Re: Wees on Ahwesh

From: William Wees, Dr. (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 24 2008 - 15:13:02 PST

Thanks to Bernie for his thoughtful comments. There's nothing there I want to argue with because it is clear that what I tried to do was not what he was hoping for. Maybe a bit of background would make my intentions clearer.

The Ahwesh essay follows upon an essay on Su Friedrich, Leslie Thornton and Abigail Child called "No More Giants" that appears in Women and Experimental Filmmaking edited by Jean Petrolle and Virginia Wright Wexman (University of Illinois Press, 2005). Both essays represent my attempt to understand the changes in intentions and sensibilities that took place in North American experimental/avant-garde filmmaking in the late 1970s and 1980s. That "seismic shift" (as Ahwesh called it) became apparent to me during the International Experimental Film Congress in Toronto in 1989 (to which I refer in both essays and briefly chronicle in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol. 9, no. 1 [2000]). Until then, my research on, and writing and teaching about, avant-garde film had been devoted primarily to the canonical North American filmmakers of the 1940s to the 1970s-Deren, Anger, Brakhage, Snow, etc.

But after Toronto '89, I realized that the modernist premises I had accepted as the only ones suited to the description and evaluation of experimental/avant-garde film were inappropriate for describing and evaluating much of the work coming from the younger generation of a-g filmmakers. But I found it more useful to try to understand each work on its own terms, rather than make it fit into some paradigm of postmodernism.-though, no doubt, there are valid ways of doing that, if you are so inclined.

One final comment: Bernie writes, "It's as if the text on Ahwesh is intended for a certain kind of teaching." Yes, it is. My understanding was that Robin Blaetz and her publisher wanted a collection of essays that could be used for courses on a-g film, as well as a book that would appeal to people-like those on Frameworks-who are dedicated to keeping the spirit of avant-garde filmmaking alive.

-Bill Wees

William C. Wees, Editor
McGill University
 853 Sherbrooke St. West--ArtsW225
Montreal, QC H3A 2T6
514-398-4935 (telephone) 514-398-7247 (fax)


From: Experimental Film Discussion List on behalf of Bernard Roddy
Sent: Wed 1/23/2008 2:58 PM
To: email suppressed
Subject: Wees on Ahwesh

The essay by William Wees in the collection edited by
Robin Blaetz focuses on several works by Peggy Ahwesh.
 I would have liked to have seen more reflection on
what constitutes the postmodern in these works. Why
is Ahwesh reading Bataille, for example? She Puppet
seems to have a wonderful approach to the scripting of
work that resembles postmodern theatrical productions
and that . . um . . evacuates the subject. The
writing of the essay itself strikes me as something
that attempts to contain the refusals. Compare it,
for example, with Baudrillard on Warhol in THE
CONSPIRACY OF ART. It's as if the text on Ahwesh is
intended for a certain kind of teaching. Another
issue of interest is what constitutes postfeminism.
Doesn't this idea introduce doubts about a feminist
"cause" and the interests that defend it, adopting
irony toward the reflexivity of critique itself? Not
to be reactionary, but then how to go forward? I am
very happy to be reading this kind of criticism but I
was also looking for discussion of the performative,
or performativity, in Martina's Playhouse. These are
all details . .


Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.