All the best teachers I had at OCAD were women. They were incredibly encouraging and remained dedicated to their craft even after what I can assume was 20 or 30 years into their profession. The ones I remember most taught film and more importantly relevant to this article, video art. Unfortunately their own work, after many years of practice, looked purposefully amateur. There is no other way to frame this. I wondered why they have been adverse to adopting new video technologies or even using film as medium for telling their stories: their narratives and shooting style reminiscent of 1980’s VHS video.
At the time I was fascinated by hollywood directors Michael Mann and David Fincher and their push for High Definition video in movies like Collateral and Zodiac. The way they managed to capture night skylines in their movies, impossible with film, made every frame a work of art. Of course only highly regarded male directors like these would have been privileged with new technologies to experiment in movies with budgets in the $100 million range.
If you think women have little opportunities in film now, image the state of women led films in 2007. And if women who worked primarily in the industry weren’t afforded access to new technologies, I began to wonder how my profs, internationally known, but still independent producers of video art, and forced at that time to finish PHD’s to secure their jobs, were perhaps held back from experimenting with new mediums. Perhaps they were discouraged by their male peers to do so.
Despite their lack of opportunities to advance creatively, the most creative work they showed us, both past and present was created by women. In Kat Herriman’s article “A Brief History of Women in Video Art” she details the how new advancements in portable video enabled female performance artists to record and preserve their work starting in the 1960’s and 70’s.
By Kat Herriman