12 April 2014
Cantor Film Center, New York
In a short text titled “Whose History?” (1977), the British filmmaker Lis Rhodes sets out a compelling treatise broadly concerned with the way in which histories are remembered and who by. Speaking specifically to the medium of film, Rhodes turns to personal reflection in order to account for the way in which history comes to define the present. Rhodes’ account serves to demonstrate how affective readings of archives can allow us to account for the powerful feeling codes that can work to reinforce or conversely de-stabilize the dominant social, cultural or political structures that organize our sense of history. Film is here understood as a surface through which these affective encounters can occur. Taking “Whose History?” as a point of departure, this proposed presentation features films and videos by a number of feminist artists that all deal with questions surrounding the construction of personal or public archives and histories. In Lisa Steele’s ‘Birthday Suit with Scars and Defects’ the artist narrates stories of the scars on her body as the camera scans across her skin. Word and image work to produce an intimate archive of her young self as her body carries its history into future; In ‘Face Value’ the artist Jo Spence reflects on the family album in order to challenge the illusionary promise of photographic representation to organize coherent narratives of our lives and ourselves; Leah Gilliam’s ‘Now Pretend’ registers constructs of race and nationality as arbitrary signifiers as she deploys an archive of images set to a soundtrack that reflects on memory in relation to language; Vivienne Dick’s ‘Visibility: Moderate’ employs parody in order to address the problematic mythologizing of national past and the feeling codes that organize our cultural identifications; and in Ronna Bloom’s ‘I Feel Hopeful About the Future’ categories of identity are likewise troubled as they are literally constituted and reconstituted through the stories that women tell of ourselves. Registering the affect that human and non-human agents have on our histories or else framing a series of affective responses in relation to archives, each of these works produces an excess of meaning that threatens to the flood the fixity of historical signification. In doing so they suggest the radical potential of affect as a methodological approach for the production of feminist histories.
Co-programmed with Charlotte Procter