This month, we interviewed Elisa Kreisinger of Pop Culture Pirate, and truly a pioneer in the world of video remix, women’s rights activism and media literacy. Elisa is a feminist video artist creating more stories about women that don’t revolve around men (or babies). Her most recent work includes Queer Housewives of New York City, Sex and the Remix: QueerCarrie and the forthcoming MadWomen/MadMen remix series.
Elisa is Media Fellow at the Center for Social Media at American University and works with the Women’s Media Center and Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute. She speaks about the importance of women talking back to pop-culture throughout the US and Europe, most recently at SPARK Summit, Eileen Fisher, National Conference for Media Reform, Museum for Film and Television, Berlin and SxSW. You can find Elisa’s work on BravoTV.com, Art 21, the front page of the Boston Globe, in BitchMag, on Salon.com and Jezebel as well as in festivals and galleries throughout the US. She’s currently speaking at colleges and universities about the importance of making video remix.
When did you begin remixing videos? What drove you to do it? I began remixing in 2007 when the community was dominated by lots of archival footage and entertainment remixes. It was the Bush administration so political remixes were also gaining popularity. I was driven to continue remixing when I became involved in feminist online communities. This community consists mostly of women writing smart and snarky responses to pop culture. This community was and still is generating massive amounts of written work. I emphasize written work because the talk-back occurs mostly in blog form. There was, and still is so much participation in this community that posts are retweeted, Facebook Liked, commented on and re-posted all over the web within minutes. It’s a great time for feminist bloggers but I didn’t fit in.
I faced a problem: I didn’t have an interest in the entertainment content produced by traditional video remixers. And the content created by feminist pop-culture bloggers left little room for new participation. My solution was to combine the two: use the remix technique, instead of words, to respond to pop-culture. I wanted to show, not just tell what a new media could look like.
Have you ever gotten in trouble for copyright infringement, or had your fair use rights challenged by mainstream media producers whose work you remix? Remixes are highly eligible to be considered fair use of copyright content. In short, fair use is a portion of copyright law that protects creators’ use of copyright material for comment, critique and other purposes. To learn more about the rights we have as video creators, check out the Center for Social Media’s Best Practices guide.
YouTube and other video sharing sites don’t always acknowledge creator’s rights and often remove your video at the right’s holder’s request.
I had my QueerHousewives of New York City remixes removed from YouTube after I illustrated how online communities talk back to heavily-branded pop-culture during a SxSW panel. The Vice President of NBC/Universal joined the conversation and the next day, the one-year old videos with comments and thousands of hits, were removed for copyright violation.
This is why it’s so important that we save videos, create back up accounts, capture screenshots of tweets, comments, blog posts, label them, back them up because it might be the only archival evidence we have of our communities’ existence and our successes in online spaces.What’s the Queer Carrie Project? The Queer Carrie Project (QCP) was an experiment in political video remixing and storytelling based on the TV series, Sex and the City that I took on in 2010. The original show appropriated the language of radical feminist politics only to retell old patriarchal fairy tales. Why are these women, in all their sexual candor and sexual frank-ness, abandoning their post-feminist thinking? Or, why is it so easy to use the language of radical feminism but so hard to give up on those patriarchal fantasies?
This video remix series contained 3 remixes that transform the original narrative of Sex and the City into a queer-positive story: due to their constant dissatisfaction with the opposite sex, the women of Sex and the City question their desire, will and strength to continue following the expectations of conventional heterosexuality.
I wanted to create a remix that re-told a story from a feminist perspective and I needed a pop-culture icon women could identify, even if they didn’t watch the original show. Sex and the City was that show and became a good platform for experimenting with remixed storytelling.
What kind of change do you hope to see as a result of your work?
By creating the types of feminist stories we want to see in addition to talking, reading and blogging about them, we take a departure from the approach where we drill down on negative images of women in the media. An approach that often left me with the notion that media is bad and I’m a victim of it. An approach that often left me really depressed.
My hope is that we can collectively turn the anger and resentment we have toward the media into something practical: a product that media literacy addressed in theory only.
We’ve run into a lot of people who are reluctant to pull back the curtains on their favorite TV shows, movies, celebrities, products…do you ever experience the same thing? How do you address it? I always start my visiting artist talks or youth workshops with “I’m a feminist, but I enjoy Real Housewives of many cities.” Most everyone feels as though they must compromise their politics to be entertained so it’s common ground for us all to be both a fan and a critic of something.
For me, first and foremost I am a feminist, but I am also a consumer of popular culture. As such, I inhabit the only place I can: a site of ambivalence, contradiction, and compromise. There’s no such thing as a ‘bad feminist’ or ‘bad critical thinker’.
Talking about how there are paradoxes and contradictions within ourselves is always a good thing, no matter what the take home lesson may be.
In addition to creating video remixes, you work with young people through workshops and events. How do they respond to the idea of remix as a tool for storytelling and expression? I’ve been on a speaking tour of east coast colleges and here, students respond well because the remix process inherently changes the focus of learning from something that’s individual into an act of community engagement.
In my work with high school students through my remix workshops, I’ve found that the beauty of remix is that it sparks a discussion about representation, pop culture and technology. Because it uses recognizable footage, remix becomes the spoon full of sugar that makes the media literacy and critical thinking theory go down.
As an outsider to these classrooms, I’m able to wrap the existing curriculum and discussion into into something fun they can easily digest.
I recently became a Media Fellow at the Center for Social Media at American University and I hope to continue to bring remix and fair use to classrooms throughout the country.
Of course your remixes are like your children and you love them all for different reasons. But if someone was new to your work and remix culture, which of your videos would you recommend s/he watch first? I would recommend watching “Peacemaker” because it takes a critical look at reality TV from a fan’s perspective. In this remix, Adrienne Maloof of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills attempts to make peace and end the bitter rivalries between the female ensemble cast, no doubt induced by endless bottles of wine and Bravo TV producers. Maloof’s efforts counter the reality-tv enforced stereotype that female friendships are catty, petty and filled with jealousy.
Follow Elisa on Twitter: @elisakreisinger