Film Installation

On Friday, 3/23 there will be a film installation with multiple screenings of two films, described below.  The filmmakers, Randi Courtmanch and Aliza Shvarts, will be available to answer questions and talk to audience members about the projects.

Black Heart and Other Works

The experimental documentary is part of the culmination of my capstone project while receiving my MA in Cultural Studies. At its core the film is a collaboration and research project between two artists. The base of this research is a case study completed with a visual artist, Cristina, who bears the label of “developmentally disabled.” Through observation and video documentation I seek to unfold Cristina’s process and practice as a visual artist and how it enables her to create meaning for herself and others. This is explored specifically around a work of hers, “Black Heart” – a small soft black sculpture of a misshapen heart with long red yarn flooding beneath.

The film layers interviews, discussions, sounds and music to explore the ways I “sensed” Cristina during our time together. Working closely with Cristina the film traces her experiences from the overarching space where she works (an adult day program specifically designed to facilitate artistic expression for adults with developmental disabilities) to the minutiae of her thoughts about her work and the ways in which life and art appear to blend seamlessly in the work she creates. The film and corresponding research attempts to validate how the art making process can be a conduit to navigate across difference and create pathways for knowledge.

Randi Courtmanch is a dancer and filmmaker, a teaching artist, and an arts administrator. She received her MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Washington Bothell where her research focused on the intersections of art, culture, and identity. She received in her BFA in Dance from Cornish College of the Arts. As a teaching artist she has worked with a diverse array of populations including adults with developmental disabilities and at-risk youth. Currently, Randi works as the Program Manager for the arts non-profit Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas in Seattle which explores Black culture through the presentation of performing arts and humanities programming. Additionally, she serves as a lecturer focusing on contemporary media and performance practices at the University of Washington Bothell.

“The challenge is to function.”

—Tobin Siebers

The concept of “doing” in art practice still resonates with a Kantian notion of the aesthetic, in which the properly aesthetic form has no purposive function; yet through the lens of disability studies—particularly the field’s broader interrogation of social constructionism and embodiment, as well as its specific relation to identity, advocacy, and activism—doing becomes a more complicated and consequential premise, in which the sublimated features of aesthetic form are not neatly separable from questions of physical and social function. This video documents my collaborative efforts with several other artists to explore the relationship between the body and the aesthetic through a form that is usually rendered as excess, devoid of any significant purposive function: body hair. In it, we investigate how we can grow hair and what we can do with it: specifically, what can be made with one’s hair, how hair can entangle bodies, and how—through various strategies of removal and reattachment—hair can become displaced between them. Through various aesthetic experiments, we critically consider how body hair might do something, functioning as not only a relation through which we are able to experience our own corporeal excess, but also a political modality through which we might invest ourselves in the things outside us—in the world itself.

Aliza Shvarts is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at NYU. She received her BA from Yale, where she double majored in English and Art. She is currently a managing editor of the performance studies journal TDR/The Drama Review. Her artwork has been shown at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia, at the LOOP International Film Festival in Barcelona, and at the Tate Modern in London.


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