This multichannel video installation examines “gender performance” in film after the Cold War through re-enactments of scenes from selected cinematic works. These films are from USSR, Russia, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia and span the period from 1920s to the end of the 2000s. By reading these films through the lens of contemporary feminist and gender theory, Boryana Rossa seeks to understand what are some of the transformations of gender concepts in post-socialist countries. Working with actors, Rossa has created reenactments of the following films: Monday Morning (1966), Daisies (1967), Ladies Turn (1980), Hammer and Sickle (1994), Styliagi (2008), and Mission London (2010). In the installation, two video screens display both the original scene and the re-enactment.
After the Fall also explores gender performance cross-culturally, situating the research in a global context. For instance the actors who participate in the reenactments are from the US, which is intended to integrate issues of cultural translation into the process. The film characters are interpreted through the cultural and political prism of each of the participants. The process of creating this project relies on a critical exchange of ideas, where the re-enactment is treated as an interpretation, rather than a copy of the chosen scene. Most of these reenactments were made in close collaboration with the actors. Finding commonalities, rather than cultural differences is the goal.
In keeping with Michel Foucault’s view that power is a productive force in society, Rossa tries to analyze how similar oppressive gender power structures can occur irrespective of the particular political and ideological context. She seeks to represent also individual and collective reactions to these oppressive formations through gender performance. The theoretical and historical research for After the Fall is part of Rossa’s dissertation for the Rensselaer’s doctoral program in Electronic Arts.
This episode from the installation reviews the intersection of subcultures and gender in the 1950s epoch of McCarthyism/Stalinism
This reenactment is a comment on an epoch in which power structures created repressive apparatuses both in the capitalist West and the communist East. The installation features instructional movies from Stalinist Soviet Union and from the US. The Russian feature film Stilyagi (2008) (a.k.a Hipsters for international distribution) is a contemporary comment on the same time period. The subculture “stilyagi” (a Russian appropriation of the English word “style,” in Bulgaria they are called “swingi”) is the subject of this film situated in a larger historical context, which symbolically embodies youth resistance to moral and political conventions. Parallels to stilyagi in the West are phenomena such as Teddy boys and girls, or Rockabilly. Gender roles are reviewed through the perspective of the repressive ideological rhetoric and the resistance against it.
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