From: Ed Halter (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Jan 26 2008 - 10:44:31 PST
I agree with you about the preponderance of writing on American experimental
cinema--which not only tends towards a male bias, but even more strongly a
pre-1972 bias--but my greater point, doubtlessly obscured by my overweening
sarcasm, is that Robin's book was being unfairly tried for its crimes pretty
much exclusively based on its title. Go down that route, and someone will be
renting Christmas on Earth for their next children's holiday party.
Moreover, I find it ironic and a bit depressing that a book attempting to
redress one major flaw in scholarship at large gets immediately criticized
for not covering all the other gaps as well...I don't recall people on this
list jumping on Paul Arthur for publishing a book on American avant-garde
cinema, or for that matter Jeffrey Skoller being praised for covering
filmmakers with an international scope. (Maybe I am being too sensitive, but
I do feel that women typically have to bear the brunt of this kind of
criticism to an inordinate degree: namely the all-things-to-all-people
That said--yes, of course there are vast lacunae in the written record (at
least in English)--but I don't think the "Canyon Cinema defense" is purely
spurious. I think it points to the greater fact that this field is a rather
small, impoverished one, and access to materials, documents and the films
themselves is much more difficult versus commercial cinema, gallery art and
other forms (although this is getting better), and only relatively recently
has, say, archiving this work been taken very seriously. It's not an excuse,
but I do think it is the nature of the field that has to be appreciated. And
there are of course economic and political reasons why Canadian work is so
well-represented in the written record in English as a whole and, say, South
American work is not.
However, maybe writing is just lagging behind programming--there have been
excellent surveys of British and Japanese experimental film touring around
in the past couple of years, and the Electric Cinema program at Rotterdam
last year was quite illuminating as well in terms of Dutch work.
> From: Chris Kennedy <email suppressed>
> Reply-To: Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed>
> Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 23:48:05 -0800
> To: <email suppressed>
> Conversation: who's entangled?
> Subject: who's entangled?
>> Another example: Lux: A Decade of Artists' Film and Video and The Sharpest
>> Point: Animation at the End of Cinema are two collections published by YYZ
>> Books, a Canadian publisher. In both cases, the filmmakers discussed are
>> largely Canadian, though not exclusively. I haven't tallied numbers, but I
>> would bet they are probably majority Canadian. So...do these books
>> dangerously distort reality by implying, through their insidiously hegemonic
>> titles, that the majority of notable artists' films and videos and
>> contemporary animation are Canadian? So far, nobody I know has been rash
>> enough to accuse these books of this crime.
> Whoa! Careful there with your examples. :)
> If you take Lux, the book was a celebratory book about the Pleasure Dome
> screening collective in Toronto. Government granting agencies in Canada
> usually encourage at least 50% Canadian content for exhibitors, which means
> that places like Pleasure Dome and the Images Festival (co-publishers of Lux
> and Sharpest Point, respectively (and former homes for me, for disclosure's
> sake)), would tend to show JUST 50% Canadian content because they believed
> in placing local/national filmmakers in dialogue with international work. If
> a majority of the essays in the LUX book (don't have the other one on hand),
> talk about Canadian artists, they usually talk about it in relation to the
> outside world. Plus, the kicker is the appendix, which lists all the
> programming for the decade in questions (the 90s): works from US, UK,
> Australia, Switzerland, West/East Germany, Phillipines (Kidlat Tahimik!),
> Yugoslavia, Finland, France share time with Canadian work (Japan didn't
> really show-up in their programming until the 00s, out of the scope of the
> book). So A Decade of Artists' film and video seems to hold up (although the
> word Lux does confuse itself with a certain british organisation, I'll
> While I tended to agree with your points, Ed, doing the tallying has made me
> reconsider. It seems to me that books written outside of the US about
> experimental cinema have a tendency to think of their histories in relation
> to US cinema (even the ones that wear their national brand on their sleeve),
> however US based books only rarely think outside the borders of their
> country, and usually only when someone visits for a while (Wieland, Nelson,
> Kubelka). Often when these things types of things are brought, whether in
> the experimental film canon or other transnational discussion, US based
> interests plead ignorance (the old, "It's not at Canyon Cinema" trick) or
> point to the couple of tokens that mean it can't possibly be true. Or, blame
> the publisher.
> It would seem to me that it is valid to question whether a book that
> questions certain types of subordination reinforces other types of
> subordination. It's nice to see that page 7 does attempt to address this...
> I look forward to reading the other 300 or so pages and the imminent
> translation of the Japanese companion volume.
> PS. Maybe its worth noting that the Pleasure Dome archives is now up online
> (www.pdome.org). It's not complete, but it gives a good sense of the breadth
> of the programming over the last two decades, plus a nice look at the
> posters. Play count the Canadians!
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.