The Feminist Media Studio supports and critically engages the complexity of mediations of gendered and queer social life in the context of the unfinished histories of European and American empire, enslavement, and colonization. It supports collective and collaborative study, as well as activist, curatorial, and artistic engagements which draw from the political potency and aesthetic experimentation of feminist media practice. Such creative and critical aesthetic engagements are firmly located in the intersectional feminist politics of the contemporary moment, an age marked by the proliferation of new media that have radically reconstituted not only the character of visual culture but also its channels of transmission and circulation.
As a practice-based lab, the Studio provides space and equipment for media production, post-production and exhibition, encouraging experimentation across established genre conventions (media and conceptual art, independent and documentary cinema, public art and performance, web-based interventions, VR, installation, ‘quick and dirty’ media). Alongside the equipment, which Concordia University members may check out for research-creation projects, the Studio hosts workshops, skills-sharing meetings, presentations by artists, curatorial programming, and one-on-one or group-based technical support. The Production Studio may also be booked by members for short- and longer-term creative projects.
As a research lab, the Studio seeks to foster an ongoing dialogue in feminist media studies, broadly constituted. This dialogue is shaped by invited lecturers (in the past, these have included Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart, James Clifford, Wendy Chun, Teresa de Lauretis, Allan deSouza, Bishnupriya Ghosh, Renée Green, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Kalindi Vora), who have presented on their work and led small seminars and workshops with FMS members. It is also shaped by forums for collaborative study, including a brainstorming “Implosion Exercise,” reading groups, writing prompts, presentations of work-in-progress and critiques. We have also hosted important research projects and public programs, including the “World of Matter” exhibition and symposium, the “Trespassing Europe” Summer Institute, and frequent collaborations with the HTMlles Festival in Montreal.
Currently, the Feminist Media Studio has undertaken an in-process collaborative living archive entitled “Doing Feminism in the Pandemic,” an opportunity to exchange, process, and write and make from the contemporary emergency conjuncture (in its gendered, racialized, class-based and other dimensions). This project has involved listening to those working on the ground for social justice, responding to prompts and questions by invited speakers, and engaging the world with profound questions about the crisis (#thecrisiswasalreadyhere), about emergent models for just and equitable living (#emergentmodels), and the everyday experiences of the pandemic (#theeveryday).
The Feminist Media Studio is located on the Loyola campus of Concordia University, on unceded lands of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation. Territorial acknowledgement is both necessary to our project and inadequate, particularly if not joined to demands for restitution and reparation. This is important for the Feminist Media Studio because the focus of our lab on intersectional feminism has to acknowledge the settler colonial context in which our conversations and collaborations take place, and recognize the work to be done to make feminism itself accountable to the labour of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) in anti-oppression and decolonial practice. The Studio’s facilities for building research community, for media production and complex post-production and experimentation are therefore bound by the commitment to decolonization, in its multiple and complex forms. This is always an unfinished project.
The Studio comprises three spaces: a production and post-production workspace, a meeting and conference room, and an informal gathering place. While each space is distinct, every element in the Studio is moveable, creating the potential for a multitude of configurations that take shape around the work of Studio members. The walls in the Studio are all designed as projection surfaces, and the Studio itself provides (rather than the fixed frame of artistic production) a shifting platform for a variety of encounters. As such, the Studio seeks to de-emphasize the focus on facilities and technologies and emphasize rather the manner in which alternative institutions have provided a fertile ground for exchange, collaboration, and experimentation. The Studio draws from the history of alternative art spaces, feminist classrooms, anti-racist and decolonial initiatives, and institutional experiments, influenced by current models of the creative “laboratory”, but seeking to question also the manner in which a space’s name frames and limits the manner in which thinking and making are performed.
The Feminist Media Studio is equipped with three “production kits” whose equipment is geared toward three figures in the history feminist media, the ‘activist’ (engaged on the ground in feminist social justice work through ‘quick and dirty media’), the ‘artist’ (committed to aesthetic strategies for refiguring representations of the body, subjectivity and social life), and the ‘independent filmmaker’ (drawing on narrative and documentary traditions to represent the role of gender and sexuality in constituting social worlds). These figures were never distinct in the history of feminist media, but represent instead muses for different forms of feminist creative practice. Studio members and visiting artists are invited to reflect on the forms and lineages that shape representations of gender and sexuality (and their complex intersection with race, ethnicity, class, and cultural context) and—in true feminist fashion—remain passionately unfaithful to the divisions these separate ‘kits’ may initially imply.
While the kits intersect, each nods to a mode of making that informs feminist praxis. For instance, the activist kit is comprised of a shock proof, waterproof, wearable camera, as well as accessories for mobile transmission; the artist kit contains a large sensor video camera with slow motion capability, and accessories to stage complex perspectives and movement; finally, the independent filmmaker kit includes an interchangeable lens camera with multiple lenses and a cinema rig. The kits all share equipment for audio acquisition and editing, new lightweight LED studio lights and ancillary equipment.
The production facilities are complemented by sophisticated software and editing suites, multiple wide-angle professional projectors with lens-shifting capabilities, LCD screens and cinema viewing screens for displaying, channeling or otherwise distributing media content. It also contains a small sound booth for A/V projects, interviews and other sound recording. The Studio provides the space and capacity for experimental and large-scale media installations along its central curved wall, as well as short throw projectors and screens for temporary, public installations and exhibitions.
The slash symbolizes a complex tangle of relations. It can both separate and join information (as for example in the pair his/hers), and thus bind terms together in potent and pernicious ways. It can also, however, exemplify the political work of defamiliarizing commonplace assumptions about gender (s/he). While the slash has at times represented a comma (“and”), it has slipped semiotically to represent largely a division mark (“or”). The hints of earlier attachments, however, are found in the slash’s function in connecting a string of terms. The slash can be found across the fields of poetry, arithmetic, programming, philosophy, census forms, currency, and date formats. More than this, the slash hints at something more abrupt: cut, whip, stroke, gash, slit. Any attempt at connection also entails the risk of separating, dividing, binding, razing. The Feminist Media Studio borrows from the polysemous quality of the slash to figure the Studio’s openness, its role as a platform for other actions—be they collaborative projects, unforeseen connections, events, workshops, displays of critical, creative and political work. It revels in the obscurity of the relation signified by the slash, even as it remains open to the committed and passionate activities of its members, activities which complete its chain of signifying elements.