Joan Braderman: Feminist, Artist, Activist!

Posted by: Roy Wilbur

Joan Braderman’s videos deal with feminist issues – the representation, role, identity, and demands of women. She also takes an in-depth look at popular culture – its televised version – by placing herself on-screen, often right at the center of action. In the first of her series of videos, Natalie Didn’t Drown (1983), broadcast on the alternative television channel Paper Tiger TV, she carried out a monologue performance as a lunatic character parodying the American tabloid The National Enquirer.

In Joan Does Dynasty (1986), she entered the world of the American soap opera Dynasty to carry out a live deconstruction and analysis. She thus placed herself within the most famous television series in the world to dissect the balance of power between genders, social classes, capitalist generations and fantasies, and sexual and economic power. She used the same principle in Joan Sees Stars (1993) where she again inserted herself, this time into film sequences starring actors such as Liz Taylor, in order to get to the heart of the American celebrity phenomenon from the inside and by way of these “encounters” within the image. With her strategy of humor, irony, and collage, the artist carried out a process of appropriation and invasion of media spaces to reveal what underlies them – the ideologies, values, and standardisation of thought.

In addition, Joan uses video as a way of recording and bearing witness to the women’s movement. No More Nice Girls, a video produced in 1988, is built on the personal (and political) stories of a number of protagonists, including Yvonne Rainer and Brenda Starr, who in the mid-1980s found themselves confronted with the threat and violent reactions of the American New Right. In the same vein, she produced The Heretics (a feature-length film released in 2009), a documentary based on interviews with members of the Heresies Collective. Artists such as Carolee Schneemann and Su Friedrich appeared in this film, along with critics including Lucy Lippard. In it, Joan extended the magazine’s aesthetic, and evoked the collective experience through her radical collage approach where text, cartoons, archive photographs and films, magazines, and both complete and in-progress artworks are integrated and superposed. The heterogeneity of the film’s aesthetic also reflects the group’s diverse modes of expression.

“From the outset, women haven’t had a voice in moving pictures. My own voice as an artist – at once bawdy and analytic – and the many other voices of the women who have been changing the world in subtle ways, are the voices you hear in my videos.” Joan Braderman

Joan Braderman’s film The Heretics is part of the MooreWomenArtists Film Festival, April 1 – 3, 2016.

Joan Braderman, professor emerita of video, film and media studies at Hampshire College, holds an A.B. from Harvard and an M.A. and M.Phil. from New York University. Her award-winning documentaries and art videos (such as Joan Does Dynasty, 1986; Joan Sees Stars, 1992; and her recent, THE HERETICS, 2009) have been shown widely in museums, galleries, theaters, festivals, and universities as well as being broadcast in the U.S. and internationally. Her work is in the permanent collections of museums such as the Stedelijk, Amsterdam; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

A co-founder of “Heresies, A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics,” (1977-1992) writing by and about her has appeared in: The New York Times, Washington Post, ARTFORUM, The Village Voice, The Independent, Afterimage, The London Guardian, “Illuminations; An Essential Guide to Video Art,” Contemporanea, The Boston Globe, Camera Obscura, Time Out, and many other periodicals, journals and books. (For a complete bibliography & her original screenplays, see her &

Joan was given a retrospective at the De Cordova Museum, 1995; the Koopman Chair in the Visual Arts at Hartford Art School, 1996; and the 2002 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Electronic Arts, Portugal. She was selected “Mediamaker of the year, 2009” by The Bay Area Video Coalition. The world premiere of THE HERETICS took place in two sold-out double shows and a week’s run at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, October 2009.

Braderman’s work has shown at: The Whitney Biennial, The British Film Theater, The New York Film and Video Festival, The Edinburgh Film Festival, Los Angeles MOCA, The Institutes of Contemporary Art in London and Boston, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Festivals such as Atlanta, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, Istanbul, Croatia, MixMexico, Australia, Vermont International, Barcelona International, Frameline in San Francisco and won Critic’s Choice at New England Film Festival. Other venues include the Collective for Living Cinema, NYC, The American Center in Paris, The National Museum of Women and the Arts, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, SITE, Santé Fe Cultural Center, The Wexner Center, Ohio, The Pacific Film Archive, The Roxie Theater in SF, The Paul Robeson Center, Princeton, The Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid and the Time and Space Theater, NY.

Joan has been awarded grants & fellowships, public and private, including: The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, and The Massachusetts State Council on the Arts, The Mass. Cultural Council, The McDowell Arts Colony, The Mellon Foundation, The American Film Institute, The MacArthur Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, The Berkeley Film Fund, and The National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to Hampshire, Joan has taught at The School of Visual Arts, NYC, The Boston Museum School, Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, The Media School of the London Art Institute, and the Universidade catolica portuguesa in Porto, Portugal.

Photo of Joan Braderman courtesy of Hampshire College

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