Megan Eardley, a friend from my undergraduate days, and her partner Derica Shields are organizing a feminist sci-fi film festival that looks amazing. Posting courtesy of The Future Weird:
THE FUTURE WEIRD: remote control
Wednesday 26th MARCH 2014 @8PM, Spectacle Theater
The Future Weird is back with REMOTE CONTROL, an evening of films concerning witches & bitches – women who see, take, and sell things they cannot grasp. Whether they wield powers to possess, or are somehow controlled, the technologies these films document are deployed without regard for reciprocity or consent.
REMOTE CONTROL is both the loss of individual agency, and the thrilling ability to inhabit another’s body. Presenting weird clips alongside shorts by Zina Saro Wiwa, Elaine Castillo, Fyzal Boulifa, and the U.S. Premiere of TOUCH by Shola Amoo, we’re talking possession, surveillance, “brain to brain interface”, and the sinister compulsion to repurpose the humanoid. Join us on Wednesday 26th March @8PM as we contemplate the human of use of human beings.
More details & RSVP via the Facebook event page
The Future Weird is a screening series dedicated to sci-fi/experimental/weird film by black, African & Third World directors created by Derica Shields & Megan Eardley. Find details of previous programs and follow us here & here.
Lots of oral history and narrative-related events in NYC lately. Post courtesy of Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics:
DECENTERING AUTHORITY: BUILDING A COLLABORATIVE ORAL HISTORY OF MIXED-HERITAGE FAMILIES IN BROOKLYN (AND GETTING COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT RACE)
WHO: Sady Sullivan is Director of Oral History at Brooklyn Historical Society where she manages new oral history projects as well as preservation of BHS's oral history collections dating back to 1973. In addition, Sady works with curators and educators at BHS to produce audio for exhibitions, walking tours, and K-12 curricula. Her work is influenced by the Buddhist practice of deep listening, and formative experiences at two feminist institutions: The Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies and Babeland. Sady has radio experience, both pre- and post- podcast era, and Chuck D once said she did a good job on the 1s and 2s. Sady received an MA in Cultural Reporting & Criticism from NYU and a BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Wellesley College.
WHEN: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 6:00pm - 8:00pm.
WHERE: 509 Knox Hall, 606 W. 122nd St.
ABOUT: Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (cbbg.brooklynhistory.org) is an oral history project exploring the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families. Through sharing stories, we open up intergenerational conversations about preserving cultural heritage in a multicultural democracy. These conversations historicize our understanding of concepts like race, ethnicity, and nationality. Inspired by feminist methodology and participatory action research, CBBG is designed to be responsive to the concentric conversations happening among narrators, interviewers, archivists, and the public programming audience, as well as resonating scholarship, activism, and media. Sady Sullivan will share the strengths and challenges of CBBG's experimental project design and the pleasures of hosting forums where people practice talking about race/ethnicity (and intersecting identities) together.
This event is free and open to the public and is part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series.
Here's an oral history event posting, courtesy of Snorks & Pins:
Episode 1: Who we are - where we are from
Will be presented at Chashama Art Gallery
March 20th, 21st, 24th and 25th at 7:30pm
Manhattanville: Stories from our Neighborhood is a series of performances of oral histories collected from the neighborhood of Manhattanville. We began collecting interviews of long-time Manhattanville residents in March of 2013. The interviews include stories about growing up in the area: tales of families living on the same street for generations, window-to-window language (the unofficial sign language of 135th St.), a Caribbean child’s first experience with snow, the loss of a friend in a gun fight, the meeting of a first love at a dance, gang violence, and five decades of New York history seen from a window now blocked by the new Columbia building. But stories do not stay enclosed by the borders of Manhattanville (122nd to the South, 135th to the North, St. Nicholas Park to the East and the Hudson to the West). Residents have traveled here from near and far. They have left and returned and their stories take you around the world from secret CIA missions in the Vietnam War, to ghosts and witches that haunt a small town in The Dominican Republic, to adventures in New England, to a war officer’s life in a house elevated over a river in Thailand. In this one small neighborhood are lives and histories which are seemingly separated by differences in ages, incomes, ethnicities, educations, but the stories we have collected demonstrate how united we are in our humanity.
Taking photos is a lot like doing oral history work. It's a collaborative portrait of someone--a careful negotiation of representation between the portraitist (or photographer/interviewer) and the subject (or interviewee). As I refine my hobby of portrait photography, I have been looking to established artists for guidance and inspiration.
Today I came across local (Brooklynite) photographer Brian Edward Berman's photo project, Safety in Numbers. In it he snaps portraits of people indulging in their favorite hobbies--whether it's taxidermy, freestyle dog dancing competitions, or collecting vintage vacuum cleaners. At first a project exploring interesting subcultures, Safety in Numbers evolved into a meditation on the notion of belonging. I have always had a fascination with American subcultures. I think in a nation that bases its fundamental identity on the idea of individualism, subculture-ism is a natural step into promoting that identity. In other words, subcultures are American as apple pie.
I love Berman's photographs but I have yet to determine whether I think he is honoring his subjects' image or ridiculing them. I think though that there can be humor without ridicule in photographic representation. The hobbies Berman depicts are often lighthearted and sweet--and hobbies in general are about fun. What do you think?
Some people are disturbed when a documentary doesn't seem objective enough. They say the film is too one-sided and unnuanced. While I think it's great to recognize multi-faceted memories and narratives, I don't know how useful it is to measure a documentary in terms of objectiveness when, by the nature of storytelling, things will always be left out. So I am always drawn to documentaries that don't even try to be objective. Instead they just tell one story. One side. And it's up to you to take it for what it is: a document of a point of view. And James Toback's film about boxer Mike Tyson does just that.
In the aptly named Tyson, the only person who is being interviewed is the boxer himself. There is no one to challenge what he has to say, no other voice to dispute his supposed facts. It's just him, his voice, and you, the audience. He is constructing a nuanced self-portrait in front of your ears and eyes.
I know that the problem with this type of storytelling is that people can take things at face value and ignore the fact that it's merely a point of view. Case in point, when the film touches on his rape trial he adamantly denies that he in fact raped 18 year old Desiree Washington, and he does so all too convincingly. The problem is, he may truly and honestly think he didn't rape her, but that doesn't change the fact that she could have been raped by him anyway. If Mike Tyson had more insight on this issue, he might have entertained the idea that he perhaps was not invested in Washington's desires and so he could have been blind to the rejection he was receiving from her. Honestly though, I think even that gives him more credit than he deserves. He could also be lying, both to us and maybe even to himself.
Tyson's problem is that he didn't care to think that there could be another narrative besides his own. His narrative, to him, is truth. This parallels the problem of how some people take in documentaries without any critical thinking about alternative narratives. But the problem then isn't that some documentary narratives are too one-sided, but that some audiences are not open enough to other possibilities beside the one laid out plainly before them.
All in all, Tyson made me understand the man better and that makes it a powerful and successful film. I am disgusted by him and frankly afraid of him, but I see him as a fellow human being--flaws and all. Some people hold issue with showing perpetrators sympathy and I understand that, especially if you were once victimized by one or stand in solidarity with someone who was. But documentaries like this--one that shows how a man perceives himself--makes me more open and understanding, and reminds me that everyone, including a "bad" person, has their own story to tell.
For a more nuanced analysis of the film, check out this review I wrote back when it came out: Voices fighting each other: James Toback's Tyson. To see for yourself, you can rent or buy the film on Amazon.