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Gwendolyn Audrey Foster - Experimental Filmmaker

Originally from New York City, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is an award-winning film/video artist, curator, and a prolific author on experimental film, women filmmakers, LGBTQ+ and film history. Co-author of "Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader," Foster's documentary on women filmmakers, "The Women Who Made the Movies," is distributed by Women Make Movies. Foster is Willa Cather Professor Emerita in Film Studies at University of Nebraska.

Foster's films and video installations have premiered at Anthology Film Archives (NYC), MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Outfest (LA), Bi+ Arts Festival (Toronto), Collective for Living Cinema (NYC), Films de Femmes (Créteil), Forum Yokohama (Japan), Analogica (Italy), Festival Internacional de Cine Experimental Y Vídeo CODEC (Mexico), Studio 44 (Stockholm), BWA Contemporary Art Museum (Poland), Filmhuis Cavia (Amsterdam), nGKB gallery (Berlin) and many other galleries, museums and film festivals around the world. Foster's films and videos are archived at the UCLA Film & Television Archives.

Artist Statement:

As a queer feminist marxist artist, my work explores the aesthetic space between film & video through collage and abstraction techniques. I work in 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film/video. I create some films from found materials, combining elements of Surrealism, eco-feminism, punk, romantic structuralism, détournement and chance editing (automatism). Chance is my favorite collaborator. I compose the music and soundscapes for many of my films, which have been described as surreal, contemplative, and hypnotic. ―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster



Contents of this portfolio copyright © 2016 - 2021 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  1. Séance for Hilma

    A handmade abstract film for the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint (1862-1944),"Seance for Hilma," is an experiment in mystical 'disrupted stereoscopic' using random intervals and elements devined from 'filmic automatism' (chance edits, random colors, and abstractions): inspired by the Surrealists - and guided by the spirit of Hilma af Klint.

    Hilma af Klint's early abstract paintings were among the very first abstract European art, predating better known artists.The paintings and drawings of af Klint are truly breathtaking, but Klint is only now being recognized as an important early figure of modern European abstract art. Though her work prefigures that of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Klee and others, reportedly none of them ever saw her work. Hilma af Klint was discouraged from showing her work in public by her mentor in Theosophy, Rudolf Steiner. Af Klint painted for the future: she stipulated that her work not be shown in public until twenty years after her death.

    Hilma's spiritual life and early preoccupation with Nature is as interesting as her artwork, and the two are deeply connected in her stunning abstract paintings. A gender non-conformist, Hilma took part in seánces in the 1870s and formed a women's group, De Fem (The Five). De Fem immersed themselves in the paranormal and mysticism and practiced automatic writing. These pioneering women created unconventional ways to create and "channel" liminal art (including 'exquisite corpse' chance drawings, a term & process coined and used much later by the Surrealists).

    Hilma, a mathematician and linguist, created a highly personal language of symbols, letters, color, and words. Her work demonstrates her passionate interest in dualities, harmonies and balance, as well as her desire to abstract representations of love and ethereal realms of spiritual transcendence.

    The delayed recognition of the art of Hilma af Klint disrupts the authority of 'art history.'

    Presciently, Hilma af Klint left extensive notebooks and plans for the future exhibition of her artwork in a circular gallery like a temple not unlike the Guggenheim, confidently assuming that her unconventional abstract spiritual art would one day be displayed, understood and highly valued.

    A hundred years after they were created, the paintings and artwork of Hilma af Klint are thrilling viewers and bewitching art historians. Hilma af Klint is finally being recognized for her significance in art history and mysticism.

    Hilma af Klint is currently enjoying a fantastic major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum until April 23, 2019 in New York City. Read more about Hilma af Klint here:

    Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim in NYC:

    "Séance for Hilma" is made from recycled "found" CCO public domain materials."Séance for Hilma," by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2018 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  2. Run / Fall

    Exploding Cinema Bunker online edition 2020.
    Save The Archives Film Festival, Milwaukee 2019
    Fu#k Narration Festival at Chimeres Space, Athens, Greece 2018.

    "Things are never as they seem."―Jim Thompson.

    "'Run / Fall' is both a détournement and an experiment in automatism (automatic writing via chance editing) made in the spirit of Surrealism; my subconscious and Chance as co-authors. I found myself repeating a disturbing image of an outsider running from a menacing red abstraction; a visual motif connecting fifties hysteria with the political anxieties of the present." ―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    "Run / Fall" is made from materials in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    "Run / Fall": music and film by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  3. In Art We Trust

    In Art We Trust is a glitch based art piece and part of a four piece installation of the same name.

    "GLITCH" at LACDA, Los Angeles Center for Digital Arts, February - March, 2019.

    A hypnotic post-structuralist video painting from over 100,000 digital paintings, as unique as fingerprints. "In Art We Trust" is made from deteriorated VHS – baked in the sun for three decades and abstracted to highlight infinite glitch patterns and random chaotic distortions. The soundtrack is a collage of a few minutes of sound, layered and looped in serial repetition.

    View the 4 channel "In Art We Trust" installation here:In Art We Trust - Installation

    "In Art We Trust":
    "Art in Heaven":
    "Sleeping with Sirens":

    For Joan Jonas, Joyce Wieland, Marie Menken, Jane Brakhage, Su Friedrich and Sadie Benning. You paved the way with your brilliant home-made film/video abstractions and dazzling visual art.

    “In Art We Trust,” by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Music and video by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2018 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  4. Film for Storm de Hirsch

    Rephotographed psychedelic painted and scratched images, collaged and abstracted. An homage to underground experimental poet and filmmaker, Storm de Hirsch; one of the great unsung women in avant-garde film.

    “I don't want to put any labels on my films… I never impose on you; you need to find what you have to find.” ― Storm de Hirsch

    "Film for Storm de Hirsch" [aka "Women's Time"] is a handmade film and a tribute to legendary filmmaker Storm de Hirsch, one of the pioneers of underground experimental cinema in the 1960s, along with other female directors such as Marie Menken, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, Joyce Wieland, Shirley Clarke, Barbara Rubin and many others. De Hirsch was a poet who moved easily from written poetry to experimental film poetry.

    Storm had no camera, so she began painting, scratching and etching directly onto disgarded film stock and sound tape. Like many women of the era, she was written out of film history only to be later rediscovered and celebrated with retrospectives of her films, which are now being screened and restored.

    Storm de Hirsch’s jubilant films are shot through with a fierce love of life, love, and sexuality. Her best known work is ‘Goodbye in the Mirror’ (1964) a feature shot on location in Rome, which Shirley Clarke called “the first real women’s film.” Her short films are dazzling abstractions, often mixing live action with animation and myriad experimental effects. Storm noted that she often received responses to her work addressed to "Mr. Storm," and suspected that her work was better received when critics presumed she was male. “Peyote Queen” is positively hypnotic. As I wrote in 1995, Storm de Hirsch excelled in her “brilliant use of color, pure light, and sensory imaginations of memory and beauty.”

    "'Film for Storm de Hirsch' is a handmade abstract film in which I use images of clothespins and film leader, slowed down to suggest the idea of women's waiting, women's time, women's spaces; women artists and filmmakers 'waiting' to be rediscovered. Their work lives on and inspires so many young experimental filmmakers and female video artists who search for the path of the many avant garde women who paved the way in experimental film, video and art. For more on Storm de Hirsch and hundreds of women filmmakers, see my encyclopedia, “Women Film Directors: An International Bio-critical Dictionary."― Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    See also "Mythology for the Soul: The Collected Poems of Storm De Hirsch," lovingly collected and edited by Stephen Broomer, and published by Sightline Editions and the Filmmakers Cooperative in New York City. Mythology for the Soul (2018) is the first comprehensive collection of Storm De Hirsch’s poetry.

    Many of Storm De Hirsch’s films have been preserved by the American Film Preservation Foundation and the Anthology Film Archives, and are distributed by the Film-Makers' Cooperative in New York City.

    “Film for Storm de Hirsch” is made from recycled and repurposed materials and sounds in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    "Film for Storm de Hirsch" by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  5. A Film for Chantal Akerman

    A film for Chantal Akerman (1968–2015); feminist pioneer of avant-garde cinema, video artist, muse and friend.

    Chantal Akerman is not just one of the most celebrated female directors, but she is also widely regarded as one of the greatest film auteurs of the avant-garde in the late 20th and early 21st century.

    Akerman explores the concept of women's time, women waiting in time and space; she employs very long takes in which (seemingly) very little happens. Akerman often films in spaces of exile and transience, such as train stations, empty streets, hotel corridors, and other places of transition, including kitchens and domestic spaces. Though she employs formal strategies common to structuralism (such as extremely long takes) Akerman's work is deeply personal and rooted in her own experiences.

    Akerman's mother was the only member of her Jewish family to survive the Auschwitz concentration camp. Akerman's final work,'No Home Movie' (2015), consists of a documented conversation with her mother recorded shortly before her mother's death in 2014. Akerman's films and art installations explored personal themes with which she was preoccupied: lesbian identity, subjectivity, alterity, quotidian reality, mother-daughter relationships, Jewish diasporic identity and the experience of exile. Akerman was indeed very prolific - she constantly created new and unexpected films and art installations; avant garde experimentations in image, gaze, space, performance, and narration.

    Chantal Akerman lives on through her many films and video art installations; her work continues to inspire filmmakers and visual artists around the world.

    Online Virtual exhibit, The Pythians, Curated by Tova Beck-Friedman, Posted October, 2017.

    #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party : September 1-30, 2018.

    For more on Chantal Akerman see my book, a collection of essays, "Identity and Memory: The Films of Chantal Akerman," which includes chapters by Maureen Turim, Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, Jennifer M. Barker, Ivone Margulies, Catherine Fowler, Janet Bergstrom, Ginette Vincendeau, Judith Mayne, Kristine Butler and myself. (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003). --Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    “A Film for Chantal Akerman” is created from recycled images in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license. “A Film for Chantal Akerman," by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  6. Dreaming in Aspect Ratio

    "Dreaming in Aspect Ratio" is a hand-made diary film and experiment in disrupted stereoscopy; an adopted "found" home movie.

    Screened on the public outdoor art projection art site at the corner of Houston and Bowery in New York City. Also streamed online through the Walltime app. (January 2019).

    "Dreaming in Aspect Ratio" is created, in part, from CCO public domain materials. Copyright © 2019 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.