Part 1: agnès films Past and Present

The three video essays in this webtext are the result of a year-long collaboration between Alexandra Hidalgo, a faculty member, and Hannah Countryman and Jessica Kukla, two undergraduate students working on the editorial staff of agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers ( The video essays showcase relationships that go beyond the year we spent making them. Alexandra met Hannah and Jessica when they took two of her courses in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC) at Michigan State University. She was so impressed with their work that she invited them to join the staff of agnès films, which she co-founded with Caitlan Spronk in 2010.

From its inception, agnès films has been steeped in technofeminist beliefs and practices. Technofeminist Radhika Gajjala (1999) argued that although approaches vary, “what all cyberfeminists share is the belief that women should take control of and appropriate the use of cybertechnologies in an attempt to empower ourselves” (p. 617). Because agnès films is geared toward helping women filmmakers connect with audiences and with each other, we broaden the idea of cybertechnologies to include film and video production. Although moving images did not play a strong role in online spaces back in 1999, today they are a key element of people’s engagement with online spaces and the topic around which agnès films revolves.

The form of empowerment we envision agnès films as working toward is allied with what technofeminists Mary Hocks and Anne Balsamo (2003) pointed to when she explained that “feminists can design and deploy technologies for activist goals to accomplish important, even essential, cultural and political work” (p. 192). We share Hocks' and Balsamo's aims and do our activist work by inspiring more women to work behind the camera and supporting their work once they get there. We accomplish this by curating agnès films as a digital publication space, promoting that space and content related to women filmmakers on Twitter and Facebook, and fostering a Facebook group where members discuss women filmmakers, ask for and provide advice, and share news of interest to the group.

Although we remain optimistic about the ways in which digital spaces and technologies open possibilities for feminists to perform activism, we are also aware that the Internet can be a negative, dangerous space, in particular for women and other marginalized groups. Moreover, we realize that it is not only the Internet at large that suffers from the sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and ableism that users engage, but that technofeminism itself can at times fall into the same traps as the society within which it operates. As Gajjala (1999) argued, “acknowledging that cyberfeminisms have opened up spaces for a dialogue that accommodates the use of Western technologies in ways that are sometimes counter to mainstream visions of technology, I suggest that the construction of the Other as ignorant is nevertheless implicit in some cyberfeminist narratives” (p. 616). Like feminism in general and like agnès films, technofeminism is an imperfect approach toward social justice. bell hooks (1982) stated that “every women’s movement in America from its earliest origin to the present day has been built on a racist foundation—a fact which in no way invalidates feminisms as a political ideology” (p. 124). Flawed as they may be, technofeminism and agnès films are still valuable in helping transform the narratives we as both disciplinary and larger culture share about women, their lives, and the creative work they produce when properly supported.

In the past year, we have filmed our team meetings, researched technofeminism, written and endlessly revised our narration, recorded and edited the video essays, and created this webtext that houses them. The work you will see, however, is the result of all the experiences we’ve shared together from the day we met in the classroom years ago to our weekly meetings in a decidedly not photogenic orange room lit by fluorescent lighting that tinges our skin a little green. We approached creating these video essays and this website in the same way we approach all our tasks together—by listening to each other, sharing and discussing ideas, and having each one of us take the lead on some aspect of the work to make use of our particular skills and talents.

As you watch the first video essay, you may find yourself a little confused about who is saying what. We have done this on purpose so that at first you experience the work as a true collective. We do, however, eventually introduce ourselves on screen to match names, voices, and faces.

We have provided a transcript of each video, which you can download if you click on the link below the videos. However, we hope that you will watch the video essays before reading the transcripts as there is much expressed through the visuals, the sound of our narration, and the scenes we showcase here that cannot be communicated through written text.

When technofeminists were so beautifully grappling with what feminism could bring to the nascent online worlds unfolding before them, video was not something we could reliably stream online, much less the high-resolution videos online users expect to stream today. We are excited to provide an exploration of how technofeminist ideas can be interwoven with moving images, and we hope to see many more technofeminist theories, pieces, and manifesta blossom in video in the future.

View Part 1

Password: TechnofeministPart1

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