For three decades, Paul Arthur has been a leading observer and critic as well as a direct participant in America’s avant-garde cinema. In A Line of Sight, he provides a sweeping new account of the extravagant energies of American experimental cinema since 1965.
Balancing close analysis of both major and lesser-known films with detailed examinations of their production, distribution, and exhibition, Arthur addresses the avant-garde’s cultural significance while offering a timely reconsideration of accepted critical categories and artistic options. Rather than treating American avant-garde cinema as a series of successive artistic breakthroughs, A Line of Sight emphasizes the importance of social and institutional networks, material exchanges, and historical disruptions and continuities. Throughout, Arthur pays close attention to themes and visual practices neglected or underrepresented in previous studies, scrutinizing portraiture as a vehicle for projecting dissident identities, highlighting the essay film and the contemporary city symphony, and assessing the contributions of regional and African American filmmaking to the avant-garde. He also explores thematic and formal questions that have been central to the avant-garde achievement: experimental film's relationship with mainstream narrative cinema and postwar American painting as well as the legacy of sixties’s counterculture; the uses and theoretical implications of found footage and the allegorizing of technology; and the schism between a poetic, expressive cinema and the antisubjective, rationalist bias of structural filmmaking.
Amid the current resurgence of experimental filmmakers and the emergence of a new audience for their work, A Line of Sight reaffirms the extraordinary breadth and diversity of the avant-garde tradition in America.
Women’s Experimental Cinema provides lively introductions to the work of fifteen avant-garde women filmmakers, some of whom worked as early as the 1950s and many of whom are still working today. In each essay in this collection, a leading film scholar considers a single filmmaker, supplying biographical information, analyzing various influences on her work, examining the development of her corpus, and interpreting a significant number of individual films. The essays rescue the work of critically neglected but influential women filmmakers for teaching, further study, and, hopefully, restoration and preservation. Just as importantly, they enrich the understanding of feminism in cinema and expand the terrain of film history, particularly the history of the American avant-garde.
The contributors examine the work of Marie Menken, Joyce Wieland, Gunvor Nelson, Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Rubin, Amy Greenfield, Barbara Hammer, Chick Strand, Marjorie Keller, Leslie Thornton, Abigail Child, Peggy Ahwesh, Su Friedrich, and Cheryl Dunye. The essays highlight the diversity in these filmmakers’ forms and methods, covering topics such as how Menken used film as a way to rethink the transition from abstract expressionism to Pop Art in the 1950s and 1960s, how Rubin both objectified the body and investigated the filmic apparatus that enabled that objectification in her film Christmas on Earth (1963), and how Dunye uses film to explore her own identity as a black lesbian artist. At the same time, the essays reveal commonalities, including a tendency toward documentary rather than fiction and a commitment to nonhierarchical, collaborative production practices. The volume’s final essay focuses explicitly on teaching women’s experimental films, addressing logistical concerns (how to acquire the films and secure proper viewing spaces) and extending the range of the book by suggesting alternative films for classroom use.
Contributors. Paul Arthur, Robin Blaetz, Noël Carroll, Janet Cutler, Mary Ann Doane, Robert A. Haller, Chris Holmlund, Chuck Kleinhans, Scott MacDonald, Kathleen McHugh, Ara Osterweil, Maria Pramaggiore, Melissa Ragona, Kathryn Ramey, M. M. Serra, Maureen Turim, William C. Wees