Monday, June 8, 2015

#Meninism



This project turned to be a lot more involved than I expected. I didn't expect that the filming process would be so much work, I didn't expect the interviews to be so heartfelt and articulate, and I didn't expect that I would cause so much controversy before I had even actually finished the film (I ended up on yik yak):


(The last comment on the right was my main actor, Matt)

This project also turned out differently than I expected. I originally planned for the interviews I did to compliment the mockumentary aspect, but the mockumentary really seems to take a backseat. And that's okay. All of the interviews were lovely and thoughtful. The basic premise and design didn't really change (all though it is 9 minutes long instead of my intended 7 minutes, and that is with severe editing) but I do think the emphasis shifted as I worked on this project. I think this is a development for the better.

I've also found this term that I really enjoy using silent film soundtracks for my projects (see my previous short film Cosmetics). Hopefully you like it too! I think it adds a nice rhythm and style to the film and keeps it from feeling like it's dragging on.

As De Certeau states, "I define 'belief' not as the object of believing (a dogma, a program, etc.) but as the subject's investment in a proposition, the act of saying it and considering it to be true - in other words, a 'modality' of the assertion and not its content" (178). Meninism is not really about men's rights, and it's not even really a movement, it's more about being loud. But feminism is much more about "the object of believing." Feminism, though its definition is unclear at times, as are the motives of certain people who call themselves "feminists," takes a stance and is about the content of the movement. Meninism just works to mock that content rather than generate its own.

I hope this project makes viewers feel something, whether it be frustration with the subject matter or frustration with me (though I would prefer the former). This is not intended to be a film against men, it is intended to be a film against misogyny.  I hope that my film can spark conversations that we need to be having about feminism and "meninism." Honestly, I'm a little nervous about showing this to people, but I am pleased with the way it turned out and all of the hard work I put into it.




Monday, May 25, 2015

Stroszek

     "[Bruno] projects a kind of sincerity that is almost disturbing, and you realize that there is no corner anywhere within Bruno for a lie to take hold." - Roger Ebert



Watching Stroszek, I was overwhelmed by how endearing and tragic I found Bruno, and since this film was made for and based on Bruno S. himself, I would like to use this blog post to examine exactly why I connected so deeply with a character nothing like myself.

For one, he's just kind of adorable. His ramblings and mannerisms are disconcerting at times, but they are also engaging. The moment when he plays music in the courtyard and opens with "Ladies and Gentlemen, Bruno will now play something on his glockenspiel because Bruno now has Eva at home" melted my heart, as did his playing (see video below). He treats Eva and everyone else around him with respect and kindness that he is rarely shown himself.

I am also drawn to his somewhat asexual characterization. Though sex is an important part of the film (especially since Eva is a prostitute), it is never actually depicted, or even close to depicted. Bruno and Eva, though we are supposed to believe they are a couple for the majority of the film, never even kiss. Instead, they display intimacy through their care for one another and a few peaceful, domestic moments when they first arrive in Wisconsin. There is something appealing to me, and I would like to think many women, about being loved by a man without the physical aspect of a relationship. But of course, Eva leaves him, so this relationship was clearly still flawed.

Which brings me to the real tragedy of the film: Bruno's passive acceptance of all of the misfortunes in his life. In The Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau notes, "Little by little, belief became polluted, like the air and the water" (179). Watching Bruno is watching someone lose their belief in the American dream (and the world). Every moment of joy Bruno experiences just adds to the poignancy when things go wrong. Playing the glockenspiel because he's so happy Eva is living with him makes it harder to watch when she repeatedly runs away from him. I have mixed feelings about Eva leaving Bruno, since I do not want to blame a woman for wanting to leave a relationship she is not happy in (or to shame a woman for choosing prostitution), but as a viewer I can't help but feel somewhat resent her for how much she hurt him when I watch him walk away from the truck outside the restaurant, never to see her again. Seeing Eva and Beo bonding adds to the tragedy of having his bird taken from him at customs. Watching Bruno play his piano and take care of it adds another touch to the horror when he is beaten and humiliated by the pimps on top of his own piano in his own apartment.

It was painful to watch this sweet, genuine man try and fail over and over, never to succeed. I am not quite sure the importance of these feelings, but art is supposed to move the viewer, and Stroszek accomplished that.

(I also really enjoyed hearing Werner Herzog's commentary, because next to actually experiencing the film, my favorite part of watching movies is learning all of the behind-the-scenes details as soon as I'm done watching a film.)



    

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ana Mendieta

   "Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reverse, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body. "I feel good here": the well-being under-expressed in the language it appears in like a fleeting glimmer is a spatial practice" (De Certeau 108).

Untitled, 1974
Photograph. 504 × 768
Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was a Cuban-American performance artist most famous for her earth-body artworks (Silueta Series, 1973-1980). As someone who had to flee from Cuba to America as a child, her artwork deals with her feelings of exile and displacement. Other themes in her work include drawing attention to violence against women, primal beginnings of civilization, nationality, and time. Tragically, Ana Mendieta died at the age of 37 under suspicious circumstances when she fell from a 34 story window. Her husband went to trial under suspicion of her murder but was acquitted. Her death sparked feminist outrage and riots, and in the years following her death she was often considered one of the most under-appreciated and overlooked artists of her time. Ana Mendieta's death adds a poignancy to her artworks and their temporary nature. She really embodies De Certeau's ideas of the power of memory and places.

Silueta Series, Mexico), 1976
Photograph, 693x1024

I really enjoyed researching and learning about Ana Mendieta. Her artwork really resonates with me, but that might be the feminist in me. I wish she had lived longer and had had the chance to create even more work.

Also, and this is speculation thirty years later based on just a bit of research,  I think Carl Andre probably killed her.

Untitled (Body Tracks), 1974
Photographs, performance art
1024 × 494


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lawton Hall Visit Response


Profile picture for Lawton Hall
Lawton Hall  (profile picture on vimeo)
Even though I am not actually pursuing art as a major or minor, I find listening to different Lawrence alumni talk about their experiences after graduation inspiring. The downside of that is, when I see other people successfully doing the thing they love to do, it makes me somewhat lament not pursuing certain passions of mine (theatre) here at Lawrence.

When discussing his installation piece, This Place is No Place, Lawton talked about trying to evoke nostalgia and the idea that nostalgia isn't yearning for childhood, it is yearning to go back to a place. I have read before that my generation is more prone to nostalgia ("only 90s kids will remember this" type of mentality) because technology and the digital world are developing so fast that the world changes more drastically in a shorter amount of time than it ever has before. That is why the combination of old slides and projectors with vague, old-fashioned images is so effective. It reminded me of a line De Certeau wrote about memory, "like those birds that lay their eggs only in other species' nests, memory produces in a place that does not belong to it. It receives its form and its implantation from external circumstances... memory derives its interventionary force from its very capacity to be altered - unmoored, mobile, lacking any fixed position" (86). 

 This Place is No Place by Lawton Hall

My favorite piece that Lawton played for us was the Zeke Suite he did with the band Holy Sheboygan (link below). I love how he blended so many different types of music into real songs that are woven together. The band seems like a lot of fun. I wish we'd had the chance to listen to more of it while he was visiting.

Zeke Suite by Lawton Hall - Performed by Holy Sheboygan


Monday, April 20, 2015

Art 340 Project 2: Between Two Doors




"These [walkers] make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other's arms. The paths that correspond in this intertwining, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as though the practices organizing the bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold of story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other (De Certeau 93). 

Though Appleton isn't really a "bustling city," I wanted to explore De Certeau's idea of "the walkers" blindly creating stories and rhythms that they themselves are blind to. I ended up taking the idea of "the in-between" pretty literally. I sat in the Warch vestibule between the two doors dividing the outside and the inside. It takes about three or four seconds to open one door, walk across the vestibule, and open the other door. I sat there for maybe an hour total taking footage of people walking in and out of the building. Those three or four seconds give you just enough time to think, "Where is this person going? Why are they going in? Why are they going out? What kind of person are they?" and then they are gone. Some people appear numerous times in the video, giving you just a few more seconds of insight into their lives. But all of these people find this path so routine that they fail to see the rhythms they are creating. Most of them didn't even notice me, and the ones who did just kept going.  It becomes an unnoticed habit and sounds like indistinct noise to one the more one does it, as the video shows by growing louder and faster. It isn't until something makes you pause in the vestibule that you are forced to pay attention. Though the action of walking through some doors is incredibly mundane, I found watching how different people walk, cross the vestibule, open the doors, and/or interact with others increasingly interesting as I really started paying attention.

Monday, April 13, 2015

ART 340 Project 1: Cosmetics



In The Practice of Everyday Life, De Certeau explores the relationship between "production" and "consumers" and states that consumption is "devious, it is dispersed, but it insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisibility, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant economic order" (xii-xiii). De Certeau is not only interested in why consumers buy things, but how they choose to use those things.

This made me think of cosmetics and my conflicting feelings about them. While makeup can give women confidence and make them feel beautiful, the reason women think they need makeup to be beautiful in the first place is because American culture has been telling them so for decades. Women invest ridiculous amounts of money into products that shape and color their faces so that they can feel pretty. It is a twisted way to make money that relies on constantly telling half of the population that they are not good enough. And yet, despite knowing all of this, I still wear makeup almost every day. It makes me feel confident and it gives me control over how I look and how I present myself to the world.

This film is an attempt to illustrate these mixed feelings. I used an audio clip and screenshot from a 1950s Maybelline commercial I found that is incredibly sexist (link below) to illustrate that the negative messages we've been sending women about their looks are basically the same as they were 60 years ago. I made the shots of the makeup products highly saturated to emphasize their power and appeal, then contrasted it with black and white shots of me as I used the products to do my makeup. The black and white also reflects the old gender roles that makeup reenforces, but the last shot in color questions that with a glimpse at a modern, positive view of it. Then it is called back into question by the parallel of the final shot of my face and the shot of the girl in Maybelline commercial. I used an upbeat ragtime song ("Sunflower Slow Drag" by Scott Joplin) to emphasize the theatricality of doing makeup and the idea that it is preparation for a performance. I also included quick flashes of the price of each product, with a total of money invested before the final shot. Though my short film is critical of the cosmetic world, I hope it also provides some hints of another point-of-view. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Intermediate Digital Processes Project 1 Proposal

In "The Practice of Everyday Life," De Certeau discusses the relationship between "production" and "consumers" and states that consumption is "devious, it is dispersed, but it insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisibility, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant economic order" (xii-xiii). When thinking about mundane everyday actions combined with consumerism, I thought of putting on makeup. Putting on makeup is something that I usually do everyday and I have always had a rather love-hate relationship with it. While I know that makeup is a product of capitalism and the media trying to control women and distort their body images, I also think putting on makeup gives people confidence and control over how they look and how they present themselves. I want to explore this contradiction through an experimental video that will have someone putting on makeup with flashing images of the prices of the products and how the makeup makes them feel throughout the film. I might incorporate sound clips of interviews with people about why they wear makeup. I haven't decided on how to end it yet, but I hope an idea will come to me while working on my film.