Death and Dying

Habit, 2001

Habit is an autobiographical documentary that follows the current history of the AIDS epidemic along dual trajectories: the efforts of South Africa’s leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, struggling to gain access to AIDS drugs and the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran AIDS activist in the U.S. who has been living with AIDS for more than ten years.

Hey Bud, 1987

Hey Bud revolves around the suicide of Bud Dwyer, a government official who killed himself before a television audience. Zando compares the suicide to a kind of pornographic sex act that plays upon the tension created between exhibitionist and voyeur. It forces viewers to take either an empathetic position vis-a-vis the exhibitionist, or to act as voyeur through release of the repressed desire to see the forbidden face of Death. The piece attempts to understand the power gained through exhibitionism, and how that power is lost through death.

High Five, 1999

High Five usually comes across as absurd and silly, and generally gets a laugh when shown. I appreciate this response and agree it is quite ridiculous on the surface. However few know the true dark meaning of the piece, which was my personal contribution to a ceremony commemorating the twentieth anniversary of my mother's suicide.

"Superimposing the stories of two women—the filmmaker’s late grandmother and the amateur filmmaker Joan Thurber Baldwin—Home When You Return explores the psychogeographies of mourning through a variety of modes, from documentary to melodrama. Emptied and put up for sale following its matriarch’s passing, the family home becomes the site of a winding tour through polymorphic representations of the past in media and memory." - NYFF Currents

With an amusing sense of drama, The Houses That Are Left illustrates Silver’s technique of building an obscure narrative into a complex net of miscellaneous texts and images. Unfolding throughout the tape is the story of two friends who come together to try to figure out how to live in the modern world while being besieged by militant messages from the dead.

A re-edit of found footage of a hunter touching the antlers of a fallen deer. Human Touch suggests an uncomfortable intimacy between hunter and prey.

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

In an interview I did earlier this year for the Milan Game Video/Art exhibition, I deflected a question about the connection between Hymn of Reckoning and Reckoning 3, discouraging the idea that there was much of a link between the two videos, apart from their names and their use of video game material. Now that I’ve thought about it more, I can tease out more connections.

An elegy to Diane Burns on the shapes of mortality and being, and the forms the transcendent spirit takes while descending upon landscapes of life and death. A place for new mythologies to syncopate with deterritorialized movement and song, reifying old routes of reincarnation. Where resignation gives hope for another opportunity, another form, for a return to the vicissitudes of the living and all their refractions.

“I’m from Oklahoma I ain’t got no one to call my own.
If you will be my honey, I will be your sugar pie way hi ya
way ya hi ya way ya hi yo.”

I once read a story about the Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche in a book by death-teacher, Steven Levine. Trungpa went into his son's room and said to him, "I'm dying." And then he said to his son, "You are dying too." This story made a deep impression on me because death is the last taboo, the hidden boogey-man, the unspeakable. It was a beautiful lesson in impermanence this father gave his son.

Idyll, 2009

Offer a pagan god only simple flowers of spring and the sparkling diamonds and opals of morning dew strung on the threads of the spider... and fear the judgement of holy angels.

A woman raises her voice and gives a painful and endless speech that with time becomes even more overwhelming, because her words are heartbreaking and permanent impressions in the collective memory, stabbing with words an old Mexican film, a celluloid that tears apart until its disappearance.

This title is also available on the compilation What Was Always Yours and Never Lost.

"When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you'll shut your eyes. You'll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you'll close them to the memory. And then you'll close your eyes to the facts." These words are spoken at the beginning of this agitprop film that can be viewed as a unique and remarkable development. Farocki refrains from making any sort of emotional appeal. His point of departure is the following: "When napalm is burning, it is too late to extinguish it. You have to fight napalm where it is produced: in the factories."

It's not my memory of it is a documentary about secrecy, memory, and documents. Mobilizing specific historical records as memories which flash up in moments of danger, the video addresses the expansion and intensification of secrecy practices in the current climate of heightened security. A former CIA source recounts his disappearance through shredded classified documents that were painstakingly reassembled by radical fundamentalist students in Iran in 1979.

It's not my memory of it is a documentary about secrecy, memory, and documents. Mobilizing specific historical records as memories which flash up in moments of danger, the video addresses the expansion and intensification of secrecy practices in the current climate of heightened security. A former CIA source recounts his disappearance through shredded classified documents that were painstakingly reassembled by radical fundamentalist students in Iran in 1979.

Letter to a missing woman, based partly on memories of someone who has been a political fugitive since 1983, combines documentary "evidence" and fiction in an imaginative reconstruction of public documents and private history. This is a quiet, obsessive piece addressing the human costs and repercussions of re-inventing oneself – one’s body, memories, and future – as a living piece of propaganda. The writer/narrator of this "crazy letter" is an unreliable one, a composite of half-truths, paranoid digressions, and feelings of loss.

Letters, conversations: New York-Chicago, Fall, 2001 is driven by a fragmented voice-over that criss-crosses between two female voices – one seemingly formal and distant, the other more conversational and intimate. It begins with short excerpts from emails, phone conversations and letters between friends, family, ex-lovers and acquaintances in the days and weeks following September 11th, 2001.

Linda Montano is interviewed by Janet Dees, Curator at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum, Northwestern University.

Since the 1960s, Linda Montano has aimed to blur the distinction between art and life with her performance and video work. Delving deep into subjects like death, spirituality and personal trauma, she is seen as an influential figure in feminist performance art.

Listen To This is a fragment of collective memory that finds critical relevance in contemporary Queer discourse.  Tom Rubnitz weaves narration, image, and a form of temporality, dislocated from ‘real time’, into a video where artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz’s loss and anger is palpable.

In the late 1990’s I presented a slide lecture on how my art references impermanence and dying. In 2014, video artist and editor Tobe Carey scanned the slides from the lecture and we collaged together the spoken narrative, images both of my own work and also of death rituals from many different cultures, creating an Endgame-like collage. There are images from my study in Benares at the Burning Ghats, images from my film Mitchell’s Death, and descriptions of ways that my work and death seem to be close cousins.

Treating the problem of anorexia nervosa from the parents' perspective, Rosler presents a mother and father speaking about the tragedy of their daughter's death as a result of dieting. The conversation turns toward the irony of self-starvation in a land of plenty and toward the international politics of food, where food aid is used as a negotiating tool. Confronting a serious issue, Rosler simultaneously sets into play the confessional form and the ghoulish staginess of talk show dramatics.

Love Rose, 2010

A surreal vision of one man's endeavor to contact the spirit world and come to terms with nightmares of a mysterious death.  A séance is orchestrated according to instructions written in 1920 by revered parapsychologist Hereward Carrington, voiced here by novelist Lynne Tillman.  Roses, seen as light by spirits, are placed in the room but these flowers are plastic; a requisite round table is surrounded by wooden chairs that remain empty despite stern warnings to never sit alone.

Meltdown, 2012

Waiting to die and waiting to live is the same thing to him that chants: "Let me not be mad... let me not be MAD... LET ME NOT BE MAD!"

-- Mike Kuchar

Tanaka passionately evokes the loss of her mother by visually recreating the ominous and disempowering feeling of isolation that accompanies mourning. The tape enunciates the painful phases of grieving: the claustrophobic results of dealing with the inevitability of death, the transitional void where one is lost between the comfortable orientation of one’s world and Nothing, and the new sense of clarity where images from the past resurface from the abyss of forgetfulness.

Using performance as a means of personal transformation and catharsis, Mitchell’s Death mourns the death of Montano’s ex-husband. Every detail of her story, from the telephone call announcing the tragedy, to visiting the body, is chanted by Montano as her face, pierced by acupuncture needles, slowly comes into focus then goes out again. The chanting is reminiscent of Buddhist texts, while the needles signify the pain that is necessary for healing and understanding.

Mother, 2007

A Timeless subject that is not immune from Time.