Feminism

Shot primarily in Fisher-Price pixelvision, for the “murky look of memory," Coal Miner’s Granddaughter is a profoundly moving family portrait focusing on the youngest daughter Jane, as she leaves her Pennsylvania home and finds sexual independence in San Francisco. This semi-autobiographical narrative is remarkable for Dougherty’s unconventional approach: working with non-professional, plain-looking actors and improvised dialogue to recreate the life of the “average” family, and women who are “Plain Janes with big desires.”

Color Schemes was exhibited in its installation form (with a self-service washing machine) at the Whitney Museum in 1990. Using the washing machine as a metaphor for the great American “melting pot” of ethnicity, the video presents individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds “representing” their ethnicity — in one sense by being on camera, and also by acting out or speaking about ethnic divisions. Cheang plays with this “overdetermiNation” of ethnicity, creating a multi-layered discourse on racism and assimilation that condemns the former and refuses to condone the latter.

“The second in a planned trilogy of films about desire and domesticity that began with Strangely Ordinary This Devotion (2017), Come Coyote examines issues around queer reproduction, intimacy, and motherhood. Collaborators and partners Dani and Sheilah ReStack capture in fleeting, diaristic images the tender and terrifying feelings they have around ushering new life into the world, conveyed with both humor and a powerful immediacy."

— Projections at NYFF, 2019 catalogue

This humorous video begins with two women—one white, the other Asian—attempting to fit into a Japanese bathtub. The awkward fitting of bodies into a small space is just one of the allegorical scenarios dramatized in a pressing appeal for lesbian rights. In a game of hanafuda (flower cards), the terms of lesbian domesticity are cleverly played out according to such legalities as joint property, social security, and pensions.

Script/Performance Izumo Marou and Claire Maree, Superdyke Inc. Japan.

Song by Chu.

Community Action Center is a 69-minute sociosexual video by A.K. Burns and A.L. Steiner which incorporates the erotics of a community where the personal is not only political, but sexual. This project was heavily inspired by porn-romance-liberation films, such as works by Fred Halsted, Jack Smith, James Bidgood, Joe Gage and Wakefield Poole, which served as distinct portraits of the urban inhabitants, landscapes and the body politic of a particular time and place.

Illustrating the modern woman’s mantra “I shop therefore I am", Barbara Latham’s Consuming Passions examines the passion for sweets as a replacement for a sense of security and a source of erotic satisfaction.

Six powerful native women gather up to celebrate a new beginning and the end of the world as we know it.

Featuring: Alanis Obomsawin, Nadia Myre, Swaneige Bertrand, Nahka Bertrand, Emilie Monnet, Caroline Monnet

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

“The idea was to address the cultural invisibility of older women through art and through action,” the voice-over explains as this video begins. This short works offers an introduction to the Whisper Minnesota Project, which organized The Crystal Quilt performance, an event that brought together hundreds of women over 60 on a Mother’s Day in Minneapolis. As the video explains, “The Crystal Quilt is a case study in reframing notions of older women’s beauty, power, and relevance. Through it we catch glimpses of life patterns and values lost to our generation.”

In this video, the unseen narrator describes her inability to communicate to the camera what she wants to say and to whom she wants to say it. The curtain is the central metaphor for the piece, representing how Latham hides behind the video medium, as well as how the medium presents an obstacle to the artist, functioning as a cumbersome intermediary to expression.

This title is also available on Barbara Latham Videoworks: Volume 1.

In conversation with Carol Vontobel (behind the camera) and Nancy Cain, Curtis (Mary Curtis) Ratcliff describes getting her first legal abortion, soon after the state of New York legalized the procedure in 1970. Curtis supplies details of the cost of abortions at the Women’s Medical Center in New York City versus clinics such as Planned Parenthood, as well as a play-by-play account of her experience at the Center, describing the efforts of a counselor, the doctor’s demeanor, and demographics of the women using the Center’s services.

Using “found” imagery shot in a SoHo playground, the first part of the Damnation of Faust trilogy explores the possible relations between childhood play and a woman looking on from outside. Without dialogue, the gestures of the characters become their primary mode of communication. Visual motifs of pillars and fans, achieved through video wipes, plunge the viewer into the image while building parallels of movement and feeling.

The second part of the Damnation of Faust Trilogy centers on the development of Marguerite, the female character in the Faust legend. Masterfully composing fragmentary "memory" images in elegant 19th Century Japanese compositions, Birnbaum traces the process of deception and abandonment through the heroine’s mournful description of her state of mind. Passing images are suffused with light, obscured in a blinding brightness, to suggest forgetting.

“Fouteen-year-old bone collector Maxine Rose is looking for validation from her heroes, amongst them the primatologist Jane Goodall, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the New Zealand teen pop star Lorde. Offering them a gift of language, Maxine Rose stands for the desire to be visible and understood, not unlike the desire of an artist. We are particularly impressed by the multilayered story telling structure, the freshness of the characterization, and the honest exploration of an artists` vulnerability." 

Delirium, 1993

Defiantly humorous in its tone, Delirium reflects Faber’s mother’s personal experience with what has been classified as “female hysteria.”  While never reducing her mother’s condition to a single explanation, Delirium firmly and convincingly links her illness to the historically embattled position women hold in a patriarchal culture. The video layers haunting imagery and humorous iconoclasm, referencing everything from television episodes of I Love Lucy to Charcot’s 19th Century photos of female hysterics.

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.

Executive produced by Sara Diamond at the Banff Art Centre, co-produced by Michelle Baughn and Suzanne Lacy, directed by Tom Weinberg and Dick Carter, and edited by Holen Kahn.

The first of the series includes:

What Does Away Mean? by Jem Cohen advertises the need to recycle through reconsideration of landfills and garbage disposal.

Pro-Choice is Pro-Life by Jane Pratt makes its point with the simple logic that every child should be cared for and wanted.

Historic Preservation by Jim McKay counsels for the preservation of historic buildings endangered by urban decay.

This video collects public service announcements created by a number of independent producers, including Jem Cohen and Michael Stipe of R.E.M.  Powerful and provocative, these PSAs address issues such as organic farming, abortion rights, street harassment, and the environment. Included are:

They Have Dreams by Natalie Merchant and Abigail Simon which focuses on the plight of homeless children.

The third compilation in this series of progressive, creative public service announcements for under-reported issues. Featuring various styles and formats, from street photography to optical printing, from edgy black and white film to hand-drawn animation, the seven spots in this latest installment are:

The Breathing Tree by Eric Darnell and Doug Loveid, an animated easy-to-understand explanation of how forests contribute to life by producing oxygen.

Jonas uses reflections on a lake as a mirror to displace reality, creating a disruption and the illusion of presence.

“Disturbances begins with a Symbolist-like image of two women, dressed in white, seen only as reflections in water.… Throughout the tape the water fills the monitor, creating layers of images. The reflections on the surface of the water are superimposed on the activities that take place underneath the surface.”

Blumenthal constructs a loose narrative around the sexual evolution of a woman (played by Yvonne Rainer) through a stunning collage of images appropriated from TV and film. Certain images come to dominate this effusive stream—tall buildings, sex scenes, an Elvis movie, the courtroom, fireworks. Doublecross pits the indeterminate, disruptive power of the erotic against the rigid, normalizing structures of family, law, marriage, popular culture, movies, and music—societal institutions that codify sexual relations.

In this interview Cecilia Dougherty describes her work and her explorations into family interactions, outsider psychology, role-playing, lesbian sexuality, and popular culture. Her videos Grapefruit (1989) and Coal Miner’s Granddaughter (1991) work from within mass culture norms to create a lesbian dialogue within the “normal”—what Dougherty calls “the life of the ordinary lesbian and her working-class family.” Her more recent vides explore lesbian identity within a separate social sphere.

This video is about the idea of narcissistic transference, sexual dependency, and the failure to distinguish between the self and the loved one. It is also about using love to create a border between oneself and political and psychological oppression.

This title is also available on Cecilia Dougherty Videoworks: Volume 2.

"The dream and the waking is a documentation of my commute between New York and Boston, which I make every week for my job. I wanted to document not only the fact of the commute--where I go and how I get there, what I am leaving behind and what I am going to--but also the stream of thought that runs through my mind on this commute. The trip was not something I would normally do unless I absolutely had to, and for almost a year it was the one part of my life that never changed. The space of the commute is like a non-space, like a recurring dream.

A House Wife's hum-drum world dissolves away into a thorny Passion Play of miraculous visions.