Saturday, December 11, 2010

‘the shock of the feminist’

The omission of women from the cultural record meant the search for a women’s tradition

I came across this article a few months back: "Wonders Taken for Signs: The Cultural Activism of the Australian Women’s Movement as Avant-Garde Reformation" by Margaret Henderson ( Lilith 17: 2008). It's a very thoughtful discussion of feminism and cultural production and what we can learn from that intense period of the "1970s and 1980s, in Australia and throughout the West, (when) relations of cultural production, reception, and texts (and films) all worked together to create the ‘shock of the feminist’". In her essay Henderson also discusses the "collective, as (the) defining structure of the women’s movement, signifier par excellence of its cultural politics"; here she also refers to various women's collectives including the Sydney Women's Film Group - which I became a member of in 1969:
Collectivism, as a strategy to demystify artistic production, to challenge the bourgeois artist figure and ideology of individualism, and to overcome women’s isolation, is the creative ethos powering feminist culture, whether in textual production or distribution. In the case of film, the auteur theory was rejected in favour of a non-hierarchical collective structure of film making, ‘one in which all the creative and technical roles were shared among the group’.

There's a longer essay to be written which explores the rise and fall (and rise) of 'the collective' in women's film-making; food for thought as a group of younger feminists contacted the For Love or Money (A history of women and work in Australia, feature documentary and Penguin Book 1983) team recently as they produce a short film on the history of International Women's Day. Younger women are discovering that the 'post-feminist' era is not necessarily a place of liberation! We did, after all call our movement Women's Liberation! Another group of young feminists saw For Love or Money at an IWD screening at their uni last year: "Last night, I watched the feminist documentary ‘For Love or Money’ at my university...As I sat there, waiting for the sense of relief and liberation to wash over me, I suddenly realized that every injustice suffered by our foremothers still exists today – it’s just dressed differently." ( Zoya Patel, 'Get Outraged!' in lip magazine, March 2010).

It's worth thinking and acting on this too: that our early film works of the 1970s and 1980s were all produced prior to Web 2.0. We have much to do to give these historically significant films presence in the 21st century.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Oprah’s generosity is a smoke screen

Oprah’s generosity is a smoke screen. Given her audiences are predominately women I am concerned by my gender’s complicity in this government PR campaign. Worth examining is Oprah’s gift of 6000 Kimberley Coast pearl necklaces to Australian audiences. Several family-work visits to the Kimberley this year have revealed to me the huge social and environmental issues facing people here. Most stark are housing, health and educational issues for Aboriginal people. Many struggling ‘settler’ Australians also face a housing crisis and rapidly rising rents. As well, myriad issues around energy company Woodside’s gas project, north of Broome, needs an informed local and national polity to cut through the ‘environmental’ versus ‘development’ split.

Sadly Oprah’s circus, in tandem with a misguided Federal government, is ‘pulling the wool’ over the eyes of the woman in the street. Australian women, try not to be bought off by these ‘pearls’! Investigate the gas hub debate; research the history of the pearling industry in Broome; examine Indigenous infant mortality across northern Australia. Perhaps then you may consider donating your pearls to Aboriginal medical centres and schools in the Kimberley where your gift will be more than decorative.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

on the road

On the road, staying in Halls Creek. I have just finished reading Alexis Wright's Grog War. She describes it as:
The book that I wrote for the people, the Aboriginal people in Tennant Creek, the Warramunga people. 'Grog War', it is a book that they asked me to do to document 10 years of an enormous struggle that they had to introduce some pretty, I don't think they were major restrictions, simple restrictions to the availability of alcohol in Tennant Creek and they took 10 years just to bring in some restrictions in that town and they had to fight every inch of the way.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You wrote in 'Grog War' Aboriginal people are still being forced to hold much of their contact with white people locked away inside of themselves. The best parallel which describes that hidden history is describe that it's trapped like angry hornets inside Pandora's box. Those words must still resonate with you?

ALEXIS WRIGHT: Well, they do. If we expose our anger, sometimes if we express our anger we're criticised for being too emotional or too angry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: After 'Carpentaria' and with Aboriginal, Chinese and Irish blood in your veins you reflected on what might constitute a lasting form of reconciliation.

You wrote, "I've often thought about how the spirits of other countries have followed their people to Australia, and how those spirits might be reconciled with the ancestral spirits that belong here. I wonder if it is at this level of thinking that lasting form of reconciliation between people might begin, and if not, how our spirits will react."

It is very soft and very hard out here....both at the same time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Apache helicopter gun-sight video

5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks  released classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"I began to experience a strange tension with my technology".

Walking with Kabir by Shabnam Virmani: " As I ventured into the life of Kabir in the community, I began to experience a strange tension with my technology. The presence of my camera seemed to separate me from the action and relegate me to being a passive observer...Being part of the making process seemed more vital and important than consuming what is made, in my case, ‘recording’ it. It seemed imperative to be fully enveloped in the live pulsating music, to allow it to infiltrate your very pores and have the poetry literally enter your body by singing it...Our middle class lives deliver to us mediated experiences that come to us through books, TV, radio, music CDs and the internet — technology that can certainly deliver powerful experiences, but that can also circumscribe our lives, cut it off from immersion in a vital life force that exists in nature, in the tactile experience of sound, music and earth. We get alienated, we become watchers of spectacles, far-removed, we become phlegmatic, we don’t participate... What I realized in that moment was that in some sense, these were not my films at all. They were not something I made or earned or chose. They were experiences I received as gifts, from a space that lay beyond the claims of my small self. All I had to do now was to pass them on and gift them to others:

Meraa mujh mein kuchch naheen
Jo kuchch hai so teraa
Teraa tujh ko saunp dun
Kyaa laage hai meraa?
There is nothing in me that’s mine
All that is — is yours
I offer to you what’s already yours
What can I say is mine?"

Article by Shabnam Virmani January 2010 Seminar magazine based on a talk she gave in October 2010. View Shabnam's talk and singing here:

Shabnam Virmani is a filmmaker and artist in residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. 7 years ago she started travelling with folk singers in Malwa, Rajasthan and Pakistan in a quest for the spiritual and socio-political resonances of the 15th century mystic poet Kabir in our contemporary worlds. Her documentary Koi Sunta Hai: Journeys with Kumar & Kabir can be watched online at Culture Unplugged

I recommend her work to you. It is profound.