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Gwendolyn Audrey Foster - Experimental Filmmaker

Originally from New York City, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is an award-winning film/video artist and a prolific author on experimental film, women filmmakers, LGBTQ+ and film history. Co-author of "Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader," "The Films of Chantal Akerman," and many other books on cinema, Foster's documentary on early 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 and now a full time artist and filmmaker based in Nebraska in the United States.

Foster's films and video installations have premiered at MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art (NYC); Outfest (LA); Bi+ Arts Festival (Toronto); Anthology Film Archives (NYC); The Filmmakers' Coop (NYC); Collective for Living Cinema (NYC); Films de Femmes (Créteil); Black Maria Touring Film Festival (USA); Rencontres Internationales Sciences & Cinémas, RISC (France); 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 art galleries, museums and festivals around the world. Foster's films and videos are archived at the UCLA Film & Television Archives and Museum of Modern Art in NY.

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. My films are personal; alchemic, mysterious and handmade: hand-painted, hand-processed. I often compose the music and soundscapes for many of my films, which have been described as surreal, contemplative, and hypnotic. ―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Chromatograph [for Mary Field]

    A tender hand-made and hand-processed natural pressing cyanotype and chromatograph made in honor of Mary Field (1896–1968), the British documentary filmmaker known for her pioneering short films in the "Secrets of Nature" and "Secrets of Life" Series.

    Among her many accomplishments, Mary Field made hundreds of beautiful early black and white experimental nature documentaries, pioneering various cinematographic and micro-photographic techniques to capture nature's secrets in action. Field was also one of the first to create female-focused instructional films and was instrumental in establishing The Children's Film Foundation. Though Field is often lost or forgotten in documentary film history texts, she won an OBE for her services to educational and children's film. Read more about Mary Field's work in my book, "Women Film Directors."

    "Chromatograph [for Mary Field]" (alternate title "Fragile") an experimental nature documentary moving portrait; a cinepoem and homage by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.

    “Chromatograph [for Mary Field]” © 2018 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.


    Dada gives Time it's own reflection; it's alterity; it's Other.

    Time travel film. A séance. A non film. An anti-film. A dada film, not a dada film. Hypnosis, not hypnosis. Not-art: a clock. Not a clock. 9 minutes in Dadascopic time, or not.

    Made by accident, using "automatism," (random chance editing of détourned images in the spirit of the Surrealists) DADA TIME is both time-based and not; a "non-film" that is "not time based." It can be run backwards or forwards, silent or sound. It has no beginning and it has no end, like time. --GAF

    “Under this mask, another mask. I will never be finished removing all these faces.” ― Claude Cahun

    For Claude Cahun, Hannah Höch, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Ella Bergmann-Michel, Mina Loy, Clara Tice, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Meret Oppenheim, Dora Maar, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Sebastain Droste and so many women and queer artists in Dada and Surrealism.

    It's about time.

    "DADA TIME" is made from recycled "found" CCO public domain materials."DADA TIME," by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.

    Copyright © 2020 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  5. Three Wishes

    Collage of rephotographed vintage film. Bizarre vaudeville 'acts'(early performance art) as poetic metaphor for mother/daughter struggle.

    Ironically, modern performance art is considered "high art," yet it has firm roots in vaudeville, which is largely regarded as primitive "low art" - of and for the lower classes and a mass audience, rather than the privileged elite.

    As a child, I was fortunate to hear many tales of "The Vaudeville" from my Great Grandmother and her many sisters, my Great Aunts. In their imaginative Irish storytelling, vaudeville seemed so very mysterious and magical: a lost art, full of the bewitching and ritualistic elements of fairy tale, and oral legends. This is my tribute to their conjurings and yarn spinning; a child's enchanted and awestruck imaginings of women's tales, passed on through the ages.

    "Three Wishes" is created from recycled and repurposed images and sound in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license. "Three Wishes," by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  6. Hold On To Your Hats

    "Hold On To Your Hats" is a hand-made split-screen experimental film using the technique of disrupted stereoscopy.

    For Bill Domonkos

    Screened on the new 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).

    "Hold On To Your Hats" is made from recycled "found" CCO public domain materials. Copyright © 2018 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.