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Faculty Member Cauleen Smith Interviewed in FEMEXFILMARCHIVE

Interview by Jazmyn Wright.

Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary filmmaker whose work is rooted in a mid-twentieth century experimental film framework. She uses science fiction, third world cinema, and structuralism, to make “things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants.” Her work has shown nationally and internationally, both solo and in group exhibitions. Originally born in southern California, she was raised in Sacramento. She earned her bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University and her MFA from UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Currently, she is faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program.

This interview was conducted via email in November 2017.

Jazmyn Wright: How did you discover your interest in filmmaking? Did you ever want to do anything else?

Cauleen Smith: Filmmaking incorporates every kind of media and performance style and invents a few that are unique to its form. It’s very satisfying to use film to make art. I’ve always been a creative person, but filmmaking was something I stumbled on. I’m glad I did.

JW: Do you describe yourself as a feminist filmmaker? What does feminist filmmaking mean to you?

CS: The word feminist is a loaded term because when white women use the term they sometimes are not considering the conditions and stakes of a feminist identity for women of color or poor women or women with varying abilities. And this prompts a lot of people to avoid the word feminist. I’m fine with the word. It’s just a word. It’s all about action and ethics.

JW: You clearly identify what feminism means to you, I just wanted to clarify whether you had a specific definition for feminist filmmaking? Do you see a difference between a feminist film and other types of films? Do you think a film has to include specific elements to be considered feminist?

CS: Maybe for a set of guidelines check out the Bechdel test? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test

JW: Would you describe yourself as an experimental filmmaker? How do you define experimental filmmaking?

CS: Yes, experimental filmmaking is a discipline and practice that operates through questions and forms and structures rather than narratives and characters and plot. This is not to say that experimental films don’t have those things, simply to say that in experimental film the narrative, character and plot do not determine the form of the film. Editing, color, materials, and sound become subjects in and of themselves in experimental film.

JW: Where do your ideas for your films come from, for example Crow Requiem?

CS: I think filmmaking is always about engaging with the world around us. The cues to the things that Crow Requiem is pointing to are right there in the film as well as in the films relationship to American history.

JW: You say the “things that “Crow Requiem” is pointing to are right there in the film.” The film is kind of dark. Between the bare trees and the crows and other aspects, the first thing my mind goes to is “Strange Fruit” and lynching in the Jim Crow south, but that might be a little too grim. Can you expound a little more?

CS: Some elements in the film that may not be obvious are the radio still lives which are taken from John Carpenter’s movie The Fog (listed in the credits). The aesthetics of that film spoke directly to the images coming from protests in Ferguson, MO. There is a lot of information to be gleaned from the soundtrack and music as well (also listed in the credits).

JW: What is your filmmaking process? For example, once you had the idea for “Demon Fuzz”, a film I particularly enjoyed for its geometric visuals, how did you go about creating it?

CS: Oh, I just made that for fun as a fan video. I love that band Demon Fuzz and that song is amazing. So it was just fun to use the mirror filter and make something hypnotic and light. I think the mirror filter is overused all the time, so that video is a bit of an indulgence.

JW: In “Triangle Trade” you do not hide the puppeteers. What is the significance? Is it meant to be self-reflexive?

CS: We are using a puppeteering style based on the Bunraku style of puppeteering. Each artist made a puppet that was supposed to represent them. The audience is asked to reckon with the mirroring between the puppet and the operator.

JW: You mention the Bunraku style of puppeteering. As I understand it Bunraku is a 17th century traditional style of Japanese puppet theater. Is there anything else that should be known about it to better understand the piece?

CS: The reason I made them is because I thought that film was a good form for the ideas I was interested in. In order to grapple with the ideas you would have to watch the films with the intent of applying what can be known to what you see. The narrative is not repeated in simple language, three times like in television shows. There is no spoon-feeding. The viewer is assumed to be an active agent.

JW: In a 2011 interview with “BOMB Magazine” you said, “narrative-movie audiences are becoming more passive; they’re refusing to meet images halfway.” Can you expound? What does it mean to meet an image halfway?

CS: I feel that audiences should always be attempting to understand the aesthetic and formal decisions that a filmmaker is using to make meaning. The desire to have everything explained, unambiguous and easily digestible limits the spectator from actually engaging with the ideas in a way that leads to self-examination. I believe that expecting every film image to be explained and clear, well that is more like wanting to consume advertising or propaganda than art. That’s a spectator who wants to be told things and experience pleasure. Sometimes wrestling with ideas is not immediately pleasurable. And often art shows us things about ourselves that we do not like. Advertising and propaganda never do this. Art cannot tell someone what to think, it can offer pathways and ideas for the viewer.

JW: Experimental films can be ambiguous at times. With your last response in mind, when making a film such as “Chronicles Of A Lying Spirit By Kelly Gabron”, do you want your audience to walk away with a specific understanding, or do you want them to interpret it for themselves?

CS: Hopefully both things can happen.

JW: It was enjoyable getting to converse with you and learn more about your work and filmmaking process and thank you again for participating in this interview.

CS: Thank you, and best of luck.

To see more of Cauleen Smith’s work, you can connect to her Vimeo via this link.

Co-Chair Dalida María Benfield Collaborates In Barcelona

INTERSECTION | INTERVENTION | INTERPLAY
Gender, Collaboration and Counter-Memory in Migratory Times and Spaces

An afternoon intersecting interventions focused on technologies of collaboration to reimagine gender, history, memory, futures, and communities, with the collective projects Diasporas Críticas, Migratory Times, and the Museum of Random Memory.

Using as a taking off point the decolonial feminist philosopher María Lugones’ phrase “playfulness, world traveling and loving perception,” the public is invited to engage in these art based research projects that explore these actions as forms of reimagining and remaking social relations.

Date

May 31, 2017
15:00 – 19:30 p.m.

Place
Museu del Disseny de Barcelona
Floor -1 – Room B

Conducted by
The Museum of Random Memory/futuremaking.space
Diasporas Críticas and Migratory Times
the Institute of (im)Possible Subjects

 

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PROGRAMME

15:00 – 16:30The Museum of Random Memory
Conducted by MoRM: Museum of Random Memory/futuremaking.space

“Do you have something you would like to remember? Something you think should be forgotten? We would like you to contribute to our temporary permanent collection.”

What is a memory?
What is it good for?
How do we remember?
How do we forget?

These are a few of the questions that are asked by the participants and creators of the Museum of Random Memory, an ongoing practice-based research project. The project and the work of the project (the creation of the archive and the museum itself) represent a deliberate attempt to directly engage difficult questions of ownership, archive, preservation, and mediation. What does it mean to take ownership of a memory? What can we do with it? What should we do with it? What do we do with it? How do we proceed and where do the lines of the analog and the digital collide with the lines of public, private, hidden and revealed? How do you build (and destroy) a museum in days? What is gained and what is lost?

For this event we, the UnCurators, will perform an iteration of the Museum.
Attendees will be invited to participate by submitting memories and engaging in the intake process.

16:30 – 17:00 – Coffee Break

17:00 – 18:30 Exercise in Radiofonization
Conducted by Diasporas Críticas & Migratory Times/the Institute of (im)Possible Subjects

This workshop is directed at trans-feminist artists, activists and poets with the aim of sharing research around the process of creating a manifesto, enunciation and the practices, histories and metaphors associated with radio, we propose an “exercise in radiofonization”. Part workshop and part performance of a radio recording-studio, this session puts into practice a range of pedagogical and affective techniques in the fields of voice, enunciation and reading.

This space offers an encounter with various enunciation tactics and invites participants to co-produce a performative “exercise in radiofonization”. Depending on the technical capabilities this can be emitted in connection with other online, free or community radios, or recorded for a future transmission. “Exercise in radiofonization” focuses on the transdiscursive and transtemporal conditions of the feminist and decolonial manifesto and how, like the apparatus of radio, it makes a curious incision across the literary, historical, political and artistic; past present and future.

18:30 – 19:30 – Roundtable discussion
With Dalida María Benfield, Anyely Marin Cisneros, Rebecca Close and Annette Markham.

 

BIOS

THE MUSEUM OF RANDOM MEMORY/futuremaking.space

The Museum was first conceived and performed in March 2016 at the CounterPlay Festival held in Aarhus. Over the following year, key participants transformed the ideas into a conceptual framework, which guided the creation of the second instantiation of the museum, presented again at the same festival in March 2017.  The museum is the sum of the efforts of more than a dozen artists, activists, academics, researchers and students working with the Creating Future Memories project at Aarhus University in Denmark. The Creating Future Memories project is one of the projects of the futuremaking.space, a transdisciplinary space for research and public engagement.

 DIASPORAS CRITICAS

Diásporas críticas is an open platform for artistic research. Diásporas críticas research explores and responds to the ways in which nationalisms intervene through micro-process to affect the body and the senses, researching notions of “transmission” and “contagion” in relation to mass media and technology as well as medical discourses and disease. They have received various research and production grants from academic and arts institutions. Throughout 2017 Diasporas criticas are preparing a research project entitled “Contralecturas Tropicales”. They are thinking: climate, cliche, sickness, poetic trope, surrealist dream, melodrama, medical theory, compass, geopolitical sex fantasy, cyclical time and exile.

MIGRATORY TIMES/THE INSTITUTE OF (IM)POSSIBLE SUBJECTS
Migratory Times is a global art, research, and education initiative to facilitate transnational dialogues on displacements and migration. Migratory Times constructs a translocal architecture for overlapping learning, research, and making circles across diverse sites including Bogotá, Colombia; Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark; Jeju and Seoul, S. Korea; Manila, Philippines; Barcelona, Spain; and Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Detroit, and New York City, USA. Over the course of a year, 2016-17, cultural interventions, workshops, and publications are being produced in local sites as well as through virtual networks, using popular education and co-design strategies. Migratory Times is a project of the Institute of (im)Possible Subjects, a transnational feminist art, media and research collective.

 

Free entry.
Required Registration. Send us an email to: [email protected]
http://d-future.net

Contact:
[email protected]
+34 93 326 3470

 

Organized by:

 

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D-Future Project/Mediaccions

 

In collaboration with:

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The Museum of Random Memory

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Migratory Times/the Institute of (im)Possible Subjects

Diasporas Críticas

 

Sponsored by:

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Ministerio de Economía y competitividad de España (Ref. CSO2014-58196-P)

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Museu del Disseny de Barcelona

 

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Estudis d’Art I Humanitats de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

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Future Making Research Consortium

Featured image: Diasporascriticas