technologies and social media. The purpose of this paper is examine how copyright law has adapted to-or struggled to adapt to-the rise of social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Youtube, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, and other mobile video applications that allow users to post, copy, edit and remix visual media content. Because social media users are both creators and users of others work, it is important they understand both the rights and limitations of copyright law. The paper both explains the current status of copyright law as it applies to social media and visual works and offers suggestions for how copyright law might be reformed to better encourage expression and creativity on social media sites. First, the paper explains the basics of copyright law. Next, it explores how the law governs the use of visual content on social media platforms, discussing current case law and legislative proposals. This section focuses on fair use, the ability to use photos and videos found on social media, and linking and embedding videos. Third, the paper examines how websites’ and Internet Service Providers’ terms of service and technological architecture can control content and restrict the rights of users. This section examines technologies and policies such as Pinterest’s “no pin” code and YouTube’s content ID system. The paper argues that individual sites’ code and contracts must be designed to ensure a balance between the private interest in visual content ownership and the public’s interest in the dissemination of information and the promotion of creativity. Finally, the paper concludes with suggestions for how copyright might adept to deal with visual content in the social media age.
Author: Derigan Silver University of Denver
Back to the 1990s? Revisiting 20th century digital image ethics debates via Instagram
Concerns about photography’s faithfulness to a supposedly objective reality are as old as the medium itself. Those concerns were heightened, however, in the 1980s and 1990s, when digital technologies made it vastly easier to edit images in ways that occluded spatial and temporal separations. In journalism, such practices generally were regarded as deceptive or potential deceptive. News photographers and photo editors were fired, reprimanded, or publically criticized for deleting or digitally covering objects that were deemed offensive or cluttered the composition; for creating composites of two frames; for toning images for political, sociological, or aesthetic reasons; or for altering the content of images to create compositions that fit traditional media formats. Judgments tended to be rather black and white. Alteration generally was considered unethical, absent the defense that altering images with digital technologies would avoid harm to those pictured or merely reproduce standard darkroom techniques to allow reproduction of differences that the eye but not the camera lens could perceive. This paper argues that somewhat different, and potentially more complex, ethics-related questions are raised by news media uses of the mobile image-sharing application Instagram. One of the most prominent features of that application-besides traditionally square image shape-are the filters that users can apply to create special effects. Some filters can enhance photos aesthetically, producing by digital means images that could have been made in analog contexts only by careful attention to exposures. Other often-used filters digitally “age” photos, creating a nostalgic affect that suggests a collective memory of the Polaroid era. Used by photo hobbyists, these alterations to reality might at first seem to pose little concern. Questions arise, however, when filtered images become such a common currency of visual culture that they are embraced by journalists. This paper analyzes the evolving defenses of and objections to filtered images in journalism and compares the arguments around them to arguments about image alteration in earlier digital eras.
Author: Susan Keith Rutgers University
September 26th, 2013 § § permalink
Ever since I took part in a month-long intensive course in Chiapas with the Hemispheric Institute this summer, I cannot stop thinking about femicide, the gendered killing of women because they are women. Being concerned with violence, and violence against women is not a new thing for me—my personal history would never allow anything but. But… this has provided me with a new way and a new language in thinking about the gendered violence politic. Being exposed to the notion of femicide has also given me a strength to pursue some feminist issues in my art and scholarly practice I did not think were relevant, worthy or of import. I recognize that the brutal killing of women takes place everywhere and has been happening since the beginning of time, but I am interested in the particular case study of Juarez and why it was in the 90s that the concept of femicide came about.
Me spreading rose petals on faces of femicide victims as part of an installation by Doris Difarnecio. San Cristobal de las Casas, 2013. Photo by nk.
I just finished reading:
The Femicide Machine
Sergio González Rodríguez
The Femicide Machine is a short, sharp, and dense contextualization of femicide in Mexico framed within neoliberal policies of Latin America and the USA, by novelist, journalist, political force, and PhD Candidate Sergio González Rodríguez who began his femicide investigations in Ciudad Juárez in 1996.
González Rodríguez focuses on the life of femicide as part of a connected network between neoliberal policy, drug cartels, the complicity of governments, and the consequences of that interplay on the transborder town of Ciudad Juárez. Femicide is the gendered killing of women because they are women often accompanied by sexual assault. It is made possible by contemporary political systems. The femicide machine is a fluid, disembodied assemblage that, in order to reproduce, is constantly multiplying and changing based on whatever it is feeding off of, like a Serres-ian parasite, making it difficult to manage or fight. In short, it is composed of violence and is “inscribed within a particular structure of the Neo-Fordist economy” (pp.9). It is difficult to define what it is, and as such, González Rodríguez is concerned with what it does and how it is able to do so —with unlimited assistance of governments that depend on it and thus create indifference and amnesia in their people. He notes in a BookForum interview,
“[the machine] refers to a whole system of relations between power and people that operates through economic, political, social, and cultural dimensions. It is an interconnected system that influences reality through abstract patterns and designed practices in order to achieve specific objectives: gain, productivity, and control. This is the logic of the new global order.”
The effects of the new global order logic on Ciudad Juárez are well defined in The Femicide Machine. The book provides a history of Ciudad Juárez, its maquila (manufacturing assembly) workforce boom in the 1950s and the simultaneous rise in poverty and violence. The government did nothing to account for this growth, and all basic social and health services could do was decline as more people needed them. Yet, more people kept migrating in search for work, and in search of crossing over to the USA. In turn, the Ciudad Juárez/El Paso border became of the most busy human transit nodes in the world. The difference of this transborder is staggering: Ciudad Juárez is one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico and El Paso, Texas, is stated to be the second safest city in the USA. How can this be? How do the governing bodies work together to create such a divide? How does the US ideology penetrate the Mexican multitude? Little is mentioned of religion’s role in the femicide machine, and I’m curious in what ways it relies, because it must, on Catholicism. Mexico is one of the most Catholic countries in the world.
When the legal workforce in Ciudad Juárez declined after the 2008 crisis it did not stop migration into the city, increased an illegal workforce, and amplified violence. Although the concept of illegal work needs to be questioned since the police force and the state depend on and work with many of the powerful drug cartels. This complicity is convenient in its efficacy to dismiss the systemic and systematic violence against women in the region, which finally reached public criticism in 1993. Statistics are sketchy to total how many hundreds of women have been victims of femicide because no one is able to systematically keep track. When a group of scholars concerned with violence against women wanted to set up a comprehensive investigate structure for each missing woman the authorities refused to put it into practice. González Rodríguez makes clear there is no justice for the women and for those that try to expose the tragedies.
The book finishes with an epilogue, “Instructions for taking Textual Photographs”. It’s a reconstructed story based on a femicide victim, Lilia Alejandra Garcia Andrade, from the point of view of her mother who in the end is also killed as she fights for femicido justice. That section and the following “textual photographs” were the most evocative, and cogently demonstrate where the author shines—in experimenting with form and style.
Ni Una Más
August 29th, 2013 § § permalink
Next week I am going to Lancaster, UK to present a paper at Mobility Futures at Lancaster University’s Centre for Mobilities Research. My supervisor Kim Sawchuk is one of the invited speakers! Going places with my supervisor always leaves me feeling so badass, even now. I can’t believe I’m entering the third year of my PhD in September—I still feel like such a kid.
I’ll be spending the weekend after in London seeing some friends, dancing my ass off (even though everyone will be gone to Outlook Festival) & shopping at YMC and MUJI.
I am pretty stoked on my paper presentation! I hope people dig it & give me some constructive feedback. It’s a similar but more mobilities-centric version of a paper I was invited to present at the Sound & Dissent symposium in February. I want to get this published somewhere because I reckon it’s a significant departure from anything that has been written on the strike & protest in general. But if you know of similar work, please point me in that direction. Chiapas rejuvenated me to recognize all the work I have already put into preserving the strike’s legacy and to keep pursuing it.
Title: The 2012 Quebec Student Strike: the movement of protest as a plurality of resistances
Author: Magdalena Olszanowski
For six months in 2012, people took to the streets of Montreal, Canada to protest a 75% tuition hike. In this paper I draw attention toward the soundscapes of daily nocturnal protests of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike in order to develop a means of articulating the plurality of resistances at play through the mobility constituting these events. By using these ambulatory nocturnal protests as a case study, I argue that a dichotomous, or what I call a singular resistance discourse, fails to account for the multi-layered complexity and intentionality of resistance by reductively signifying a given occurrence of resistance as either positive or negative. Mainstream media reinforces the ideological terrain and flow of a city by neatly circumscribing the protest movement as “criminal” and “disruptive” and the city as “victim”, marking the city as passive rather than as an active player processing flows of communication in a network. By defining the city as event as “the relationships constructed in and around the network processing the flows of communication” (Castells, 2010: 232), we can situate the resistances at play in the student strike in explicit relation to each other and to the urban environment through a coordinated movement. By drawing upon Alfred Whitehead’s (1933) terms occurrence and event I contrast two different ways of thinking of resistance. If we think of resistance in the plural —as resistance already applying to an arrangement of related occurrences rather than as a dichotomy between a resistance (i.e., the student movement) and an establishment— then we move towards ways of thinking the sounds and movements of protest in their reshaping of the city as event. This paper argues that the city as event is a site of multiple, mobile and fluid resistances that take place through sets of occurrences that emerge iteratively. These location-specific occurrences include the sounds of protest; forms of sonic crowd dispersal; traffic jams; police blockades; (un)willing listeners such as denizens and tourists; as well as sounds and movements absorbed by architecture and animal life. By analyzing the social and physical environment this paper presents a nuanced understanding of the complex relations of resistant, perhaps even parasitic (Serres, 2007), movements and activities within the human and non-human context of a “host city” and their consequences for mobilities scholarship.
I build upon mobilities scholarship on affect and urban space theory to develop an account of how the mobile occurrences of protest rearrange the city as event. By thinking of resistance in the plural, the boundary between the “criminal” and “victim” dichotomy that is ever-present in protest events becomes blurred, constituting the city as a site for a symbiotic movement of resistances.
Castells, M. (2000). The rise of the network society: Rise of the network society. Oxford: Blackwell.
Serres, M. (2007). The Parasite. (L. R. Schehr, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Whitehead, A. N. (1933). Adventures of ideas. New York: Macmillan Co.
August 2nd, 2013 § § permalink
I’ve been in San Cristobal de las Casas as part of NYU’s Hemispheric Institute and staying here till the end of the month. I’m keeping a blog about it with personal reflection (oh there is a lot of that) and my photographs. I am updating it retroactively. I’d love any & all comments.
April 3rd, 2013 § § permalink
This Saturday, W. Lockett and I will be attempting a live mediated performance of a google doc cursor dance, The Ecstatics of a Google Drive (pre)Cursor. Come check it out! It’s at the Challenges & Futures of Communication Conference. My other friends D. Madden & O. Chapman will be DJing & it’s free.
6 April 2013 » 17h-20h
Concordia University, 1515 St. Catherine W.
EV Building, 11th FL.
The central tenant of post-industrial capitalism is a futurity based on data. Bits travel through the trivial deliberative agency of the individual on their way to a manifestation of a prognosticated situation. Many events are then odd repetitions of something that existed in the first place as an information-rich model of a future state of affairs. From the scale of financial capitalism’s systemization of material flows down to the dailyness of the creative worker, information preceded the existence of its object. The grant, design brief, and various other forms of “pitch” act as precursors that gather together hints of the yet to come, condensing potentials for creation through the assemblage of information.
This performance enacts the creation of a text, presents the existence of an object that it suggests into being, and uses collective digitizations of linguistic thought as a means of gathering together the potentials that inform creation. The performers collaborate in the creation of a document from a remote location using Google Drive, and the real-time writing process is projected into the gallery space. Their cursors dance on the screen and the text is written and revised while the producers communicate information about the quality of the text in formation and commune over the felt experience of the act of creation as it is situated and gains significance in process.
Though each cursor relates to its companion and to the text that is created, the subject of their dialogic invention is the future existence of the very piece being shown in the gallery space. The work precedes itself, and these (pre)cursors lock themselves into the performance of a situation that never quite catches up with itself. The performance ensures its existence only by inventing the stage for its next iteration. Rather than defining performance as an ephemeral occurrence, or as an event that produces its own archive in the act of being performed, Ecstatics of a Google Drive (Pre)cursor places the performance in a present defined by its persistent encroachment upon potentiality. This enactive rethinking of performance positions the artist as a creative worker exploiting the future-oriented framework of a careerist art world in order to determine the stable set of information sources that can be used to define the contours of possible events yet to come. The present of performance remains but exists only as the (pre)cursor informing its horizons. The relationality of two Google Drive cursors is enacted as an ecstatic excitation of a future event that emerges through the movements of gathering, assembling, searching, inscription, and communication enacted by the two performers.
The performers will identify a future event that will be suitable for the next iteration of Ecstatics of a Google Drive (Pre)cursor. The performance for Challenges and Futures of Communication will consist in the creation—on Google Drive, and in collaboration between the two performers—of the proposal for this future event. The research and writing process that enters into the creation of the proposal for the future iteration of the performance will be broadcast over the internet and projected into the gallery space using a live video stream. The performance will also be recorded using real-time, moving image screen capture software. The recording of the performance will be installed for the duration of the show along side a computer monitor displaying the inbox of an email client that awaits the coming news of the performance’s self-manifesting reiteration. In the context of Challenges and Futures of Communication, Ecstatics of a Google Drive (Pre)cursor will act as a research-creation piece questioning the contemporary status of “the future” as a facet of communication’s temporal orientedness and investigating the role of human subjects in the use of digital technologies that shift the means by which pre- individual fields of potential are manifest through performance.
January 13th, 2013 § § permalink
Standing with Art Giants, 2009, digital print, 30” x 22,5”
So many things happening. I missed the vernissage for the Red On The Walls exhibition in November 2012 because I ended up at the hospital & didn’t get to see my work hanging up in the Segal Centre among wine glasses & cheese in people’s mouths. This upcoming semester, I am presenting at a sound symposium at Concordia, the FSAC (Film Studies Association of Canada) Graduate Conference (again!) & presenting a demo of my documentary, microfemininewarfare at the HASTAC Conference in April (which means I gotta get that shit together!). In the meantime, I am also going down to NYC to document Mileece at MoMA next month! Gotta keep it local to save that grant money…
Sound and Dissent Symposium on Friday, February 1
Title: The nocturnal sounds of 2012 Quebec Student Strike: experiencing protest as a plurality of resistances
Abstract: The night marches of the 2012 Quebec Student Strike are a crucial feature of the movement’s sonic legacy. In particular, I refer to my own first hand experiences during the night protests in order to develop a means of articulating the plurality of resistances at play. By drawing upon Whitehead’s terms occurrence and event I contrast two different ways of thinking of resistance. If we think of resistance in the plural —as resistance already applying to an arrangement of related occurrences rather than as a dichotomy between a resistance (i.e., the student movement) and an establishment— then we move towards ways of thinking the sounds of protest in their reshaping of the city as event. This paper argues that the city as event is a site of multiple resistances that take place through sets of occurrences that emerge iteratively. These occurrences include the sounds of protest; forms of sonic crowd dispersal; unwilling listeners such as denizens and tourists; as well as sounds absorbed by architecture and animal life. By pluralizing the resistances at play, I build upon recent scholarship on the positive affects of the casseroles and develop an account of how these nocturnal sounds rearrange the city as event.
Whitehead, Alfred. Adventures in Ideas. New York: Macmillan, 1933.
Film Studies Association of Canada Graduate Colloquium: Transitions and Translations: New Approaches to the Moving Image
Hosted by Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University
Montréal, Québec, March 1-2, 2013
Paper title: Creating Space(s): Reading interactive documentary as an experimental feminist practice
Abstract: Interactive cinema consists of moving images on a screen, which must be temporally and spatially manipulated by the viewer. As widely known, narratives unfold across both time and space; in an interactive film, the audience has the ability to control this unfolding in time and space. This paper will present the saliency of using new filmmaking methods to highlight the need for innovative modes of presenting women’s narratives. Specifically, the genre of interactive documentary, and its capacity for new types of feminist story-telling will be explored. Drawing on various K-films, including my own K-documentary on female electronic music artists, I unpack the potentials of database-driven documentaries. K-films are interactive, non-linear films driven by a database of source material and editorial constraints (that establish the relationships between source scenes) put forward by the filmmaker. They are produced using the Canadian-German co-developed open source software Korsakow.
My paper situates the practices of interactive documentary filmmaking within feminist experimental film practices, a mode of production that challenges masculinist avant-garde aesthetic dogmas “by juxtaposing narrativity and non-narrativity, deploying narrative pleasure alongside narrative disruption, providing viewers with identification as well as critical distance” (Petrolle and Wexman, 2005: 3).
The development of new cinematic technologies, such as the K-film, have the potential to provide (new) spaces of articulation aligned with the feminist ethos of partial, fragmented perspectives (Haraway, 1991). Experimental feminist filmmakers are often united “in their intensive use of associative and disjunctive rather then linear editing” (Blaetz, 2007: 13). As such, I read interactive documentary as an intervention that re-articulates much of the theorization of feminist experimental film practices such as those of Trinh T. Minh-ha and Midi Onodera.
I argue that allowing these technologies, such as Korsakow software, to “do their thing” makes everyone (user, creator, etc.) complicit in the fragmentation of women’s stories. In turn, an iterative self-reflexive process of looking is foregrounded. My use of the interactive medium format does not stem from a reductive utopian vision that new technologies can break down traditional modes of communication but from an exploration in broadening discourses about female subjectivity. The interactive medium can be a fruitful mode of storytelling when it acknowledges, through content and/or style, the discursive ideologies that obfuscate embedded forms of power and oppression.
Further, this type of film form is more about story-revealing than storytelling and allows the non-linear unfolding nature of documentation to be apparent. Through interacting with the documentary, the user/spectator is effectively creating a narrative based on the component parts and consequently is also a producer in the re-creation of the content. This type of collaborative, yet complicit staging is indicative of the feminist practices I outline.
Keywords: interactive cinema, experimental documentary, feminist film-making, K-films
Blaetz, Robin. 2007. Women’s experimental cinema: critical frameworks. Durham: Duke University Press.
Haraway, Donna Jeanne. 1991. Simians, cyborgs, and women: the reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge.
Le Grice, Malcolm. 2001. Experimental cinema in the digital age. London: BFI Pub.
Minh-Ha, Trinh T. 1990. “Documentary Is/Not a Name.” October 52 (Spring): 77-98.
Petrolle, Jean, and Virginia Wright Wexman. 2005. Women and experimental filmmaking. Urbana: University of Illinois.
Ryan, Marie-Laure. 2009. “From Narrative Games to Playable Stories: Toward a Poetics of Interactive Narrative.” StoryWorlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies 1(1): 43-59.
April 25-28, 2013 York University, Toronto, Canada
microfemininewarfare (2013) is an interactive database documentary that investigates female electronic dance music (EDM) artists. The purpose of the documentary is to feature the contributions of women as composers, to show how they came to be composers and to reveal the tactics used to approach significant issues of gender in the EDM community. The documentary profiles the contributions of Alicia Bauer (performing as Alley Cat), Chantal Passamonte (Mira Calix), Christine Clements (Vaccine), Indra Khera (Mantra), Libby Floyd (The Doubtful Guest), Mileece Petre (Mileece), Sabina Plamenova (Subeena/Alis) and Bérangère Maximin. The interactive K-film documentary, comprising over thirty parts that tell a collective story, shows some of the tactics these women use to approach significant issues around gender. In presenting a group of subjects, I displace the dominant reading of EDM as a phallocentric practice of individual DJ-virtuosity and talent that is observed by researchers such as Essl (2003), Friz (2004), Farrugia (2010) and Kirn (2011). I acknowledge the women’s multi-faceted contributions and practices in the community by asking them what tools they are using, how they learned the techniques they employ, where their tools are located (such as the home, the studio or someone else’s house) and what they like or dislike about the technologies they use (Rodgers 2010: 8).
K-films are interactive, non-linear films driven by a database of source material and editorial constraints (that establish the relationships between source scenes) put forward by the filmmaker. They are produced using the open source flash-based software known as Korsakow. microfemininewarfare has dozens of clips but the order in which the user plays them is relatively free within a thematic spider web. The user can either move through these clips thematically or, interchangeably, move through clips of a single artist. As there is no linear “play” function, the user participates by clicking through the vignettes; otherwise, the documentary will not continue. Allowing the Korsakow software to “do its thing” makes everyone (user, creator, etc.) complicit in the fragmentation of the women’s stories—a key component aligned with my feminist ethics. The interactive medium can be a fruitful mode of storytelling when it acknowledges, through content and/or style, the discursive ideologies that obfuscate embedded forms of power and oppression (often the same ones the women in the documentary face). As such, presenting this documentary is aligned with HASTAC’s enthusiasm for new storytelling technologies and their potential for feminist narratives.