Friday the 13 : i.thou [ final cut ] online release

Aloha! It’s Friday the 13th! Just 13 weeks remain in 2017. I’m releasing my vaguely illegal, dangerous, feminist film online today.

Welcome to the house of illusion. Our images of each other can make prisons. Open a side door into the collective unconscious. Nothing is as it seems, is it. . .

i.thou - still

i.thou, final cut (still) – 2008-2013

I built i.thou [ final cut ] over a five year period, wrapping it up in December of 2013. David Finkelstein reviewed this work at FilmThreat before that site disappeared. He describes the work by writing ““i.thou” doesn’t exactly tell a story, but it distills the atmosphere of dozens of stories drawn from films, generally stories where a woman is trapped in the (male dominated) institution of a mental hospital, a lab, or a prison, where she struggles equally against her captors and her own, internalized sense of being “sick” or “wrong.” ”

As you watch the coda consider the stories nested into the entire work – each female character re-presented here [ Beatrix/The Bride, Nikita, Dorothy (audio only), Ripley, Kieslowski’s Julie from Blue & more ] were created by male directors who proceeded to “put them through it”, for our entertainment. Ripley destroys the nursery in which she was made [ Alien: Resurrection ] – –

I have been told that the work is “too much” – too long / the wrong length to screen in festivals. The repurposed content too big of a risk for copyright liability [ even as Richard Prince & Girl Talk take that strategy all the way to the bank ]. Too experimental [ we figured out datamoshing in the ‘oughts – this is new media, right? new forms! ]

The work presents a ‘dead girl’ in a shot extended from her original 45 seconds of screen time to several minutes. Remember, the dead girl is not a character, but the memory of her become the character. Media makes memory for us these days. This work fits somewhere in both the preceding statements.

Wear headphones for best viewing experience!

viewing notes :
– the work has three movements and a coda; visual and loops are used/considered symphonically as classical music would, in motifs
– there are ‘pauses’ in the film where the screen goes completely black, between movements
– the opening of the third movement includes complete silence
– all melting, artefacting, ‘failed video’ looks are intentional

I would love to hear your thoughts about i.thou [ final cut ]. Rose McGowan and many other women were sacrificed on the altar of this form, filmed entertainment. That is a part of this, too.

Thanks for being here. All of this madness is a part of all of us. With this art we visit it for a few minutes, and then put it down.


women coders: hidden in the secretarial class – –

psst. one for late Sunday night studio practice realizations: I realized where women’s skill at coding has been hiding in our cultural history. Women are the secretaries, the support roles for male bosses. Traditionally they wrote in secretarial shorthand [ it was a requirement of their training in the 50’s ].

The gendered use of shorthand isn’t mentioned in this wikipedia article. Huffpo explains that “administrative assistants” are gendered 96% female, same as it was in 1950.

This kind of work remains undervalued in our culture. A friend of mine currently struggles with the intense workload and silence of administrative assistant work at the department level of a major university.

At one point in the late ‘oughts [ REDACTED CORPORATION ] fired the secretaries that supported its middle management in a cost-saving move. They gave the middle management men new laptops.  Some of those men ended up as my computer students. I will never forget listening to one or the other of these men mourn the loss of the woman who followed him around, writing down everything he said, in a code he couldn’t read.

[ audio ] We Miss You, Ana Mendieta [ spoken word ]

The body does and means so many things. 

Perhaps the simple acknowledgement of relational violence as human experience can help us celebrate those lost to it. Should or should not, it is what is, for a lot of people. How do we witness it? The taboo needs to go.

Let’s put our mind on who she was, who she remains. A whole woman who made her own choices, who struggled with and argued and created from her experience, from her body. . . She told us how to remember her, in the relentless documentation of her art. Lets do that.


First draft written May 30, first performed at The Green Mill Open Mic & Slam on Sunday, June 1. After a few more edits, recorded this performance using a DSLR at the Lethal Poetry Words That Kill Anything Goes Slam on June 5.  After absenting my body from the piece, and with no audio mastering, well, here you go.

The action We Wish Ana Mendieta Was Still Alive,  performed by artist Christen Clifford and the feminist No Wave Performance Task Force, was documented in Hyperallergic’s writeup Artists Protest —- ——- Retrospective with Blood Outside of Dia:Chelsea.


Thanks Mojdeh Stoakley for camera operation, thanks Lethal Poetry for the stage, the audience, the love. Thanks to Christen Clifford & No Wave for doing and saying.

i.thou : director’s statement [excerpt]

i.thou : caged bird

i.thou : caged bird

This film evolved from the process of codec alteration, commonly called ‘data moshing’. I saw Takeshi Murata’s work at the Hirschhorn in 2007. Already working in experimental video, I decided to figure out how to do that. A few youTube tutorials later, I started playing with data alterations on a variety of found, captured, and recorded videos. As I figured out the results I preferred – richer colors, slower transformations – I became really interested in moments where two people in a conversation ‘merge’, as in the closing image of the woman holding the man at gunpoint.
i.thou : blue faces

i.thou : blue faces

This kind of merging or collapsing of faces operates in the space of social dynamics of self and other. Martin Buber’s psychological philosophy describes how different people can see the world, based on their own personal development. In the ‘i-it’ dynamic, the self relates to others as objects or dolls, fixed images of some sort. In the ‘i-thou’ dynamic the self relates to other people as complex being with lives of their own. The term ‘sonder’ is also related to this.

I began thinking about the natural objectification that is at work inside the language of film. Constructing this film over a 5-year period was a long period of musing on the projected image, the archetypes that good films evoke through great image construction. Also, how the human mind constructs images or ideas, how our imaginations participate with the physical world to create reality.

i.thou : lets play telephone

i.thou : let’s play telephone

I’m looking forward to announcing exhibition / screening of the work.

Total running time : 38:29 // dolby surround // available in a variety of digital formats

i.thou [ final cut ] [ 2007 – 2013 ]

they found the dvd in the sand under her body. i don’t know where she is.

agency // archetypes // authority & doubt // caged bird // certainty // cult of the dead girl // data-altered video // deconstruction // doctrine // durga // epistemology // film // hallucination // pathoshadenfreude // social identity // the [ tomb ] empty [ womb ] // voyeur culture // witness //

experimental digital video.
visuals : avidemux, ffmpegx, quicktime 7 pro, final cut pro 6-X. audio : apple logic 9.

all production : jessica fenlon

view the first movement here. screenings / exhibitions tba

for valentine’s day : Firewater & Pixie Dust

Karen Lillis gives us a noir amped with supersaturated language, a brittle ‘come here go away’, the long slow roller coaster of ambition and unevenly paired romance, and it’s delicious.

The language in this short fiction ~ detail accumulates, crisp quick specific images leave trails like the glittering light popping off sparklers. The narrator’s hyper sensual awareness prompted by everyday city life. Slick and brightly colored, crisp crunchy words from the mouth of a heart’s detective who sorts out exactly how it didn’t work.


Firewater and Pixie Dust at Trip City literary salon.

in process : stills from i.thou : chapter ~ 19

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (flight)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (flight)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (nikita in kitchen)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (nikita in kitchen)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (baby crocodile)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (baby crocodile)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (19)

these stills are taken from a 4 minute sketch i worked up the last few days. this is for the next chapter of the film in progress, i.thou.

the chapter or excerpt is titled “19”. the moshing technique assists the viewer take a meditative journey on identity, memory, witnessing, transpersonal consciousness, the tellable story, and the problem of unbelievable experience.

the still image of the girl named “19” is taken from the television show CSI. the source video shots used (pre-processing and ‘mosh’) look like the two stills that follow:

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

i.thou : chapter ~ 19 (source still)

womanhouse : forget remember forget remember …

Laura E Davis Really fascinating book review. This really worries me. I see that children are so encouraged to behave within set gender roles, it’s almost like feminism never happened.

Jessica Fenlon Every generation, it is forgotten. Have you ever had a look at Womanhouse?

Laura E Davis Do you mean this:

I had not heard of it, but what an incredible project.

linen closet

WOMANHOUSE : linen closet : 1972

Laura E Davis Oh man, there is a documentary about it. I can’t seem to find it anywhere though. boo.

Jessica Fenlon It is erased – like the work itself. The house used for the installation work was torn down in the end; it was slated for destruction, that’s how the artists got access to it to begin with. And there are no images on Wikipedia.

WOMANHOUSE : Lipstick installation in the bathroom : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : Lipstick installation in the bathroom : 1972

In art history, women’s work tends to be erased because it is left out.  The same seems to be true of some gains made by each generation of feminists. Simple human ignorance, each generation is born into it.

WOMANHOUSE : Bridal Staircase : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : Bridal Staircase : 1972

History makes the metaphor. This symbol-set presenting Female-Body-As-House-Inhabited-By-Her-Personhood was physically demolished.  In art historical memory, erased.

I went on an archeological dig through the Internet. I know this content well, having presented and re-presented it to art school peers and students over the years, a treasure of a work never taught to them by others.

WOMANHOUSE : nurturant kitchen : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : nurturant kitchen : 1972

This particular reconstruction is definitely incomplete. Some images I poached from a blog claiming ‘feminist art history perseverence forever!’. This blog ceased publication after four posts, three years ago.

Art is a language of gestures. How a culture tends to the object-relics related to those gestures tells us about the dominant cultural beliefs of that culture … or at least, what the curators of those cultural beliefs want us to think is permitted.

WOMANHOUSE : f.w. seated in her crocheted 'womb room' : 1972

WOMANHOUSE : f.w. seated in her crocheted 'womb room' : 1972

1972 : Womanhouse is the product of tremendous amount of consciousness-raising in a feminist art education setting. I dare you to discover more about this seminal work of art, work that created environmental installation art.

My assignment to you: find the answers to the following questions. No, you can’t use Wikipedia.

Who “taught” this group of young artists? What school housed the program? Where did you find the art historical documentation about it? Which artists created the specific works I’ve included in this post? What other titles were given to these smaller installations, and by whom? How many installations were in the house? How many performance pieces? What now-famous artists saw this work as audience members?

For extra credit : Why do you think a work of art that lays the foundation for an entire genre can be ignored, overlooked, forgotten?

Pretty good, for a human : Ripley as Durga

Ripley in fighting suit after opening the hangar door

Durga : n (Hinduism) the goddess Parvati portrayed as a warrior: renowned for slaying the buffalo demon, Mahisha

First motion : she raises her armored arms

In one version of the myth, Durga was a warrior goddess who defeated the demon Mahisashur who had unleashed a realm of terror on earth, heaven and the nether worlds.

Mahisa means buffalo, Mahisasur was born from the form of a water buffalo. He could not be defeated by any of the gods because of boons he had received from Brahma.

Over time, each god armed Durga with a suitable quality and weapon, so that with their combined effect she was able to defeat the demon. The word Shakti, or strength, reflects the warrior aspect of the goddess.

In another form, she is also Karunamayi, or one full of kindness.

Ripley catches up the Alien's head in her claw

Durga : In Hinduism, one of the forms of the goddess Devi or Shakti. The wife of Shiva. Born fully grown, created out of flames that issued from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and other gods. She embodies their collective energy (shakti). They created her to slay the buffalo-demon Mahisasura, whom they were unable to overcome. She is usually depicted riding a lion or tiger, each of her multiple arms bearing a weapon.

She uses the tools at hand to keep her enemy at bay.

She throws the invading Alien/Demon down the airlock, to exorcize it

The enemy at the heart of the film Aliens are profoundly terrifying creatures. The gory possessions, devourings, consuming of human bodies in order to live point allegorically to possession and exorcism stories, but with absolutely deadly results – no human ever survives an alien possession.

Enemies in horror films have to be absolutely other, yet embody something of ourselves that we are frightened of. The absolutely instinctual nature of these mucus-soaked creatures, whose nested jaws speak to some horrifying devouring appetite, some horrifying devouring reproductive nature . . . draw whatever metaphorical conclusion you will.

Monsters like this are the closest thing to a demon our atheist culture cops to. Our heroine, Ripley, warrior-queen, embodies Durga, that aspect of Shakti who is the original demon slayer, a goddess from a religion tended to by millions in India.

Alien hangs on to Ripley's foot, attempting to avoid her ejection (or exorcism) from the ship into space

She hauls herself up from the edge of the void, against the pull of the void, and prevails.