I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. Five people agreeing are not always right. My post was colored by the fact that I believed the initial story, finding it frightening that an instructor would be pressured out of a job for showing a film. I don’t know of any films I have seen the showing of which should ever be judged as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is very serious and very bad, and the term should not be demeaned by application with speech acts not directed at a particular person.

I taught in the same school as Stan Brakhage for quite a few years. Perhaps he could be a little difficult at times, but he is not even remotely like the unnamed person I was referencing. I was pleased to sometimes try to smooth out small conflict between Stan and the administration. There are intense and dramatic personalities; then there is the occasional abuser, and that is the person I was referring to, someone who in the course of what should have been an objective conversation routinely resorted to frequent personal insults – among many other bullying tactics.

One year I got a grant that allowed us to bring in fifteen different filmmakers from the US and abroad. As the list came together, I was warned that this or that filmmaker would be very difficult. In every case but one, they were not. Kenneth Anger was gentle, even sweet, and did exactly what he had agreed to do. A few had special requests, but they were not hard to meet.

One of the fifteen /was/ difficult. When he met with his student projectionist in advance of his public show, the projectionist suggested, from the projector deck, that they needed to agree on a signal between them if the filmmaker felt a film was out of focus. The filmmaker said something like, "Why don’t I just call out, 'Hey, you fuck, focus it. '" The projectionist took exception to being referred to as a "fuck," and almost walked out. To me, this is not a matter about which reasonable people can disagree; it is bullying.

That is not to say that I have any idea what the five were referring to. Maybe I would agree; maybe not.

Remember too that I was responding to someone who was taking sides, apparently accepting the initial narrative, suggesting that the artist in general is so abused that he should teach dishonestly. Maybe in a totalitarian dictatorship? We are not there yet, thankfully.

I don’t know what I would think about the MassArt situation if I had been there. It is just that I was embarrassed to be thinking ill of MassArt from having heard and accepted one side of the story. Now I am neutral. I always did admire Switzerland for not having been in a foreign war since 1515.

Fred Camper

On 4/16/2018 3:31 AM, MARILYN BRAKHAGE wrote:
I don't know all the details of this story (and it doesn't sound as if anyone else in this thread does either), but I just wanted to make a few observations about the conversation generally:

"Are the five signatories lying?" you ask. One might also ask, are the five signatories engaging in a sort of 'group think'? And/or is it possible that /both/ sides of the tale are telling "the truth" from their own perspective and chosen emphasis? ... My (admittedly sketchy) understanding is that Saul Levine received a student complaint about the content of a film, a student feeling "unsafe" perhaps, or "sexually harassed?" (as is increasingly the charge that is made, it seems, when someone is presented with something of a sexual nature that makes them uncomfortable.) Any such complaint would necessitate that the administration investigate it. They would be obliged to do that. This chain of events taking place within a backdrop of long standing contention between Saul and other faculty members and/or administrators may have led to an encounter that caused Saul to decide that all things considered he'd rather just quit. Thus, they can say that he was not forced to quit because of his film, that leaving was his choice -- yet he still has a story to tell about what led to his decision to leave. The administration says he was not forced to quit, and paints him as an ongoing problematic personality who is now "bullying" them. I don't know precisely what they mean by that, but he has his story to tell, from his point of view, and has every right to tell it. I don't think that telling your story of a contentious relationship with others, and even naming the people you were in argument with, should necessarily be considered "bullying." And in a five versus one argument it is not necessarily true that the five must be right and the one must be wrong. They have their experience and views and he has his. ... As for the longstanding conflicts, no doubt an ability to compromise and to 'get along' with people is helpful in any walk of life -- but on the other hand, there are some things that people of integrity will not compromise on. They may fight for awhile, they may decide to move on, and they may also have an argument they'd subsequently like to present to a larger audience. So be it. But the idea that artists are likely to be particularly and uniquely difficult, self-absorbed people who are impossible to get along with is a cliché that I reject. There are, of course, a lot of horribly difficult artists. And there are a lot of horribly difficult non-artists. And academic institutions are also fairly notorious for their petty, territorial squabbling, which has nothing to do with art whatsoever.

As a raised example of an artist teaching, Stan Brakhage did, yes, show his own films as a part of his teaching practice, but he never taught film/making/. This is because he considered his method of making films, which involved deep dives into the unconscious, not "teachable" in the ordinary sense, and potentially dangerous, and probably because he wanted to keep his filmmaking practice generally separate from his teaching. ... I don't recall Stan "getting into trouble" with the school over the nature of his completed films, though I do recall some students complaining, after he showed Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising, that he was showing them "pornography." And on another occasion when a university colleague (not a filmmaker or artist of any kind) filled in for Stan during an absence, she told /his/ Film History class that Stan's idea of film history was only about what mattered to him in his own filmmaking (which was totally untrue; as many know he was a voracious consumer of films of all sorts, and his film history classes were extremely varied and fabulously illuminating). But academics often have very narrowly focussed areas of interest also, and can be just as competitive and controlling in their personalities as anyone else.

Without going into any further specifics, it is also generally true, I think, that people with large, passionate, or dramatic personalities or temperaments are very easy to target for blame when tempers flare and disagreements become intense. People will find it easy to believe that it must have been that person's fault. But there are times when that is not the case.  So who knows?

Fred, you also say that we should take care to make accusations about the abridgment of academic freedom only when it has really occurred. True, but it might also be worth noting that such abridgments can creep in in insidious ways and we need to be vigilant about the effects of any dominating agenda of any particular group of people, and the increasingly narrowing notions about what is and is not acceptable and open for discussion, let alone viewing, in our academic institutions. I think these are real, not fanciful dangers.

Marilyn Brakhage

*From: *"Fred Camper" <>
*To: *"Experimental Film Discussion List" <>
*Sent: *Saturday, April 14, 2018 1:43:51 PM
*Subject: *Re: [Frameworks] Forwarded from Massart Faculty

So it sounds like you are unquestionably accepting that Levine was forced out due to the nature of his filmmaking?

Are the five signatories of that statement lying?

Of course it is true that it is in the nature of some kinds of art making that the artist will believe that she or he has found /the /truth, /the /path, the only correct way of making films or other art. Jessica comments on a facet of this, though I think in some other kinds of artists authoritarianism is not to be found, or will be successfully hidden. But for some of the most original artists, this belief is central to their practice. One only has to read the writings of Dziga Vertov and Robert Bresson, both filmmakers who felt so strongly that their mode of filmmaking was the only true way that they used use words or phrases to refer /only /to their own films to the exclusion of all others to emphasize the correctness of their choices, for examples. One can only speculate as to the nature, if language differences could be bridged, of a "faculty meeting" to discuss the correct  forms of cinema education with a faculty consisting of Eisenstein, Vertov, Epstein, Bresson, Kubelka, Brakhage, Rainer, and, oh, say, Roberto Rossellini, Nicholas Ray and John Ford.

But at the same time, Stan Brakhage, Peter Kubelka, Robert Breer, Hollis Frampton, George Landow/Owen Land, Ernie Gehr, Larry Jordan, Ken Jacobs, Larry Gottheim, and of course others, all taught  filmmaking for many decades. I name these in particular as filmmaker whose work I like, in most cases hugely. All showed their own films as part of their teaching practice. Does anyone know of cases in which these filmmakers got into trouble with their schools over the nature of their completed films, or for their expression of their ideas about their art? Some have troubles, but more due to the nature of their personalities, is that not right?

With so many nations sliding into dictatorship, we who are privileged to live in relatively free nations should appreciate, and try to preserve, what we have, taking care to make accusation about the abridgement of academic freedom only when it has really occurred.

What you are advocating implies an inner split that is probably impossible for most of us to put in practice in the long term, but is also fundamentally dishonest. Hired to teach one's beliefs, and not directed to conceal them, the filmmaker is then to spend a career lying about them? Is that even fair to the students, or to the school? Would such a course not make the world a fundamentally worse, rather than better, place? Haven't we seen enough lying, especially when it is not absolutely necessary?

Avoiding academia entirely might be a good idea, if one can manage it. I  think Markopoulos's films only got greater, after he left teaching and the U.S. I certainly felt freer in many ways when I could survive as a freelance writer, working mostly for a for-profit newspaper, than when I turned to teaching at allegedly high-minded not for profit institutions. At the same time, I have been relatively free to work my own beliefs about cinema and about art even in predesigned courses in which I have to teach certain elements I did not decide on (though also do not oppose). And I feel sure that for many, alternative-to-teaching jobs might be far worse than teaching.

Fred Camper

On 4/14/2018 12:40 PM, Francisco Torres wrote:

    I suggest one course of action to avoid such problems- Total
    boycott of academia. Find other sources of employment if possible.
    If academia is the only alternative in terms of earning an income
    then withhold your true work from the academic audience. Create
    safe, vanilla works for the administration and the student body
    and another body of work for yourself and your true audience
    (outside academia). Also withhold your true wisdom from your
    academic work, keep it secret. Moreover, feed an official artistic
    line to your students and co-workers. Play it safe. After all, it
    worked for the alchemists for hundred of years.

    2018-04-14 1:34 GMT-04:00 lady snowblood
    < <>>:

        I’ve been observing this situation and reflecting on the need
        for competing skills inside one person:
        - adherence to personal vision in the studio
        - the flexibility of ego to collaborate well with colleagues
        and students in the educational environment.

        I’ve seen behavior like this in art teachers the past,
        although not to this degree. And I assigned it as lots of
        skill in one area (authorship) fewer skills in another ...

        It’s hard. I’m reminded that “you can’t say authoritarian
        without author”. I also re-invest in the notion that I have to
        keep a good buffer between my formal creative practice
        (viciously adhering to the vision) and the social skills for
        creating resilient learning environment (relax, communicate,
        provoke, nourish, discover together etc).


        * * * * *

        Jessica Fenlon

        artist : poet : experimental :

        flickr <> : vimeo
        <> : instagram

        On Apr 13, 2018, at 8:13 AM, John Muse <
        <>> wrote:

            Another turn of the screw:



                On Apr 12, 2018, at 9:19 AM, Jon Behrens
                < <>> wrote:

                Thank you Ed

                For sharing this

                Sent from my iPhone

                On Apr 11, 2018, at 8:22 PM, Deana LeBlanc
                <>> wrote:

                    Emotion vs. reason? His live video got us PUMPED
                    and struck a cord- we who were watching were
                    cheering, (crying a bit admittedly). Even had
                    musicians riding along to its It speaks to
                    something bigger and is effectively cathartic- the
                    performance, the storytelling, while also being a
                    testimony of information. Two things going on at
                    once, important to distinguish. But this also
                    makes sense- the statement from Mass Art Faculty-
                    glad to hear from them.

                    On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Ed Halter
                    < <>> wrote:

                    Hey Frameworks

                    Felt I should share this announcement that was
                    forwarded to me from the Massart faculty.


                    TO THE MASSART COMMUNITY:

                    The faculty and staff of the Film/Video department
                    demand that Professor Saul Levine stop his

                    lies about recent events at Mass Art and his
                    cyber-bullying against his colleagues.

                    It is because of Professor Levine’s very public
                    attacks and misrepresentations that we feel

                    obliged to correct his version of the complaints
                    against him.

                    He has bullied his colleagues and created an
                    abusive working environment over many years.

                    He has derailed and destroyed important
                    discussions about urgent departmental and curricular


                    This is NOT an issue of academic freedom. No one
                    at Mass Art made any effort to censor or

                    punish Professor Levine for screening his film or
                    any other film he has shown over the years.

                    No one forced him to retire.The decision to retire
                    is entirely Professor Levine’s.

                    We recognize Professor Levine as a brilliant
                    artist and programmer and are thankful for his

                    contributions to the department and to Massart.It
                    is extremely painful to see his toxic rant

                    against the department, besmearing the College and
                    insulting us by name while claiming

                    himself as the victim.

                    As artists, teachers and mentors, it is our
                    responsibility to stand up when we are bullied and to

                    treat each other with respect. It is also our duty
                    to foster an open, respectful, and collegial

                    environment for our students.

                    Soon-Mi Yoo, Chair

                    Ericka Beckman, Professor

                    Gretchen Skogerson, Professor

                    Joe Briganti, Studio Manager, Video Area

                    Kim Keown, Studio Manager, Film Area


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            john muse
            visual media scholar
            haverford college


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