Last week I spoke with PBS Art 21 blogger-in-residence, Nick Briz about putting feminist theory into practice and what it means to work from a site of ambivalence and compromise as a woman working in media. Yesterday it went live on the PBS site to pretty pretty pretty good reviews.
I really like Nick’s style of interviewing, and not because he cut himself completely out of our interview and let me talk, uninterrupted for 10 minutes. I think he updates the typical video interview or vlog style 10 years by providing screen shots instead of cut-aways, transforming the interview into a performance piece rather than just a typical vlog post.
If you enjoyed the post, or just want to support women artists using the word feminism on the Art 21 Blog, please tweet or ‘like’ it!
Update 7/1/11 2:45: The transcript of the interview is copied below thanks to Olivia Conti!
Pop Culture Pirate: An Interview with Elisa Kreisinger
by Nick Briz for Art21
EK: I often find myself saying “I’m a feminist, but…” So first and foremost I am a feminist, but I am also a consumer of popular culture, and as a feminist and pop culture consumer I feel that I inhabit the only place I can, which is sort of a site of ambivalence, contradiction, and compromise. I constantly feel like I have to compromise my politics to be entertained. As a woman, as a feminist, as a person who identifies as queer, I feel that I am rivaled in the entertainment industry, but revered in the ads that keep it going. So it’s this site of ambivalence which is the position that I remix from, and I think that way it makes it political – because I say I’m political and I come from that background, my intention is to be political. And while it may not be sort of “big P Politics” – now my work focuses a little more on socio-political issues of representation – I do think that in itself is political, even though I think a lot of white guys don’t see it that way because they don’t see it as an issue.
I always say that women want better stories that don’t revolve around men, that don’t revolved around babies, and video remixing is the best and most accessible way to make those stories. And so I think that that’s kind of what video remixing is – it’s making the stuff that you would want to see yourself so that it’s a reflection of both your desires and the community at large.
NB: How does someone with a liberal arts background, women & gender studies, end up making online video remixes?
EK: The way that I came to video remixing was because I found that there was no real way for me to add anything new to the online feminist community. Because there was so much participation in that community already that posts were re-Tweeted, Facebook liked, commented on all over the web and by the time I got to make my comment and to participate it had been said twelve times, and each time it was better than I would have said it. So the only way really for me to participate was though video remixing.
In the blogosphere there is a heavy influence of critique, which is great, and we need that, but we need it as part of a larger culture of consuming, critiquing, but then creating something from that. And blogging, and writing, I’m not saying that not creating, but I think an important part of the creative process is to show rather than tell, especially with the access we have to video. And not just show ourselves and our community, but to show other people who wouldn’t normally enter those communities the stories that we and probably they also long to see as well.
NB: With such an active feminist blogosphere, why don’t we see more of these women (and men) participating in online remix communities?
EK: There’s a lot of work that goes into remixing. So I don’t want to say that it’s so easy to participate that everybody can and should. Like, I do think everybody should, but I also realize that it’s not that easy. People come home from work and you’re tired, you don’t want to edit on Final Cut Pro because you’ve been in front of a computer all day entering data or whatever. So there are definitely barriers to participation, but by teaching remix and by posting those tutorials and by giving the tools to people, that’s the way that you begin to bridge that gap between theory and practice, so those issues of “well I don’t know how to rip things from the TV, where do I begin?” those are kind of solved. At least that’s the hope. There are definitely other issues, but I think that’s really important to give to a really smart community like feminists.
I always say that feminists are the best people to make remixes because, again, they have the theoretical background, they have the support of an online community, and they already have experience negotiating being a fan and a critic. That is a very familiar place I think, for feminists and a lot of critical thinkers in general. So in order for feminists to make videos, what do they need? They need the tools to do that, and they need tutorials that walk them through the process. My hope is that through remix we can kind of turn our collective anger and resentment against the media into something practical, and that practicality, that product, is often a tool that something like media literacy or feminist theory or queer theory addressed in theory only.
NB: Is there a relationship between copyleft ideologies and feminism?
EK: Yeah, totally. I think that copyright is based on ownership and it’s based on rights over someone or something else, and I think that copyright law is inherently patriarchal. It totally mimics the system and the structure of ownership and oppression – there’s a whole discourse on it and a whole section of copyright law and feminism that speaks to why copyright law is inherently patriarchal. If you just Google feminism plus fair use or feminism plus copyright law, you’ll see some of those articles, and they’re great and they’re really interesting.
I mean, I’ve said this before, I think I’m not sick of women telling people how they want their work to be used. I think that’s great and incredible, I think women should tell people how they want their work to be used and not stolen or not reproduced or whatever it is. I also do think, though, that in the end respecting peoples’ creative times and the work that they’ve done, you shouldn’t distinguish between gender for that, and in the end I do think that copyleftist policies are probably a little bit more fulfilling for creators on both ends of things.
NB: Could you explain your role as a curator?
EK: Well the curation is also purely practical. Like on the Political Remix Video blog website, it’s fun to find other videos that are political – that are remix and political – because there’s a lot of remix on the web that participates in regurgitating the racist, patriarchal, misogynistic stereotypes that we would see on television. So if we have the tools and technologies to not fuck up, let’s make media that’s not fucked up. It’s important to show people what media looks like that doesn’t regurgitate those stereotypes. So the curation is just a way to place all of those videos in one physical location because on Youtube they’re hard to find. If you have three or four people who are on the same page as you in terms of political ideology and they can all be surfing the web at the same time and finding video remixes that aren’t misogynistic or hurtful in any way, it helps to keep your own creative work flowing because you know that you’re participating in a larger community. And also there’s people who are interested in political remix work so it’s helpful for all that work to be in one place so that again, you can bridge that gap between creator, consumer, and critic.