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.
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.
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.
I feel isolated. Physically isolated. I totally did it to myself. I decided to, ad naseum, tell everyone: I am busy; I am busy; I can’t hang out; what, you want me to do that?; no, I can’t; I’m busy; maybe another time.
Instead I sit all day long, squishing my lower back to death, writing my doctoral exam, but mostly procrastinating looking at nesting/design blogs and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and Girls while feeling sorry for what my life has become. The old adage says that academia is a lonely and isolating place. I never would have believed it. I never experienced that during my MA. But now, in a new city, it’s so easy to spend days alone, days just in your thoughts. I guess I have to feel sorry for myself for a moment to shake this shit out of me, and get me OUTSIDE.
Ingold, T. (2011). Being alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description. London: Routledge. “Prologue” 3-14; Section “A Storied World” 141-176; “Ways of Mind-Walking” 196-209.
Lemos, A. (2010). Post-Mass Media Functions, Locative Media, and Informational Territories: New Ways of Thinking About Territory, Place, and Mobility in Contemporary Society. Space and Culture, 13 (4), 403-420.
Lord, S., & Marchessault, J. (2007). Fluid screens, expanded cinema. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Introduction, 3-25; “The Networked Screen” 74-95; “Feminist Digital Aesthetics” 145-159.
Lundby, K. (2009). Digital storytelling, mediatized stories: Self-representations in new media. New York: P. Lang.
Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Pp. 75-114; 130-161; 190-212.
Massey, D. B. (2005). For space. London: SAGE.
Munster, A. (2006). Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics. Hanover: Dartmouth College.
Rees, A. L. (2011). Expanded cinema: Art, performance, film. London: Tate Gallery Pub.
Ruston, S. (2010). Storyworlds on the Move: Mobile Media and Their Implications for Narrative. Storyworlds 2, 101-120.
Shaviro, S. (2010). Post-Cinematic Affect: On Grace Jones, Boarding Gate and Southland Tales. Film-Philosophy 14(1), 1-102.
Sheller, M & Urry, J. (2007). The New Mobilities Paradigm. Environment & Planning,38(2), 207-226.
Youngblood, G. (1970). Expanded cinema. New York: Dutton.
Thrift, N J. (2007). Non-representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. Milton Park: Routledge.
Whitehead, A. N. (1933). Adventures of ideas. New York: Macmillan Co.
I wanted to write something yesterday, about Canada Day and its phases of being intense and dramatic and shifting my whole self, but I hadn’t slept from the night before and was full of amorous energy that kept me in bed with my fantasies most of the day. I did manage to bike over in as little clothes as possible to Atwater Market to buy some fruit and eat lunch. I had my usual chicken satay as Alex (co-owner of Satay Brothers) sat down on the bench with me excitably remarking about the potential spaces he’s found for his upcoming restaurant. He could barely sit still and it was more like a dance with his eyes toward the world. I was too delirious from being under-slept to fully listen. Him and J made fast friends and call each other Mr. Meat Stick and Mr. Wood respectively since J will most likely outfit Alex’s meat venture with his wood. This humour is not lost on me, at all.
my summer wardrobe. spot the red square <3
Sometimes when I bike with draping skirts and dresses I imagine (it like) the scene between Lila and Chimo from Lila dit ça and close my eyes long enough to be a danger to myself and those around me.
A friend recently told me that my writing is defensive, not clear, and full of run-on sentences that are constantly jumping ideas. It’s clear that I have a certain writing style that desires poetry and flow, but because essays are academic writing, they need a certain structure and a certain style. I could write academic articles with poetic style, but in order to do so, I need to be self-assured. I am not self-assured. I hate academic writing. I hate sitting there watching the words come out of me because they are not the words I want. I stop every few minutes. I am distracted. I am upset. I see myself forcing the words out that never sound like the ideas I have. I am disparaged.
“One time in undergrad I had a prof write on my final essay evaluation that my writing is like searching for buried treasure in a deep sea. That the reader can see the shiny treasure and there’s so much of it, but it’s so deep and so difficult to get to, that once they are close they run out of air and have to be hoisted back up again.”
“How poetic… yes,” he nods in agreement.
I lower my head and start to cry into my palms, because I know this anecdote so well. I see this anecdote in my head every time I write. I have had variations of this evaluation said to me countless times by countless profs. Everyone who comes across my academic writing tells me the same thing. This started in high school. Once I received a 0/10 for writing style in a Grade 10 Media Studies Class. I had nearly 10/10 on everything else. How does someone have 0 style? I came to Canada when I was 10, I cannot blame it on that. What is it? I remember always receiving the highest marks in Creative Writing, always. But then what? Academic writing what? I wonder how it’s possible I’ve been able to receive top marks in graduate school, how it’s possible I’m in a PhD program, how it’s possible that there’s such a strong block that obfuscates the clarity and effortlessness I want for my ideas.
He says I need to practice, genuinely practice and focus on the structure, the form, the words, the sentences —without taking breaks every few minutes to waste time online. Then, I need to edit, REVISE REVISE REVISE, and give enough time to the writing. I know this already. I know this already. I have to change my writing behavior. I am faced with this now, more than ever before. I want to be a strong lucid writer. I do. I do.
Belly dancing has made me more aware of my body, my protruding neck and bad posture. I focus on parts of my body as they move, as others stay still and sometimes follow. I turn on Beyonce videos on full blast every morning and practice figure eights with my hips, stretch my legs and move my wrists in unison. Dancing moves should never be forced, they should flow out of your body smoothly, they should be a love making with the space around you, they should be everything my academic writing isn’t.
I have much to say but I will just leave you with this selection of photos I took at the student march around downtown Montreal today. Students all across the province are striking a 75% tuition increase over the next several years. You can read about the history of student strikes in Montreal HERE. Read it. Be informed. Don’t listen to mainstream media, as always. They focus on violence and drama and not the energy and spirit we have for our future. Many of us are abstaining from class and submitting course work not out of convenience. We are striking, negotiating, strategizing, focusing, meeting around the clock….
In September I attended a toy camera workshop with Midi Onodera put on by my department of Communication Studies at Concordia. We had an afternoon to shoot and edit. I chose the Barbie Cam to shoot my short film because how strange is it to shoot holding a Barbie in your hand that has a camera in her chest. The feminist discussion is not lost on me, but that’s not the point right now. The Loyola campus of Concordia reminds me a bit of York: it’s far away from the centre in the suburbs & no one likes going there. Having just arrived, I wanted to get to know the campus and make friends with it. I decided to shoot the garden, as it was just finished sharing its bounty for the season. I emailed j that afternoon asking: “hi / can i use one of your songs / it’s a love letter to the garden / wanna send me something calm and slow?” & what you hear is what he sent me & I love how it works so perfectly.