Standorte und Szenarien der zeitgenössischen feministischen Film- und tv-wissenschaften

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One Pussy Show Anja Czioska, D 1998, 16mm, 7 min., Farbe

fremd gehen. Gespräche mit meiner Freundin Eva Heldmann, D 1999, 35mm, 64 min., Farbe, OmeU

We are especially pleased to welcome Laura Mulvey and Eva Heldmann to this program.

Friday, 16. Mai 2003

9.30 – 11.00 project space
Visual Practices in the Context of Feminism, Sex, Gender, Politics


In the 1970s, feminism’s involvement in the area of cinema/film was characterized by tight bonds between filmmakers, the women’s movement, and theory. The connection between producers and theorists was often articulated as a whole, united in a single person (Laura Mulvey, Michelle Citron, Trinh T. Minh-ha, etc.). In the meantime, feminist film theory and practice has not only become institutionalized in many areas, but has also been massively differentiated and transformed. SCREENWISE’s current thematization of visual practices’ potential in the context of feminism, sex, gender, and politics, remains tightly linked with historical demands to transform the politics of representation. The aim is to motivate practices and insights that propel the critique of exclusionary processes, of hierarchism and normalization, and productively evade identity constraints. This main focus of the conference should, on the one hand, re-open the relationship between feminist theory production and film/image/production, and, on the other, facilitate discussion of concrete theoretical approaches to feminist representational strategies. Likewise, this concentration on practice is meant to raise the question of contemporary conditions and also the possibilities for critical action within the framework of visual practice.
The keynote speakers, Laura Mulvey (London, GB) and Berenice Reynaud (Los Angeles, USA), will span the historical perspective on the issues of the relationship of feminist theory and film production. Whereas Mulvey will talk about this relationship in terms of her own film and theory work, Reynaud will devote her talk to contemporary “post, para, and protofeminist” film practices and raise the question of female agency as authorship and as a mode of representation.

The speakers on the afternoon panel will address various approaches to the concept of gender in contemporary film theory: Andrea Seier looks within feminist film theory for connections to concepts of performance; Eva-Maria Trischak employs the concept of the cyborg for the reading of a Japanese “sci-fi porn feature”; Hedwig Wagner investigates the interfaces between feminist film theory and (post psychoanalytical?) Gender Studies; and Doro Wiese initiates an attempt to allow Gilles Deleuze, among others, to facilitate comprehension of queer desire within (feminist) film theory.

Lectures (in English) - Chair: Heike Klippel (Braunschweig)
Laura Mulvey (London): Looking at the Past from the Present: Feminist film theory and practice

in the 1970s
Berenice Reynaud (Los Angeles): Post-, Para- and Proto-Feminist practices in a difficult age

I would like to examine how the issue of female agency in cinema – agency being understood both as cinematic auteurship and as the depiction of female characters who are acting as subjectsis posed, explored, re-examined and re-stated by female filmmakers who do not necessarily posit themselves within the realm of feminist practice and/or theory. I will discuss the later works of veteran filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman (Belgium/France) and Rakhshan Bani-Etemad (Iran), survey the situation of independent filmmaking in the US (I will probably mention the work of Nina Menkes, Laura Nix, Cheryl Dunye and Sharon Lockart), discuss queer representations by diasporic Chinese women filmmakers (Cheang Shu-lea, Yau Ching) and examine the emergence of female directors in the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers (Li Yu, Emily Tang).

11.30 – 13.00 project space

Feminist Positions on early Cinema. The Desire for a Counter Cinema

Since their beginnings in the 1970s, investigations into film history and particularly the search for women’s participation in film history, have been an essential element of feminist film theory. In the 1980s, intense theory formation seeking to grasp, in a gender specific way, the concept of the viewer and the constitution of the cinema subject led repeatedly to inquiries about the empirical presence of the audience.

Within this context, the rediscovery of early cinema provided a focus for rewriting film history. Among other things, feminist film studies scholars made clear that cinema was originally a mass entertainment for male and female viewers and additionally, that it was strongly influenced by the actors’ (both male and female) physical presence. The actors’ possibilities for staging themselves and the picture were (still) more diverse at the time and, by exhibiting the body, offered a subversive view of it. Moreover, cinema in its early years proved to be especially experimental. Searching for forms and trying out occasionally excessive new technical possibilities can certainly be understood today as procedural methods that present alternatives to the classic canon of rules.

Heide Schlüpmann, author of Unheimlichkeit des Blicks (Uncanniness of the Gaze) and a true pioneer in the research of early cinema in the German speaking area, raises the question of how the awareness of early cinema as “counter cinema” is currently portrayed. Eva Warth, co-organizer of the conference “Gender und Silent Cinema” (together with Annette Förster, Utrecht 1999) and author of numerous essays on the theme, refers in her talk to Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, and Historiography.

Elisabeth Streit and Birgit Peter take a regional focus, tying the films of the Austrian production company “Saturn,” and the affiliated thoroughly amusing variants of nude female body projections, together with the comedienne Gisela Werbezirk, star of many Austrian film productions. Along with their (own) interest in early cinema, Gabi Babic, Heike Prager, and Nicole Sang devote their talk to the social drama, a maid’s everyday life, flirting, married women, and the acting of Asta Nielsen. Moreover, they offer insight into the problematic of the restoration of silent films.
Lectures (in German) - Chair: Claudia Preschl (Wien)
Heide Schlüpmann (Frankfurt): Early Cinema as “Counter Cinema”

Claire Johnston’s contribution to Frauen und Film, “women’s film as counter film” gave rise to the concept in the 1970s. It indicated a cinema that broke with the laws of patriarchal and capitalist Hollywood films. While a theoretical critique of past and present Hollywood films was being carried out, in feminist circles there was an attempt to pave the way for a new type of film in terms of feminist practice.

However, in light of economic, political, and institutional conditions, filmmakers had little chance of realizing their ideas. In addition, they generally reached only a small audience with their works. In the 1980s, the departure élan nonetheless also returned to the institution. This enabled a rediscovery of early cinema and also allowed the desire for women’s counter cinema to evolve: if the future held no future for counter cinema, from now on it would be discovered in the past. Early cinema was completely different than Hollywood; it represented mass entertainment for both male and female viewers. In its own era, it also had the traits of a movement running counter to the dominant bourgeois culture and society. How is this awareness of early cinema as “counter cinema” depicted today?
Eva Warth (Bochum): Feminist Research Approaches to Early Cinema: Perspectives, potential, and


The boom in film studies research on early cinema, set off by the Brighton conference at the end of the 1970s, emerged within the context of a general conceptual and methodological reorientation to (film-) historiograpic approaches. Works that have been involved for the past two decades with gender issues in the context of early cinema present an important aspect of this research area, which nonetheless does not present a uniform paradigm, due to the heterogeneity of the themes and methods and also the lack of mutual reflection.

The aim of this contribution is to systematize and historically contextualize the historical development of feminist research approaches to early cinema in order to critically illuminate the genealogy and productivity of central issues within this context.

13.00-15.00 break

15.00 – 17.00 project space

Panel 1:Visual practices in the context of feminism, sex, gender, politics
Papers in German - Chair: Gabriele Jutz (Wien)
Andrea Seier (Bochum): Performativity and/in film: Film studies reflections on gender performativity

As a rule, gender and the media are defined as being closely linked. Gender Studies and Media Studies are correspondingly considered two directly intermeshed areas of research (see, for example, von Braun 2000). In the context of Film Studies, two aspects are thereby striking. First, feminist film theory, which can meanwhile be classified as classical, is said to have arrived at a “standstill” (see, e.g., Schlüpmann 1998). For the most part, it is considered “outdated” and in the meantime is looked at mainly from a historical perspective. Second, the theoretical approaches of Gender Studies – following from performativity theory – have been developed in many cases with recourse to media representations of gender identities. This is clearly illustrated by the dominant concepts, for example: gender performance, gender representation, and gender performativity. These concepts are primarily associated with a question that is central for gender research: in which ways do forms and procedures shape the gendered subject? Both the “old” media such as film and television, as well as the “new” media play a central role in this issue. In my contribution, I would like to deal with the following problem: it appears that with the changed perspective on gender, a “gap” has arisen between the approaches of gender theory and Film Studies. This “gap” gapes between a cultural-technological concept of gender performativity on the one hand, and the specific way it is fleshed out in the various media and film on the other. Cinematic gender performances are often drawn in as “proof” of the theses of performativity of gender identity, yet their medial composition is simultaneously suppressed. This occurs, for example, when Judith Butler, in the foreword to her book, Gender Trouble, (a title that harks back to John Waters’ film, Female Trouble), claims that Divine’s presentation of femininity in John Waters film refers implicitly to the performativity of gender identity in that she exhibits this as “a persistent impersonation… that passes as the real.” Refrained from here, at this point, is a differentiation between the gender performance of a cultural technology in the broadest sense, and the cinematic staging of sexual identity. In my contribution, I would therefore like to ask about the specifics of cinematic performativity and the possibilities of analyzing these details, as well as the possibilities for connections of the concept of gender performativity with the previous approaches of feminist film theory.

Evamaria Trischak (Wien): Cyborgs in film, based on the example of I.K.U. (2000)

Flyers announce I.K.U. (2000) as a “Japanese sci-fi porn feature.” It picks up directly from the narration of the 1982 film, Blade Runner. This independent Japanese film is therefore particularly interesting in that it mirrors Haraway’s thoughts on the cyborg relatively well – in complete contrast to most other cyborg films.

This independent film is one element in a larger story that crosses into various media, including a webpage on which the writing of the narrative continues. The cyborgs in the film appear as IKU Coders, but the question of the border between human and machine in this film – in contrast to other well-known films such as Blade Runner (1982) or Terminator (1984) – remains in the background. The IKU Coders Reiko and Sasaki are busy with problems just as humans are; they are dedicated to their jobs and present no danger to humanity. The border between human and machine is perhaps clear, yet the object of artificial origin appears here as only one of a number of non-essential identity characteristics. Therefore, the IKU Coders, in contrast to the replicators and the terminators, are equal to humans.
Hedwig Wagner (Weimar): Gender theoretical guidelines in the cinematic discourse on prostitution

It is obvious: there are multifold testimonies to socially constructed gender in the media at the interface of Gender Studies and Media Studies; the technical medium, the medium as a discursive dispositif, and so on and so forth … and the medial conditionality of gender naturally shows up when the social construction of gender is highlighted. “Gender Media Studies,” however, does not exist. A methodology for gender theoretical film or media analysis is still not to be found in research. Feminist film theory set a precedent by bringing together feminist theory and film studies. The methodology, based on psychoanalytical (cultural)theory, gave rise to what became the dominant theoretical and analytical figures. If one takes the claimed paradigm break between feminist theory and Gender Studies seriously, then as a consequence, feminist film theory must be found outside of Gender Studies. The required paradigm change must necessarily come about by crushing the mésalliance between feminist film theory (in which the ambivalent film figure of the prostitute was, and had to remain, absent from theory) and psychoanalysis, thus reflecting a new methodology: differences in gender-theoretical guidelines as categories for analysis. Sex and gender as categories of analysis are conditions for relationships that are constantly being newly constituted. These conditions must be examined and unraveled in terms of their involvement with other major conceptual dualisms such as culture/nature, consciousness/body, our image of self /others image of us, etc. Thus, until the present time, the prostitution discourse has been swept along by a schism (see Carpenter 2000 and Cornell 1998), expressed in an entangled debate of the positionings “‘pro-sex’ and ‘anti-sex.’” I will show the entanglements of standard (feminist) film critique as reflected in the prostitution schism, how it interacts with mutually defining dualisms and their accompanying naturalization. Using Drucilla Cornell’s ethical-political category of “imaginary domain,” I will turn to self and sexuality in a new conception of subject in the field of feminism, to join her in presenting an interpretation-guiding analysis of visual practices. For the analysis, I will seek out differences in legible guidelines that can be concretized in genuine cinematic parameters and are of gender theoretical relevance.

Doro Wiese (Hamburg): Moved desire, or reflections for a cinema of poetry

Although feminist film theory has clearly become more diverse since its origins, nonetheless, many approaches still contain the basic assumption that cinema and films direct the viewers’ desire and in this function, perpetuate the inequality of gender relations. Psychoanalytically oriented theories commence from the assumption that cinema is an apparatus allocating viewers a textually guided subject position as part of its arrangements. Despite the existence of other promising theoretical possibilities, their texts share the idea that desire is commonly connected with sexuality and sex. At the level of description, the norms of two sexes and heterosexuality are always let in through the backdoor, with no questions asked.

Taking this as a starting point, “moved desire” will search for models that allow a resistance of these assumptions without abandoning the queer-feminist issue of unequal power relations. With the assistance of Gilles Deleuze, Elspeth Probyn, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and maintaining a discursive text model, the aim is to draft a desire that remains unpredictable, insatiable, and indeterminable. Interplay between the (female) viewer and film can open unfamiliar contexts and perspectives: “moved desire” does not want to abandon this form of resistance, but rather, include it in its own theory production.

15.00 – 17.00 project space

Panel 2: Feminist positions on early cinema. The desire for a counter cinema
Papers in German - Chair: Alexandra Seibel (Wien)
Gaby Babic, Heike Prager & Nicole Sang (Frankfurt): Movement – Turbulence

Reviewing our visual experiences and work using film material, which we collected as film studies students, we would like to now turn our attention to the women of the early cinema: women actors and women in the audience.

We watched a number of extremely diverse films from the Frankfurt Film Studies archive as preparation for our contribution. In doing so, we concentrated on those main themes that ran through all of our studies. As examples we have chosen:

  • The social drama, which smuggled us into the everyday life of the maids, coquettes, and married women of the early twentieth century, and also allowed us to develop a sense of the former audience.

  • The Asta Nielsen films, through which we were able to experience her acting, expression, and physical presence. We see her as an independent actress, who through her acting and screen presence is capable of timeless portrayal.

  • The restoration of silent films and with that, a technical aspect of film. We will report on how we dealt with the material of film and its transitory nature as well as our practical experience in restoration work gathered through the Archimedia Programme and at the restoration laboratory L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna.

We have developed a sense for early cinema and a desire to watch silent films through our intensive work with and on films, which we would very much like to share. In addition to our great pleasure in watching, the films also carry further significance: they show something about the social position of women at the start of the last century, and additionally, offer us the possibility to discover the mainly female audience that saw these films and, last but not least, they also lead us back to ourselves and our experiences.

Our contribution will be rounded off with an evening film program.

Birgit Peter & Elisabeth Streit (Wien): Comic Strategies – Female Wit
Birgit Peter: The actress Gisela Werbezirk – female/Jewish/Austrian wit?

Based on the example of the Viennese actress, Gisela Werbezirk – a comic star of local Jewish farces and a protagonist in Austrian film productions – we will attempt to crystallize the specifics of female wit. Werbezirk promises to be quite interesting in this respect because she displays several essential aspects for the analysis of comedy/wit. In Austria, the portrayal of humor had previously been found in the realm of theater. Film, as a new entertainment media, picked up on this form of presentation, both in its persons, and also viewing conventions. The medium of film allowed images of women that seemed compromised when dealt with in the theater, variety shows, and cabarets, to appear as more authentic, and most importantly, made them available for a broader audience.

When we are dealing with humor, wit, and laughter it is necessary to consider local and historical conditions in order to understand the laughter of the past. Werbezirk can be placed in the tradition of the female/Jewish/Austrian comedienne, a tradition that we hope to “reconstruct” in this contribution.
Elisabeth Streit: “Naked Facts” – The presentation of the female body in early Austrian cinema. The

Saturn Company.

Concurrent with the start of the film industry in Austria, Johann Schwarzer founded the production company “Saturn.” At this point in time it was not yet possible to speak of a person-centered stardom, however, through production firms such as Saturn, the “terrain” was prepared by the themes that their productions negotiate. One such theme was the “man’s night out film” – consisting of the projection of naked female bodies.

Although the presentation possibilities for each nude model were limited, the models cleverly varied them in amusing and effective ways. It was perhaps these nameless, amateur comics who paved the way for professional comediennes.

19.00 Österreichisches Filmmuseum

Workshop I (in English if required)

Karola Gramann (Frankfurt): "First you take...". Aspects of programming: Practice and Theory

If you spread out the ingredients of a curry mixture, the art of film programming becomes apparent – like a curry, a program is also more than the sum of its parts, and like the mixture of spices, it depends just as much on the individual ingredients as their dosage. The culinary comparison likewise reveals that a program, far from being composed with the mind alone, relies mainly on the senses.

Film exists at the moment it is perceived and this perception is an activity carried out not only by our eyes, but if possible, enlists our entire sensorial being. Similar to an individual film, a program must bear in mind disparateness and coherence, tension and flow. The work on a program, moreover, does not follow from a set calculation, but from the experience of many films, the memory and imagination of the intended film projection – an anticipated taste. Thus, although the workshop will introduce concepts, it will mainly communicate experiences and allow them to be made. I will work with short films from the early cinema to the present and will show examples from my current work, ...und wenn Du eine Rose siehst.

21.00 Österreichisches Filmmuseum


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