so i'm excited because i've decided that i will go to the PSU conference. i've been accepted for the first time (first time submitting, so that bodes well, i guess). i'm doing a little film about film, multimodal textwork as something i'm calling rhetorico-kinetic sculpture (it's a little precious, but i'm sort of going for an association w/rhetoric as art rather than an art of rhetoric). i'm thinking "performative" in that the film wants to be the argument, the art.

i have never simply shown my film as my argument, and this is because of where we (still) are in our field . . . beholden to written discourse (even if it's spoken . . . at the conference gig, it's assumed that you've written something). i got completely ripped apart at a recent conference out West . . . and i had even intro'd the film by saying that "i wish i didn't have to explain this, but since we're not there yet . . . " (and i proceeded to explain what they would be seeing, which i often find so sad) . . . . but even having said this, i was attacked, ripped apart, . . . dismissed for assuming that image can operate apart from written discourse.

maybe it's an acquired disposition that emerges as one feels more and more right in calling herself "a filmmaker," as she discovers a joyful way of seeing and being that evolves from production, from making films . . . from working with more than one track (sometimes multiple video and audio tracks) . . . maybe it's this stance that allows me to find this (conference) attack absurd (then and now, although then, i was fairly speechless . . . they were comp luminairies attacking me, one on one side and one on the other. Chuck Bazerman sat near me and occasionally attempted to temper the attack with his gentle understanding. thank God i had him star in my first film . . . God love Chuck. ). and i realize that we are called upon to work it out in written discourse, especially given the turf wars w/ film studies, communication, multimedia, etc. . . . but so i like to think w/ Jean-Luc Godard, who, speaking in terms of production on his work as critic, writer, and filmmaker, identifies “a clear continuity between all forms of expression” arguing, “It’s all one. The important thing is to approach it from the side which suits you best” (qtd in Narboni and Milne 171). so i'm thinking that the visual suits me best and i'm thinking about how we work that out . . . the autonomy of the image-text (but why the need to write it? why can't we work it out in our image-texts? . . . i plan to try and i believe that we, as rhetoricians and rhetors and filmmakers and artists have skills sufficient to the task of finding the available means of [visual, extra-textual] persuasion in/for a given situation . . . looking forward to PSU, where i'm thinking/hoping that my audience will accept my image-text, my film as my argument . . . my art). i'll unpack later . . .

works cited

on Godard: Critical Writings.
Ed Jean Narboni & Tom Milne.
Introduction, Richard Roud.
NY: Da Capo Press, 1986.


bdegenaro said…
wouldn't one possibility be to introduce your film with some of this "meta" talk? i.e., talk through some of these very issues you just raised on your blog. (not that i'm saying you MUST talk...just wondering if this type of intro would add a layer that would otherwise be lacking)
hi Bill,

i will probably give the talk, but i want to fight it. this is what i'm talking about. it sort of says "the film isn't enough" or "i don't trust my audience." i've seen it both ways at Sundance, and i like the no comments-clear it up in q & a approach. or silence :)

we'll see.
John said…
I'm wondering if it's a framing issue -- not your framing or lack of it, but their expectations of what should be happening. In cognitive terms, we have a set of expectations of what a presentation should be and should do: a script. While there's room for variation from our default expectations, pushing too far can lead to such a disconnect between what’s expected and what’s occurring that understanding breaks down. Quite literally, the audience doesn’t know how to read what’s going on. This might be the explanation for the hostility.

If I’m right, it’s an interesting rhetorical issue. You, understandably, want your film to speak for itself just as you've seen them do at Sundance. Only, they're being presented to compositionists who expect written discourse, are cognitively primed for written discourse, and therefore find themselves cognitively unprepared, at least for that moment, to process your film.
thanks for writing, John. and you're absolutely right. later last night, i realized that my desire for my art to speak for itself is an ancient one, that it's horribly arrogant to think that i will be the one to disable this cognitive expecation or need.

but. in my notes last night i was thinking about the cuttlefish . . . an amazing aquatic creature, something between a squid and an octopus . . . it changes color and shape shifts in order to camoflauge itself, and it changes so quickly and expertly that one wonders about cognition; in fact, it was as some scientist was talking about the cuttlefish's congition that i began to think about Brian Massumi's article "The Autonomy of Affect" (and thereby thinking that the brain/body maybe aren't so neatly divided for the cuttlefish, that cognition may have little to do with it). . . so i was thinking about Massumi's sugesstion that the languaging function that enables a brain to register "i've been injured," or "i need to move," or "i need to shape shift and fast" is a "subtractive" activity . . . that the activity first happens in the brain before it registers in consciousness. there is something there for my problem . . . i'm thinking that it's that space . . . maybe similar to what Deleuze called "the plane of immanence" . . . something there that i want to *honor* or test or rely upon . . . so that i won't have to name it, so that i honor that space; when i've seen it done well, it's magical, otherworldly-good, and it's why people go to film festivals, to go WAY beyond their expectations (well, and then many go for swag and celebrities, which is another gig and not all that bad. but). so here, the cuttlefish, an evolutionary wonder . . . theories have it that it's developed these amazing capacities because *it had to* when it lost is exoskeleton, it's shell or body or whatever must have once protected it. so now, exposed, it had to adapt and quickly. and it did; it's remarkably successful (although it's also often sought; the voiceover on the -- i think it was NOVA? -- program had it that "anything w/ a fin eats the cuttlefish" mainly because, well, it's all body (ha). there is even one, called "the flamboyant cuttlefish" that *walks* on the ocean floor, so evolved is it that it need not swim fast to escape; it simply puts on a light show to dazzle its prey (who, if they are smart, are dazzled, thinking, "no way. that thing's toxic" (it is). so i guess that in my arrogance, i want to put on a light show ;)

it will all depend upon whether or not i have time enough to make my next film that good. they say in filmwork, if you have to use a voiceover, your story isn't done, it's not strong enough. so, w/r/t my film at PSU (or wherever), if i have to rely on language, you'll know that i have lost a little faith . . . or come to my senses :)
Jenny said…
Sorry I won't be there to see your film, bonnie. I'll be moving households. I'm sure they'll love you.
thanks, Jenny. we'll see, right? in the meantime, i'm still freaking out about how clear your ultrasound images are. so pretty! enjoy . . . and thanks for writing ;)
Jenny said…
I can't believe how clear they are, either. The technology is amazing.