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Joint Masters and Doctoral Program at Ryerson in Communication and Culture
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Research @ ComCult: Alumnae
Q & A with Angela Joosse (PhD, 2012)

Why don't we know more about Marie Menken? PhD alumna Angela Joosse discusses her research into this pivotal but underappreciated figure in American avant-garde cinema, and speaks about her own practice as an active artist and scholar.

When did you graduate? MA or PhD? What stream?

Spring 2012, PhD, Technology in Practice.
Fall 2006, MA, Technology in Practice.

Tell us about your current work?

I am currently preparing a book manuscript on New York visual artist and avant-garde filmmaker Marie Menken. I first encountered Menken's work at Ryerson in one of R. Bruce Elder's experimental film courses, and I can say that her films have had a significant impact on my own creative work as well as how I think about cinema. Though Menken was an pivotal figure in the American avant-garde through the 1940s, 50s and 60s – she influenced major artists such as Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, and Andy Warhol – critical writing on her own work only amounts to a short bibliography of essays and lectures collected in anthologies. Working to give Menken's work due critical attention, I aim to contribute the first major study of her unique body of work and her distinctive approach to the art of cinema. I am carrying out this project as SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Christine Ross.

In what ways has a ComCult degree contributed to your current work?

The integration of my academic work and art-making has proven productive in my development as a scholar. Although art and theory must be respected as distinct ways of apprehending the world, when they unfold along mutual lines of questioning they can create productive relationships. ComCult's Technology in Practice stream enabled me to bring together my academic and “practical” ways of thinking, and I believe my current critical writing has been enriched by my work as a maker. I am indebted to my committee members, particularly Monique Tschofen and Janine Marchessault, for helping me navigate and contribute to this cross-disciplinary field.

What is the most inspiring or useful book, article, film, or exhibit you’ve encountered lately, and why?

This past June I had the privilege of attending a dress rehearsal of Pina Bausch's Kontakthof performed in Toronto by her ensemble. The piece confronts us with the strange, violent, and fragile layers of our social worlds. At once disturbing, funny, and tender, the performance works with our social expectations – including expectations of what a “dance” performance is – thwarting these expectations and unravelling them to reconfigure our possibilities for interpersonal connections particularly across lines of gender.

Also, I have attended a number of the artist talks and events, following the public art exhibit, Land | Slide: Possible Futures (curated by Janine Marchessault, September 21 – October 14, 2013, Markham ON). These experiences have expanded my thinking about the pivotal role that artists can play in helping us navigate present concerns particularly regarding community building, environment, collective memory, and constructed space.

Who are your key artistic and/or academic influences?

The work of Toronto philosopher, Samuel Mallin, has been integral to my approach to writing about art. His book Art Line Thought in particular is so lucid and prescient in addressing the major concerns of our time – even when discussing ancient artworks – that I find myself returning to it time and again. The philosophies of Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and Nietzsche have and continue to help me with questions of embodiment, perception, existence, and temporality. I am also a member of the Loop Collective of independent media artist in Toronto; the work and ideas of my fellow members remain a constant source of inspiration for me.

If you could interview one living academic or artist, or any other figure, who would it be?

Well... I'd love to walk the Zen gardens in Kyoto with sculptor Richard Serra. I think it'd be a great delight to tour Toronto with Michael Snow and one of his Walking Women. I'd love to stand in the New Mexico desert with Agnes Martin (I know she is no longer living, but– ). Or, at this point in my own work I think it would be interesting to watch and discuss Marie Menken's films with, say, Kelly Oliver, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Tacita Dean...