VirtualDayz

I explore media in transition. My research encompasses film, video, print, digital arts, and the web. I'm interested in what artists and writers are doing and in what critics and scholars are saying.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Video Essays, Part 1: Autobiographical Stages/Women's Lives: From Video to the World Wide Web (Introduction)

While rereading old Word files, I came across notes for a series of articles I planned to write several years ago on women’s experimental videos from the 1980s and early 1990s. After publishing one piece, I abandoned the project—mainly because I shifted my attention to new media—but I think the articles still have relevance, so I’ll be documenting introductions to four of the articles as I wrote them circa 2000–2003. (Notes for the others are too sketchy to share.) Traces of these writing exercises can be found today in both my analytical work and my creative practices, whether I’m dealing with print, video, or new media, including the Web.

I’ve selected introductions to the following articles:

  • Autobiographical Stages/Women's Lives: From Video to the World Wide Web
  • Dear Diary Revisited: Transforming Personal Archives, Flag and Trick or Drink
  • Switching Channels in the Age of Video: A Personal Medium for Storytellers
  • Redesigning Stage Sets: Viewing The Yellow Wallpaper Differently

The first introduction appears here; the rest will appear in separate posts.

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Autobiographical Stages/Women's Lives: From Video to the World Wide Web


Independent videomakers from the late twentieth century offer signposts to the writers and artists who are shaping the evolution of new media at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Now, as in the past, creative thinkers recognize the importance of joining contemporary debates and finding places for their private voices and visions in public spheres. Autobiographical videos by women have explored such transitions from "private" to "public" extensively, often drawing on diverse cultural reserves. A sampling of autobiographical videos that American women made in the 1980s and early 1990s suggests crossover possibilities for personal storytelling in cyberspace.

During the period in which the selected videos were made, analogue gave way to digital and the Internet emergesd as the next discursive frontier. Amid such decisive shifts in the "public" sphere, the videos stage "private" transitions that women undergo. Their journeys hint at passageways that lead to a communications era informed by new technologies as well as by the legacies of women who have explored autobiographical theories and practices for the twenty-first century. Blurring genres and experimenting with multimedia approaches to portraiture, the videos in this sampling rework autobiographical—as well as diaristic, epistolary, biographical, and documentary—conventions.

While only highlights from a vast archive, these videos suggest a collective movement toward what Trinh T. Minh-ha calls "the end of a 'no-admitted' status, the end of a soliloquy confined to the private sphere, and the start of a possible sharing with the unknown other—the reader" (Women, Native, Other, 8), a concept that extends to the viewer. When considered in relation to one another, the videos map out routes that women have traced in their lives and their work. Moreover, the subjects of the videos emerge as contenders for a dialogue about growing up in America after the Second World War. As the twenty-first century unfolds, the videos challenge new media producers to investigate further these pre-Internet experiments with autobiographical narratives, taking advantage of the Web’s interactive, hypermedia potential and addressing changing social climates.

(See Video Essays, Part 2: Dear Diary Revisited: Transforming Personal Archives, Flag and Trick or Drink; Part 3, Switching Channels in the Age of Video: A Personal Medium for Storytellers; and Part 4, Redesigning Stage Sets: Viewing The Yellow Wallpaper Differently)

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