I had always admired the films of Nina Menkes—for their powerful visual images, their emotive intensity and their fierce independence. She had access to unconscious material that few others could reach. So when I asked her if she wanted to collaborate on an interactive project for Labyrinth, I was enthusiastic about her choice of focus: to explore “the crazy, bloody female center” from which all of her movies derived and to probe the underlying connections between them.
As committed feminists, we had recently co-taught a graduate seminar at USC on gender and sexuality, a collaboration we both enjoyed. But when it came to filmmaking, Nina’s only true collaborator was her sister Tina who was featured on screen in her most powerful films. Yet this new project required collaboration with the Labyrinth team—or, at least, with one of Labyrinth’s digital artists Kristy H.A. Kang, who was thrilled to work with Nina. We also hired Nina’s talented protégé Laurel Almerinda, as photographer on the project, whose images we all greatly admired. Perhaps most essential, the project required Nina to use a digital editing system, which filmmaker Roger Christiansen generously agreed to teach her (since she was still committed to cutting film). It was that crucial period in the 1990s when the debates were still raging over whether to go digital or stick with film.
Along with the Rechy and O’Neill projects, The Crazy, Bloody Female Center was an official selection at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, as part of their on-line digital film festival. In September 2000, these three projects were also presented at MOCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles) and were included in Cornell University’s “Art of CD-ROM” Travelling Exhibition. In 1999, the Menkes and Rechy projects were also featured in the Expanded Cinema Program at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and in the Montreal International Multimedia Festival; in the year 2000, they were official selections in the Mills Valley Film Festival.