Women have been historically restricted from upward mobility in American animation studios, but the increasingly fragmented and decentralized landscape of animation production in the 1970s-80s made space for a burgeoning community of independent women animators. How did their creative work flourish in these decades, at a time when the animation industry itself was facing an uncertain future? In pursuing this question, this talk brings together a feminist history of animation production in the 1970s-80s and the history of social reproduction theory in these same decades, in order to understand independent animation in the context of an increasingly precarious and feminized post-Fordist creative economy. Building a composite portrait anchored by autobiographical films of fours artists (Suzan Pitt, Jane Aaron, Sally Cruikshank, and Candy Kugel), I propose the figure of the “homeworker” as a model for self-employed artists maintaining their practice under conditions of economic, social, and spatial precarity, often within their own home. Conceived as an alternative to the independent or freelance artist, the homeworker allows us to understand creative labour in a post-Fordist economy as pervasively feminized labour, increasingly extended to all artists. Looking closely at the work of women animators who navigated this economy at its nascency allows us to understand its complexity and speculate about tactics of its survival.
Dr. Alla Gadassik is assistant professor of Media History and Theory at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her research bridges the disciplines of cinema studies, history of technology, and genealogies of media practice. Particular areas of interest include the history of cinematography, film editing, and animation methods, as they transformed across different disciplines invested in rendering movement. She is currently working on a SSHRC-funded research project on eco-materialist approaches to animation.
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