Academic journal article Afterimage

Pummeling through the Frames: A Conversation with Caroline Koebel

Academic journal article Afterimage

Pummeling through the Frames: A Conversation with Caroline Koebel

Article excerpt

For over a dozen years, Caroline Koebel has explored the poeties and polities of the body in pain and pleasure, scattering lines of flight from coast to coast in American experimental film culture. Programmer and critic, filmmaker and organizer, book publisher and digital director, Koebel's energy springs from an unwavering commitment to women in avant-garde film history and she extends her gaze into contemporary digital manifestations of creative social critique. The diversity of her pursuits frustrate any attempt at containment--bursting genres, formats, and job descriptions. Koebel has videotaped more than three-hundred participants conceiving fantasy offspring in "I Want to Have your Baby" (2003 05) and has co-authored Schablone Berlin (2005), an illustrated book about stencil and graffiti art on the streets of Berlin. She has also organized a weekly forum on torture, written catalog essays on the films of Carolee Schneemann and Barbara Hammer and drawn from the vaults at the Film-Makers' Cooperative and Canyon Cinema to program experimental 16mm shorts by women, while managing to pursue her own distinctive style of film and video. Although "I Want to Have Your Baby," about which she wrote a statement for the Millennium Film Journal (Issue 51. Spring/Summer 2009), harnesses the power of a collective imaginary both political and erotic, her essay on Jasmila Zbanic's film Grbavica: Land of My Dreams (2005) in the online journal Jump Cut 'Issue 51, Spring 2009), expresses a deep and unwavering identification with the lived experiences of women survivors of the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, Koebel's films and videos constitute a particular expression of her acute awareness of the extent 10 which an individual aesthetic depends upon social circumstance. This conversation took place via email in April and May of 2009.

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BERNIE RODDY: During your April 2009 screening at the University of Oklahoma, I was struck by the use of time and pacing in the works, which seemed to indulge the sense of wonder that early cinema was designed to provoke. One video, Berlin Warszawa Express [2009], consists primarily of arriving and departing trains, and anticipated the smooth passage of digitally stratified pages that cross the screen in the more recent "Flicker On Off" series. Whether trains or grids, there is a gradual speeding up between cuts, a sense of pacing in the rattling of gangster guns, and the pummeling of boxers' gloves in the series. You seem to take great pleasure in exploring different sound effects for these fragmented pieces of violence. For me, the extended duration of the firing and pummeling offered time to reflect on the varieties of immersion in cinema today and the implications for oppositional media politics. In the final installment of the "Flicker On Off" series, we are reminded of that portion of video art's history in which video was an activist tool. In this part, All the House (Haditha Massacre) [2008]. you interject flashes of televised imagery from the aftermath of the Haditha massacre in November 2005 in which United States Marines killed twenty-four unarmed Iraqi civilians. How would you position your work with respect to this history of media critique?

CAROLINE KOEBEL: One work I would love to see All the House (Haditha Massacre) screen with is Viet-Flakes, the 1965 anti-war film by Carolee Schneemann. A couple of years ago, I wrote about it for the catalog Carolee Sehneemann: Split Decision: "To pay attention to Viet Flakes is to be overcome by sorrow. Images and sounds disappear before the mind has lime to fully process what is seen and heard; continuous interruption and substitution compounds the hauntedness of the film's mailer." (1) All the House (Haditha Massacre) comes out of my fascination with the modes of transmission by which torture and human rights abuses are conveyed, especially in the American imagination. It, like Schneemann's film, asks for critical reflection on the role jingoism plays in blinding many to the damning reality of U. …

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