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Crawling for Horrors: Tracing Women’s Public Intimacy Online through Guest Books and Webrings 1995-1999

March 26th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

This weekend for SCMS I am presenting some exploratory work that I'm trying to make sense of in my dissertation as part of a kick-ass panel. Thanks to Fenwick McKelvey for inviting me.

Society for Film and Media Studies 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015 09:00AM-10:45AM (Session N)

N20: “Crawling Horrors” in Contemporary Network Policy Room: 20

Chair: Stephanie Schulte (University of Arkansas)

Kevin Driscoll (Microsoft Research), “Beyond the End-to-End Principle: Lessons from Store-and-Forward Internetworking”

Fenwick McKelvey (Concordia University), “Synchronizing Humans and Machines: Early Computer Networks, ARPANET, and Non-synchronous Communication”

Magdalena Olszanowski (Concordia University), “Crawling for Horrors: Tracing Women’s Public Intimacy Online through Guest Books and Webrings 1995-1999” Respondent: Thomas Streeter (University of Vermont)



Crawling for Horrors: tracing public intimacy online through feminist spaces 1995-1999

A horror is defined, among other things, as a bad or mischievous person. Women have been continually signified as horrors (i.e., witches). As outlined in our proposal, a horror can also be an object, an object that re-inscribes itself, finding ways to continually evade signification/control.  The objects I want to explore in my presentation are the traces left behind of websites maintained in the 1990s. These traces as fragmented links/pages/images have remained attached  to the network, are archived by the WayBack Machine, not written over by Yahoo and/or Geocities, or removed by their owners. The period from 1995 to 1999 is of interest because it comes just before the internet boom of social networking and blogging platforms. Specifically, I look to website guestbooks and webrings of young women who started websites as platforms of enunciation around the horrors of mental illness, violence, and compulsory heterosexuality.  Guestbooks are public spaces built for visitors to leave their contact information and comments to the web-owner or other people commenting in the guestbook. Webrings are self-organized networks of websites, often with a theme, that serve to link users interested in that theme. These communicative networks were a large part of the internet infrastructure in the 1990s, and created conditions for an alternate layer of finding relevant data through human versus algorithmic web crawling. Through content and discourse analysis, I frame these communicative nodes as participating in a feminist intimate public (Berlant 2008). More specifically, how do we deal with traces of public intimacy? (Olszanowski 2014) What are the politics of horrors? These markers of public intimacy are often left out of internet histories. I want to elucidate an alternate genealogy of the ways in which women make use of online technologies to resist control and create spaces for them to exist (Lovnik 2009). When theorizing contemporary public social networks, what can we learn about the precarity of these practices and their concomitant data (Hestres 2013) from the communicative traces of these women?


Lialina, Olia and Espenschied, Dragan. 2014. “One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age: Digging through the Geocities Torrent” http://contemporary-home-computing.org/1tb/ Accessed 28 Aug 2014.

Berlant, Lauren Gail. 2008. The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hestres, Luis. 2013. “App Neutrality: Apple’s App Store and Freedom of Expression Online.” International Journal of Communication 7: 1265–1280.

Lovink, Geert. 2009. Dynamics of Critical Internet Culture: (1994-2001). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Olszanowski, Magdalena. 2014. “Feminist Self-Imaging and Instagram: Tactics of Circumventing Sensorship.” Visual Communication Quarterly 21, no. 2: 83-95.

Which Bodies? Which Spaces?

January 2nd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

coms324-h1I’m teaching in my Communication Dept at Concordia University again. As PhD students we are guaranteed one course to teach, but many of the students get to teach two. If I could teach three I would be thrilled but that is unlikely because my dissertation needs to be finished and other PhD students need the experience. Last year I taught Advertising & Consumer Culture, which was wildly successful for me. The 39-student class produced exceptional work and never handed in anything late, my reviews were stellar (a significant change from the oft-nasty TA reviews), and the vibes of the class were always intense but jovial. I was sure to implicate myself in all I was teaching —none of us are outside of consumer culture. Although the syllabus was my doing, the course description and assignments were already available to me and I adapted them to suit what I was teaching.

This year, I received carte blanche to teach a second-year course titled Communication Analysis of Environment. The syllabi of the past were wildly different and I wanted to teach the course I always wanted to take. Months of planning, revising, finding readings, feedback with colleagues and it finally came together last month, subtitled “Which Bodies? Which Spaces?” You can check out the syllabus if you’re interested. I’m looking forward to thinking with the students and exploring some heavy subjects without being too didactic or hopeless. The point isn’t to simply demonstrate the horrors of the exclusion of bodies in spaces, to then position us in a binary via a victimhood of Otherness, but to re-position ourselves as complicit in everything that happens in our world and go from there.

I will be incorporating poetry and art that deals with body and space into each module as starting points for us to think about our embodied engagement with space. I am curious of the reaction to poetry. We start with poetry. We end with poetry — the meticulously selected placement of words in places. In places not meant for those words. This means having badass women do guest lectures throughout the semester: artist and curator Francesca Tallone, urban geographer, writer and artist Caroline Ramirez, and disability rights activist, artist and scholar Laurence Parent.


Bodies make spaces speak. Bodies extend space. Space is constructed for specific bodies. In this way, spaces and bodies co-construct each other. Recognizing our bodies as multifaceted, fluid has significant implications for our values, lifestyles and social relations.  The body is not a singular bounded entity but a multiplicity.

This course offers a critical and creative investigation into the parameters and meanings of our body in space and the communicative connection between bodies and space(s). We examine the different ways in which the ways we conceptualize the body and the way it influences, informs and reproduces the ways in which we situate ourselves in the world and the way we analyze, observe, and understand the environment around us. We explore different forms of analysis in order to become critically aware of the power that upholds a hierarchy of the body.

The course is organized around three questions that each week’s module explores:  1) What types of bodies have access to what types of spaces? 2) What happens when we disrupt spaces with bodies that are generally excluded? 3) How do environments reproduce ideology? In part, we will explore these questions with case studies such as, but not limited to:  The Situationist International, feminicide in Canada, the Quebec Student Strike, indigenous land rights, women who attempt to circumvent censorship online, disability rights protests in Montreal, #icantbreathe.

Care Sharing: Body Tools in Motion, an Interview with Lindsay Eales and Danielle Peers

March 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink



When NoMorePotlucks contacted me about doing an interview with Danielle Peers and Lindsay Eales for the PERFORM issue, I was elated to explore the performative and theoretical layers of their Crippin the Crutch: Body Tools in Motion performance that debuted in its current form at the Differential Mobilities Conference in Spring 2013 in Montreal.


Using theories of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, whom Eales and Peers firmly state are disability scholars, as well as Robert McRuer, author of Crip Theory (2006), Crippin the Crutch is a choreographed articulation of the complex relations between tools, our own subjectivities, our bodies, and those of others. Those relations constitute the way mobility is enacted personally, politically, and socially. Eales and Peers question how tools of mobility are read, and foreground the insidious ideology that marks these tools as objects to “achieve independence,” which they read as “enacting a passable performance of compulsory able-bodiedness.” Eales and Peers’s theorization of tools posits that anything can be a tool – a wheelchair, a person or a community. The tools must strive, however, to be in an ethical relation with each other, the environment and the people in that relation. I learn that this is part of a larger ethics that Lindsay calls “care sharing. Care sharing is a state of being that not only acknowledges a constant symbiotic interdependence between all beings but also honors the sharing of care.


On a sunny Sunday morning, I Skype’d with the couple at length about Crippin’ the Crutch, performance, performativity and the potential of exploding the reductive and oppressive ideologies of compulsory able-bodiedness, and how they strive to do that in their quotidian, artistic, activist, and scholarly collaborations. Any ideological framing wants to preclude play and that’s exactly what Eales and Peers do, they play and crip these signifiers towards a more ethical, radical, and explosive understanding of disability.


Read the interview on NOMOREPOTLUCKS.


Differential Mobilities Conference

December 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I do a lot of event photography I never post up on my personal site, even though it is something I enjoy and have been doing for a long time.

Part of my duties at my supervisor’s Mobile Media Lab is to take photos of events, people & important stuff. This past spring I was lucky to photograph the Differential Mobilities Conference and capture its unyielding vivacious spirit. Here are some of my favorite shots:

Rhythm Aesthetics: Vine & contemporary mobile moving image production practices

November 6th, 2013 § 0 comments § 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. 1

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.

  1. Our short paper ended up being rejected.Two reviewers gave us high points, whereas one reviewer clearly missed the point with their line by line critique that sounded a whole lot like mansplaining. We weren’t the only ones to suffer from a strange bout of reviewer complications this year. The debates around it lasted weeks on the AOIR list-serv.

Feminist Self-Imaging and Instagram: Strategies of Circumventing Censorship

November 2nd, 2013 § 1 comment § 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.


» Read the rest of this entry «

UK-bound with my red square.

August 29th, 2013 § 0 comments § 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.

bouge, bouge, bouge

May 23rd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

As a result of the draconian measures during the QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE — One year ago today I was kettled, arrested and humiliated on a STM bus that served as a makeshift holding cell for the 400+ of us that were kettled on the corner of St-Denis and Sherbrooke, a Montreal corner I have not been able to move past since then. Surely, the kettle of that many people did not just happen because of some thrown rocks or whatever else kind of vandalism the SVPM (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal) made up to justify innocent protestors to get arrested. To kettle that many people takes planning, organization and impeccable timing. It also requires a lot of moles. At this point I had been going to many day and night marches, wore my red square with pride and engaged in many intense debates and negotiations with my university and colleagues on the issue.

I wrote a reflection on the strike “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” and had a photo essay “#Casserolesencours St-Henri” in open wi: journal of mobile media, a special two-issue edition which I co-edited with Kim Sawchuk, Alison Loader, Owen Chapman and Ben Spencer. I also co-edited a special issue of Transmutations journal, in which I have a sound piece collab with Dave Madden called “The nocturnal sound moves of the Quebec Student Strike” that came out of a paper “The Nocturnal Sounds of 2012 Quebec Student Strike: Experiencing Protest as a Plurality of Resistances” I presented at the Sound & Dissent symposium at Concordia 1 February 2013. I’m presenting another version of this paper in Lancaster, UK at the Mobility Futures conference, and hope to publish it following that feedback. I also had a long-form interview on the CBC “As it Happens”, a spot on CTV, CKUT roundtable and Guardian UK interview discussing my arrest. Clearly, the student strike has inscribed my body and my artistic and scholarly practice in endless ways…

The story I wrote regarding my arrest was published in n+1: montreal diaries (all the photos are mine too) and open wi: journal of mobile media is below.

Detention on St-Denis
May 27, 2012

The night I am arrested is a warm spring night, the thirtieth night of continuous protests to be exact. It’s the day after the May 22 rally that inspired over 200,000 people to walk through the streets of Montreal. My friend Paul and I are riding our bikes in the demo. We talk about the people around us, their families, their children; about how happy we are, how incredible it is to be marching here, and how much we love the city. The crowd moves fast. Unlike the other nights we’ve marched, which felt tense and uncomfortable, tonight is jovial and vibrant.

We get off our bikes at Rue St-Denis. Boom! We hear a blast, and a cloud of smoke hovers over the intersection. I’m not sure where we are. People start running toward me.

“Get your fucking bike out of the way!”

I try to run north on St-Denis in the direction of the crowd, but they start to head toward me, pushing me back. I yell for Paul. “Please don’t leave,” I say, as we both try to maneuver our bikes northwest, but there’s no getting them above the high curb and through the throng of bodies. North of us are two rows of Montreal police (Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, or SVPM). We’re turning around to go back down when the tear gas grips the back of my throat. I wrap my shawl around my nose and mouth, scrambling and anxious, wondering what the fuck is going on. I feel like I’m going in a circle. Suddenly the police are charging us, and I try to run the other way, but the bike is unwieldy and I’m nervous I will lose Paul. The cops start shoving from the other side, and every time I turn my head there are more cops with masks and shields lunging toward us, smoke hanging overhead, until there’s no way out. Then it starts again: “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, MARCHE, MARCHE.” So we move, but more cops on the other side are shouting the same thing from the other direction. I hold onto Paul’s arm, unable to think, dizzy from tear gas and anxiety, my heart pounding through my rib cage. Every time I move one way, I am pushed back the other way. I tighten my shawl for fear of more tear gas and can hardly stand. We ask the cops if we can lock our bikes to a stand. We beg enough that they concede, and then promptly shove us back into the streets. I imagine this may be the last time I see my bicycle.

“What’s happening?” I ask.

“I think we were just kettled,” Paul says.

“What? No, after the G20, they’re not allowed to do that.”

“Oh, I think they just did.”

I don’t believe him.

We stand around for a while. I tweet uncertainties. Everyone is milling about in a circle. People start shouting chants about freedom and civil liberties. Eventually most of us sit down.

I sit in silence, staring at everyone around me. Their faces are at ease, comfortable.

“What do you think is going to happen?”

“I don’t know—they’ll probably arrest us.”

“They can’t arrest us all . . . there’s so many of us.”

“Sure they can,” Paul says, and walks off.

I let him go and stay on the curb, hugging my knees to my chest, waiting. When Paul comes back, I tell him to sit beside me. We watch a makeshift football game with a ball made out of a plastic bottle.

Paul notes that several public buses have arrived.

“Why?” I ask.

“To transport us.”

People start getting up, and I hear a police officer announcing something.

“ . . . anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. . .”

“The cats!” I suddenly remember.


“I left them without food because I’m trying to put them on a diet!”

“Can you call any friends to feed them?”

“I will call my superintendent, but it’s so late, and what will I say? I got arrested, will you please feed my cats?”

“We should line up,” Paul says to me. “Imagine how long it’s going to take to process everyone. If we line up now, we’ll get out earlier.”

I grab his shoulder as he leads me up to the front, where some elderly people are already in line. I am nervous. There’s so much misinformation about where we’re going, where we will be held, what we are getting arrested for, and whether Bill 78 will be enacted. No one seems to know and the cops say something different every time.

I walk up.

“Do you have ID?”

“Yes,” I reply as one of the cops searches my bag.

“What a mess in there,” he mutters in French to his colleague.

They find my ID, search me, grab my shoulders to turn me around, and handcuff my wrists together.

Two policemen walk me to the line by the bus, holding my purse, and wait until it’s my turn to get on. They write down my identification information and give me a wristband with a number to claim my purse later. I sit down and wait. The bus fills up with people younger than me. Then we wait. Eventually, the bus starts moving and we drive, and drive, and drive. Once in northeast Montreal, we wait some more. The buses become holding cells. I feel sick—tear gas, nausea, and my bladder kicking in. Lightheaded, I ask a cop if I can go to the bathroom. She rolls her eyes and tells me to sit down. I ask again. I wait. I ask the other cops. Each insists that everyone on the bus has to urinate and that, like them, I have to wait.

“What if I pee my pants?”

“Then you have to live with it.”

“So then if I pee on the bus I won’t get in trouble?”

“Go away, you won’t do that.”

I return to my seat but the pain is unbearable.

I crouch down in the middle of the bus and a few women stand around me creating a human shield, while I pull down my leggings with my handcuffed hands –— I piss, and I piss, and I keep pissing until the stream of urine rolls around the bus under everyone’s feet.

“You are brave. Be glad you did that. Fuck ’em.”

I smile sheepishly and appreciate the camaraderie, as the rest of the bus erupts in anger at the police.

“How can you let a woman pee on the bus? How can you treat us like animals?”

“Because you are. Shut up and stay put,” the police shout back, which only causes more yelling.

“A woman peed on the bus! A woman peed on the bus! You should be ashamed!” some of them chant in unison, but the police don’t even turn around to look at us. I watch my piss run back and forth. By now, another man is doing the same thing: flooding the bus with urine. Somehow this makes time pass more quickly. An hour later our bus pulls up to the processing table and a smiling policeman hands me a ticket as the morning sun hits my face.

That night over 400 people were arrested at Sherbrooke Avenue and Rue St-Denis. Most of us were given $634 tickets for breaking the newly revised municipal bylaw P-6, which, among other things, does not allow face coverings, such as the shawl I used, and requires that protest organizers submit exact march routes to the police. Free speech is now only free when the police grant us permission.

Mutations by Lillian Schwartz, 1973

March 31st, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Since my PhD research is broadly concerned with feminist, or at least female, digital media production, I’ve been trying to track down documentation (other than the rare anecdotes in books & articles) on women doing cool shit. Assuming I had watched all the doc’s available on electronic music  OHM+: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music popped up. It’s a DVD collection of excerpts of interviews, performances, short films by some interesting pioneers in electronic music, perhaps not “gurus” but I guess this shit has to be marketed somehow. The experimental film Mutations definitely stood out. Mutations is a 1973 film done at the Bell Labs by computer art pioneer Lillian F. Schwartz with music by French composer Jean-Claude Risset, based on his Mutations I, also done at the Bells Labs in 1969 using Max Mathews’s Music V. Mutations I was completely computer synthesized & the first work to include FM synthesis. It was commissioned by Office de Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise. But for my purpose,s I want to focus on the film & the woman who made it happen.

The OHM+ booklet states: “Schwartz used computer-synthesized images animated by computer, along with speeded-up crystal growth filmed in polarized light, and laser beams difracted through transperent plastic volumes (the heat from the laser distorts the plastic, causing the beams to move).”

I wonder how the crystal growth was filmed to achieve these colours? Using some sort of microphotography? The taupe, pink, purple tones are incredible. I want a dress in this pattern! They work so well with the computer synthesized proto-pixel-art that looks like cells forming and dividing, that I’ve researched is actually The Game of Life.

Schwartz is a still a prolific artist and scholar of visual perception & sound, among other endeavours,  and has become my new obsession (being a VJ — I am always looking for bizarre experiments before the ease of pre-written computer software). She has also been instrumental for the use of the computer in the philosophy of art. Her artistic catalogue is going to take me weeks to get through. Basically, she is a fucking bad ass who everyone should know about. I’m surprised I never came across her work before.

At 41, in 1968 she took computer math at The New School in NYC & subsequently became an in-house artist and researcher of color & perception at the Bell Labs for the next 33 years. She started working with scientists who were thrilled at the idea of an artist wanting to reconfigure the linearity of computer programs at the time, and wanting to add color to push the boundaries of animation. This was also a huge draw for Max Mathews, who never worked with an animator as part of the process of computer programming sounds before. During her time at the Bell Labs in the 70s and 80s, Schwartz invented a variety of computer system techniques for artists to use.

Pop Montreal was going to host a Lillian Schwartz Retrospective 1969-1976 in Montreal last year but it was cancelled. Too bad, UbuWeb‘s page for her gives me an error.

Lillian Schwartz at Flaherty NYC – September 12, 2011 from Philip Wilde/Ann Michel. Skip ahead to 18:04 for the interview

Academia, Academia — Updates

January 13th, 2013 § 1 comment § 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.

Works Cited
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.

HASTAC Decennial Conference 2013 — The Storm of Progress: New Horizons

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.

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