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Feb 16, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Translating Empathy: A Seminar Dedicated to Social Engagement and Documentary Art

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Activism and documentary art. Opposites?

We don’t think so

A theoretical and practical professional seminar designed for filmmakers, artists and cultural producers

Beauty in Transition1

From Jody Wood’s Beauty in Transition

Facilitate empathetic understanding about social topics with a multimedia approach. Empower your audience with a knowledge about challenging issues. This weekend intensive wrestles with the thorny question of how to activate change with artistic representations.

Designed by Mathilde Walker-Billaud and Jody Wood, the workshop exposes a small group of up to 14 participants to a range of creative practices and approaches to socially engaged films and media art.

Participants will learn from four talented professional practitioners using their past projects as key examples for discussion. Together we will explore key ideas that range from exposing social issues with accountable narratives, engaging the audience on difficult and uncovered topics and art activism to working with communities, using media with marginalized peoples, and creating space for artistic decisions while decentralizing point of view. Through artists’ presentations, lectures, group discussions, short exercises and work-in-progress critique, participants will be encouraged to put this new knowledge into practice. The guests’ presentations will also include technical demonstrations and documentary filmmaking expertise. The final afternoon will be dedicated to presentations by students and include feedback by guest curator Sally Szwed.

Multimedia artist Jody Wood will lead the intensive.

From Jody Wood’s audio and video installation Support Systems (2009)


When: Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13, 10:00am – 5:30pm

Where: UnionDocs, 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Who is eligible?

Open to the public. We are looking for media studies students as well as filmmakers, educators, artists, producers and curators interested in art as social practice. Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. When you register you will be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your experience in films and a project idea (if you have one), plus a bio. There’s a spot for a link to a work sample and CV, which would also be nice, but is not required.

Please note: Participants *will not* be producing an art piece in the course of the seminar. Guest speaker presentations, project examples, and readings will serve as departure points for discussion. The goal is to help you develop your project conceptually.



Please note that the service charge is waived if payment is made via check.
Checks can be made out to UnionDocs and mailed to 322 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211.

Participants coming from outside NYC are responsible for their own transportation and room and board during the intensive. UnionDocs can provide assistance in locating housing and guidance for getting around town for those not native to New York.

Refund Policy:
The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until November 1st. After November 1st, the fee is non-refundable.

Technology Requirements:

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a BYOL, i.e. bring your own laptop. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.



10-11:00am: General presentation + short presentations by students

11:00am-1:00pm: presentation by Jody Wood +  discussion with students (Focus: Translating Empathy with a Multimedia Approach)

1:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

2:00-3:00pm: workshop

3:00-5:00pm: presentation by Barbara Hammer +  discussion with students (Focus: Engaging the Audience)

5:00-5:30pm workshop

Day 2 – SUNDAY

10:00am-11:00am:  workshop

11:00am-1:00pm: presentation by Kelly Anderson + discussion with students (Focus: Working with Communities)

1:00pm: Lunch (on your own)

2:00pm-5:00pm: presentation by Sally Szwed  + critique / feedback on projects (Focus: Presenting/Evaluating Socially Engaged Films and Media Art)


Jody Woodsmalll

Jody Wood is an artist whose work is time-based and performative, utilizing video, installation, performance, and community organization to engage with socially charged content. Primarily focusing on transitional experiences of death, trauma, and social isolation, her work aims to unpack and meaningfully interpret these issues by working one-on-one with members of her community. Her work was honored with a Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art by A Blade of Grass for 2014-2015, and has been supported by organizations including Brooklyn Arts Council, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is a participant in the 2014 Open Engagement Conference at Queens Museum, and has presented collaborative community-based projects in NYC at El Museo Del Barrio and in Seoul, South Korea at Temporary Space Artist Residency, Seoul Art Space Geumcheon, One-Circle Community Theatre, and the Senior Welfare Center of Seoul. Wood is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Pace University.

Check out: the artist’s website and her Beauty in Transition project

Sally SwedsmallSally Szwed is the Curator of Engagement for the Creative Time Summit, and has contributed to Creative Time’s programs since 2008. In addition to her work on the Summit, Sally helped form Creative Time’s Global Initiatives department and managed the Global Residency Program from 2012-2014. Previously, she served as Program Manager of EFA Project Space, at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, in New York City, where she produced exhibitions, workshops, and other events. Sally has organized numerous public programs, including a series of parties welcoming new artists to the city, experimental wine tastings, and projects for Open Engagement and Flux Factory, where she recently joined the Board of Directors. She has lectured at the New School, and has spoken at various symposiums including Whose Terms? at the New Museum, and panels at Brooklyn College and Judith Charles Gallery. She holds a BFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University, and an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts.

Barbara-Hammer_2012_JimNORRENA_111512_9Barbara Hammer  is a visual artist working primarily in film and video. She has made over 80 moving image works in a career that spans 40 years. She is considered a pioneer of queer cinema.

In 2013 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a film Waking Up Together on the poet Elizabeth Bishop. She was awarded the same year a Marie Walsh Sharpe artist studio to work on performance projection. Hammer was honored with a month long retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City from September 11-October 13, 2010. In February 2012 she had a month long retrospective at The Tate Modern in London followed by retrospectives in Paris at Jeu de Paume in June 2012 and the Toronto International Film Festival in October 2013. Her work is represented by the gallery Koch Oberhuber Woolfe in Berlin, Germany.

Her experimental films of the 1970’s often dealt with taboo subjects such as menstruation, female orgasm and lesbian sexuality. In the 80’s she used optical printing to explore perception and the fragility of 16mm film life itself. Optic Nerve (1985) and Endangered (1988) were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials (’85,’89,’93).

Her documentaries tell the stories of marginalized peoples who have been hidden from history and are often essay films that are multi-leveled and engage audiences viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change. Nitrate Kisses (1992) was chosen for the 1993 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial. The Leo Award from the Flaherty Film Seminar was presented to her in 2008 for making a significant contribution to documentary film. In April of that year, Diving Women of Jeju-do premiered at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival where Hammer presented followed by a trip to Beijing where she showed her 1970 lesbian films to a Feminist Seminar and at a new LGTQI Center. In 2011 she was a guest of the 10th Beijing Queer Film Festival. Hammer’s experimental documentary film on cancer and hope, A Horse Is Not A Metaphor, premiered in June, 2008 at the 32nd Frameline International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in San Francisco and in February, 2009 at DocFortnight at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film at the 2009 Berlinale and Second Prize at the Black Maria Film Festival. It was selected for Punta de Vista Film Festival in Bilbao, Spain; the Torino Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Italy; the International Women’s Film Festival Dortmund/Koln, and the Festival de Films des Femmes Creteil among others.

In March 2010 her book, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York was launched in a performance at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York. A 2010 book tour included The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the British Film Institute in London, England; the Experimental Film Congress in Toronto, Canada; the University of California at San Diego Visual Arts Department; the San Francisco Cinematheque Crossroads Festival; the Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum, and the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington.

She teaches each summer at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Barbara Hammer lives and works in New York City and Kerhonkson, New York.

Kelly AndersonsmallKelly Anderson‘s most recent film is My Brooklyn, a documentary about gentrification and the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn, which she directed and produced (with Allison LIrish Dean). My Brooklyn premiered at the 2012 Brooklyn Film Festival, where it won an Audience Award for Documentary. It had a three-week sold out run at reRun Theater in Brooklyn and aired on the PBS World series America ReFramed. My Brooklyn screened at many festivals worldwide, including DOXA (Vancouver) and This Human World Human Rights Film Festival (Vienna). In the summer of 2013, Anderson and her community partners created a discussion and resource guide, and offered the film free to anybody willing to organize a screening of six people or more. The “My Brooklyn, Our City” campaign generated more than 50 screenings that summer, including some in parks and community gardents, and one in a Bedford Stuyvesant café that drew more than 200 people. Kelly’s other documentary work includes Never Enough, about clutter, collecting and Americans’ relationships with their stuff, and Every Mother’s Son, a documentary she made with Tami Gold about mothers whose children have been killed by police officers and who have become national spokespeople on police reform. Every Mother’s Son won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, aired on POV, and was nominated for a national Emmy for Directing. It is still being used extensively for education and community engagement around law enforcement policy. Kelly’s other documentaries include Out At Work (also with Tami Gold), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on HBO.  She is a Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at Hunter College (CUNY), where she also teaches in the Integrated Media Arts (IMA) MFA program.

From Kelly Anderson’s My Brooklyn

Workshop Policies:

Registration & Cancellation To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via PayPal. After the registration deadline of November 30th, course fees are not refundable or transferable and any withdrawals or deadlines will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be cancelled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.


Feb 16, 2017
7:08 pm

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