Media Analysis

1!, 2004

1! is part of the Pop Manifestos series, a five video project realized in collaboration with Cokes' former students Seth Price and Damian Kulash, and originally conceived as part of a series for the conceptual band SWIPE. “I closed the Pop Manifestos series as originally conceived with 1! (2004) where I present the titles of 100 CDs I've valued most from the years 1997-2002 set to music composed by Michael Bell-Smith.

A Pilot For A Show About Nowhere is a two-channel video that examines the politics of television viewership, incorporating footage from a number of sources to create a plurivocal narrative. 

Anthony Ramos' astute deconstruction of television news focuses on his part in the media coverage of President Jimmy Carter's 1977 declaration of amnesty for Vietnam draft evaders. Ramos, who had served an 18-month prison sentence for draft evasion, was interviewed by news reporter Gabe Pressman, whose film crew meets Ramos' video crew in a confrontation between technologies and sensibilities. At the time, some broadcast television news crews still used 16mm film, although the expensive transition to ENG (electronic news gathering) systems had begun in 1974.

Ad Vice, 1999

"Ad Vice consists of a succession of colored projection surfaces with segments of text from the worlds of advertising, sport and popular culture.  These projection surfaces in turn alternate with images of a rock band whose music continuously frames the whole. As regards form and content, the video looks like a commercial, an advertising spot for SWIPE country. The fast changing images, the continual music, and the starting and ending credits refer to it. The viewer is greeted with the words: welcome to SWIPE country... enjoy the sound... make contact...

The HalfLifers exhume cinema’s favorite incarnation of mindless, decaying mortality, the Zombie, in the hopes of breathing new life into this misunderstood figure. From a panel discussion in an old TV studio to a quarantined helicopter high above California’s rolling hills, these life-challenged entities walk, talk, and chew over some of the more difficult questions of this “whole linear birth-death system."

This title is also available on HalfLifers: The Complete History.

"This video reflects my interest in examining cultural institutions. In The Amarillo News Tapes, we were interested in observing and dissecting what makes news in a small, Midwestern television market. The video shows the three of us in our respective roles as anchor, weatherman, and sportscaster, interacting with the real Pro News Team on the set.

And They Came Riding Into Town on Black and Silver Horses looks at how media representations shape our perception of violence and violent crime, in effect creating racist stereotypes. Andrews suggests that the evidence against young Black men is gathered not at the scene of the crime, but at the scene of representation.

Apeshit, 1999

Employing footage from an obscure 8mm film trailer for Battle for the Planet of the Apes to highlight the unstable relationship between the real, historical past and the distant, imaginary future, this project revolves around a central question: Is alien-ness indeed the metaphor for the 20th Century as power relationships have been embodied within our subconscious? Is there a relationship between these forgotten formats and the discontinued political ideologies that they depict?

Ashley, 1997

Animal Charm's Ashley seems to develop a conventional story about a modern mother and wife with typically modern desires. But the insertion of incongruous soap opera scenes soon ensures that the seductive images take on an absurd and oppressive charge. “The antiseptic cleanliness of the imagery has a superficial appeal, but begins to feel claustrophobic — or toxic — after prolonged exposure.”

"Between the Lines is an exploration of what Muntadas terms the 'informational limits' of television—the selections, programs, decisions, edits, time schedules, image fabrications and so on—specifically addressing the means by which 'facts' in the network news are transmitted on television. Muntadas slows and examines the process, observing a newscaster’s exercise in assembling events, locating images, and constructing the news."

—Bob Riley, Currents: Mediated Narratives (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1984)

Big_Sleep™ explores problems in our archival urges. Via a single-channel desktop screencast, informatic elements ebb and flow—creating and relating interface absences. These gaps suggest that no amount of hard drive space can defy mortality. The only way to fully prepare our media for the future is to prepare ourselves for a future apart. The piece presents material from the late William Birch, one of the most important Fox Movietone cinematographers. Examining his now-decaying body of work—we find an argument for access in the present, not cold storage for a potential future.

Martha Rosler tackles mainstream media's representation of the case of surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead.

®™ark is an organization dedicated to bringing anti-corporate subversion and sabotage into the public marketplace. This updated video compilation includes a glitzy promotion for the ®™ark system (Bringing It All to You!); a behind-the-scenes look at some ®™ark propaganda efforts; an ®™ark PowerPoint presentation concerning "the Y2K bug”; a Danish television report about ®™ark and Hitler; a Boston news report about ®™ark; and, finally, the grand prize winner of ®™ark 1998 Corporate Poetry Contest, reading his winning entry.

A video that observes the thrill, terror, and boredom found in watching mass spectacles, and the unexpected loneliness when you miss them. This video speaks of both the power and the failure of the televised experience to bind us to one another.

"We buried ten Cadillacs in a row alongside Interstate 40 (the old Route 66), just west of Amarillo, Texas; each car represented a model change in the evolution of the tail fin. This was clearly a sculptural act, but with a minimal amount of formal manipulation. Media Burn, created a year later in San Francisco, was a live performance. It was a spectacle staged for the camera culminating in the 4,000 pound Phantom Dream Car crashing through a pyramid of TV sets to the cheers of the audience of 400.

In part a remake of Hollis Frampton’s Gloria! (1979), in part a repurposing of hacked, 16-bit video game technology, The Well of Representation asks us to reconsider our fear of the liminal. Following the convergent narratives of several voices, ranging from the linearly historical to the cybernetically personal, we come to understand the journey ahead: searching from interface to interface, knowing that whatever home we find will be a collaborative compromise. One where we might live beyond our representations and finally come to say what we mean.

We have come to this place of meaning together, celebrating our un-remaindered completeness. Yet, in our wake endures a long procession of stowaways: misspoken sounds we unconsciously omit, the limitations of our alphabet, the ignored gaps of an imperfect analog, and most recently, these forgetful bits of the virtual. We celebrate the lineage of our information as we celebrate one another, not realizing that the loudest affirmations might come from these unacknowledged, unavoidable participants. With each generation, they say a little bit more, speaking a little bit louder.

"Perhaps Cuevas' most chilling work, Cinepolis forecasts an image-driven invasion of everyday life, picture-perfect and unnoticed. This alien intrusion comes in the form of a fully branded consumerscape that cheerily foists fast food along with the fantasy. Irreverent and biting, Cuevas fights back with the only weapon available--images of the enemy, and the enemy’s images."

— Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive, 2004

This title is also available on Half-Lies: The Videoworks of Ximena Cuevas.

"code switching began as a contemporary reaction to Adrian Piper's Cornered (1988). It goes on to explore the fracturing of contemporary identity within modern culture, and the mechanisms by which individuals assign and create the cultural, racial, personal, and social identities around us. We all have codes by which we interact with and interpret others. Depending on what situation we are in, we adopt the appropriate persona to fit the occasion, constantly creating representations for others to read appropriately.

This video takes its departure from the BBC's coverage of the killing of three IRA volunteers by British Security Forces in Strabane, a small town on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Interrogating television discourse, the video examines what is referred to as the British “shoot to kill” policy of planned assassination in the North.

Credits, 1984

Credits is about re-reading information. Recycling. Image-making. Wallpaper TV. Zen. Money. Labor. And of course, credits. Through all their aspects and characteristics, credits reflect the way that programs, productions and institutions select to present themselves.… Muntadas is again dealing with the 'invisible' information that lies behind mass media production and transmission.”

--Kathy Rae Huffman, Video: A Retrospective (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1984)

Susan Mogul's fantasies of success have always a comic, congenial twist, as in Dear Dennis, a video letter to Dennis Hopper inspired by her discovery that they share the same dentist. The central irony of this witty piece is that, despite Hopper's popular persona as an innovative, sub-cultural filmmaker and performer, the actual distance between his so-called independent" films and Mogul's experimental, non-commercial videos prevents Susan from finding any common ground from which to address Hopper other than the subject of dental work.

Deliver, 2008

Like a generation of viewers, I was profoundly affected by Deliverance.  But I have always been troubled by the hegemonic structures of gender proposed by Boorman and Dickey. Hence, my version is played by women: myself, Peggy Ahwesh, Jackie Goss, Su Friedrich, and Meredith Root, all experimental filmmakers who work as academics. While faithful to our respective male characters, we also play ourselves.

Starting out as equal parts authors, editors and thieves, the Disambiguation project began when two artists were invited to curate a screening together.  Since they live in separate cities, Chicago and London respectively, they decided to swap and re-edit files of video and audio material from their own archives by post.  Animations, pornography, songs, downloads and fragments from their own back catalogue were passed back and forth across the Atlantic to be chopped and sequenced into an exquisite corpse of swapped signals.

The Disappointment: Or, The Force of Credulity is a documentary about the search for four lost treasures buried on a single farm in Missouri. These treasures include a Spanish explorer's gold, silver from the Civil War, mysterious stone carvings, lost texts, and a wife's attempt to heal her husband and protect herself and her children. Part personal documentary and part historical essay, The Disappointment traces the patterns of cultural forgetting etched in the landscape of the Austin Farm.