Spurred on by the comment on my previous post I presume it may be prudent to delve further into the aforementioned incident with a bit more specificity (within reason, I’m not going to name any names). I fear this may take a rather dramatic tone, but I imagine it is a reasonably sensible way to personally examine what took place, and perhaps there are one or two people that may find it of slight interest. While I would like to maintain a primary focus on cinema, I’m afraid that in order to express certain feelings I may appear to be standing on a soapbox, so my sincere apologies in advance. After all, what the hell do I know?.
As previously mentioned, I have made many various efforts to gain financial support that would enable me to put on screenings of experimental film, hoping that perhaps I could instill in others the same passion that has since infected me. Throughout these efforts I have primarily attempted to persuade through various non-cinematic means, all of which have so far proved unsuccessful (though it is worth mentioning here that there is still the possibility of receiving support from the city film society). In light of my previous failures, I rather spontaneously decided it was time to take a different approach., and proceeded to contact the local library, which is home to a fairly respectable screening room type venue. I was deliberately vague when negotiating for a chance to use the room, but they were not particularly curious, and the room had plenty of openings, so concrete plans began to materialize. More than anything else this was a sort of interactive experiment, one in which ideally I could encounter some of the issues that inevitably arise during events of this sort. Word about the screening was spread mostly word of mouth, and about twenty to twenty-five or so ended up attending, three quarters of whom I was at least relatively familiar with, a number that I was more or less pleased with (one of the more fervent concerns expressed by potential financial sponsors has been their perceived lack of interest on the part of the community. I am always left wondering how such presumptions could be formed considering there has been no opportunities whatsoever to base those presumptions off of, but despite their concerns I have never considered it much of issue, were a legitimate screening to take place I would get people there).
The evening progressed fairly smoothly, after each film was shown a small amount of time was taken to answer questions or pursue a pertinent line of discussion. Some reacted negatively, but their expressed reservations were always done so with respect (in hindsight I realize this phenomenon may be skewed, there would be a much larger number of people who I was personally unfamiliar with at a ‘real’ screening, no doubt increasing the likelihood that negative responses would be voiced more fervently). Some time during the course of the screenings one of the employees of the library entered and stood at the back. She stayed for a few of the films (specifically Anger’s Fireworks and Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving, and Dog Star Man Pt. 3) and then apparently left and sought out a library manager and inform him that inappropriate material was being shown. The manager and said employee proceeded to enter and take me aside, and various words were thrown my way like ‘irresponsible’ and ‘explicit’. Things escalated, a few in the audience took sides, and I was eventually asked to leave. I must take part of the responsibility here and mention that upon being pressed I responded with hostility rather than attempting to calmly state my case, and whether justified or not, responding in such a matter simply does no good. Those familiar with the aforementioned films may believe otherwise, and perhaps it was subconscious on my part, but I did not set out to screen these works as a form of provocation. I sincerely believe in the poetry, the rhythm, the beauty of works like these, and I believed (correctly, at least in part) that others would be able to as well.
Just recently on her blog Invisible Cinema, Jennifer made a post about the oppression of experimental cinema through omission. As absurd as it may or may not sound, I feel as though this concept is equally applicable to the treatment of the human body, at least in the culture I currently reside in. Here it is often posited that the body is both sacred and exalted, yet I feel their approach is disingenuous, and rather the opposite is often suggested. Any honest depiction or discussion of the body is discouraged (i.e. omitted), and instead we are bombarded by the shallow idealizations forced upon us by various popular media outlets, which seem to provide those doing the discouraging with a sense of justification for their actions. When an artist attempts to explore the poetry or wonder of the human body in a meaningful way, a way that enlighten us and increases our understanding or confronts our expectations, it suddenly and unjustly gets lumped in with the crass depictions of those seeking to exploit the body for their own negative means (this could be implicit evidence of a still prevalent attitude by many that the cinema is a 'lesser' art form) . But obviously we are curious about our bodies, and we naturally seek an understanding of it, unfortunately without access to the works of the poets the internet seems to be the most accessible tool for exploration, and we all know what resides therein. Though it may be overly speculative, simplistic and perhaps irresponsible, I cannot help but connect this repression/omission disguised as sanctification with a recent study that found said culture to be among the highest consumers of internet pornography in the U.S. Another aspect to it, as mentioned in the comment by Camouflage Lenses, is when confronted with these explorations of the human body and/or sexuality a strong (i.e. perhaps angry) is often a natural, even healthy response, but these feelings must have an outlet where they can be processed and examined in both a personal and social context, and a theater setting with a group of responsible, (mostly) intelligent adults can provide such an opportunity.
I suppose another avenue which may need be explored in regards to this issue are the implications of the male gaze, which has been a point of contention both in and out of cinema for many, many years, but I don’t yet feel qualified to open up that can of worms. While I obviously believe there is a legitimate concern as far as that goes, I like to think that the male gaze is not inherently exploitative, and the works of these poets can attest to this.
I don’t know, perhaps I am more lost now then I was when I started wandering in this post, there are a lot of difficult questions, all of which deserve a great deal more thought and attention, and most of which I have no answer to, all I do know is I want both myself and others to have the opportunity to explore the work of talented artists grappling with some of the concerns…
(Having said all this I must also acknowledge it would be unfair for me to categorize this incident as being entirely indicative of the area, I know that there must be open and understanding venues for this type of material here, I just happened to stumble upon a dead end.)
Labels: Anger, Brakhage, Dog Star Man Pt. 3, Fireworks, Invisible Cinema, the human body, Window Water Baby Moving