Consumer culture

Dark Sun Squeeze is a darkly meditative exploration of a sewage treatment plant, revealing the hidden rhythms and bizarre journey of raw human waste. The images of flowing waste speak of decay, destruction, of madness inherent in excessive consumption. At the same time they reveal the redemptive side of detritus, its regenerative potential, the sublime that exists in the abject.

“Paweł Wojtasik delivers the final word on the absolute value of news, money, politics and just about everything else.”

-- Holland Cotter, The New York Times, Oct 1, 2004

 

Deadline, 1981

An insert square of a man running is superimposed over a magnified mouth that speaks to him — first in nurturing encouragement, then with a no-win Mommie Dearest kind of criticism. Originally presented as an installation on six monitors, Deadline focuses on “the stress man feels in the urban environment,” using a range of digital video effects to stretch, compress, flip and fracture the image.

A specific period of late-night TV channel surfing is dissected and manipulated through fast forward and freeze frame. Cultural icons (Roseanne, Mary Tyler Moore, The Golden Girls) can occasionally be glimpsed amongst the detritus, while the echoing and ghostly soundtrack pays homage to the cultural isolation of solitary viewing.

A reverse striptease, non-stop comedic monologue about shopping for clothes, while eating corn nuts. Dressing Up was inspired by the artist’s mother’s penchant for bargain hunting. Mogul produced Dressing Up as a student in the feminist art program at the California Institute of the Arts in 1973.

Easy Living ingeniously depicts leisure life in suburban America with a cast of little plastic dolls and miniature model cars—the toys that shape American children's ideas about success and adult life—focusing on a typical day in the life of an "all-American" west coast town, where recreational activity and car culture prevail.

A project of the Contemporary Art Television Fund produced by artists Chip Lord and Mickey McGowan with Jules Backus.

This title is also available on Chip Lord Videoworks: Volume 1.

Failing Up describes career advancement despite bad decisions, bankruptcies, and intellectual mediocrity. In this short film, the Manhattan real estate holdings of the King of Failing Up are catalogued and synced to a soundtrack that suggests how it feels to be one of his subjects.

Whip pans, zooms, lens twists, and bursts of stop-frame animation transform eight minutes of borrowed audio from Home Alone 2 (a film that features a cameo of the current US President) into a political work of slapstique concrete.

This sprawling drama about a group of country folk sucked into the fashion world of magazine layouts and romantic intrigue features a cast of glamorously garbed gals and good-natured bumpkins. Produced in collaboration with his students at the San Francisco Art Institute, the picture delivers high-octane antics fueled by the $800 budget and creative desperation typically inherent in these types of endeavors. The cast is large and labors valiantly with the high speed shooting schedule and color saturated subplots.

A two-part study of the self-sustaining lifestyle of a communal farm in Vermont. 

"In the free space of the commodity, I digitally took apart moving image sequences and re-animated them into an encoded montage to create a metaphor of experience where the viewer feels like a fiber optic cable has been hard-wired into their consciousness — a look where the image is simultaneously visible and invisible. My hope was to create a work that re-presented information as a kind of subliminal narrative that critiqued the currently popular technotopian rhetoric."

— Les LeVeque

Shu Lea Cheang's witty narrative Fresh Kill envisions a post-apocalyptic landscape strewn with electronic detritus and suffering the toxic repercussions of mass marketing in a high-tech commodity culture.

With an all-female cast, featuring Suzie Bright as John Lennon, Cecilia Dougherty's Grapefruit plays with the romanticized history of the iconic Fab Four, gently mocking John and Yoko’s banal squabbles and obsessive rituals of self-display. Based obliquely on Yoko Ono’s book, the piece works on many levels to reposition this mythic tale of the Beatles by casting '80s women in mod drag—effectively mapping the lesbian sub-culture onto heterosexual mass culture.

Conceptual artist Hans Haacke’s two most notorious works took unsavory Manhattan real-estate dealing as their subject, which triggered the cancellation of his exhibition Real Time Social System at the Guggenheim Museum in 1971. With the conscientiousness of an investigative reporter, Haacke continues to scrutinize the rough edges between art and life.

Hole, 2002

A portrayal of retail-workers engaged in a repetitive act of hiding merchandise in a hole in the wall.

This title is also available on Sterling Ruby: Interventionist Works 2001-2002.

Parnes moves further into her interrogation of horror genres and the art world, with their sometimes over-lapping cults of personality. Grappling with the danger of beauty without criticality, Hollywood Inferno takes the viewer through the alienating world of a teenager named Sandy, a modern-day Dante, and follows where her aspirations toward stardom lead her.

How Little We Know of Our Neighbours is an experimental documentary about Britain's Mass Observation Movement and its relationship to contemporary issues regarding surveillance, public self-disclosure, and privacy. At its center is a look at the multiple roles cameras have played in public space, starting in the 1880's, when the introduction of the hand-held camera brought photography out of the studio and into the street. For the first time one could be photographed casually in public without knowledge or consent.

An Image, 1983

"Four days spent in a studio working on a centerfold photo for Playboy magazine provided the subject matter for my film. The magazine itself deals with culture, cars, a certain lifestyle. Maybe all those trappings are only there to cover up the naked woman. Maybe it's like with a paper-doll. The naked woman in the middle is a sun around which a system revolves: of culture, of business, of living!

This film is about a five-day seminar designed to teach executives to "sell themselves" better. This course, designed for managers, teaches the basic rules of dialectics and rhetoric and provides training in body language, gesture and facial expression. The aim of selling something has always been a principle of mercantile action. Yet it was only through the marriage of psychology and modern capitalism that the idea of selling oneself was perfected.

-- Lutz Hachmeister

A deceased hoarder, reconstituted through technology, recounts a difficult childhood as inhabitants of a virtual world struggle to reconcile materialistic tendencies. A scientist leads an effort to understand the passage of time, but the data is unreliable. The question remains, what happens to our things after we are gone?

"Noted critic Judith Williamson ventures from her English home to a shopping mall in Southern California to proffer some opinions on the working of American culture under capitalism. Using the exponential increase in the numbers and styles of socks available in the marketplace as a wry point of departure, Williamson shops for socks and questions the dubious need for a specific style of sock for just about any endeavor one could name."

—1987 AFI Video Festival Catalogue

Produced at the San Francisco Art Institute, and featuring a few musical numbers, this jungle drama deals with a commercial corporation infiltrating the Amazon to sell beauty aids to the indigenous peoples. Witch doctor magic and political intrigue run rampant in this hot house environment, and men and women deal with the beast within and without.

A familiar landscape comprised of big box stores and parking lots proves a rich site for longing, intimacy, and radical change. Celebrities are observed in this environment and are reduced to ordinary beings in the process. An enigmatic protagonist reveals little moments of subjectivity that escape into the piece like a contaminant, rupturing the view and evidencing the paradox of connection and belonging within systems that simultaneously contain us and comprise us.

In January 2001, the KEN BURNS’ JAZZ promotional blizzard hit New York City. Billboards, banners on buses, elaborate retail displays in book and record stores, feature coverage in every major print, radio and TV outlet, chatter around the water cooler at the office — total saturation.

Timely concerns about the future of video, artists’ complicity in the money making system of the ‘establishment,’ and the effect of the camera’s presence on personal encounters, is discussed and debated in this late night video produced by David Cort, Chuck Kennedy, and Skip Blumberg.

Sections 1-30 of an incomplete extended poem describing the artist's connection to the radical black tradition. The completed poem will be formed of 180 sections.

"Lessons are all about constraints; they are thirty seconds, must feature a black figure, and I have rules about where to make cuts, how to edit sound, etc."
— Martine Syms in conversation with Aram Moshayedi, Mousse Magazine

Sections 31-60 of an incomplete extended poem describing the artist's connection to the radical black tradition. The completed poem will be formed of 180 sections.

"Lessons are all about constraints; they are thirty seconds, must feature a black figure, and I have rules about where to make cuts, how to edit sound, etc."
— Martine Syms in conversation with Aram Moshayedi, Mousse Magazine