The avantgarde film-making can be said to be basically about the expression through different techniques. trying to find ways of communicating different messages differently but yet more effectively. When you are feminist woman artists trying to express yourself effectively and concerned about doing it in a feminist way (which by the way is almost an utopia as can be read further according to some feminist theorists), it’s even harder to do so . Under these circumstances as well as being a female defining herself as a womanist and a feminist I want to use the mediums effectively in order to communicate right. First I’ll give a short overall of what had been said about feminist ways of film-making, then I’ll show glimpse of the most recent of the future of the media and mediums which might potentially become the biggest avenue of independent and avantgarde film-making and how it can be discussed to relate in a way to the feminist idea of film-making.

Is There a Light at the End of the Tunnel or is it Just a Reflection on the Screen?

Nazli Eda Noyan


A FEMINIST WAY?

If medium is the message like Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore mentioned in “Medium is the Massage”, soap operas on TV, melodramas in cinema... how does the medium change the message? First maybe we can consider that “the rules that underlie our ordering of the world become so embedded in our conception of that world that they fade into background while simultaneously shaping what we consider to be that world” (Burdick, 22), and then have a look at what construct those rules... Obviously the answer is society, history, tradition and the big word: culture. And how a culture constructs or rebuilds is through a variety of ways including media and hence movies. We knew all these so far but what we still do not know, or at least not sure of and in search for is how it works and if there is a way of changing what had been the case for a long time: patriarchal order.

Is it really “illusory to think that women can remain outside of the patriarchal system of language”? Is there a possibility of social change? “How can we grasp the interacting levels of social formation?” (Gaines, 337). The Internet environment means new resources and opportunities for reaching the public. “No matter what technological potential a new medium promises, it must connect with a current cultural practice in order to be taken up by a community and exploited” (Wright, 173). Modern communities are generated by reflexively organizing the horizons of possible activity, inventing a variety of traditions and modern rituals, or by drawing up rules of conduct on the Internet like it happened with radio, TV and cinema. Our habits are changing according to the new mediums. Years ago as a designer rule you couldn’t design a web page that made you scroll down more than three screens, but today the new generation is developed by using the net and they have no problem of reading text from it.

What’s female gaze and feminist filmic structure if there’s one and can the internet be womanist and feminist by its nature since there is barely or no hierarchy or a linear flow? Can it be used to serve as a better platform or environment for female filmic narratives and structures? How the interactive media, non-linear narrative (of course this is something more than the possibilities of DVD) affects the constructing and the reading of these codes and the feminist theories about film? How do they relate to the gaze theory and theories about patriarchal order, spectatorship, identification? “What happens to authority, authorship when texts can be navigated non-linearly? What’s the role of an interactive and participory audience?” (Susan Yelavich, 9). And ultimately, can a movie in an interactive environment, having non-linear narrative and more complicated, open (with links) structure, do what cinema theaters or video and TV couldn't: to have a female gaze, get out of patriarchal order?

According to Lev Manovich, the trajectory of computer interfaces points clearly toward the use of a globally shared visual language of the cinema (Qtd. in Blauvelt, 38). It is “waiting for its Orson Welles, its Sergei Eisenstein to invent a new language... the definition of new media: it resembles print, it resembles television- but it’s neither. It’s a metamedium and the how it’s done as opposed to the what is done is matters.” (Steve Dietz, 36). In the new media “while the authoritive voice over does not disappear from the lexicon, given some of its capabilities- hyperlink and user choice couples with limitless virtual space--what new media brings to the narrative party that is new and perhaps enhanced is agency. No longer it is just ‘you are there’- you can chose which where, which when, and even ‘who do you want to be today?’” (37). Since according to feminists “there’s a need to redefine ‘community’...” (Parmar, 382), the new media’s open, endless nature and the fact that the viewer is as active participant as almost one can ever be can be very powerful. It clearly has the power to “awaken the public to... new desires”. “Yet, we know that women speak, even though it may not be clear exactly how this takes place. And unless we want to accept a formulation by means of which woman can only mimic man’s relation to language... we must try to consider the relation between female body and language, never forgetting that it’s a relation between two terms and not two essences. Does woman have a stake in representation or, more appropriately, can we assign one to her?” (Doane, 94). Arbuthnot and Seneca argues that “... first the need for films that construct women as the spectator and yet do not offer repressive identifications: and second the need for feminist films that satisfy our craving for pleasure... The pleasure comes from our own objectification. Our own positioning to be looked at, as object of the gaze... has come to be sexually pleasurable.” (Qtd. in Kaplan, 124).

As Roland Barthes mentions, “writerly”, abstract, creative form with given elements that makes viewer play with them and asking them to put them together, is a more feminist form in nature because the potential audience is active instead of passive. “There’s much to the telling of the piece goes ‘unwritten’ As a result of the unique integration of visual arrangement, reader activity, words, and images, the reader can construct a story about brief moments of contact, obstacles, and distance to emotional connections, and compartmentalization of feelings” (Burdick, 28).“Language is at the same time a site for empowerment and a site for enslavement. And it is particularly enslaving when its workings remain invisible? ...poetic practice can be difficult to a number of viewers because mainstream films and media our ability to play with meanings other than the literal ones that pervadeour visual and aural environment is rarely solicited. Everything has to be packaged for consumption” (Qtd. Trinh Minh-Ha, 326). All these seem to lead up to multiple associations: interactive, interpretive environment, metarepresentation. About the white screen in Su Friedrich’s “Gently down the Stream” J. Mayne mentions it’s “a powerful figure of ambivalence... a surface that suggests simultaneous passage and obstacle”, it “embodies contradictory impulses: it is both present and invisible... when the white screen appears, coupled with poem about seeing, the possibilities of cinema as a source of both directed seeing and unbounded dreaming are juxtaposed” (197-98) might be said about the new medium too.

SUMULTANEOUS PASSAGE TO THE FUTURE?

Are the feminist film-makers and theorists facing a new era: education, information, interactivity, no-time, no-place, identity, status, hierarchy, nonlinear, ubiquotus, powerful? But here’s another question of access: Can you reach every women? Probably not, but there are some you can reach. How? What kind of women are using the web? Working, studying, ones who can afford a computer, modem and connection service. Who goes to movies, watches TV? A very high percentage watches TV. Who has done such kind of films whom could they reach. Honestly I do not know, although I researched a lot. A couple of movie web sites have female artists work but...

Most of new technology had their golden times made their impact on the society in many ways. But I assume very little had or will have the same kind of impact as TV had. But probably the Internet will have an even greater impact (the Internet users of 31% says they watch TV less but they didn’t give up cinema). The internet may succeed in the things TV couldn’t like in the case of sex. The nation’s first interactive TV network (Warner) in Columbus, Ohio was basicaly broadcasting adult content. But it turned out to be a bust; where as in the Internet sex sites are the most visited sites and they are making a good profit. Although computers look like they are in a more personal space because the sharp and precise display generally designed for a close viewing, where as the TV is designer for a distant viewing often as a group activity, the internet culture is a community culture. According to Davis, “the behavior of theatrical audience has been on display for millennia, and the early history of TV has much to teach us about the theatrical audience that stays at home.” There are so many things to learn from the TV audience but the Internet proved to have something very different and important: interactivity (the new designs for both some TV and computer models involve distance viewing and either cursor oriented or remote oriented interface).

Crockford mentions, “The worst features of computers that they are underpowered and designed to be used by nerds, will improve over the long haul” (461). For sure the Internet has the technical knowledge and expertise barrier. And it is the job for designers to over come that barrier. Not only the knowledge but the access to the new technology is still the case for most of the potential users. Besides not having computers or having problems connecting to the net they can not keep up with the latest possibilities of communication and technology. “Hypermedia cannot become a form of electronic democracy unless it is ubiquitous” (Druckrey, 128). But one of the greatest features of the Internet is its easily adapting nature. Some web sites are designed for several different browsers with different versions and technologies like Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Internet is a great delivery system for information among other modern information environments especially when time sensitive information is at stake. But this also means risk and uncertainty for most of the users. “Images have never contained the potential to sustain so much information, or, perhaps, meaning. At the same time, images have never contained so much fascinating disinformation. Weaving between the two, subjectivity must distinguish not between fact and fiction but between communication and discourse... The electronic image vacillates between actuality and hypothesis... Techno culture's spectacle is that of distributed thinking, distributed identity, distributed text, distributed processing. In the many metaphors that are emerging, the fragmentation of form and the prioritizing of content is one of the most interesting ... Its physical insubstantiality though cannot be mistaken for a lack of meaning” (Druckrey, 127-128). On the Internet you can navigate randomly which means more or less no particular order. The hierarchy occurs less than any thing else. Even time has its own order: it’s the Internet time, which is a global concept of time: the same for each and every country. Its involving no geography is a great opportunity for distance communication and learning but “the absence of common locale sometimes might acquire an additional normative complexity in terms of interaction” (Slevin, 14). And the concept, information, and experience design become crucial at this point. But although the global non-hierarchic aspects of the Net and the efforts of the designers, engineers, and everybody else involved in the Internet, language is still a barrier for most of the users and English speaking countries have the most benefit.

The key to the new technology and the Internet is the interactivity. “Interactivity usually means effectability: what our effectors affect. Though interactivity always requires information flowing in two directions. It is our input and its effect that distinguishes from noninteractivity” (Naimark, 455). The innovation is coming from the interactive image industry. Images are becoming increasingly interactive. Why do we need more Interactivity, what is so fascinating about it? What people ultimately want is experience. A shift toward a more sensual and aesthetic definition of what technology is for. Perhaps it is related to the sense of control. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean power but something about experiencing more and more as you can. Like Druckrey mentions “Information technologies demand a reconfigured model of social change... visual and sensory power of the technology, can be a way of dramatizing the relativity of our place in the world and not the illusions of total power” (127).

If you want a mediated experience to look, sound, and even feel and smell real, go to the motion picture and entertainment industry. There is an attempt to go beyond movies, a whole new kind of entertainment. Something essentially expands the possibilities for what you're able to do with the Internet. Ultimately what it means is using the Internet in a more fluid and interactive way in almost anything that you're doing. Is it movies on your computer? Games on your telephone? Another problem is structure. “On the one hand, piecing together cross-platform projects (to slip into the vernacular) at the tribalistic media conglomerates and to create the entertainment that will be enjoyed by audiences in traditional media (e.g., TV and movies), in the real world (like a live sporting event), and on the Internet are really hard” (Fortune).

If we have a look at the Internet or the computer technology in general we’ll see the similarities with the movies because they both "deeply embedded in everyday life, because they were democratic arts embraced by average citizens” and they both represent "the vitality of contemporary urban experience... the very machinery of the industrial age, which many felt dehumanizing, and found within it the resources for expressing individual visions, for reasserting basic human needs, desires and fantasies" according to Henry Jenkins. Most of the movies and computer games are made up of expressive movement, speed and dynamism with characters defined through space, and successful products structured around a succession of spectacular stunts and predicaments. Although "game developers continue an artistic tradition, and are translating the power of writing, painting, and photography into a new medium" they the not yet provoked us to tears because they "do not have characters of human complexity or stories that stress the consequences of our actions, they can not achieve the status of true art". But since the characters are fallible like humans, "on line games are beginning to affect how we understand the world. 'issues of territorial control, fear, and discovery continually presented and represented in an immensely immersing medium can't help but shape consciousness'" (Jenkins).

Dan Adler, head of new media for Creative Artists Agency says “no one has really figured out yet what Internet entertainment can do that's truly exciting and unique, the hope is that they will create the products that will help define the medium." (Fortune). Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment has begun developing original, interactive content for the Internet. One model for what's to come is a Sony on line show called Dawson's Desktop, an Internet brand extension of the popular teen drama Dawson's Creek. Fans can go deeper into the story by reading the lead character's e-mail or diary and watching his home videos, even clicking on the trashcan on the desktop that you can peep in. Additional content from the original show is provided with lots of advertisement at the background.

Interactivity, as both a theory of production and experience, is emerging as the essential discourse of form and content. According to Naimark “as the language of cinema evolved... more inferences could be made. Conceptual continuity replaced perceptual continuity. One might speculate that the Lucas/ Spielberg style fast-paced thriller would have been impossible for early movie watchers to be followed. The evolution of aesthetic style results in massive bandwidth compression.” Throwing more bandwidth at the medium doesn’t automatically make it better. Being artful with what you have does” (458). And soon the audience would be able to adjust themselves to the new medium and different ways of delivering the content.

As for the near future, Worth Magazine says there is a growing trend towards personalization. The database technology keeps growing. “The system will know you... the experience will be tailored to own personal interests... the generic one-size fits experience won’t be good enough”. So want will it bring? “Everything and everyone will seem closer... from six degrees of separation to one” (158). Won’t we be able to learn or hear about something out of our routine interests? Will it spice up our world or make it ignorant. Will we drawn too much in our world, in too much information and forget others or simply don’t care about the information itself?

SOME KEYWORDS FOR THE FILMMAKERS OF THE FUTURE & CONCLUSION:

Fiction, Reality, Syntax, Multidirectional plotting, Metaphor, Reality-digital illusion, Interactivity, Concept Design, Experience Design, Atmospheric Design, Information Architecture, Business Administration, Motion, Sound, Authority x Loss of Authority, Collective, Personalize, Fantasy Role Playing, Games, Reality Shows, Identification, Identity, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Edutainment, Infotainment, Presentation, Design, Technology...

After having a look at all these keywords one might thing what does film-making has to do with it anyway and will the movies “we used to know” disappear? No. But probably the audience will change and now changing and they’ll ask for diversity and new ways of telling stories. This is a great, refreshing, rewarding way of communicating new messages, making the audience be active. A great new medium for feminist film-makers to explore and find out if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel or is it just a reflection on the screen...

Please have a look at my work, explore and criticize it through feminist perspective...


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