Apr 27, 2011

Difficulties in Going "Public"

At the close of “‘White Slavery’ Versus the Ethnography of ‘Sexworkers’: Women in Stag Films at the Kinsey Archive,” author Linda Williams lobbies for greater access to the Kinsey stag film collection among scholars and archivists, however, she also mentions the “need” for “public screenings”; a proposal that I find both intriguing and problematic (Williams 130). While it is one thing to allow researchers and scholars – knowledgeable about the historical and cultural elements of these films – to have access to screening these works, it is quite another to open such screenings to the public. Due to the controversial and potentially offensive content of many of these films, it is probable that screenings open to members of the public would require a careful and skilled contextualization in order for people to understand how these films can relate to the study of film history and culture.

Williams states that she “do[es] not claim to know how an archive of hard-core films should present its contents…to the public,” but still maintains that these films should “be made available to those interested” in them (128). In the past, numerous provocative film, photography, and art exhibitions have sparked controversy, despite the fact that they were presented within a museum setting – think of the Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, or Wojnarowicz’s Fire in My Belly at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Sometimes a scholarly/artistic venue and curatorial contextualization are not enough to persuade members of the public to look at provocative or offensive material in a different light. While this fact is not a legitimate reason to bar the public from viewing these works, it is still incumbent upon curators and archivists to remember that with controversial works, context and understanding are everything, and with public exhibitions, these variables are less easy to control.

Works Cited

Williams, Linda. “‘White Slavery’ Versus the Ethnography of ‘Sexworkers’: Women in Stag Films at the Kinsey Archive.” The Moving Image 5.2 (Fall 2005): 107-34.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.