Is there such a thing as a feminist documentary?

Friday 3rd February 2017, 6pm-8pm

Goldsmiths, University of London, PSH LG01

Documentary film has traditionally been understood as non-interventionist. The camera lens documents a reality as close as possible to the one lived by its characters. This talk troubles that narrative by delving into the method of directing Cinema Verite characters and the contract that develops between a director and his or her real characters on a Verite set. Drawing from her own experience directing the recent documentaries The Good Breast (2016) and Devoti tutti (in progress), Bernadette Wegenstein argues that feminist documentary practice, far from documenting the world in a passive sense, requires a fully interactive and embodied approach to the world of the characters. This means that through this interaction the world of the character reveals itself and speaks — even when it is silenced in the “real world.” But is this world really the world of the character, or is it a world that the documentary film has actually created? And what does this mean for a “feminist point of view”?

Bernadette Wegenstein is an Austrian-born media theorist and a documentary filmmaker. She is Professor of Media Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in the US, where she is also the founder and director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies. Her numerous publications include two MIT Press books, The Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty (2012) and Getting Under the Skin: Body and Media Theory (2006).

Seminar: “Going to the birds: animal sounds in affective networks”

Seminar with Prof. Jody Berland
Monday 5th December, 4-6pm, Professor Stuart Hall (PSH) Building, Room 115


The integration of recorded animal sounds into human sound creations is an increasingly common sonic practice. We hear animal sounds in a range of spaces and social situations, from film scores to spas and therapeutic spaces, from new music to collections of “nature sounds,” from ring tones to pop music, cellphone apps, video games, children’s toys and games and of course Twitter. We can learn more about the emotional and technological convergences of “nature” and digitality by examining the widespread use of recorded birds and bird songs. Bird song conventionally evokes both comforting clichés of spring and rebirth, and intimations of nostalgia, death, loss, and more recently, extinction. These themes are still present and yet profoundly altered in the history and aesthetics of bird sound recording and remixing.

This paper examines some of the sociotechnical constellations in which bird sounds appear, and explores their sonic reproduction as affective tools in contemporary culture. Drawing on critical work in affect theory, media studies, interdisciplinary animal studies, and cultural studies, this paper works with birds to explore digital sound aesthetics and ambivalent listening as part of the experience of risk culture in the so-called anthropocene. The seminar will be a discussion of the paper.

Bio: Jody Berland is Professor in the Department of Humanities, York University. She also teaches and supervises in the Graduate Programs in Culture and Communication, Social and Political Thought, and Science and Technology Studies, and is Senior Research Fellow in the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. She is author of North of Empire: Essays on the Cultural Technologies of Space, winner of the 2010 Gertrude J Robinson Book Award from the Canadian Communication Association, co-editor of the books Cultures of Militarization, Capital Culture, and Art as Theory/Theory and Art, and editor emeritus of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies.

Reading: please email a.goh[at] to receive set reading


Friday 2nd December 2016, 5-7pm, Media Research Building (MRB) Screen 1


In recent years, the relationship between sound, gender and technology has gained increasing attention. There have been a number of practitioner networks, informational resources, theoretical interventions, archives and educational initiatives established in the hope of tackling the gendered exclusions from and disparities within the technocentric fields of electronic music, audio production and sound arts. Many of these projects can be understood to share some of the concerns and ideals of cyberfeminism. Emerging in the early 1990s, cyberfeminism sought to explore the potentials and possibilities of technology, computing and Cyberspace for feminist praxis. However, to talk of cyberfeminism or indeed a cyberfeminist ethos in the singular is something of a misnomer: we consider it more appropriate to speak of plural cyberfeminisms, with various agendas, methods, perspectives and priorities.

This panel discussion follows on from a month-long online reading group which focused on the issue of “decolonizing sonic cyberfeminisms,” raising questions about the Eurocentric conceptualisations of technology, sound and gender implicit in much recent activism around these themes. It precedes a larger event planned for 4-5th May 2017 at the University of Lincoln which will continue to explore Sonic Cyberfeminisms. In addressing the issue of “Doing Sonic Cyberfeminisms,” the panel will explore what is at stake in the “now” of electronic music, audio production and sound arts, and asks what possible strategies of sonic resistance can be practiced

The panel will consist of presentations by Marlo de Lara (University of Leeds), Ari Robey-Lawrence (Goldsmiths/Berlin Community Radio), Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura (NTS Radio, TRUANTS), Marie Thompson (University of Lincoln) and will be chaired by Annie Goh (Goldsmiths).

Organized by Annie Goh (Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit, Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths) and Marie Thompson (Extra Sonic Practice, School of Film and Media, University of Lincoln).  

This event is FREE and open to all.



Public lecture and seminar by Professor Ned Rossiter.
Wednesday 19th October, Goldsmiths University of London
Lecture: 14:00-15:30 Professor Stuart Hall building LG02
Seminar: 16:00-17:30 Professor Stuart Hall building 314


Lecture: Sovereign Media and the Ruins of a Logistical Future
Sovereign media are apparatuses of indifference. They are a negative media of subtraction. “Unlike the antimedia, which are based on a radical critique of capitalist (art) production, sovereign media have alienated themselves from the entire business of politics and the art scene” (Adilkno). Sovereign media are not consciousness raising machines. They hold no megaphones. Immanent to media of ubiquity, the dull surface of sovereign media are ideal hosts for the practice of anonymity. They involve a game of tinkering with parameters of the given. They operate within formats of familiarity and flourish when systems short-circuit. Sovereign media are primed to exploit the ruins of a logistical future.

This paper will look at how infrastructure of communication operate as a form of sovereign media, bringing the singularity of the state as a sovereign entity into question. Sovereign media are not a return to the politics of exodus, but a way to scale autonomy beyond tactical media as demonstrated by WikiLeaks, among others. Part of such work involves unleashing alternative blueprints, prototypes, and test cases for a future that arises out of infrastructural ruins. This paper surveys artistic strategies for hacking infrastructure, ranging from broadcasting planetary acoustics using demilitarized radio satellite systems in post-Soviet Latvia to the collective reengineering of financial technologies to devise parasitical enterprises that generate financial resources for cultural, social, and political projects. The sovereignty of infrastructural ruins includes a reformatting of the world after the orgy of capital accumulation and exploitation.

Seminar: Infrastructural Power and the Problem of Method
This seminar asks how we undertake collective modes of transdisciplinary research of infrastructural objects that in the first instance appear inaccessible and ‘black-boxed’.

Shannon Mattern, ‘Cloud and Field’, Places, August 2016,

Bio: Ned Rossiter is Professor of Communication at Western Sydney University and holds a joint position in the Institute for Culture and Society and the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Leuphana University’s Digital Cultures Resesearch Lab, Lüneburg. Ned is the author of Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Intitutions (Rotterdam: NAi, 2006) and Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares (New York: Routledge, 2016). Currently he is coordinating with Brett Neilson the tricontinental research project, Logistical Worlds: Infrastructure, Software, Labour (, and starting a new Australian Research Council funded project on data centers, territory and labour regimes in Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney.


Screening of Speculation Nation (2014, 75 min) and discussion with filmmakers Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown.
Thursday 22nd September, 18.30-21.30pm
Professor Stuart Hall building LG01, Goldsmiths University of London


The global financial crisis that began in 2007 battered Spain. Over a quarter of the population lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. The constitutional guarantee for housing that has been a cornerstone of Spain following the death of Francisco Franco has been shaken by a combination of greedy real estate speculators, predatory banks, corrupt public officials, and a global financial catastrophe.

In this impressionistic documentary film, Sabine Gruffat and Bill Brown travel across Spain to explore the consequences of the housing crisis. What they find are Spanish citizens, inspired by the politics of The 15M Movement and Occupy Wall Street, who are mobilizing, collectivizing, and fighting for the right for a decent place to live. Along the way, the filmmakers visit young mothers and their families squatting in failed condo developments; intentional communities of mountain cave dwellers; protest campsites that have sprung up in front of bank branches; and empty apartment buildings transformed into experiments in utopian living. The film examines the ideologies that separate housing from home, and real estate speculation from speculations about a better way to live.

“Speculation Nation is interested in rendering political crisis not only as a wasteland but also a catalyst for social action. In depicting protest camps, demonstrations and the occupation of unused apartments and the caves overlooking Granada, the film’s title picks up a secondary meaning inflected by the determination of ordinary citizens to think outside the box.” -Max Goldberg, Fandor



Tuesday 24 May, 19:00, LG01 Professort Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths

Under the Heat Lamp an Opening, Zachary Epcar, 2014, 10 min
Wayward Fronds, Fern Silva, 2014, 13 min
Domestic Tourism II, Maha Maamoun, 2008, 62 min

Preceded by reading group 16:30-18:30, room 302 Professor Stuart Hall Building

Tuesday 31 May, 19:00, LG01 Professort Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths

O’er the Land, Deborah Stratman, 2009, 51 min
The Other Side, Bill Brown, 2006, 43 min

Preceded by reading group 16:30-18:30, room 302 Professor Stuart Hall Building

Tuesday 7 June, 19:00, LG01 Professort Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths

Public Hearing, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2012, 110 min

screenings curated by Sasha Litvintseva

Collectively these films look to places and spaces that are iconic and anonymous, contested and transitional, to ask how places can be embodied rather than claimed and spaces expanded rather than rendered, and how to portray place/space as non-static and engender a place/time. Zachary Epcar’s Under the Heat Lamp an Opening spatially and temporally zooms in to an anonymous place and moment, and expands it indefinitely through multiple formal articulations. Made exclusively from the footage from Egyptian films that use the pyramids as backdrop, Maha Maamoun’s Domestic Tourism II explores the ways in which these iconic historical monuments can be re-appropriated from the ‘timelessness’ of the touristic imaginary and re-inscribed into complex political, social, and historical narratives. The static constancy of the pyramids in the varying filmic articulations of a single place through time, make the fluctuating details in dress and behaviour throw the historical condition into stark relief. Fern Silva’s Wayward Fronds on the contrary is a fragile collection of documentary images and sounds that are held together by their connection through both place and time, and as such conjure the place and transcend the time. Shot in the Florida Everglades the film refers to recent talks in the Florida legislature to finally disburse billions of dollars in restoration funds, and fictionalises its geological future and its effects on both native and exotic inhabitants.

The second screening looks at border states and the borders between states. Bill Brown’s The Other Side presents the US-Mexico border not as an ephemeral-legal separation between two spatio-political entities, but a place, an historical and political geography of aspiration, insecurity and transition. Deborah Stratman’s O’er The Land utilises a similar filmic vocabulary to deal with similar subject matter, yet here the geographical border is one place among many that together conjure a sense of limbo, and the possibility of personal transcendence. The film is a meditation on the milieu of elevated threat addressing national identity, gun culture, wilderness, consumption, patriotism, where seemingly benign locations become zones of moral angst.

The three screenings move gradually from images and impressions, through essayistic forms that furtively combine image and narration, to complete absence of images of the place/space in question. The final program consists of the minimal Public Hearing by James N. Kienitz Wilkins, which re-performs a rural American town meeting from a transcript downloaded as publicly available information. Shot entirely in cinematic close-up on black-and-white 16mm film, the film does not so much as give us a wide shot of the room in which the town meeting is taking place. It takes an ironic look at the failures of democracy and consists of a debate over the replacement of an existing Wal-Mart with a super Wal-Mart. Reminiscent of the claims that the most erotic sex scene in cinema history is the one described by Bibi Andersson in Persona, this rebellious end to the screening season gives an ear to the many opinions and histories surrounding a space in transition.

Reading group: Border as method in film practice and scholarship 

This reading group will view in the escalating prominence of internal and external borders in the constitution of current global processes an imperative to rethink traditional understandings of film practices and textual engagements. Taking as a starting point Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson’s prescription to think border as method we question what it means for a medium which formally re/maps space, which materially takes place in stable locations and which economically flows across space to exist in global system based upon bordering processes? We aim to explore the ways in which the fact of borders makes demands on film makers and scholars alike to recast stable notions of the profilmic space, the screening environment and the financial and political embeddedness of film productions and scholarship.
What ethical dilemmas do we face within a field which at various level relies upon juridico-political assurances of sovereign environments? What affordances does the medium provide in meeting the imperative of the border? What might a hospitable cinema look like?


Screening: Black Code/Code Noir, Louis Henderson, 2015, 20 mins
Lecture: The Algorithm as Necropolitical Control, Louis Henderson
21 January at 19:00, LGO1 Professor Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths


BlackCode/Code Noir unites temporally and geographically disparate elements into a critical reflection on two recent events: the murders of Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell by police officers in USA 2014. Archaeologically, the film argues that behind this present situation is a sedimented history of slavery, preserved by the laws of the Code Noir in the colonies of the Americas. These codes have transformed into the algorithms that configure police Big Data and the necropolitical control of African Americans today. Yet how can we read this in the present? How can we unwrite the sorcery of this code as a hack? Through a historical détournement the film suggests the animist origins of the Haitian Revolution as the first instance of a hacking of the Black Code and thus as a past symbol for a future hope.


Occidente, Ana Vaz, 2014, 15 mins
Exile Exotic, Sasha Litvintseva, 2015, 14 mins
O’Persecuted, Basma Alsharif, 2014, 12 mins
Viva Paradis, Isabelle Tollenaere, 2011, 17 mins

Screening curated by and accompanied by Q&A with Ana Vaz and Sasha Litvintseva.
17th November at 18:30, Media Research Building Screen 1, Goldsmiths


As if it never happened is an assemblage of recent films by Basma Alsharif, Isabelle Tollenaere, Sasha Litvintseva and Ana Vaz. The program looks at the zones of conflicts and affinities suggested and circumscribed by each of these films’ liminal engagement with questions around history and entertainment, fetish and taboo, banality and sentiment. Whilst the filmmakers seem to share a common rootlessness, the tectonic imprint of the soviet union, latin america and the middle east seem to constitute the unconscious, yet material, foundations from which they speak. The ghost of Europe pends, yet its rhythm is that of decline and imminent collapse, of post-traumatic euphoria or post-disaster melancholy. Through these (in)sights into conflict and common risk, the films thread a patchwork of transmissions and panoramas, which certainly rise and scream from a Southern perspective, from places where imbalance is constitutive of the Walk. Henceforth unravelling through the force of inner vision and plural voices the pitfalls of the unifying global promise, carried by the enterprises of global tourism or entertainment, only to reveal the blind spots of its contours and lift the veil of its divides. The films appear as partial visions of a history which was supposed to have ended or is perhaps only being born – an alter-history of exile and escape, escapism and forgetfulness, where conflict bleeds into leisure, and revolution into indulgence. Together, the filmmakers seem to be jointly asking: can cinema itself be a form of exile? 


O Nosso Homen aka Our Man, Pedro Costa, 2010, 24 mins
Drive By Shoot, Portia Cobbs, 1994, 12 mins
It Wasn’t Love, Sadie Benning, 1992, 20 mins
Fuses, Carolee Schneemann, 1967, 22 mins
6th November at 3:30, Media Research Building Screen 2, Goldsmiths



Reassemblage, Trihn T. Minh-ha, 1982, 40 mins
Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik or Workers Leaving the Factory, Harun Farocki, 1995, 36 mins
16th October at 3:30, Media Research Building Screen 2, Goldsmiths