Portland’s Time-Based Art Festival

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hit up the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, thanks to winning a contest through the Georgia Straight. So my roommate and I headed down for a couple days. We had a pretty awesome time and it wasn’t just because of the crazy Voodoo Donuts or the massive Powell’s book fix. Here’s the low-down on the shows we caught:

1. Women Without Men

Women Without Men is a feature film by Iranian-American filmmaker Shirin Neshat. It’s based on a magic realist novel that chronicles the lives of 4 Iranian women in 1953 during the period surrounding the overthrow of the Mossadegh government by the British. Both the roomie and I agreed this was the thing we liked best out of the shows we went to. Right from the opening moments you’re grabbed by the dream-like visuals and you find yourself caring deeply about the characters.

The trailer (below) makes it look like the film primarily focuses on Iranian women’s oppression by men, but it’s much more than that. The film looks at the secular and cosmopolitan history of Iran prior to the revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini into power and illuminates some of the history of Western involvement in Iran. The women characters refuse to be victimized, instead searching for “a new form, a new way” and a magical place of refuge away from their violent pasts. At the end, though, we’re not sure whether such an escape is possible.

2. Ten Tiny Dances

Ten Tiny Dances is made up of pieces with small numbers of dancers choreographed for a 4X4 stage with audience on all sides. In the interests of full disclosure we did leave after 6 dances because it started late and we’d spent 8 hours on the train that day. But what we saw was pretty cool, albeit really random. There was a robotic George Washington dance, a dance by two people pretending to be trophy-obsessed erstwhile ballroom dancers, and a woman dancing with and on what seemed to be a giant, pillowy, paper flower. Overall I didn’t really get into it, but I think a different venue would’ve made a huge difference. The venue at Washington High School’s The Works, didn’t have staggered seating so you we missed a lot of the dances unless the dancers were standing, and we were only halfway back. There was video that showed the dance from above but you still didn’t get the full effect.

3. Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

This exhibit was tons of fun. Nina Katchadourian’s project was to sift through individual and public libraries and collect titles that can be placed next to one another and read in sequence. Half the exhibit was photographs like the one at right, and the other half was actual physical books arranged on shelves, apparently put together collaboratively with a local family

If you Google “Sorted Books” you an get a good sense of what Nina Katchadourian’s exhibit was like. Definitely makes me tempted to have some fun with my own library. If I do, I’ll post the results here. And if the itch strikes anyone else, feel free to email me your sorted book pictures at jarrahhodge@gmail.com and we can make a slideshow!

Gloria's Cause

4. Gloria’s Cause

Gloria’s Cause was a work in progress by Dayna Hanson, and I mean work in progress. Described as a musical, it was really more of a very weird dance performance very loosely based around the American Revolution (the robot George Washington dance was taken from this). That said, it was definitely entertaining, the dancers were highly skilled and the dances were very watchable. There were also a few brief moments where the lines really grabbed you and hit home, even if there were an equal number of places where the jokes fell flat and the audience was left wondering what Hanson and her team were trying to get across. There were also some neat gender and racial dynamics such as the dance portrayal of the story of Mary Jameson, who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe and eventually chose to live among the Senecas. The mixed periods of the costumes seems to speak to the fact that the issues and conflicts America grappled with during the American revolution are the ones it struggles with today.

The show really opens in Seattle later this year and will be making it up to Vancouver for the PuSH Festival in the new year and I’ll be interested to see what changes they’ve made.

So that was our fairly random sampling of the TBA10. Overall I’d definitely recommend checking out Women Without Men, and if you’re around Portland check out the festival’s other offerings. TBA10 runs until September 19th.

-Jarrah

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FFFF: Bryan Safi on Johnny Weir

This is a little dated but still awesome. Check out The Current’s Bryan Safi as he takes on figure skating and the homophobic commentary surrounding Johnny Weir. Here’s your Friday Feminist Funny Film:

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF, LGBT 1 Comment

Pillars of the Earth: Surprisingly Feminist

Don’t let the poster fool you: the recent Pillars of the Earth miniseries, based on the 1989 novel by Ken Follett, is surprisingly feminist.

Warning:

Spoilers Ahead!

To start with, I should mention that I haven’t read the book, so I’m not commenting on Follett’s intent or the content of the book that may differ from the novel.

For those of you not familiar with Pillars of the Earth, it tells the story of the attempt to build a great cathedral in the priory of Kingsbridge in the mid-12th century. The story takes place over several years, and places two generations of characters in the middle of a feud between the illegitimate King Stephen and his sister Maud over the throne of England.

Ellen (Natalia Worner) and her son, Jack (Eddie Redmayne)

First we meet the older generation, consisting of Tom the Builder, Ellen the witch (Natalia Worner), and Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen), and the evil Bishop Waleran (Ian McShane) and his sometimes henchmen Lord and Lady Hamleigh. Donald Sutherland and Gordon Pinsent also have relatively small parts.

In the younger generation we have the violent and disturbed William Hamleigh; the dispossessed Aliena (Hayley Atwell), determined to reclaim her father’s Earldom for her brother; Tom Builder’s son Alfred; and Ellen’s son Jack (Eddie Redmayne), a prodigious sculptor who is targeted by the King, the Bishop, and William Hamleigh at various points in the story.

Knowing the story is over 20 years old and set in the 12th century, and not ever having considered using the word “feminist” to describe Ken Follett, I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, Pillars of the Earth has some kick-ass female characters. There’s Ellen, who’s a witch who escapes the attempts of the church to persecute her and ends up causing the evil Bishop Waleran’s downfall. Her character is complicated and doesn’t reinforce stereotypes about witches.

Hayley Atwell as Aliena

Then there’s Aliena, whose father is arrested and hanged for treason, leaving her penniless. She’s then raped by William Hamleigh and his groom once they find out where she and her brother are hiding. But even though she struggles with the psychological aftermath, she never rests from pursuing her goal of restoring her brother to her father’s title. She uses her smarts to begin a fleece business. She ends up achieving her goal when she sees the potential in William Hamleigh’s abused teenage wife Elizabeth and the two of them hatch a successful scheme to peacefully take back William’s castle for Aliena’s brother. She ends up happily with Jack.

Even though it’s really Ellen and Aliena who steal the show, it’s not like the male characters are one-dimensional. The “bad guys”, Bishop Waleran and William Hamleigh, struggle with guilt and inner demons. The good Prior Philip wrestles with selfishness and occasionally lies, though just to keep the cathedral being built. And Jack, who finally completes the cathedral Tom couldn’t, gets into serious trouble for failing to control his anger. And did I mention there’s a gay monk? How cool is that? All the major characters in Pillars of the Earth are multi-faceted, which makes the series pretty addictive.

I recommend you check out Pillars if you’re looking for something to watch that combines great characters with unlikely feminist politics.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 2 Comments

In Case You Didn’t Know, It’s Hard Out There For Female Rappers

by E. Cain

By now you may have heard the buzz around a documentary which recently aired on BET called My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip Hop. This 45-minute production looks at the evolution of black female rappers in hip hop industry over the course of three decades. It highlights the experiences and challenges which these women have faced.

Personally, the question – where are the women in the hip hop industry? – is not one that has ever crossed my mind. As a black female, growing up I was discouraged by my parents from listening to rap music and certainly BET was off limits. Looking back, I don’t blame them as mainstream rap has become one of the most offensive, misogynistic and sexist forms of music around. I had always assumed this would turn off most women from entering the industry.

However, this documentary is a rare gem from BET. I will admit that they got me from the first sentence. It was very refreshing to hear music executives, journalists and artists take a critical and gendered look at the hip hop industry.

Watching, what became painstakingly clear (and also depressing) is that since the 1990s most female emcees gain entry into the industry through one of two ways. The first is through being propped up by men. There are countless examples. Think of Eve (DMX), Da Brat (Jermaine Dupri), Remmy Ma (Fat Joe), Lil’ Kim (Biggie), Nicki Minaj (Lil’ Wayne) – I could go on… The second is through being hyper-sexualized and catering to a male audience. Here, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Trina are certainly the best examples. At one point in the documentary Trina describes her fan base by saying – they don’t care what you are saying, they just want to look at you.

The reality is that men dominate in hip hop. I was shocked to learn that in the early 2000s women’s representation in the industry was so low that music award shows such as the Grammy’s were actually dropping the category of Best Female Hip Hop/Rap Artist.
Towards the end, Missy Elliot, a very successful female rapper who was able to build a legacy based on her talent and creativity alone – insists that “female emcees are not dinosaurs and are not going anywhere.” However I would argue this is about so much more than numbers of emcees. I want to know – where is the rap industry going? How can we end the misogyny and sexism in order to fully include female emcees? And finally, when will women be able to succeed based primarily on talent – opposed to their sex appeal and connections?

Sometime soon – I hope.

Posted on by E. Cain in Feminism, Pop Culture 2 Comments

FFFF: Beauty and the Beast

The lovely folks at the Second City Network have released their 2nd installment of their series “Advice for Young Girls from Disney Princesses”. Let’s here from Belle:

Happy Friday!

-Jarrah

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Non-Violent Sexual Assaults?

 

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu

by Kaitlin

According to recently released statistics, overall crime in Vancouver is down 7.5 percent. Rates are down in all categories except sexual assault, which is up a staggering 21%. According to Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, aggravated sexual assaults are up 600%, from a single reported case last year to seven this year. Overall, 303 sexual assaults have been reported in Vancouver so far this year, up from 246 in the same period last year.

At a press conference with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Jim Chu explained that many of the reported sexual assaults were gropings, or “non-violent sexual assaults.” This is what caught my eye – since when is groping not considered a form of violence? Unless consensual, groping is an attack on a person’s bodily integrity. As with other forms of sexual assault, groping can cause emotional and psychological harm to the victim. The possible impacts of non-consensual groping can be life-long, and should never be minimized.

It concerns me greatly that the magnitude of groping is being downplayed by the media. Sexual assault is never okay. Implying that groping is somehow less bad than rape contributes to the all too widespread impression that it is not a serious crime, that people who commit this form of sexual assault are somehow less culpable, or that victims aren’t seriously wounded by the experience. These kinds of sentiments just contribute to rape culture, and it horrifies me that the fact that gropings are so common in Vancouver is somehow being used to temper the announcement about sexual assault statistics.

Now, admittedly, it is possible that these sobering statistics do illustrate possible progress: there is a chance that reporting rates have increased. This would certainly be very good news, as it’s known that many women feel too ashamed to report sexual assaults to the police. However, I fear that reports like this, casting groping as non-violent, could serve to counteract any progress of this sort.

Jim Chu attributes the rise in sexual assaults partly to the growing popularity of Granville Street. However, he also admitted that incidents of groping were up across the city. While alcohol can, and does, contribute to sexual assaults, the true culprit is a culture that downplays sexual assault, as is happening right now. If we accept Chief Chu’s assertion that the majority of sexual assaults in Vancouver last year were non-violent, then we risk making groping okay. So, I’m going to call him out: there is no such thing as a non-violent sexual assault.

-Kaitlin

Posted on by Kaitlin in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 8 Comments

The Round-Up: Aug. 30, 2010

-Jarrah

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