Focus #1 Lizzie Borden
Self-taught filmmaker, feminist, pioneer of queer and militant lesbian cinema, in the decade between 1976 and 1986 Lizzie Borden produced a series of films of great originality and conceptual wealth, with the vibrant artistic, intellectual and political scene of New York as a backdrop and under the rhythm of new wave and post-punk music.
On the occasion of the 35 mm reprint of the cult film Born in Flames (1983), this programme revisits her first creations: stories that reclaim a cinema of opposition, challenge the logical narratives of the hetero-normative order and put into play a cinematic practice understood as a means of political action and producer of feminist imaginaries, with a large scope for formal experimentation. Her films, described as marginal, underground and independent, seek to present a non-voyeuristic view of the female body, while raising the possibility of generating a type of desire that counteracts that found in commercial cinema.
In the filmography of Lizzie Borden, three films stand out: the rarely shown Regrouping (1976) is a confessional documentary in the cinéma vérité style of the time, in which Barbara Kruger, Joan Jonas and Kathryn Bigelow participate, and which explores some of the questions that still resonate in the feminisms of the present, such as sorority: the possibilities of building solidarity among women in spite of the patriarchal structures that impede it and how to avoid differences in order to respond forcibly to those structures. Born in Flames (1983), the so-called afro-futurist-feminist-lesbian-science-fiction genre hybrid, features Kathryn Bigelow, Florynce Kennedy and Adele Bertei, the no wave lead singer for The Bloods, one of the first bands to produce openly lesbian music. The film is a fiery portrait, full of sharp edges, that addresses the fight against heteropatriarchy and racism in an advanced well-meaning society. Unlike the films of the commercial cinema industry, where in futuristic fiction patriarchal relations remain and only clothing and technology are transformed, in this film the future is portrayed as a post-capitalist dystopia where women must continue fighting against patriarchal structures. Finally, Working Girls (1986), which emerged as an idea during the shooting of Born in Flames – since some of the performers were also prostitutes –, opens an unprejudiced debate on prostitution, the masculine gaze on women, desire and the agency of bodies.
In these three titles – Regrouping (1976), Born in Flames (1983) and Working Girls (1986) – Borden approaches the concerns of women as well as the different issues raised by the second wave of the feminist movement and its crises in the seventies and eighties. Each of the films adopts a completely different aesthetic approach in a series of women’s stories told by women. The way these stories are treated returns us to the question of what radicalism means today.
16, 17 AND 18 FEBRUARY 2017, 7 pm
Venue: Meier Auditorium
THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY, 7 pm
Presented by Pablo Martínez, Head of Programming, MACBA
Followed by a discussion with Lizzie Borden and Gloria Vilches
Regrouping, 1976, Lizzie Borden, 80 min, 16 mm, b/w, USA. Original version subtitled in Spanish
Regrouping is the first film by Lizzie Borden. It is an experimental documentary with a style close to cinéma vérité that explores the dynamics of a group of women. It includes the participation of Joan Jonas, Barbara Kruger and Kathryn Bigelow, among others. Shot in 16 mm black-and-white format, it focuses on four young women artists who, as they announce, are twinned. An alternative portrait of the art world, of which Lizzie Borden has firsthand knowledge, and which in America in the 1970s – just as today – was dominated by male voices.
Gloria Vilches holds a PhD in Audiovisual Communication from the Universidad de Valencia, where she also taught cinema and communication. Her doctoral thesis dealt with questions of the representation of gender and ethnicity, based on a study of the different versions of the myth of Carmen, a stereotype of the femme fatale, produced in Hollywood between 1915 and 1954. She is also the author of a research paper entitled ‘Contemporary Uses, Styles and Formats of Audiovisual Appropriation in Spain’, funded by the Centro de Cultura Montehermoso, Vitoria. Since 2009 she has coordinated Xcèntric, the experimental cinema programme of the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB).
FRIDAY, 17 FEBRUARY, 7 pm
Born in Flames
Followed by a discussion with Lizzie Borden, Céline Brouwez, programmer at the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique, and Pablo Martínez, Head of Programming, MACBA
Born in Flames, 1983, 85 min, 16 mm to 35 mm, USA. Original version subtitled in Spanish
Made in 1983, Lizzie Borden’s second film, Born in Flames, ‘feminist afro-futurist science fiction’ in the words of Sophie Mayer, is a merciless attack on patriarchal society, a feminine call to armed struggle. In the style of a pseudo-documentary, it portrays a feminist insurgency against a social democracy whose promises of equality and progress preclude minorities and women. Born in Flames remains a contemporary film that has almost achieved legendary status: it was shot over four years with a budget close to $40,000, which meant that half a dozen directors of photography worked on a production that allows us to witness the physical changes in some of its protagonists, who in many cases are not professional actresses.
Céline Brouwez is a programmer at the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique (CINEMATEK), Brussels. Between 2003 and 2009 she lived in Madrid and was part of the audiovisual and exhibitions department at the Museo Reina Sofía. In 2011 she joined the arthouse cinema team at Cinéma Galeries, Brussels, where she remained until its incorporation in CINEMATEK in 2013.
SATURDAY, 18 FEBRUARY, 7 pm
Discussion with Lizzie Borden and Lucía Egaña, artist and video-maker
Working Girls, 1986, 86 min, 35 mm, USA, Original version subtitled in Spanish
Working Girls presents the relationship between three middle-class women who practice prostitution in a Manhattan apartment. Shot by a team almost entirely made up of women, it offers an image of the female body and of sex totally removed from the voyeurism and fetishism with which it is usually portrayed. If the woman in a sexual context is usually portrayed as the object of the image, the traditional object of pornography, Lizzie Borden positions her as a subject of representation and constructs a razor-sharp account of prostitution and the woman’s body at work.
Lucía Egaña, a graduate in arts, aesthetics and documentary, holds a doctorate in Audiovisual Communication from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. A member of the academic staff of MACBA’s PEI, she writes and researches on topics related to feminism and transfeminism, representation, post-pornography, technology, free software and error. She runs pedagogical programmes in institutional and informal settings, is the organiser of the nomadic festival Muestra Marrana, has published the book Enciclopedia del amor en los tiempos del porno (Encyclopedia of love in the times of porn: Cuarto propio, 2014), and collaborates with various groups and artists mainly in the field of performance. Participant in the research group FIC (Fractalidades en Investigación Crítica, UAB), she has, together with Miriam Solá, carried out the research project ‘War Machines, Transfeminist Policies of Representation’ (2014–15).
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