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Gwendolyn Audrey Foster - Portfolio

Originally from New York City, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is The Willa Cather Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska. Foster is a film and video artist and author of many volumes on experimental film, women filmmakers, and LGBTQ+ cinema. Her documentary on women film directors, "The Women Who Made the Movies," is distributed by Women Make Movies.

Foster's work has screened at Anthology Film Archives (NYC), Collective for Living Cinema (NYC), MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Outfest (LA), Bi Arts Festival (Toronto), National Museum of Women in the Arts (DC), Films de Femmes (Créteil), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Forum Yokohama (Japan), Studio 44 (Stockholm), BWA Contemporary Art Museum (Poland), Filmhuis Cavia (Amsterdam), nGKB gallery (Berlin), Engauge Film Festival (Seattle), LACDA (LA Center for Digital Art), WUFF (Canada) and galleries, museums and film festivals around the world. Foster's complete films and videos are archived at the UCLA Film & Television Archives.

Artist Statement:

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

Contents of this portfolio copyright © 2016 - 2020 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  1. Have Fun / Keep Out

    "I feel like I've never had a home, you know? I feel related to the country, to this country, and yet I don't know exactly where I fit in ... There's always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself."―Sam Shepard

    "An amusement park sign invites us to 'Have Fun.' Just a few feet away another sign says 'Keep Out.' That about sums up the immigrant experience for many. The cruelty and heartlessness of much of the current rhetoric against immigrants and refugees makes me despair; but it also summons a nostalgia for times when immigrants and refugees were welcomed.

    Like most Americans, I grew up listening to stories about the refugee immigrants in my own family history; the hopes and the funny stories related and recalled, along with the hurting, danger, and dashed dreams. Nostalgia for the mythic American dream is something so many of us share, along with myriad communal memories and images.

    I find it unusual and profound that newsreels and other people's home movies can potentially induce an even stronger sense of longing and nostalgia than our own memories and home movies. 'Found' images from home movies are inherently poignant; evoking both a sense of loss and the warm comfort of home."―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    "Have Fun / Keep Out" is made from "found" images in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    Music – "The Break," Monplaisir, Free Music Archive. CC0 1.0 Universal License.

    "Have Fun / Keep Out" is a video by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.
    Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  2. Desire Market

    "'Desire Market' is a punk détournement from an ugly and crass marketing point of view: a reverse angle from the clinical gaze of marketing tools that surveil you and manipulate your desires.

    The viewer looks through the eyes of 'found' marketing templates, virtually experiencing the cold mercantile subjectivity of the desire market; a (mis)appropriation of pre-fab templates designed for emotionally manipulative advertising purposes.

    The Situationists identified film as being the most effective medium for détournement. In "Desire Market" I take preexisting images (from advertising templates) and mix them together to highlight the underlying ideology of of the original images. Like "La Société du spectacle," "Desire Market" elaborates on the ways in which commodity fetishism and reification have infiltrated and colonized all areas of life, in a world of routine commodification of pleasure and desire for $profit."―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    “Remember, you’re not just selling a product. You’re selling a lifestyle. Just showing a photo of your product isn’t enough. Most people need to feel better about themselves. Templates replace fears and anxieties with desire and fantasy. Use attractive templates to create desire.”―Marketing Website

    "Morning and evening
    Maids heard the goblins cry:
    'Come buy our orchard fruits,
    Come buy, come buy.'"
    ―from Goblin Market (1859)
    By Christina Rossetti

    A brief blog on Desire Market - by Sarah Tremlett

    “Desire Market” is a détournement of (mis)appopriated advertising templates found in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  3. The Leisure Class

    Festivals and Group Shows:

    Another eXperiment by Women Festival (AXW) "Entitled" Anthology Film Archives, NYC, 2019.
    "Wake America! MoHA, ERC, Austin, 2019
    Atrabalious Film Festival, Amsterdam, 2018
    Ethereal Liminal Space, Austin, 2018.
    Festival X-12, Gainsborough, UK. 2017.

    One Woman Shows:

    Studio 44 (Stockholm) 2018
    Filmhuis Cavia (Amsterdam) 2018
    BWA Contemporary Art Museum (Poland) 2018
    Maryland Institute College of Art, 2017
    Museum of the Future (Berlin) 2017

    "The Leisure Class" is a punk queer feminist détournement of a wedding template: a critique of cis privilege, class privilege, white privilege, bridal fantasies, enforced hetero-normativity, the wedding industry, excess consumption, and coerced gender 'norms.'

    All too often, wedding fantasies are used to market privilege, moreso than commitment and love.

    “Happiness is often at its most intense when it is based on inequality.” —James Salter

    “The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all have enough — a modest living— and none is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.” —Walt Whitman

    "The wedding industry rakes in about 500 billion dollars a year. Studies show that the number one issue married couples fight about is debt; often wedding debt. There is an insistence that weddings result in a 'perfect' visual record of the 'perfect day,' which results in falsity, forced smiles and garish displays of implied wealth, based on credit and debt. Meanwhile, it is estimated that a person dies of hunger or hunger-related causes every ten seconds, and children die most often. Just eight billionaires own as much combined wealth as over half the human race, yet people worship the wealthiest and mimic their behavior. Weddings are rituals in which couples pretend they enjoy vast wealth, a form of class-passing. Wedding fantasies often reinforce and uphold cis normativity, hetero-normativity, class privilege and white privilege.

    Expensive bridal 'princess' fantasies are exploited in order to commodify human emotions, while paradoxically exposing anxieties of class, race, and gender.

    False consensus insists that expensive hetero-normative public rituals of conspicuous consumption set us free, but nothing could be further from the truth."—Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    For more on class passing and white privilege, see my books, “Class-Passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular Culture” and “Performing Whiteness: Postmodern Re/Constructions in the Cinema.” For more information visit:

    “The Leisure Class” is a détournement made from recycled images in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    “The Leisure Class”― Music and video by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  4. Smile / Wave

    “When you are a child - in your mind - you are not a child. You are a person, a person who has an equality with an adult.”―Catherine Breillat

    "As a woman, I am often reminded to smile, as if it is part of my job as a female. It starts when you are a little girl. Lately it occurs to me that women are forced to perform as little Princesses from a very early age. 'Smile! Wave! Look Pretty!' Think about it. Total strangers do not ask men to smile. Take it from me: women don't like being constantly reminded to smile."―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, queer bisexual feminist nonconforming artist.

    While there are many ways of reading them, the following three films form a trilogy of self portraits:

    "The Passenger"
    "Standing Up"
    "Smile / Wave"

    A related video is "She Smiled,"

    "Smile / Wave" is made from recycled and repurposed images in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    "Smile / Wave" Music and video by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.
    Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  5. Let's Play Princess

    Part of a Surrealist feminist trilogy of abstract horror doll films. Collage of détourned images.

    “As little children we so boldly voyage into the unknown realms of fairy tale Princesses. As adults we are not anywhere near brave enough to fully enter these fantasies. Fairy tales centering around Princesses can be quite bloody, sensual, and terrifying, but they are also playful and deeply satisfying. “―Catherine Breillat

    "What are girls really doing when the pretend to be Princesses? Putting on masks and morphing identities. There is a magical point at which identities merge and replicate. I am both fascinated and a little repelled by the popularity of Princess dolls and Princess merchandise for girls. We can learn much though from children's full engagement with play, even when it is a little terrifying and seemingly monstrous. There is a playfulness to the horror." ―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    "Let’s Play Princess" is the third part of a trilogy:

    See also "Playing Dolls”
    See also "Playing Dress Up"

    "Let's Play Princess” is made from materials in the Public Domain, or released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    "Let's Play Princess”- music and audio collage by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Copyright © 2017 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.

  6. Echo and Narcissus

    "Echo, known for her beautiful voice, is a woodland nymph closely associated with Gaia, and with her eternal, passionate love of Narcissus. Though Echo offers Narcissus all that he can possibly desire, he tragically spurns the love of his life. He has fallen deeply in love with his own reflection.

    Narcissus's inability to return Echo's love causes him to wither away. Even as he crosses the river Styx, he fails to note his ghastly surroundings or the lethal costs of his self-obsession.

    Mankind boasts of our machines and conquests - yet we have precious little empathy for our home. We risk our own existence, as we selfishly ignore the destruction of the Earth.

    Listen closely - you can hear the loving refrains of Echo everywhere - even in massive industrial machines. Echo continues her siren call, with a love that is constant, but unrequited by mankind."―Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

    'Echo and Narcissus' is part of my "Men and Machines" Series.

    Always remember, Nature looks back while you are watching. The screen reflects; it looks at you. Machines observe us, and so does nature. We often assume the positionality of the colonizing voyeur. Think of the language of filmmaking - "capturing" and "rendering" are verbs we associate with enslavement and colonial conquest. We often forget that screens reflect on / us in the larger philosophical sense. In remembering this, we cannot help but become more eco-conscious.

    This film invites meditation into the complex relationship between Human, Machine, and 'Nature' - the politics, philosophy and aesthetics of the sights and sounds of industry as they are mechanically mediated and manufactured by the camera eye / ear.

    "Echo and Narcissus" is created from recycled and repurposed images and sound in the Public Domain, or material released under a Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain license.

    "Echo and Narcissus"― by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.
    Copyright © 2016 Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. All rights reserved.