By remaking an obscure documentary about radical ‘60s activist Shulamith Firestone, artist Elisabeth Subrin offers a nostalgic and somewhat cynical reflection on the legacy of second-wave feminism.
Slipping between past and present as well as fact and fiction, Shulie (1997) is a shot-by-shot remake of an obscure documentary about radical ‘60s feminist Shulamith Firestone. Author of the treatise The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, Firestone was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1967 when four male directors selected her as a subject for a film about the so-called Now Generation. Shot in the style of direct cinema, the original Shulie features Firestone discussing the limitations of motherhood, as well as racial and class issues in the workplace. The directors also filmed her enduring a humiliating critique by her art school professors. Thirty years later, filmmaker Elisabeth Subrin recreated the Shulie documentary using actors in many of the original locations. The resulting film is a nostalgic and somewhat cynical reflection on the legacy of second-wave feminism. Subrin writes, “In the compulsion to remake, to produce a fake document, to repeat a specific experience I never actually had, what I have offered up is the performance of a resonant, repetitive, emotional trauma that has yet to be healed.”
The exhibition includes four new enlarged film stills from Shulie. These color photographs not only allow the viewer to focus on thematic details of the protagonist’s activities (commuting to work, creating art), but also formal details including 16mm film grain and video scanlines. Similar to the way Subrin’s film inhabits the fuzzy area between reality and fantasy, her highly mediated printing methods involve a complex layering of analog and digital techniques.
Elisabeth Subrin’s films have screened widely in the United States and abroad, including solo exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art and The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and in group shows including The Whitney Biennial, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Walker Art Center, and The Wexner Center for the Arts.
Shulie is presented in The Goodkind Media Center in conjunction with the exhibition Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism.