Visualizing Feminism: Reframing Cinema in Database Documentary
Speakers: Gail Vanstone and Carolyn Steele, York University. Moderator: Madeleine Clare Elish, MIT. Abstract: Our session queries the epistemological implications of a installation-based documentary database we are constructing to elaborate on ideas articulated in Dorothy Todd H√©naut's triptych Firewords: Louky Bersianik, Jovette Marchessault, Nicole Brossard (1986) produced by Studio D the feminist film unit in Canada's National Film Board. This work in progress will be constructed and housed in Dr. Caitlin Fisher's Augmented Reality Lab, at York University, Toronto, Canada. The installation will realize a multidimensional approach to visual databases and interactive documentaries.
Fracturing elements of the tritych and juxtaposing them with related archived video, we employ a variety of digital interfaces and modes to create a visual database exploring a range of historical representations of feminism from contemporary positions. The users/viewers are active participants in determining the structure and form of the installation as they walk through it, selecting and combining the video segments into unique visual clusters.
We see this as a hybrid form of a database documentary offering fresh opportunities for a rapprochement between the feminist social realist documentary and avant-garde practices in feminist filmmaking, encouraging, to use Debord's notion, "an art of dialogue, an art of interaction". We argue that database-driven media encourages new ways of seeing, unleashing fresh political connections within established discourses, promoting, as Teresa de Lauretis suggests, new ways to "analyze and disengage the ideological codes embedded in representation" thus articulating "a feminist de-aesthetic".