There was an old-school feminist mini-tempest last week in Newfoundland, Canada, home of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival, now in its 15th year (www.womensfilmfestival.com
). Mildly provocative posters for the fest, themed "Films with broad appeal," caused "a flap," according to the CBC. To quote an example from the CBC story, "Joanne Harris, a high school student taking part in one of the festival's workshops, feels that the blatant 'set of boobs' on posters, banners and the festival website take away from its accomplishments and promotion of female filmmakers. 'It's a women's film fest,' she said. 'We've come a long way from women having to write using a pen name to sound like men. We're objectifying women once again.' " In fact, the woman in the ads is Mary Lewis, described by the CBC as "an award-winning, Newfoundland-raised short-film director," who said in response to the fuss, "I'm just surprised, because it strikes me as such first-wave feminism. That an image is too sensual to represent the Women's Film Festival seems to me to be very backward and prudish." Sic transit Gloria Steinem, you might say.
Moreover, the posters, photographed by Shane Kelly, were designed by Andrea Cooper, a 28-year-old Toronto-based multimedia artist whose sexually charged work (in which she usually doubles as her own model) is very big on giantesses, among other intriguing imagery. "I use a variety of media in unconventional ways to interrogate cultural archetypes," says Cooper, which is precisely why she was hired for this gig, she adds. "I appropriate archetypes of women and inverse the meaning, using humor and sex as a tool with which to disarm." Re the controversy, "Are we really afraid of a sexy woman?" she wonders. "This is an award-winning filmmaker who looks impossibly hot at 40 — and who just happens to be pregnant. Understanding visual culture requires looking beyond the image. Context, authorship and intention are crucial when reading a piece of work — they determine the content." See the PDF showcase for a sampling of Cooper's contextually cool content. See www.andreacooper.com for more.