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'Autotheory' in Canadian and Indigenous Artists' Video

A programme of short films that mine the ‘autotheoretical’ impulse of theorizing from lived experience through feminist, queer, Indigenous/ Two Spirit, and other frameworks.



Admission £5 advance / £7 on the door

A co-presentation between The Horse Hospital, Ingrid Film Club and Vtape in conjunction with the RCA Writing Programme's ‘AUTO—’ conference.

Hiba Ali, Madelyne Beckles, Thirza Cuthand, Andrew James Paterson, Evan Tyler, Allyson Michell and Deirdre Logue, and Martha Wilson

Curated by Lauren Fournier

Before theory became assimilated, it was embodied.

— Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ‘95

“Autotheory” is a term that has emerged to describe experimental works of literature, art, and art writing that integrate autobiography and embodied modes with philosophy and theory in explicit ways. Autotheoretical works tend toward the experimental, often exceeding established genre conventions and disciplinary bounds. The term began to trend in the mid 2010s with the publication of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015)—where Nelson, riffing on Paul B. Preciado’s use of the term “auto-theory” in Testo  Yonqui (Testo Junkie) (2008), inscribed a particularly performative mode of citation alongside a kind of post-memoir, queer feminist life writing text. As an impulse, autotheory can be traced through earlier feminist performance art, body art, and conceptual art practices, as well as intersectional feminist writings by women of colour like Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, and Audre Lorde. Indeed, in a sense the entire history of feminist theory and practice is one of autotheory—though the resonances of “autotheory” as a growing term bears consideration, particularly when it comes to the 21st-century context of neoliberalism, advanced capitalism, pervasive post-confessional technologies of social media, and the shift from postmodernism to meta-modernism or “the new sincerity.” Through this screening, curator Lauren Fournier takes performance for video and other modes of video art, including performative lectures, as a ripe space to reflect on the politics and aesthetics of autotheory. Looking to Vtape’s video art holdings in the colonised lands of Turtle Island, Fournier has selected works by Indigenous and settler artists whose relevance and resonance might be re-imagined through the notion of the auto-theoretical.

On Thursday, May 23, 2.00-3.30 pm, visiting curator Lauren Fournier will be presenting her research pertaining to this film programme - Performing Philosophy for the Camera: Autotheory and Artists’ Video in Turtle Island, 1969–2019 - as part of the RCA Writing Programme Conference ‘AUTO—’, Royal College of Art, Dyson Building, Gorvy Lecture Theatre.

Screening program:

Evan Tyler, fear, irony, and curating in the 90s, 2011, 04:35

Andrew James Paterson, The Walking Philosopher, 2001, 03:30

Hiba Ali, Postcolonial Language, 2016, 25:00

Thirza Cuthand, Working Baby Dyke Theory: The Diasporic Impact of Cross-Generational Barriers, 1997, 06:00

Madelyne Beckles, Theory of the Young Girl, 2017, 04:21

Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell, Hers is Still a Dank Cave: Crawling Toward a Queer Horizon, 2016, 24:32

Martha Wilson, Art Sucks, 1972, 01:25

Running time: 70 minutes

Her accompanying essay "Autotheory and Artist's Video: Performing Theory, Philosophy, and Art Criticism in Canadian and Indigenous Video Art, 1968-2018" can be read here.

Autotheory in Canadian and Indigenous Artists' Video emerged from Lauren Fournier’s research residency at Vtape in the spring of 2018.

Lauren Fournier is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, where she is working with artist Lisa Steele on a practice-based project that extends her doctoral research on autotheory as a post-1960s mode of feminist practice across media to issues of settler-colonialisms and class. Her writing has been published in such peer-reviewed journals and books as Contemporary Women’s WritingWest Coast LineComparative Media Arts Journal, and Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada, as well as contemporary art publications like Canadian Art and C Magazine. She is currently working on a book on  Autotheory  which is forthcoming. 

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