Feminism

A.R.M. Around Moscow documents particpants in A.R.M. (American-Russian Matchmaking) to explore the relationship of personal power to domestic identity, and economic and political structure. Finley and Stoeltje followed 21 American men as they travelled to Russia to meet 500 local women. Each man was provided with a car, driver, translator, apartment, and meals for a "14-day tour of Russia's most beautiful and highly-educated women" at the cost of about $4,700.

Playing with cliched feminine personae, Eleanor Antin in The Adventures of a Nurse manipulates cut-out paper dolls to tell the story of innocent Nurse Eleanor who meets one gorgeous, intriguing, and available man after another. Nurse Eleanor is the fantasy creation of Antin, who is costumed as a nurse. Staged on a bedspread and acted by a cast of one, The Adventures of a Nurse moves through successive layers of irony to unravel a childlike, self-enclosed fantasy of a young woman’s life.

Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) gained international recognition with her three-and-a-half hour masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which portrays a housewife’s dull existence and eventual violent action. She has continued to be one of Europe’s most innovative filmmakers with more than forty film and television projects to her credit. Akerman’s work is minimalist, structuralist, and feminist. Major themes in her films include women at work and at home; women’s relationships to men, other women, and children; food, love, sex, romance, art, and storytelling. In this interview from 1976 Akerman discusses her early films, and the development of her particular vision.

A captivating video about surveillance, identity, watching, and being watched, The Amateurist slides along the edges of horror and satire to create an unsettling portrait of a woman on the brink of a technologically driven madness.

Videofreex member, Ann Woodward, provides a bread-baking lesson.

The vacuum cleaner becomes the device of the feminist 'liberation', or the monster that devours us.

— Insite 2000 program, San Diego Museum of Art 

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

Through her performances and videotapes, Eleanor Antin (b. 1935) creates characters (King, Ballerina, Black Movie Star, and Nurse) while spinning tales that blur fiction and history. She avoids good taste and flaunts concealed intentions, forcing one to stretch all possible associations to the breaking point.

“I believe interesting art has always been conceptual... that it appeals to the mind. That does not mean that it cannot seduce and attract through the eye,” Antin says in this interview with Nancy Bowen.

Using highly-manipulated and over-processed images, Latham investigates the process of video as inherently fragmented. Weaving together various people’s impressions of the artist and her work, the work demonstrates important parallels between video, storytelling, and the formation of identity — all processes of active fabrication that blend “lies” and truth in the construction of a certain reality, history, or past. Labeling an image of herself talking as “her most recent explanation,” Latham addresses “the construction of her video personality” as an identity outside of herself.

“In her brilliant video Art Herstory, [Freed] has restaged art history, putting herself in the model’s role in numerous paintings.... Time dissolves under her humorous assault — one moment in the painting, then out of the canvas and into that period, then back in the studio."

— Jonathan Price, “Video Art: a Medium Discovering Itself,” Art News 76 (January 1977) 

An excerpt of this title (14:49) is also included on Surveying the First Decade: Volume 1.

Part 3 profiles three California women artists: sculptor and lint and installation artist Slater Baron, mixed media installation artist Beverly Nadius, and book artist Sue Ann Robinson.

In this interview, American cartoonist and author Lynda Barry (b. 1956) describes the philosophy of teaching that has inspired and mobilized her art since the 1970s. For Barry, the connection between gesture and thought collide in drawing and expose the therapeutic possibilities of art. Whether teaching undergraduate art students or prison inmates, her goal is to help others develop art making skills as an “external immune system” that will protect and monitor their emotional and mental health.

In this angry answer to the expectations advertising culture places on women and their bodies, Tanaka deftly edits commercial images and sound-bite slogans to underscore the message such images carry: that women exist to please men, as wives, mothers, and lovers. Tanaka balances such mainstream images with black and white footage of herself lying naked next to her own doubled image, rejecting the mainstream model of female sexuality that regularly consists of seductive glances and suggestive poses arranged and pre-ordained for the male gaze of the spectator.

"Relating a tale told by a girl on a swing, Beneath the Skin explores the contrast between the impersonal horror of a news story heard on television and the involvement of the storyteller in a nightmare, which gradually becomes more familiar and commonplace as the tale unfolds. The straightforward approach of the teller is humorously or frighteningly contrasted by a bombardment of visual images which mock or intensify the macabre flavor of the work."

—Cecelia Condit

Largely focused on the critical use of language both archaic and contemporary, poet Caroline Bergvall’s work asks questions about cultural identity and feminism and explores challenging or unknown historical and political events. She works across multiple media practices including audio texts, plurilingual poetry, installation and Performance Writing.

“I may have to get a back up career.” I mull over what I might do if I don’t make it as an artist. What if I lose my eyes? I figure a career as a stand-up comic is a safe bet and try out a few jokes on an imagined audience — of course with my eyes shut tight.

In Birth of a Candy Bar, the young people who worked on the video participate in a pregnancy prevention and parenting program at Henry Street Settlement in New York City. The title of the video comes from a poem that comments on sex and birth by way of names of candy bars. ("...nine months later she had a Baby Ruth.") Poetry, fast-action music, dancing, interviews, statistics, street scenes, and docudramas are combined in segments written, taped, and produced by each participant—personalizing the problems of teenage pregnancy and assessing its causes. 

This collaborative video project is based on a short story by H.G. Wells called "The Country of the Blind"—about a man who travels to a country of blind people and attempts to dominate their sensual, feminine culture with his male, sight-derived power. Following this theme, Blind Country begins with animated fruit dancing over Mike Kelley’s body and the admonition of “Northerners” to “refill the quickly emptying sack.” In the male-dominated land of the North, candy-spurting pinatas stand as phallic symbols.

Blood and Guts in High School features actress Stephanie Vella in a series of video installations* that re-imagine punk-feminist icon Kathy Acker's book of the same title. The book received noteriety from 1978-1982 during the rise of Reagan republicanism and the emergence of punk rock. In Parnes' interpretation, each video-chapter presents a typical scene in the life of Janie bracketed by U.S. news events from the time period in which the book was written.

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

Los Angeles-based, Kaucyila Brooke (b.1952) makes what she describes as, "wall size photographic sequences in comic-strip format that consider lesbian relationships within American popular culture." Produced over the past five years, Brooke’s large-scale photo-text installations look at aspects of lesbian culture and alternative communities. Wry and often quite critical, they probe some of the ways lesbian relationships both challenge and reproduce the power relations and narratives of the wider culture.

Starting with student-recorded VHS footage of two successive Take Back the Night marches at Princeton University, Birnbaum develops a saga of political awareness through personalized experiences. This localized student activity then progresses to, and is contrasted with, the 1988 National Student Convention at Rutgers University. Through this dynamic portrait, Birnbaum posits a series of compelling questions: How can the voice of the individual make itself seen and heard in our technocratic society? What forms of demonstration support this expression? How is a voice of dissent made possible?

Unhinging the narrative conventions and stereotypical elements of the whodunit occult thriller, Chained Reactions is an update of film noir style. Calling on the cliches of gothic romance novels and television soap operas, Chained Reactions presents an increasingly dense collage of symbolic, absurd, and everyday images and gestures, challenging the viewer to find the associative meanings that link them. The soundtrack, composed of whispers, music, and sound effects, sets a suspenseful, unresolved tone.

Judy Chicago (b.1939) is an artist, author, feminist, educator, and intellectual whose career now spans four decades. In 1974, Chicago turned her attention to the subject of women’s history to create her best known work, The Dinner Party, which was executed between 1974 and 1979 with the participation of hundreds of volunteers. This monumental multimedia project, a symbolic history of women in western civilization, has been seen by more than one million viewers during its 16 exhibitions held at venues spanning six countries.

Judy Chicago (b.1939) creates large-scale, collaborative artwork has brought greater prominence to feminist themes and craft arts such as needlework and ceramics. Her most famous work, The Dinner Party (1979), was an enormous collaboration with hundreds of volunteers including ceramicists, china painters and needleworkers. The monumental finished piece has place settings for 39 mythical and historical famous women, writing them back into the heroic history usually reserved for men. Earlier in her career, Chicago was part of the Finish Fetish movement within Minimalism.

In Chicken on Foot, Sobell bounces a chicken carcass as one would a child, periodically crushing eggs (fetal chickens) on her knee. A statement of the displacement of sexual desire on food and women’s bodies, and an expression of female ambivalence about motherhood.