Video Data Bank at 25: Performance Anxieties | Chicago Reader

Video Data Bank at 25: Performance Anxieties

Whatever limitations video might have, it's particularly well suited to performance, where the image quality matters less than a sense of real time, of immediacy, and of the artist's concept. In the 13 short vignettes of Selected Body Works (1972), William Wegman establishes a variety of relationships between himself and the viewer, talking about a fictionalized past in one (he claims to have had a “mouth transplant” when he was six), doing a mock deodorant commercial in another. His openness in exploring different possibilities is engaging, especially in contrast to the smug cuteness of his later work. Grungy black-and-white imagery and long takes lend a certain intensity to Joe Gibbons's Multiple Barbie (1998), a psychoanalytic session in which a crudely animated Barbie doll attacks Gibbons after he diagnoses her with multiple-personality disorder. In Karaoke (1998), Donigan Cumming presents an elderly face in extreme close-up, eyes closed, seemingly impervious to the syrupy music on the sound track until the camera pans down to reveal a foot trying to keep time. Anne McGuire's All Smiles and Sadness (1999), another vignette series, seems to parody both soap operas and greeting-card poetry; its oscillations between satire and camp are intriguing but a bit unfocused. Maria Fernanda Cardoso and Ross Rudesch Harley's fascinating Cardoso Flea Circus (1997) shows an actual flea circus (they exit from cannons and lift heavy objects), which Cardoso has presented at a variety of venues. Also showing: videos by Sam Easterson, Miranda July, Animal Charm, Halflifers, and Paul Harrison and John Wood. 73 min.

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