In Consuming Passions, Seid considers Cuevas’s technique of fusing pastiche with diaristic self-presentation. Cuevas’s work is presented as a mash-up that creates hybrid structures that blur the line between local and exotic. This idea of blurring the divide between local and exotic is reiterated by Cuevas’s interest in consumer culture and the homogenizing and unifying effects of globalization. Cuevas thereby presents an imitation of life, but one whose artificiality is in fact the operative logic of reality at large. Cuevas explores this ambiguity, interrogating popular culture’s points of intrusion and erosion.
This group of short essays details the work of Tom Rubnitz and one of his frequent subjects, Jibz Cameron. Cameron’s performance as alter-ego Dynasty Handbag is discussed in terms of its eschewing of the interiority of the performer, and in performing the subject in favor of assuming what Lubin-Levy refers to as "cyber-personalities". It is these cyber-personalities that are at play in Rubnitz’s work, where his performers oscillate between absurdity and vulnerability, while also mining cinematic and performative tropes. For Rubnitz and Cameron, performance is not utilized in order to be communicative, but rather as a way of desublimating the self through the articulation of a perverse intimacy.
In this interview from 2007, Henricks and Hoolboom discuss the atmosphere of euphoria surrounding the early days of video media usage in the mid-1960s. There was a popular belief in its ability to bring about a utopia of representation in which alternative media could be used to articulate alternate subjectivities, and through this self-actualization and self-representation, video art would work towards the growing call for the materialization of genuine democracy. Hoolboom pinpoints Nelson’s understanding of the political potential of video art by analyzing Nelson’s understanding of political efficacy as being defined not through something’s ability to produce direct political effects, but by its ability to enliven the field of the social through rhizomatic networks of interconnectivity.
Henricks also discusses his belief in the reemergence of video art’s democratic potential through to the advent of digital video and the popularization of social media, which have enabled an increasingly de-specialized and populist utilization of video, thereby expanding the networks of video practitioners beyond what was ever thought possible in the 1960s.
Carrie Lambert examines the development of Yvonne Rainer’s interest in the human body as an object, and charts her transition from the humanism of Martha Graham’s expressionist approach to dance to a more impersonal and noncommunicative minimal approach. Lambert believes Rainer’s Five Easy Pieces reflects Rainer on the cusp of this transition as she moves from choreography to filmmaking. Trio A is prominently considered as the first instance of feminist thought in Rainer’s artistic work, significant in that it reveals to her for the first time that minimalism’s anti-humanism and passive disengagement are unstable positions for the body to occupy.
Scott Durham analyzes the themes of documentation, fiction and the archive in Daniel Eisenberg’s postwar trilogy. This is done by examining Eisenberg’s Persistence, in which he films the offices of the Stasi headquarters in former East Berlin which housed a reportedly 200 km long row of surveillance files documenting the comings and goings of East German citizens. In this building documentation was used to produce an archival fiction, just as, for Eisenberg, documentary filmmaking abstracts everyday experience.
Referring to Guillermo Gómez-Peña as a ‘transnational post-Mexican Aztec-cyborg,’ Carol Becker discusses Gómez-Peña’s desire to repudiate the commonly perceived one-dimensional character of North American cultural identity and to combat this reductive compartmentalization by confronting us with the gray area of cultural identity that is excluded and undermined by normative descriptive categories. Particular attention is paid to his use of linguistic site specificity during his performances, in which his use of Spanglish addresses only a particular segment of the audience completely, thereby capitalizing upon the fact that language competency and thereby the reception of his ideas will vary from performance to performance. In light of this, the visual element becomes increasingly important in interpreting the work if the viewer cannot understand Gómez-Peña, and as such the audience comes to reflect a continuum of interpretive strategies, ranging from purely visual to purely linguistic, enabling a hybridity that transcends simple linguistic (and by extension, cultural) boundaries.
The Prayers and Tears of Paul Chan: Profane Illumination and the Post-Secular in BAGHDAD IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER and Now promise now threat
Yates Mckee considers Paul Chan’s Tin Drum Trilogy as psychogeographical urban portraits that critically examine the roles that social conservatism and religious fundamentalism play in current global conflicts. Aligning this endeavor with the concept of post-secularism, a ‘religion without religion’ that nonetheless perceives the presence of the spiritual in all things, Mckee frames Chan’s work as a reconsideration of the effectiveness of Enlightenment-era rationalism and its secularizing impulse by asking whether religion can ever truly be divorced from social and political practice.
Monica McTighe discusses the importance of the quotidian in the work of Keith Jerome Everson, and positions Everson's interest in repetitive gestures in relation to Richard Serra’s use of repetition in his process-based artworks. For McTighe, the distinction between the two is the degree to which Everson socializes this approach, embedding minimalism’s seriality, post-minimalism’s physicality and conceptualism’s interest in numerical sequences into the day to day activities of his subjects as they are shown punching time clocks, practicing boxing or preparing for drag races.
Gene Youngblood discusses George Kuchar’s weather diaries in relation to Thoreau’s Walden and Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. Youngblood sees Kuchar’s use of kitsch, melodrama, first-person cinema and subjective narrative as a postmodern continuation of Dostoyevsky’s anticipation of Modernism’s dominant themes of isolation, alienation, communicative instability and the inauthenticity of modern society.
Akram Zaatari considers the idea of closure, both physical and symbolic, in the Middle East as a product of the increasingly pervasive militarization of public life and its attendant mechanisms of segmentation and restriction via borders and checkpoints. In an attempt to situate the videos in Radical Closure within a broader historical context, Zaatari references Jean-Luc Godard’s questioning of the theatricality commonly employed in the articulation of the discourse of resistance and Harun Farocki’s examination of the use of military footage during televised news casts as examples of ways that the filmmakers in Radical Closure combat this militarization and its use of rhetoric by critically interrogating its techniques for politicizing the image.