Posts by Genaveve
Our last week of Women in Film revolved around films’ relationships to metaphors, meaning, and truth, as well as the division between those work above or below the line within the film industry. Through analyzing Maya Deren’s Statement of Principles, we interacted with the idea that what makes humans different from other animals is the ways in which they interact with matter and develop meanings. Through art, people come to interact with, change, and assign meaning. Art also forces audiences to come into contact with meanings, metaphors, or truths that they may have never seen before. Each of the five films from this week, Meshes of the Afternoon, History and Memory, Watermelon Woman, Wendy and Lucy, and The Fits, introduced identities that I have found to be misunderstood, misrepresented or underrepresented in film to the forefront. Each work employed a series of different stylistic choices and strategies, from narrative to collage to documentary, to introduce stories and truths that often go untold to audiences in an accessible way.
To finish out our class, we began to discuss how the work done by women in film “above the line” influences those “below the line” and how the women we have studied this block contribute to film and media activism. Those working above the line, like producers, directors, and actresses, repeatedly outshine those working below the line, like set and costume designers or intimacy coordinators. This is often because those that are above the line serve as the faces of film and the effort put in by those working below is assumedly nonprofessional or able to be done by anyone with a little training (which isn’t true). The women we studied this block have brought more attention to the importance of below the line workers and have begun the process of bringing balanced gender representation to the film industry.
Despite struggling to become used to a new schedule and taking class online, I have learned to love a number of styles of art that are new to me and appreciate the little things and simple wins a bit more. I’m looking forward to being back on campus and getting back to “normal” life, but for now, I’m grateful to still have the opportunity to learn while at home and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I learn while life is flipped upside down.
Our focus for week two was looking at women auteurs, or women film creators who are considered the authors of their films and have injected their style into the works, whose films have moved beyond transnational boundaries. Our primary films for this week were Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Věra Chytilová’s Daisies, Agnès Varda’s Faces Places, and Nadine Labaki’s Caramel. Each one of these films was created by a female auteur who not only managed to push their films beyond transnational boundaries but reached elite status within the film industry. By analyzing these films and the statuses of their creators, we began to unpack questions surrounding why they are considered anomalies within their home countries and strategies these women use to share their films and work against gender norms and stereotypes. We also broke down some of the ways in which the auteur model helps directors, like granting successful creators a wide-reaching platform to reach larger audiences, and hurts the film industry by making it difficult for new creators to enter film spheres and for well-known directors to become separated from past identities, styles, and works.
One characteristic of the films that stood out to me most was that, despite employing completely different stylistic elements, each film shared a number of similar thematic concerns. It pushed me to think about how truly wide-reaching a number of social issues are. We are able to connect to thousands of others because we all must deal with specific social, political, or economic issues because of our gender, sexuality, race, nationality or economic status. One of the places where we begin to differ from one another is in our responses to these issues and the art we create as a personal reflection.
Image source: Film Inquiry
Last week marked the beginning of a series of firsts. Not only did 7th block begin last week, but I also started my first online class and began to transform my in-person college experience to an online one. Instead of having morning coffee with one of my roommates, getting ready for my chapter’s Big Little week, meeting with Kathy in hopes of figuring out my upcoming thesis topic, and discussing the film world’s greatest issues and puzzles in Cornerstone, I found myself in bed in my hometown, downloading Zoom, making Netlflix Party watching plans, and attempting to figure out how different taking an asynchronous class would be.
Luckily for me, Professor Seid has been making the move from in-person to online class as smooth as possible. Professor Seid is an Assistant Professor of English, with a focus on feminism, literature, and film, visiting from the Baruch College-The City University of New York. She has introduced one of her favorite classes to CC, Women in Film!
Our first week started out with us differentiating between women’s films and women in film, analyzing the relationship between entertainment, women, and feminism, and evaluating the role of pleasure and the gaze in film. We came to understand women’s films as a niche of films that assumedly appeal to women, while women in film are women who play an active role in the film making process. Our discussions of the films A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Stella Dallas, When A Woman Ascends the Stairs, and Dance, Girl, Dance were framed by Linda Williams’, Catherine Russell’s, Laura Mulvey’s and Claire Johnston’s writings. We discussed how a director’s gender, a film’s nation of origin or year of creation, and a film’s creators’ levels of success shape the ways in which a film influences feminist cultural politics and women’s filmic representation.
What does it take to be a successful woman filmmaker? What does it mean to be successful in one film sphere but not the next? Why are some female filmmakers considered anomalies within their gender?
I’m looking forward to further unpacking these questions this week.
For our last full week of class, we focused on art’s ability to influence social movements. Art is extremely multifaceted, which makes it the perfect tool for communicating values, drawing interest, and motivating community members to take part or join a movement. A more simple work can easily and quickly communicate a paramount message. Complicated artworks can invoke fierce or profound emotions in a viewer and force them to look at issues, that they may have found trivial before, differently. The resources necessary to create art are practically accessible to everyone. This is significant because it grants people the opportunity to publicly question hegemonic ideals and guidelines.
The wide array of art forms give everyone with some form of expression or style; people of different interests, origins, ages, and values. With such a variety of approaches, art provides movements with a means of connection with outside communities. By connecting with these outsiders through art, movements can attempt to shift or transform the outsider’s frame of reference or analysis in which they use to look at a movement, view an issue, or feel about a social concern. This concept was highlighted in our course when Kathy had us take part in a group activity about music. Each class group picked a contemporary song that related to protest and wrote up three words that represented the primary focuses of that song up on the board. Every group chose a hip hop or R&B track, many of which had similar messages and intentions. The activity allowed us to physically see what social issues are dominating our society today and highlighted how art’s versatility provides movements with a means of granting people a greater understanding and accessibility to a cause.
This past week, we dove into the processes of how one enters and, more importantly, stays relevant in the art world. A variety of intricate social circles, firms, and gate keepers dominate the art world. To be a part of a movement, is to join and work in a specific stylistic group. To get one’s work out into the public, an artist must network their way to the top and strike a balance between following social conventions and being innovative. From there, it’s a constant competition to stay in front of the public eye in the overflowing realm of art production. Those who end up being the most successful are those that work with the market, not against it.
Kathy provided us with a prime example of what a superstar looks like by showing our class the film, Sing Your Song. The documentary follows Harry Belafonte’s journey to success. Belafonte networked his way to the top, introduced new styles of music while working with the market, and used his platform to promote social activism. He constantly evolves his art styles and strategies for activism, in order continuously do social work that is beneficial, and to push art and music into new waves.
The second primary focus of the week was the audience. The audience is who gives meaning to an artwork. Art communicates through symbols that represent universal ideas. Art, social groups, or movements begin to become powerful when they harness the power of symbols through bricolage, the application of new meanings or definitions to symbols that are outside usual social conventions.
The art world operates by a series of rules and is much more exclusive than it seems. I realized that the fundamental steps to becoming a successful artist should be applied to my life and can serve as key strategies in the development of my success. I also recognized that, without an audience, the art that society, my community and I make becomes pointless. Art is unable to stand alone, it must be understood by those who consume it.
Now we come to ask, “Do artworks and movements actually matter?” We’ll see what third week has in store.
On Friday I finished my first week in Kathy Giuffre’s Art and Society block and I can already tell that this block will be one to remember. On the first day, I wasn’t sure what this class had in store. As we moved through the week, we developed a definition for art, discussed art’s role in satisfying the subconscious, highlighted forms of propaganda, and designated what aspects are critical to the relationship between society and art. Everyday Kathy introduces a new perspective to our class that we then used to unpack the relationship between art and society. One of my favorite elements of this course is that for each key concept or issue we discuss, Kathy ties a physical experience to it. For example, we read an article last week, “He’s a Cripple an’ Needs my Love,” which discussed the latent impacts of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, an American opera that showed around Europe during the 1930’s. Our class listened to Billy Holiday, on vinyl, in the dark, while eating chocolate because 1. It was an experience that Kathy believes everyone needs to have and 2. It provided us with a clearer picture of what the audience we had read about that day may have experienced. We also visited the Fine Arts Center and have been consistently tying the works that we saw in the museum back into our class discussions.
I enjoyed being introduced to a series of new lenses last week through which I can now use to see the art world in different ways. I’m excited to see how our class uses these new perspectives to further dissect the relationship between art and society.
Over the past two blocks, Victoria Ehrlich has led me and 15 other students on a journey through the history of western art. It has been a fun and eye opening experience that has shown us all how art has developed into what it is today, as well as the politics that surround the art sphere. To conclude our First Year Experience in AH112, each one of us has created a presentation on our final papers. These presentations have honestly been one of my favorite portions of the class. They have allowed each student to show how we have gone from knowing so little about the evolution of art of the Western world, to now understanding most aspects of almost all past art movements. We’re able to show each other what aspects of art we are most passionate about, and why they are meaningful in our own lives. We have a new passion and understanding of art that I hope everyone will be able to experience someday. Art makes up a huge portion of our daily lives, and being able to value it and have a better understanding of what artworks are trying to convey makes life so much more rich and exciting.