Consumer culture

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

The result of over five years of Super-8 and 16mm filming on New York City streets, Lost Book Found melds documentary and narrative into a complex meditation on city life. The piece revolves around a mysterious notebook filled with obsessive listings of places, objects, and incidents. These listings serve as the key to a hidden city: a city of unconsidered geographies and layered artifacts—the relics of low-level capitalism and the debris of countless forgotten narratives. The project stems from the filmmaker's first job in New York—working as a pushcart vendor on Canal Street.

Colorful lines follow the gestures of a conductor leading the orchestra until he disappears just at the point of crescendo. As the music slows, he starts to reappear. A sketch as a tribute to Walt Disney. 

This title is also available on Ximena Cuevas: El Mundo del Silencio (The Silent World) and Half-Lies: The Videoworks of Ximena Cuevas.

Displaying a broad range of Golden Age Hollywood animation, Manifestoon is an homage to the latent subversiveness of cartoons. Though U.S. cartoons are usually thought of as conveyors of capitalist ideologies of consumerism and individualism, Drew observes: "Somehow as an avid childhood fan of cartoons, these ideas were secondary to a more important lesson—that of the 'trickster' nature of many characters as they mocked, outwitted and defeated their more powerful adversaries.

Originally presented as a live performance piece using actors, multiple monitors, and music, Modern Times is a consolidation of seven short chapters in the life of a modern woman. In the first sequence, the objects in a suburban home are inventoried: "nice couch," "nice car," and so on — ending with the titles "nice concept," "nice image" — and unmasking this materialistic world as an impossible consumer fantasy. In the next scene, an attractive man sunbathes.

Money, 1970

Taped on Prince Street in Soho, New York City, Skip Blumberg creates a one-word performance. Shouting the word "money" over and over, he attracts the attention of New York's finest. The video crew attempt to explain to the policemen that there is no public disorder as the streets were empty when they began to tape.

The video is an unwitting early example of the reaction of the state to the use of video cameras on the streets.

No Is Yes, 1998

A combination of experimental and narrative approaches which explore the commodification of rebellion as it is marketed to youth culture, through the eyes of two drug-dealing, teenage girls from Brooklyn who "accidentally" kill and mutilate their favorite alternative rock star. Their obsession with murders and makeovers and their confusion between fashion and transgression lead these girls into a world where nihilism is bought and sold, and rebellion is impossible.

Using a pulsing rock soundtrack and music video-style editing, Tony Cokes combines archival footage of Malcolm X, advertisements, and corporate logos in No Sell Out to provide a scathing commentary on commodity culture.

An examination of venture capital, Nothing Ventured documents the tough negotiations that take place when entrepreneurs and bankers meet.

Take a joyride through comfortable suburbia—a landscape molded by seductive television and corporate America (and keep in mind: disaster is another logo for your consumption...). This is the age of the "culture jammed" consumer preened with Friends hair, Survivor courage, and CNN awareness. A generation emptying their wallets for the most important corporate product of all: lifestyle. The psychological road trip across a slightly battered America travels at One Mile per Minute.

A high and low fidelity record of obsessions past and present. A hooded man named Cobra Commander (drawn naked) and a boy with black glasses. A fanged woman named Shadow-La and a girl in a rose colored wig. Belinda (Heaven on Earth), Madonna (Live to Tell), and headphones (worn naked). An airport terminal. Home. The Montgomery Ward catalog circa 1980. That orange bedspread, that red flowered couch.

A Perfect Pair posits the idea that individual consumers are walking billboards for the products they use; product slogans and brand names peeking out from every crevice and cranny of the actors’ bodies. Export demonstrates how the body of the consumer, especially that of the female consumer, is co-opted by commercialism. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, A Perfect Pair celebrates the modern-day co-mingling of fetish objects, as a body builder seduces a prostitute at a bar saying, “Your eyes are the most beautiful blue ad-space. Your cheek could promote a Mercedes.

Petrolia, 2005

Petrolia takes its name from a redundant oil-drilling platform set in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland. The film looks at the architecture of the oil industry along the Scottish coastline where oil and gas supplies are predicted to run dry in the next forty years.

Broken up into "chapters," Phosphoresence features an array of abstractions created by manipulating television images. At times almost painterly, the resulting images are set to an ambient electronic soundtrack.

This title is also available on Anthony Discenza Videoworks: Volume 1.

Pigs, 2010

A close-range look at pigs living on a farm in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pigs, individually and as a group, become a metaphor for humanity as they go from leisurely wallowing in the mud to the wildness of a feeding frenzy. In a key shot, a pig confronts the viewer with a prolonged, enigmatic stare, as if questioning the very nature of human/animal relationship.

“Marvelously abstract and perfectly concrete.”

-- The Jury of the 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival

Piracy, 2004

Via Jonathan Pryce in elaborate costuming, Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) unwittingly sounded a clear and full-throated argument for the appropriation of so-called intellectual property, for the video remix/rework/quotation, practices and forms that would become ubiquitous on YouTube and its ilk a few short years later.

Appropriating material from the introduction to the nightly television show, PM Magazine and a commercial for Wang Computers, Birnbaum uses enlarged still-frames from each of the sources to compound a new image of the indelible American Dream. To the soundtrack of an acid rock version of The Doors' L.A. Woman, repetitive images of an ice skater, baton twirler, cheerleader, and young girls licking ice cream, exemplify dominant cultural images of women — images that emphasize their performative nature: the idea that woman is a spectacle arranged for the (male) viewer's pleasure.

A man explains global currency markets without the help of his formerly trusty rockin’ talkin’ pony, who is missing. Without the pony, the world is as disorientating as it is depressing. The audience is invited to help make order of the chaos.

This title is also available on Ben Coonley: Post Pony Trilogy.

Possibly In Michigan is an operatic fairytale about cannibalism in Middle America. A masked man stalks a woman through a shopping mall and follows her home. In the end, their roles are reversed when the heroine deposits a mysterious Hefty bag at the curb. Like Condit's other video narratives, Possibly In Michigan shows bizarre events disrupting mundane lives. Combining the commonplace with the macabre, humor with the absurd, she constructs a world of divided reality.

In Precious Products we are subtly reminded of this country’s obsession with consumerism and narcissism. George, with his ever-present video-8 camera, attends an opening of Precious Products—an exhibition of artworks satirizing art as commodity. He leaves the art world of San Francisco to spend a Christmas holiday with friends in their opulent home. Ironically, this is the home of a celebrity (another kind of commodity), Russian defector/ballerina Natalia Makanova. Surrounded by all the luxuries of life and Makanova’s image, George muses about death.

pulse pharma phantasm is a frame by frame weaving of nine different pharmaceutical television commercials into a pulsating hallucination of worry and relief.

The Pure, 1993

Using footage from a trip to the Orient, images of objects, products, the city and nature, Rankin investigates society's reverance for the "exotic" and the "pure" as manifested in tourism, Communism, Coca-Cola, Las Vegas, the Civil War, Hollywood, and photography. Examining the common idealisation of things distant in time or space, The Pure didactically reflects upon our societal penchant for categorization that begins with childhood games and is reflected in the way our culture organizes itself and the world around it.

RECKONING 3 is the first in a series of investigations into:

1. Terror and wonder in big-budget virtual worlds

2. The mutability, fragility and loneliness of technologically mediated social identities and friendships

3. The queerness and malevolence of archetypal masculinity

4. The diminishing distance between "real" and "artificial" humanity

5. The poetics of blockbuster aesthetics

RECKONING 4 is the second in a series of investigations into (among other things)