How to use video production as a mode of inquiry to explore a wide range of questions, including those related to social difference and cultures of equality in Europe? With the guidance of professor and filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the fifteen GRACE Early Stage Researchers are working on individual and collective videos that expand on and share their research projects with a broader public.
The director of films such as Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican (1994) and War for Guam (2015), professor Frances Negrón-Muntaner teaches a course called “Video as Inquiry” at Columbia University. There she poses the question: How does the audio-visual medium produce knowledge in itself? At the GRACE Schools in Bologna and Granada, the fifteen researchers have begun to answer this question in connection with key aspects of their projects, exploring the possibilities of video, which range from animation and interviews, to re-enactments and experimental juxtaposition of sounds and images.
Negrón-Muntaner has taken an inspiring approach as coordinator of the Filming GRACE project, which is in line with the work that she has developed throughout her career, as she hereby explains:
“Since I was a teenager, I have been interested in visual production and scholarly research as two ways of asking questions and producing knowledge. Once I became a scholar and filmmaker, I retained my interest although it was not always easy. In academia, scholarship and art are generally viewed as entirely separate, and even antithetical, practices. But I don’t see it that way. Both require an awareness of past efforts and achieve breakthroughs of equal complexity by citing, building on, and innovating prior work. As Pablo Picasso once put it, ‘I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches. I search constantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research.’”
In the specific case of “motion pictures”, Negrón-Muntaner argues that, “the production of knowledge arises from relating portions of audio, images, and language in a new way. Therefore, one of the things that I wanted to share with Filming GRACE is that video production is not simply an instrument to convey information. It is also a method that can illuminate, expand, and contradict what has been investigated by other means. Given the importance of GRACE research, thinking with digital media is particularly exciting and one of the most dynamic aspects of the program. It anticipates what is increasingly cohering as a different model for advanced research that combines scholarship, visual inquiry, and curatorial engagement.”
Here you can find more about Frances Negrón-Muntaner scholar work and film productions.
One example of the Filming GRACE videos that have been produced until now is the audio-visual essay “A diffractive gaze at contemporary feminist non-fiction cinema”, elaborated by GRACE Early Stage Researcher 13, Orianna Calderon, who is working on the visualisation of gender equality through contemporary Spanish and Italian documentary cinema. In her video, Calderón explores ways in which Karen Barad’s diffractive methodology can be adapted as an editing strategy for reading diverse approaches to visualising and materialising cultures of gender equality in Europe, through fragments from contemporary Spanish and Italian feminist documentary films, opinions expressed by their filmmakers, and her own gaze as a researcher.
Concerning her work as a visual artist and documentary filmmaker with a feminist commitment, Ana Solano explains: “Faced with the needs of transforming the basic categories that are rooted in our society, and with the absence of alternative in the theoretical field on the situation of defenselessness that we live, the audio-visual allows us to see the emergencies of a social reality, and to be able to transfer, transmit and visualise it. My projects lead me and relate me to a technological world where thought is turned into images. Through the audio-visual, I approach oppression without any organic borders, understanding that the image is a transformation of the idea of the concept.”
Here you can find more about No Existimos and Ana Solano’s work.
The final cuts of the videos produced within the Filming GRACE project will become part of the GRACE Museum of Equality, to be launched virtually and physically in 2019.