Assistant Professor of Media & Society Leah Shafer’s experimental documentary is among eight other works in the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival’s (FLEFF) “New Media Exhibit: Iterations as Habitat.”
Shafer’s film, “Declaration of Sentiments: Wesleyan Chapel,” is the third work in a series of videos that engage the “Declaration of Sentiments,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1848 landmark treatise on women’s civil liberties.
“At the 2014 Seneca Falls Dialogues Conference, a group of William Smith students and I recorded people reciting the entire Declaration of Sentiments in the Wesleyan Chapel, where it was first presented to the public,” Shafer writes of her video on her Vimeo channel. “In this iteration of the project, the audio track from the 2014 project serves as background for an avant-garde exploration of the interior of the Wesleyan Chapel. The collage of images is meant to reflect the diversity of voices in the recording and to offer a meditation on the textures of the historically significant location.”
Shot in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the location where the Declaration was first read, “Declaration of Sentiments: Wesleyan Chapel” explores the historical space through fragments, repetitions, decentering and collage.
“The construction and conceptualization of the project are driven by the techniques and style of feminist avant-garde filmmaking, which emphasizes non-hierarchical and collaborative production processes,” Shafer writes. “This style also embraces rough edges, non-narrative structures, and decentering techniques. These production choices resist conventional cinematic style in order to enhance and promote a feminist commitment to offering the world alternatives to the status quo.”
Other videos from Shafer’s ongoing project have been screened as installations at the Gould Hotel and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, both in Seneca Falls.
“Wesleyan Chapel,” Shafer’s third iteration of the project, embraces feminist visual praxis through fragments, decentering, and repetition — overlapping with the themes of the wide scope of the FLEFF’s “Iterations as Habitat” exhibit.
As the exhibit’s curators — Dale Hudson of New York University, Abu Dhabi and Claudia Costa Pederson of Wichita State University — write, “Leah Shafer’s Declaration of Sentiments: Wesleyan Chapel restages and reframes the reading of the mid-nineteenth-century Declaration of Sentiments that announced the right to rights for women in the United States — something that has come under increasing attack in the twenty-first century…[As a whole, the exhibit conveys] a sense of the variations of approaches to thinking about habitats, not a singular, constant, independent, and habitual, but as multiple, unstable, contingent, and sometimes estranging. They also speculate on ways to imagine anew habitats through different iterations of possibility.”