Documentary film has traditionally perpetuated damaging cultural understandings of disability. However, Astra Taylor’s Examined Life (2008) and Bonnie Sherr Klein’s Shameless: The Art of Disability (2006) utilize documentary techniques to problematize the culturally constructed boundary between disability and able-bodiedness. Spectators are dragged into simultaneously traditional and innovative relationships with the spaces, bodies, and lives inhabited by the documentaries’ disabled subjects. These relationships encourage connection and intimacy even as they contain moments of distance and alienation. The films’ ambivalent representations foster an appreciation of disabled bodies as a reflection of valuable human diversity and a denaturalization of disability’s Otherness. As examples of new disability documentary cinema, the documentaries reflect the political potential of complex and affective representations of disabled subjects.
Crossing Boundaries in New Disability Documentary Cinema
Nexus of Complicity and Acts of Subversion in The Piano Teacher and Black Swan
Neha Arora and Stephan Resch
Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) are films about women directed by men. Both films unorthodoxly chart women artists’ struggle with the discipline imposed on them by the arts and by their live-in mothers. By portraying mothers as their daughters’ oppressors, both films disturb the naïve “women = victims and men = perpetrators” binary. Simultaneously, they deploy audiovisual violence to exhibit the violence of society’s gender and sexuality policy norms and use gender-coded romance narratives to subvert the same gender codes from within this gender discourse. Using Judith Butler’s and Michael Foucault’s theories, we argue that Haneke and Aronofsky “do” feminism unconventionally by exposing the nexus of women’s complicity with omnipresent societal power structures that safeguard gender norms. These films showcase women concurrently as victim-products and complicit partisans of socially constructed gender ideology to emphasize that this ideology can be destabilized only when women “do” their gender and sexuality differently through acts of subversion.
In this article, I consider some of the aesthetic and temporal forces that give us the opportunity to rethink the relationship between movement and perception in cinema and new media practice. Following Bergson and Deleuze, I offer an idea of the moving image that considers how we can move with the image’s movement. Through a discussion of my own media arts practice, I suggest a new approach to the creation of images that create movement, one where we feel rather than see imperceptibility. Considered in relation to other artistic and scientific deployments of imperceptibility revealed in the use of slow motion in contemporary moving images, this “feeling” of movement summons a kind of time that is neither atemporal nor a subdivision of time but rather a time of moving with images.
Situating Screen Bodies
On Viewing Ali Atassi’s Our Terrible Country from Beirut
Two Hong Kong Women Filmmakers’ Perspectives on Sex after 1997
Hong Kong women have been taking up the camera to explore the changing nature of their identity. Linking the depiction of the gendered body with the demand for women’s rights as sexual citizens, several directors have examined changing attitudes toward women’s sexuality. Yau Ching, for example, interrogates the issues of sex work, the internet, and lesbian desire in Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong (2002). Barbara Wong’s documentary, Women’s Private Parts (2001), however, uses the televisual talking head interview and observational camera to highlight the way women view their bodies within contemporary Chinese culture. By examining the common ground shared by these very different films, a vision of women’s sexuality emerges that highlights Hong Kong women’s struggle for full sexual citizenship.
The Fleshy Horror of the Unknowable Other in Spring and Honeymoon
Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon (2014) and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring (2015) initially seem like two horror films birthed in the spirit of classical psychoanalytic film criticism. They deal with a monstrous female, a fearful, castrated male, and the “otherness” of sexual relationships. Through a close analysis of each film, however, I suggest in the following that both films “think” through problems of the gendered other, sexual politics, and cinematic affect outside the bounds of contemporary psychoanalytic or affect theory. By suggesting and analyzing two neologisms that blend the insights of psychoanalytic and affective film theory—objet a(ffect) and che(www) vuoi—I argue that both films not only complicate typical readings of horror films “about” gender and sex, but that each film performs its own type of philosophical thought about gender and “otherness” through its very form and content.
Linda Howell, Ryan Bell, Laura Helen Marks, Jennifer L. Lieberman, and Joseph Christopher Schaub
Nouri Bouzid, Abdellah Taïa, and the Transnational Tourist
Walter S. Temple
Animation, Primitivism, and the Choreography of Vitality
Primitivism gathers together several hegemonic lines of thinking about otherness as a function of underdevelopment vis-à-vis the Western, white male subject. This article presents an analysis of the animated dance video Ghostcatching (Bill T. Jones, Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, 1999) that offers a framework for understanding the piece’s thoughtful relationship to the history of primitivism in animation. Positioning the dancing body and the motion-capture apparatus at the center of understandings of the supposedly pre-rational and uncivilized, I argue that Ghostcatching is an expert commentary on animation’s long-standing investment in notions of human origins and development. Ghostcatching and related animations (including its stereoscopic 3-D reworking, After Ghostcatching; Betty Boop cartoons of the 1930s; the Dancing Baby meme; and work by media artist Ian Cheng) provide a lens for examining technologies and discourses of motion capture, revealing the economy of vitality through which the energy of raced, infantilized, and animalized bodies are circulated.