JoAnn Elam collection

Inclusive Dates: 
1967–1990 (bulk 1970–1990)
Survey Repository: 

This record forms part of the Chicago’s Art-Related Archival Materials: A Terra Foundation Resource project funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. For this project, the Archives surveyed archival repositories throughout the Chicago region to identify art-related materials contained in their holdings. While the Archives of American Art does not own any of the materials described herein, information about those materials and links to the original repositories have been included when available.

Descriptive Summary

735 total elements (516 reels of 16mm film totaling 88,785 feet, 48 video elements, 171 audio elements totaling 79,700 feet) consisting primarily of films made by independent filmmaker JoAnn Elam, including multiple production elements for each of her best-known 16mm films, Rape (1975) and Lie Back and Enjoy It (1982), probing feminist examinations of sexual assault and the representation of women. Both films utilize experimental techniques in order to call into question the way in which women are depicted on screen, merging radical form and technique with radical political content. The collection also includes 3 boxes of papers which include press and publicity material for Rape, lab and technical information, and hundreds of documents and ephemera related to Everyday People (1979–1990), Elam's film unfinished project based on her experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Chicago. The notes and journals as well as the approximately 250 film, video and audio elements associated with Everyday People provide an unparalleled level of access to Elam’s creative process, political and artistic ideas, and the practical, economic, and ethical issues that impacted her work as an independent artist and filmmaker. The collection also includes at least two titles by experimental filmmakers and artists Dan Perez and Ruth Klasses.

Biographical Historical Note

JoAnn Elam was a central figure in Chicago's experimental film community. Her short experimental and documentary films capture the spirit and ethos of a politically active, feminist, and socially conscious artist. In 1973 she was among a group of filmmakers who founded Chicago Filmmakers (initially called Filmgroup, with screenings held at N.A.M.E. Gallery) to show challenging contemporary experimental work and films by local artists.