This research takes 1979 as its starting point with the feminist break from Film as Film: Formal Experimentations in Film at the Hayward Gallery, a year of heightened feminist film art consciousness. The exhibition was seminal in itemising key movements in contemporary experimental film practice. However, it was precisely this itemisation that led to controversy and the split within the avant-garde along gender lines. The women curators and artists involved began to explore ideas around how women could engage differently with their film practice. Their argument with the canonical and their questioning of who makes history for whom, fuelled and informed British feminist film practice and, centrally, feminist film exhibition and distribution in its aftermath.
Another key date 1986 marks the beginning of BFI Flare (formally, London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival). The festival was launched as a progressive move after the Conservative government’s controversial Clause 28 was brought into legislation. Politics and film curation once again collide. Part of the thesis will thus trace the early history of London LGBT film curation and look at the evolution and connections between a diverse range of political queer strategies for curation that accommodated not only the evolution of second and third-wave feminism, but which also found form for the expression of queer theory and identity politics.
Today London has witnesses an explosion of film clubs, film societies, pop up cine-events and mini-seasons manifesting a multitude of identities and fluid curating practices. An influx of significant queer feminist film clubs, salons and festivals has created an exciting contemporary network of oppositional film cultural histories and growing archives ready for academic research and investigation.
This research project will have two parts: a written thesis and a practice as a research curatorial investigation. The research will be a creative historical exploration of London queer and feminist film curation and its link to political activism from 1979 to the present day. The merging of history writing and practice will be a creative act of critical remodeling. The curatorial project will complement the historical research and with reflect on the processes through a programme of screenings and text-based interventions, which will respond to the research ideas and findings. Through weaving research with curatorial practice, the project will show that queer and feminist film curation histories and archives are more than just artifacts, a library collection of historical film, video, programme notes and ephemera. Instead it will argue that they form the vital core to a little recorded tradition of queer feminist activist film curation that is ongoing and continues to be ‘tradition-shaking’.
Selina graduated from Birkbeck, University of London with an MA History of Film and Visual Media in 2011. She has over 15 years experience working in cultural film exhibition independently and for a variety of organisations, including the BFI, BFI Flare and the Independent Cinema Office. She co-founded Club des Femmes in 2007, a queer-feminist film curating collective whose aim is to offer a freed up space for the re-examination of ideas through art. She writes and reviews films for Sight & Sound and The F Word.