Media Literacy Comes To The Multiplex

Morgan Spurlock at ArcLight Hollywood wearing his coat embroidered with sponsor logos

Last night I attended a screening followed by a Q and A with one of my heroes — Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock’s new film POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was a look into the world of product placement in films. His concept was to make a movie about product placement that was entirely funded by product placement. Spurlock brings a wonderful personal style to his work – a balance of humor and social critique. He’s similar to Michael Moore but Spurlock projects more heart or at least personal warmth. At one point in the film he was psychoanalyzed by professionals that help companies determine what kind of brand they are. They decided Spurlock’s brand is a combination of mindful and playful. I’d have to say they nailed it.

Spurlock as Conceptual Performance Artist

Spurlock is an independent filmmaker, but to me he is also a conceptual performance artist.  The conceptual comes out in the way the film folds in on itself. The product and process are one and the same. He’s a performance artist in the way we used to mean it in the 1970s. Yes there’s a theatrical quality to his performance but more importantly there’s a kind of ritualized activity. He uses repetition and creates a public spectacle as he pushes the boundaries of his physical and emotional stamina. His audience serves as witness to his challenging journey of self-discovery. This can be seen most obviously in his first film Super Size Me (2004) in which he ate three meals a day at McDonalds for a period of 30 days. It started out funny but ultimately he put himself at physical risk and thus raised awareness about issues of diet, weight, health and class. His work has precedents in the tradition of performance art. One example is Eleanor Antin’s Carving: A Traditional Sculpture in 1972 in which she sculpted her own body through dieting and documented the process. Or the work in-progress Cut: A Traditional Sculpture by Heather Cassils who is doing the opposite by bulking up her body through a process of exercise and treatment. Cassils artwork is part of Los Angeles Goes Live for which I am also creating a new work for fall 2011. My performance about high heels is called Peep Totter Fly and like Cassils’ was commissioned by LACE for Los Angeles Goes Live: Performance Art in Southern California 1970-1983 as part of Pacific Standard Time, an initiative of the Getty. POM Wonderful is his primary sponsor earning the naming rights on the actual movie title. When Spurlock met with the company execs in the film I couldn’t help but notice the highly sophisticated art collection in their offices. I suspect on some level company founder Lynda Resnick also responds to the conceptual performance art aspects of Spurlock’s work.

As a high school teacher of Video Art I am grateful to Morgan Spurlock. He brings a media literacy message to young people like my students. Appearing in his film are many of the people I use in my own media literacy curriculum from Sut Jhally to Ralph Nader. Go see it. Help him meet his box office goals. You’ll not only laugh, you’ll learn something.

This may the only time you’ll see a naked man on my blog.

Poster for Spurlock’s movie POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

-Cheri Gaulke

Sisterhood City Conversation Continues On KPFK’s Feminist Magazine

Critic Peter Frank, artist Cheri Gaulke, Otis gallery director Meg Linton, artist Sandra Rowe, artist Linda Vallejo, critic Betty Brown at the Sisterhood City panel at LA Art Show 2011. Photo by Angela Maria Ortiz

On April 27, 2011, 7-8 pm, I will be appearing on the radio program Feminist Magazine on KPFK 90.7 FM. The conversation with host Lynn Ballen is a follow-up to the panel discussion called Sisterhood City: Feminist Art in Los Angeles moderated by art historian and critic Betty Ann Brown. Brown, as well as artist Linda Vallejo, will also join the on-air conversation. Our original Sisterhood City conversation at the LA Art Show on January 21, 2011 was great fun. At the time I was writing a catalog essay about collaboration and critic Peter Frank made some insightful observations that I ended up quoting in my essay. “Collaboration, at least on some level, is key to making art socially relevant.”

In reading more about our host Lynn Ballen I noted that her first feminist consciousness came when she was  twelve and living in South Africa and read about “the amazing ’70s women’s movement happening in the far-away USA.” I imagine that’s what we’ll be talking about as well as our current projects.

Feminist Magazine is the weekly Southern California radio show with feminist perspectives. You can catch it live Wed. 7-8pm PST 90.7 FM Los Angeles 98.7 FM, Santa Barbara, 99.5 FM Ridgecrest/China Lake & 93.7 FM San Diego. Or listen live at Check out Feminist Magazine’s  website for archived shows at 
-Cheri Gaulke

Gaulke Goes Gogosha

Gaulke Goes Gogosha

Check out my new hot pink glasses purchased at Gogosha Optique in Silver Lake. On March 1 they made me Face of the Day, describing the look as pa · nache noun pə-ˈnash, -ˈnäsh
A term used to describe someone who has a dashing confidence of style.

Example: “Cool and Vibrant, Cheri exudes Panache in her Derome Brenner “Stardust” in Hot Pink.”

I still love my black multi-colored rhinestone vintage French frames from Society of the Spectacle in Eagle Rock. The ones that make me look like Yoko Ono (see previous post).


Yoko Ono concert

[youtube=] I just came across a business card on my desk with a link to a website called On October 10, 2010 I attended a Yoko Ono concert at the historic Orpheum theatre in downtown Los Angeles and afterwards was interviewed for this impromptu person-on-the-street review. Above is a link to the youtube interview and I appear 3 minutes in.  Here’s a link to the actual youtellconcerts review page.

Yoko’s son, Sean Lennon, had put together a wonderful band called We Are Plastic Ono Band. They were joined by an amazing array of guest artists from the actress Carrie Fisher who did a powerful feminist anthem to Iggy Pop who is as strange and wonderful as when I used to go see him in high school. The guy’s old but has the most buff, tan body and the energy of a hyperactive kindergartener. The concert was more performance art, spiritual event than rock concert. The first half included a historical film montage of Yoko’s life (baby pictures and all) and Yoko performing her own songs which were characterized by her difficult to listen to voice (I love her but I gotta be honest here). The second half was also all her songs but performed by the guest artists. That’s when it really hit home what a good songwriter she is. Each song had its own unique message and style from showtune to lullaby to call for peace anthem. My favorite part though was the participatory Onochord performance art piece. On our way into the theater we had been given a little flashlight. Towards the end of the show we saw a film of Yoko performing this flashlight piece around the world. She flashes the light in a pattern that says I love you. Yoko stood on the stage in the dark all alone and sent her message of love out to us and the world beyond and we flashed her back. It was so touching. The message was not just one of love but also one of forgiveness. You can find more info about Onochord at her website. She’s is quite an amazing artist with a powerful legacy of feminist performance art.

Finally, I bought a souvenir tshirt with an image of Yoko and her big sparkly glasses. Same image as the poster below. When I wore the tshirt to school the next day my students asked if it was a picture of me. That took me by surprise but I have to admit that with my vintage French frames we do look similar!

Please vote for my project!

[youtube=]I am working on a new project that is in competition for funding through the Jewish Federation. You could help us immensely if you click on the link and vote for our project. You must do so by March 31! (and you can only vote once per email address)

Here’s a quick synopsis. It’s called I Will Remember and it is a collaboration between Holocaust survivors and teens. There are three parts to it – events at which teens hear survivors’ stories first-hand, workshops in which teens make public service announcements about contemporary injustices, and a web site that showcases the PSAs. I am involved with the PSA workshops and in making a documentary about the entire project.

Today’s teens are the last generation who will know survivors personally and from their interactions be moved to make a difference in their world. My commitment is to facilitate the teens to use media to speak out against today’s injustices – whether those be current genocides in Darfur, marriage equality, or conflict minerals in the Congo. We will help the teens become aware of various issues and they will choose what moves them to speak out. The project was generated by some Harvard-Westlake moms (some whose own parents are survivors) and their daughters. I am proud to be a part of it.

Thanks for your help. There’s a wonderful short video that you can watch to meet some of the survivors and teens that we are working with.

Feel free to pass this along to others!