Viewfinder: Women’s Film and Video from the Smithsonian

Join us on the first Thursday of each month to celebrate the breadth of women-made films and videos from across Smithsonian collections. These special screenings of rarely seen short-form treasures will be followed by live conversations between the artists or filmmakers and Smithsonian curators. Each screening will include time for audience questions. A recording of the event will be available for the remainder of each month.

Since the invention of the moving image, women have created films and videos that changed how we see and experience the world. Throughout 2021, meet artists and filmmakers from our collections in the monthly program Viewfinder: Women’s Film and Video from the Smithsonian. The first selections of featured works examine the theme of interiority—a particularly timely topic as the global pandemic continues to confine many of us to our homes. Some programs highlight pieces that directly address domestic interiors, engaging issues of childcare and labor; others are sensitive studies of inner psychic lives and emotional experiences. Still others approach video itself as a medium of interiority: a closed circuit between the artist, her camera, and the live image on the monitor. Screenings on this theme are drawn from the collections of the Archives of American Art, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African Art, and National Museum of African American History and Culture. We look forward to exploring these films and videos throughout 2021 with artists and Viewfinder audiences.


Real-time captioning will be provided for the conversations.

February 4, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Joan Jonas: The Inner Worlds of Video

With our National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum

Join us for an engaging virtual screening and conversation with groundbreaking artist Joan Jonas. View "Left Side Right Side" (8:50 min, 1972) and  "Vertical Roll" (19:38 min, 1972), two of Jonas’s most iconic videos from the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Then enjoy a lively post-screening conversation with Jonas and curators Saisha Grayson (SAAM) and Charlotte Ickes (NPG). Learn more about how artists construct, inhabit, and internalize space using the video camera and Jonas’s five-decade-plus career creating some of contemporary art’s most important video, performance, and installation artworks.  

March 4, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Zina Saro-Wiwa: On Mourning and Memory 

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Zina Saro-Wiwa leans against a white wall

Photo of Zina Saro-Wiwa courtesy of the artist.

With our National Museum of African Art

Mourning is often a private experience. But when the occasions for grief stem from larger social forces, individual pain intersects with history. Such is the case in Zina Saro-Wiwa’s "Sarogua Mourning" (11:37 min., 2011), in which the Nigerian-born artist attempts to cry for her father, the political activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, for the first time since his murder. This video is an incoming acquisition to the National Museum of African Art. The screening will be followed by a conversation between the artist and curator Karen Milbourne.  

April 1, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. (ET)

Margaret Salmon: On Motherhood and the Everyday 

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Black and white still of a woman looking contemplative

Ninna Nanna, production still, 2007, Margaret Salmon. 

With our Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

“Ninna Nanna” (2006), by filmmaker Margaret Salmon, explores the relationships between three young Italian mothers and their infants. In striking images captured on 16 mm film, Salmon observes the subtle dynamics and emotional nuances of the women’s interactions with their young children. The filmmaker will join Rosalind Galt, Professor of Film Studies at King's College London, and Marina Isgro, associate curator of media and performance art and Robert and Arlene Kogod Secretarial Scholar, in a post-screening conversation about this work in our Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s collection.

May 6, 2021

Zora Lathan and Iman Uqdah Hameen: On Black Interiority

With our National Musuem of African American History and Culture

Drawing on the extensive holdings of our National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts, this program will be dedicated to the interiority of Black life. The screening will pair the experimental works of Zora Lathan, who uses her family as her muse, and the short film “Unspoken Conversation” (1987) by Iman Uqdah Hameen, which explores a Black woman’s journey as a wife and mother. The filmmakers will join National Museum of African American History and Culture’s curator Rhea Combs and media conservator Ina Archer for a post-screening conversation.

August 5, 2021

Leslie Thornton: On Imagining Isolation 

With our Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Peggy and Fred in Kansas” (1987), from our Smithsonian American Art Museum collection, is the best-known installment of filmmaker Leslie Thornton’s several-decade episodic experiment “Peggy and Fred in Hell” (1984–2013). In this work, the titular protagonists are cut off from an implied post-apocalyptic exterior. Following the screening, a conversation between curator Saisha Grayson and Thornton will reflect on how this avant-garde film classic resonates with renewed urgency for audiences in 2021.

Future screenings to be announced.

Watch Past Viewfinder Events

Please note, these recordings do not include the film and video works originally screened at these events.

January 7, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Ingrid Wiegand, Julie Finch: On Loft Life and Space-Making in the 1970s

With our Archives of American Art

The first program of the series featured "Julie" (6:15 min., 1974) by filmmakers Robert and Ingrid Wiegand and "Walking" (15:38 min., 1975) by Ingrid Wiegand from the collections of the Archives of American Art.  These works explore daily life in the filmmaker’s SoHo neighborhood in New York. Curator Josh T. Franco joined Wiegand and dancer Julie Finch, the subject of “Julie,” to discuss art and everyday life in 1970s downtown New York City.

Viewfinder: Women’s Film and Video from the Smithsonian is a monthly virtual screening and conversation series sponsored by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story. The first sequence of selected works reflect on interioritya timely topic during this global pandemic.

Because of Her Story Smithsonian