I apologize, in general, for whatever. I don't want to add to polemics that
disdain and dissuade an inclusive environment.  Like Sasha, I barely
contribute, to most listservs, for fear of attack and ridicule, and yet I
did apparently myself, however, depending on your POV, regarding her
remarks directed at Gene Youngblood, which really irked me, and I do not
apologize for them. I hope their tone was professional, but if not, then I
was wrong. I know I can be a smart ass, but I did have fundamental problems
with Sasha's public comments of Gene's remarks, and I make no apology for
them.

Elizabeth McMahon

On Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 2:41 PM, chris bravo <iamdir...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Saying that a film makes students want to commit suicide isn't a critique,
> its an offensive derogatory statement, which is directed not just towards
> the filmmaker, but towards her students especially.
>
> On Tue, Mar 31, 2015, 1:27 PM Dave Tetzlaff <djte...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Chill out, people!
>>
>> This is a Listserv. People write short posts quickly, and hit 'Send'.
>> "Rhetorical excess" comes with the territory as we dash off our thoughts
>> w/o reflecting deeply about whether our wording will read to others with
>> the meanings they had for us when they popped into our heads.
>>
>> I took Sasha's OP as meant to advocate for films that have a sort of
>> perspective not-yet presented in the thread -- works one perhaps could call
>> more 'post-modern' engagements with culture and identity. I took the crack
>> about Wavelength as essentially tangential and polemic -- an observation
>> that many contemporary students are not much engaged with the aesthetic
>> concerns of that work. It's not clear whether Sasha's pique was directed at
>> Wavelength specifically or 'mid-century High modernism' in general -- i.e.
>> maybe all 'structural film' and/or Brakhage abstractions etc.?? Regardless,
>> intentionally or not, her language was destined to stir the pot, make some
>> folks feel poked with a stick, and fire off testy replies.
>>
>> No film is beyond criticism, including observations that whatever it's
>> merits for other situations, it's a poor choice for a given programmer or
>> teacher's goals in addressing the specific audiences they have at hand.
>> Sasha's snark was phrased as too universal: seeming to suggest Wavelength
>> is no longer any good to ANY group of "curious, excited young artists".
>> But, indeed, I'm sure there ARE groups of "curious, excited young artists"
>> without a background in cinema who would find Wavelength alienating, at
>> least initially, and it's perfectly valid to pass on that film for an
>> introduction to experimental film in favor of something more immediately
>> engaging to the group at hand.
>>
>> As Gene so pungently observed, the problem starts with the absurdity of
>> Donal's original query. First, the "3 films" concept makes no sense, since
>> experimental films range in length from a few minutes to several hours. (My
>> gag 3: Star Spangled to Death, Sleep, The Extravagent Shadows... no
>> intermissions or bathroom breaks!) Second, "essential" is just silly and
>> off-point. Unlike Hollywood films directed at mass audiences and respecting
>> a common set of conventions, experimental works are often very personal,
>> and incredibly varied in form and content. Thus, what works are and aren't
>> "essential" is not remotely universal, but conditional and contingent on
>> "for whom?" and "for what purpose?" Third, this variety and specificity
>> means trying to crowd-source a list of '3 essentials' is utter folly, that
>> can only lead to unproductive arguments if people play along.
>>
>> In the thread OP, Donal didn't tell us anything about his own approach to
>> "the realm of the moving image" or what kinds of art practices and
>> aesthetics the folks attending the workshops will be "coming from". For all
>> we know, the attendees could all be middle-aged ceramicists or landscape
>> painters. Ultimately, he needs to pick works that speak to him in some way
>> he thinks will enable him to use them to engage 'noobs'. So it is with any
>> instance of programming films. The work must 'fit' the programmer, the
>> audience, and the purpose.
>>
>> Given the lack of info in the query, responses have (as one would expect)
>> presumed teaching or exhibition situations with which the posters are
>> familiar: Andy and Gene spoke of their students; Sasha referred to YOUNG
>> ARTISTS. But I read the OP as posing an audience of experienced working
>> artists who presumably already have some sort of aesthetic perspective,
>> rather than the sort of student population that would sign up for a studies
>> course in experimental film.
>>
>> Just as there is no universal "3 essential films", there is more than one
>> valid pedagogical approach to introducing noobs to experimental cinema.
>> Sometimes you want to ease folks in, showing work that has some familiar
>> elements. Meshes is probably the most widely used introduction to
>> experimental work, and over the decades so many of its elements have been
>> incorporated into pop culture (advertising, music video, etc.), and it's
>> subject matter (angst at gender roles and domesticity) is so enduring, that
>> it offers a variety of access points. That works. But for some groups being
>> introduced to experimental work, what I call 'deep end of the pool
>> pedagogy' can work as well or better — tossing the initiates into the
>> strangest water possible w/o a life-jacket, then tossing a safety line into
>> the trashing if it's not getting anywhere...
>>
>> Andy and Gene speak of student appreciation of Wavelength, but under what
>> conditions? What courses have they taken before? Is Wavelength the FIRST
>> screening on the syllabus? Sasha's put-down seemed to me to posit
>> Wavelength as a poor choice for point-of-entry, not something not worth
>> screening at all, and I totally understand that. When I first taught
>> 'experimental' I screened it about half-way through the term, but found the
>> 'bang' too minimal for the screening time, and concluded any pedagogical
>> purpose I had for showing it was better served by something else. (E.g. I
>> kept <-->. A practical issue with Wavelength: depending on the sound system
>> and the volume settings, that audio wave CAN be a form of physical torture,
>> and we don't all have the kind of control of screening situations we'd
>> like.)
>>
>> Gene overstates, or perhaps just lacks clarity, in his response to Sasha.
>> I'd agree that anyone teaching experimental film at the college level
>> should be able to present Wavelength in a way that activates student
>> "excitement and curiosity." But that's a far cry from saying that film will
>> engage those qualities in and of itself for any and all initiates w/o
>> proper introduction and framing, and farther still from making a case
>> Wavelength is among the best choices for an introduction in any given
>> setting. I know Sasha just a little bit from various conferences
>> back-in-the-day, and I'm quite confident she could teach Wavelength well if
>> someone tssked her to do so. I do understand how Gene would read Sasha's
>> off-hand jibe as 'Wavelength is so anachronistic, no one can make any good
>> use of it now with young people.' And if that's what she meant to say, and
>> seriously so... well, yeah, that would be pretty darn lame. But if we read
>> Listserv posts with charity, we might just take her point as '_I_ find a
>> lot of newer work more compelling than Wavelength, and so do the students
>> who wind up in my classes, so it doesn't work well as an introduction FOR
>> US, and i have a lot of choices that works a lot better for our situation.'
>> That's not laziness, cowardice, or betrayal. We have no idea how
>> challenging Sashs's students find It Wasn't Love, November, or A Little
>> Death to be, or in what ways, or how that sets up the rest of her course. I
>> don't know any of those pieces myself, and they're certainly not canon, so
>> Sasha may have come to them via diligent searching, loyalty to the ongoing
>> energy of avant-garde works, and courage in programming beyond the usual
>> suspects.
>>
>> None of us are in a position to judge her harshly for her choices, or for
>> her opinion of Wavelength. But she's not in a position to assert Wavelength
>> is useless to other teaching situations. And I think both Sasha and Gene
>> know that perfectly well (they're both smart and know their stuff), and
>> this little kerfuffle would never occur in actual conversation, because
>> neither party really meant their words in the way they've been read.
>>
>> So how about EVERYBODY apologize for anything that may have been taken as
>> a personal attack, or an over-reaching universal claim, and we try to make
>> something actually USEFUL out of this sorry-ass thread? Sashs's post had
>> some vague abbreviated points about why she finds the films she listed to
>> be useful introductions, and the posts on Wavelength make moves in a
>> similar direction. How 'bout we expand on that?
>>
>> Thus, suggested discussion topic:
>> • Define an at least modestly specific audience of experimental film
>> beginners: background (age, experience, culture), interest in the subject,
>> ('makers'? 'scholars'? both?) and an at least modestly specific setting
>> (semester course? 3-day workshop? single presentation?
>> • Tell us what you would show this group as their FIRST experimental film
>> viewing experience. TRT not to exceed 60 minutes. (A single major work, a
>> program of related shorts - e.g. 'The films of Maya Deren', or a diverse
>> program of shorts.)
>> • Explain how the choice fits your passions, the group's interests and
>> tendencies, and the situation. What pedagogical values you find in the
>> work(s) you've chosen.
>>
>> (I'd start, but i'm already late to an appt.!!)
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-- 
Elizabeth
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