A complicitous critique : parodic transformations of cinema in moving image art.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Since the 1960s strategies of recycling, revision, and reframing have dominated art practice, and are particularly evident in artists’ films since the 1990s. A majority of these films take the classical Hollywood film text as their object of revision, producing a diverse range of interventions that both reproduce and obstruct its governing conventions. This thesis proposes that the imitative tendency in contemporary moving image art constitutes a parodic revision of the classical film text and its attendant assumptions, and is currently a productive site of critique of dominant cinematic forms. Theorist Linda Hutcheon provides an inclusive definition of modern parody as extended repetition with critical difference; an ambivalent combination of conservative and revolutionary drives, a form that necessarily reproduces the very values it simultaneously displaces.
Of particular interest is the effect of these parodic acts on Hollywood inscriptions of gender norms. Feminist film theory since the 1970s has argued convincingly that the decorative image of woman is the linchpin of the classical film text. Therefore, any critique of that text accordingly revises her placement; whether or not such a revision is the work’s explicit intention. In place of a complete rejection of narrative cinema and its problematic repetition of reductive stereotypes of gender (and race and class) influential feminist theorists such as Claire Johnston and Laura Mulvey have insisted that a counter cinema must engage with both the form and content of the mainstream text. Only by inhabiting the language of that text can its assumption be undermined. Hutcheon defines the challenge to dominant aesthetics produced by such parodic revisions as a complicitous critique, and views parody as a key feminist strategy. Yet, taking into account recent developments in theories of gender, race, and sexuality, this investigation does not exclusively focus on films by women, or by self-proclaimed feminist or queer filmmakers (who might be said to have as their main aim a re-writing of the place of ‘woman’, and therefore ‘man’, in cinema).
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