Commentary Katharina Balmer

Katharina Balmer was a founding member of the video collective Container TV in Bern and active during the first years of its existence, mainly for the women’s liberation movement in Switzerland. The video Froue – jetz längt’s captures well the power of expression and the vigor of the movement: with scenes from street theatre by feminists and portraits of feminist organizations and institutions, accompanied by feminist music. The Nina Hagen’s song, Unbeschreiblich weiblich (Indescribably feminine) says, ‘Why should I fulfill my women’s duty? For whom? For them? For you? For me? I don’t feel like fulfilling my duty. Not for you. Not for me. I don’t have a duty’.

In her portrait Katharina Balmer explains what feminist video practice meant to her: ‘We showed in one of our videos different images of women: a seemingly intellectual woman with glasses, underneath it said: “Would you want to have sex with this woman?” Then an image of a very attractive, sexy looking woman, underneath: “Can you imagine an academic discussion with this woman?” Then a sweet photo of a mother with her baby in her arm and right underneath: “Can you imagine this woman at a demonstration for equal rights in education for women and men?” We examined how images triggered other images’. (see Katharina Balmer, Video 11.09: ‘Women, it’s enough!’ questions the image of women)

And what was the role of the women in Container TV? After a few years they lost interest: ‘The men in our group dominated because they knew more about technology.  One of them was also responsible for our bookkeeping. The important positions regarding the further development of Container TV were filled by men. That was one point. But it was also our own fault, one could say, because we didn’t want to take on this responsibility. But that’s how it went’. (see Katharina Balmer, Video 13.45: The women quit)

In my commentary on Johannes Gfeller, also dedicated to Container TV in Bern, I write about how the men in the video collective saw this conflict.

Wishing you an inspiring viewing session,

Heinz Nigg

In the 1970s and 1980s, young activists discovered video as a new medium and used moving images in their struggle for access to cultural expression for the many, not the few. They were researching and developing new forms of independent and participatory media work. This was an important step towards realizing the utopian promises of the digital age.