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Women of Vision

Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video

Alexandra Juhasz Editor
Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Women of Vision
    Book Description:

    Alexandra Juhasz asked twenty-one women to tell their stories-women whose names make up a who is (and who will be) who of independent and experimental film and video. What emerged in the resulting conversations is a compelling (and previously underdocumented) history of feminism and feminist film and video, from its origins in the fifties and sixties to its apex in the seventies, to today. Interviewees: Pearl Bowser, Margaret Caples, Michelle Citron, Megan Cunningham, Cheryl Dunye, Vanalyne Green, Barbara Hammer, Kate Horsfield, Carol Leigh, Susan Mogul, Juanita Mohammed, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Eve Oishi, Constance Penley, Wendy Quinn, Julia Reichert, Carolee Schneemann, Valerie Soe, Victoria Vesna, and Yvonne Welbon.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5284-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-45)

    I am certain that feminist media pioneers have not vanished. They are very much alive and visible if you know where to look. They’ve been quite adaptive, and their lives and feminist media work continue to influence others. Byfeminist mediaI mean the diverse work with or concerning film, video, television, and digital production made by those who critique the many inequitable power relations that limit women. I situate this production within the field ofalternative or independent media, by which I refer to work made outside the sanction and profit motive of the industrial model. Since the 1970s,...

  6. 1 Pearl Bowser
    (pp. 47-59)

    I didn’t have a professional background in film. Nothing in my academic studies prepared me for a career in film. I accidentally stumbled into it, so to speak, through friends who asked me to work on their projects. Documentary filmmaker Ricky Leacock suggested that I come work in his office.⁶ The two years I spent there doing his billing, ordering the equipment, sitting in on the editing sessions and production meetings opened up a whole new world to me. I was exposed not only to film projects from concept to fine cut, but also to a group of artists and...

  7. 2 Carolee Schneemann
    (pp. 61-75)

    I’m glad you said the wordcareerbecause I’ve never considered that I hada career. I don’t know what a career is. I imagine it’s something one chooses to do and advance in certain ways, going through certain disciplines.

    I was born a painter. There was never any choice for me. It’s never been a “career, something that is so considered or planned. My work has rarely been supported except in the most minuscule of ways. So I dog it out by scrounging around on the edges of my culture. There are things I have to see, problems I have...

  8. 3 Barbara Hammer
    (pp. 77-93)

    I have been making films since 1967, when somebody gave me a Super 8 camera. I was studying to be a painter because I was a bored housewife and I felt I had something to express. I made a number of Super 8 films. Those films have rarely been shown except in the early lesbian feminist women’s coffee houses. The women reacted strongly against some of them because they came out of my heterosexual past.

    My own work in 16mm film coincided with my coming out as a lesbian. It was fortuitous because making love with a woman changed my...

  9. 4 Kate Horsfield
    (pp. 95-107)

    I want to start by talking about the ’70s. Now that we have perspective on that time, we can look at it as a space, as an arena. It was a tremendous moment for accomplishment and ambition, for people to create things. It was close to the driving force of the ’60s with its politics, its radicalism that had the agenda “We can change the world, and we can do it now.” Following right upon this was the feminist movement. Before this was a blank space. In Chicago, for example, I can remember in the ’50s when there were only...

  10. 5 Margaret Caples
    (pp. 109-119)

    I came to Chicago to get a master’s degree in social work and met a photographer named Jim Taylor. In 1971, he became the director of the new Community Film Workshop of Chicago (CFW). At the time I was working as a school social worker for the Chicago public school system. So I enrolled in the first class because I wanted to use video with student groups. I worked in the public schools, so I had to work with students in groups because I had so many schools to cover. That’s how I got involved with CFW Then, I worked...

  11. 6 Julia Reichert
    (pp. 121-135)

    My involvement came directly out of the women’s movement. In the late ’60s, I was actively participating in feminist activism—I joined the protestof the Miss America Pageant—and in consciousness-raising [CR] groups.I was also very interested in photography. At twelve or thirteen, I startedtaking photographs, and I continued seriously all through college. I alsodid radio. In 1968,¹ had a women’s radio show called “The Single Girl,” which shows the consciousness of the times. Later, I had a show called “Sisters, Brothers, Lovers, Listen.” Eventually, as the women’s movement developed, there was a need for voices to speak out about...

  12. 7 Michelle Citron
    (pp. 137-151)

    I was in graduate school completing a doctorate in cognitive psychology, studying how the brain processes multiple channels of information. I used images as stimuli in my experiments. My adviser said, “You know, there’s a film department here. Why don’t you take a course and learn how to take photographs?” I found a Super 8 film production class, and for five hours,once a week, I watched experimental films. I’d never seen anything like them in my life. I’d grown up working-class and all I knew about film was Hollywood. After that semester I decided to become a filmmaker. I finished...

  13. 8 Vanalyne Green
    (pp. 153-165)

    I was nine units away from my degree in psychology at Fresno State College. In my last year, I decided to take art classes because I’d been good at art in high school, and I thought it would be fun. Originally, I hadn’t majored in art, because my mother told me that it was too competitive. I signed up for a figure drawing [class] and a sculpture class, and I thought I would pick the one that I liked the best. The teacher of the sculpture class was Judy Chicago,then known as Judy Garowitz. She strutted and swaggered across the...

  14. 9 Constance Penley
    (pp. 167-181)

    I’m not someone who came into film because I had a passion for the art form, although I certainly did develop that passion later. Growing up, all I saw were films likeThe Mole Peopleat Saturday matinees orThunder Roadat the drive-in. I didnt get hooked on film until 1967 when I saw my first Godard film in the Student Union at the University of Florida. I remember stumbling out of the screening ofPierrot le foucompletely flabber gasted, asking myself: “How in the world is what I just saw up there on the screen afilm?”...

  15. 10 Susan Mogul
    (pp. 183-195)

    I believe that there’s a distinction between one’s career and making work. A career has to do with shows, recognition, teaching, credentials—all those things that one puts on the résumé. Certain things are good: getting a grant furthers your career. It’s prestigious to be able to say you’ve gotten a grant to do a project because that affords you the chance to fund another project. Or if you have taught at one place, it affords you the opportunity to teach elsewhere. If someone bought a piece of your work for his or her collection,that has to do with prestige....

  16. 11 Carol Leigh
    (pp. 197-209)

    I’ve worked in a variety of media. I knew after seeing Shirley Temple when I was four years old that I wanted to be an actress. When I was a teenager, I started writing poetry. I went to Boston University to study with Anne Sexton. She killed herself during the semester I got there. I moved to San Francisco, where I’ve been tackling one genre at a time. I write music, I sing, I’ve painted. Video is my final frontier. It really combines all the other media.

    Why video? When I was younger, there was no concept of a woman...

  17. 12 Juanita Mohammed
    (pp. 211-223)

    Video is a tool to educate. It’s especially valuable in communities of color because children and their parents look at TV incessantly. A family might not have money to save up for a vacation, but every weekend they’ll find enough to go to the movies or pay to have cable TV. A lot of the things they

    look at are for entertainment, not learning. But they are learning something, even though they don’t realize it. A lot of videos give out stereotypes that people accept automatically.

    In communities of color, we don’t get education in our schools about making or...

  18. 13 Wendy Quinn
    (pp. 225-233)

    My work in film and video is as program director for Women in the Director’s Chair, which is a not-for-profit media arts organization based in Chicago. The largest work that WIDC does, and the largest work that I do with them, is to help to put on an international film and video festival, which showcases work by women directors from all over the world. We also have several other year-round programs. The festival is the well from which all the other programs spring. We have a national touring program; we have a prison program where videos, videomakers, and peer educators...

  19. 14 Victoria Vesna
    (pp. 235-247)

    The narrative of my career probably starts when an elementary school-teacher told me I should go to art school. I came to New York from Yugoslavia and went to the High School of Art and Design, and I got into fashion design right away. After New York, we went back to Belgrade, where I was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts. It was a tough school to get into. Out of three thousand candidates, maybe three hundred are screened, and then thirty finally get in.

    In a class of thirteen, there were twelve men and myself. I was sixteen,...

  20. 15 Valerie Soe
    (pp. 249-261)

    When I was an undergraduate, almost fifteen years ago at UCLA, I was really involved with the Asian American community there, and I was also interested in journalism. But UCLA had neither a journalism department nor an Asian American studies department, so I couldn’t major in either of those things. They do have a film school, but the film school was impacted. You couldn’t get in unless you had a really good grade point average. Actually,that turned out to be just as well because I found out that they had video cameras in the art department. I figured, “I’ll learn...

  21. 16 Yvonne Welbon
    (pp. 263-275)

    I am a filmmaker and a video artist. I am also a curator and a film scholar,and I also work on other peoples’ films in producing capacities. So I do pretty much everything across the board when it comes to the whole film/video arena.

    I became interested in film and video in the late ’80s. This grew out of a literary form that I was trying to develop called “imaging.” I was trying to write in a way where people could read and relate through their senses: a tactile way, auditory, or to feel what I saying. I moved to...

  22. 17 Frances Negrón-Muntaner
    (pp. 277-289)

    It was possible for me to conceive of becoming a professional film maker because of my grandfather, who was a frustrated commercial director. He had studied film at the University of Miami during the ’40s and returned to Puerto Rico a few years later without completing his degree. Although my grandfather was passionate about making feature films in Puerto Rico, he seemed to have been routinely ripped off by industry sharks. This led him to eventually close a studio-for-rent he had built behind his house. After abandoning features, he became a medical photographer and slowly began to lend me the...

  23. 18 Cheryl Dunye
    (pp. 291-305)

    I’ve made five videos and one film. I made my first video as my senior BA thesis, called Wild Thing. It was an experimentation with a poem by Sapphire, the black lesbian poet. She presented it at Columbia University. I taped her reading it and then did a montage onto that. That got me into a style, or form, and doing the montage was really creative for me. And it was a good base to identify someone whose work I liked. I was able to have a spirit for it. So it was something about being close to my subject,...

  24. 19 Eve Oishi
    (pp. 307-317)

    My scholarly work is about contemporary Asian American fiction and independent film and video by women. I am dealing with the question of authenticity and fakeness in this work. There are all kinds of debates about who is an authentic Asian or Asian American, who can speak for that experience, and who’s a fake. A lot of those questions revolve around anxieties about gender and class, about national identity, generations, who is closer to some kind of “oiginal” Asian history or identity.

    One of the key film texts is Rea Tajiri’s History and Memory [1991], which is a re-creation of...

  25. 20 Megan Cunningham
    (pp. 319-325)

    I began working on the project because I saw it as a great opportunity to learn more about feminist film and video history, which I had just touchedon in college in women’s studies and in film studies. I also saw it as an opportunity to meet makers whose work I respected. I was curious to see what the people behind the images that entertained and inspired me were like,what made them tick. It was an intellectual curiosity. As it evolved, my motivations changed. I began to see the project as something I couldn’t not do.

    I feel as though the...

  26. Afterword
    (pp. 327-330)

    Working on this project has let me better understand my own interest in stories about both the ’70s and contemporary feminism and, more important, their possible interrelations. While I set out to make work for my students and others like them, I admit I had selfish interests as well. I needed to remedy my own confusion about being a feminist in an ever more conservative present, about being a progressive woman who lives haunted by an almost-lived, immortalized, recent, politically vibrant past embodied in the writings, images, institutions, and actual bodies of women only slightly older than I. While I...

  27. Notes
    (pp. 331-340)
  28. Contributors
    (pp. 341-343)