Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 7:30 pm

The World is the Medium: Courtney Stephens’ Terra Femme

Courtney Stephens in person


2665 Mission Street

San Francisco

pictured above: Terra Femme (2017–2021) by Courtney Stephens

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Admission: $12 General/$10 Cinematheque Members and Gray Area Members
Event tickets here

SCREENING: Terra Femme (2017–2021) by Courtney Stephens

RELATED: Loss Angles: about dead projects. An online companion to Terra Femme, Courtney Stephens’ Loss Angles is drawn from formative experiences and contemplations informing Terra Femme, chronicling travels, observations and inner explorations while speculating on the relationship between intention and abandoned projects to completed works. View Loss Angles here.

The personal cinema of Courtney Stephens is a space of introspective feminism, poetic rumination and the tentative habitation of peripheral landscapes. A subtle tour-de-force of archival research and vernacular exoticism, Stephens' Terra Femme is compiled entirely from non-professional/amateur footage travel shot by women in the early–mid-twentieth century, fleeting fragments of private lives. Resisting an urge to classify and canonize, Stephens' drifting montage manifests as an exquisitely curated evocation of hidden histories and stories untold. Presented with live narration by Stephens (and set to a sublime score by Sarah Davachi), the experience of Terra Femme is that of a protocinematic travel lecture and a live cinema essay, in which the artist’s reflections on personal mortality and creative interiority interweave with considerations of the freedoms found in isolation, the privileges of travel and as well the relationship of travel (and amateur filmmaking) to legacies of colonialism and empire. The live performance of Terra Femme will be preceded by an additional surprise video by Stephens—not to be missed! (Steve Polta)

One thing these films [used in Terra Femme] encode is a profound absence: the general absence of women in the film archive and the larger absence of female figures in the historical record. They also explore the attempt to concretize one's own experience through the act of making cinema, while also acknowledging the other forms of power that gave these women access to film cameras in the first place. At once a film about longing for past worlds through cinematic excavation, this force flows in both directions: as women from the past convey themselves into the present through the power of their gaze. (Courtney Stephens)

Terra Femme is about the labor and love involved in creating and collecting images, both expanding the boundaries of women’s cinema to include the fragment and the lost reel and modeling a mode of reading that analyses the rush of world-making and hints of self-inscription at stake in women’s filmmaking. (Shilyh Warren: Another Gaze)