The opening was on Saturday, Oct 21, and it was GOOD.
Curated by Terri c. Smith, a Bard Curitorial Program grad and someone who has done her research. I went with my friend Pat from New Haven and I had no expectations for this show – it could be great or it could be not so great. And it was very good (i.e., great) and completely engaging. Work by people I know, people I don’t know but admire, and people I once knew: Peggy Ahwesh, Max Almy, Ericka Beckman, Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Cecelia Condit, Cecilia Dougherty, Ulysses Jenkins, Nam June Paik, Ann Magnuson, Piplotti Rist, and Michael Smith. Newcomers Am Schmidt and Willie Stewart as well.
Pat and I stayed ’til closing time. She took my picture – you can get a glimpse of how each artist’s work is installed – clean and neat, plenty of room to watch, and Paik’s work was set up with a comfy padded bench for viewing.
The show is up through the year, closing on Jan. 14, with a curator walk-through and reception on Dec. 9 from 3-5 PM.
What is Interactive Fiction? It’s a way to tell a story by having the reader, or visitor to the story site, “play” the story by making choices about what part of the story to go to next – the reader can navigate forwards and backwards throughout the story. There is no directly linear way to experience Interactive Fiction, and much of it has not only text – the story – but also graphics, animation, and sound. It provides a rich, inviting and immersive pathway into narratives.
Shanidar, Safe Return is an interactive story that places a young Neanderthal woman named Haizea in the center of a community’s struggle for survival, as the Cro-Magnins (Homo sapiens) migrate to their once-peaceful territories. Haizea and her band of mixed – Neanderthal and Cro-Magnin – travelers must walk the distance from danger in what is now southern France to safety in their old refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, a place called Shanidar. They meet a group of Denisovans on the way, and receive guidance from the old H. heidelbergensis shaman, Bihotz.
Tubular Times is a group exhibition that features significant video art made from 1981-1993. The show also includes thematically related satellite installations with newer works by contemporary artists Am Schmidt and Willie Stewart. The historic component will be on view in the main gallery and black box room and will feature approximately twelve artists, including Peggy Ahwesh, Max Almy, Ericka Beckman, Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Cecelia Condit, Cecilia Dougherty, Ulysses Jenkins, Nam June Paik, Ann Magnuson, Pipilotti Rist, and Michael Smith.
Terri C. Smith is showing my little-known 1986 video, SICK, a visual monologue about being disabled and closeted about my disability. But it’s not all doom and gloom – it’s an experimental piece created at the San Francisco Art Insitute, in Studio 9, which was equipped with a gigantic Grass Valley Switcher and Downstream Keyer. All our effects and colors were created in the live mix. Very analog, and lots ‘n lots of fun!
The exhibition is inspired by Vestron video, which was a production company and VHS distributor located in Stamford, Connecticut in the eighties and early nineties. Sharing qualities with Vestron’s catalog of B-horror, music video, and campy humor, many of the works in Tubular Times layer comedy, horror, and music to address 1980s political themes in the U.S., including the AIDS crisis, a growing wealth gap, and Reagan-era backlash to the civil liberties of the 1960s and 1970s. The show’s title references: cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions used in the 1980s; that decade’s saying “totally tubular”; and phonetically suggests the word turbulent.
1981 was the first year of MTV and the first year of the AIDS epidemic, setting much of the tone for a decade. It’s not surprising, then, that the video art of the 1980s exhibited a unique mix of urgency, desperation, camp, and techno celebration. In the video art of that era, gender identity, a sense of life-and-death urgency, theatricality, satire, and experimental digital techniques coalesced. During this time, we see irreverent divergences from the conceptual video art of the 1970s which, while often addressing sociopolitical themes, was rarely directly influenced by television and movies. With cable television growing in the mid-1970s and being in sixty-percent of American houses by 1992 and with VHS bringing movies into the home, the topographies of entertainment shifted dramatically during this time. Video editing also became more sophisticated, allowing artists to appropriate imagery from pop culture.
Vestron’s catalog was a mix of comedy, satirical spoofs, and thriller/horror genres. The company also was involved in music videos and released Making of Michael Jackson’sThriller. Vestron is best known for the film Dirty Dancing, but other movies they released include: quirky comedies like Earth Girls are Easy and The Princess Bride; horror movies such as Slaughter High and Horror Hill; and comedy-horror films such as Sundown: the Vampire Retreat and Lair of the White Worm. For some of the artists in Tubular Times, horror—a genre inextricably linked to VHS—becomes an allegory for the othering of the LGBTQ+ community as well as the systemic failure and loss of life during the AIDS crisis, which was further exacerbated by Reagan-era policies that centered cisgender, heteronormative, white, capitalist ideals. The resulting ethos of these videos is to varying degrees harrowing and hysterically funny.
It is fitting to locate Totally Tubular—an exhibition inspired by this piece of Connecticut film history—at Real Art Ways, a contemporary art space that has a long, rich history of supporting independent cinema through its film programming.
Swedish news reporter Karin Eriksson stopped me (Cecilia Dougherty), Phyllis Baldino and Laura Parnes on the street in Lower Manhattan on the night of Trump’s first indictment on rape charges. She was asking New Yorkers their opinions on the indictment. As it turns out, all of us were elated and we expressed that to Karin, who turned it into a story for the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter, on the first page of the Världen (“World” news) section.
Karin’s article featured the photo, above, of me, Phyllis and Laura – three video artists having a night on the town – as we respond with joy to the question of what we might think of Trumps’ legal problems and having finally been brought to court. Here’s a link to the article:
Cecilia Dougherty on a field trip on February 9, 2023, to the Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History with her students enrolled in HMS-340S-01, Who OwnsPrehistory?
This is one my courses at Pratt Institute. A course I designed. My baby. In the course, we non-scientists (we, artists, that is) look at the discourses of science surrounding the never-ending question to figure out what is “human,” who qualifies as “human,” and how many species of bona fide “humans” are there? The discourses are fun and interesting and always spark my imagination like crazy. And going to the American Museum of Natural History with my students was like turning on all the lights. They saw things I hadn’t seen, even after many trips. They pointed out objects, displays, topics that I had always missed or glossed over. Paleolithic music, for example – music, hearing, the development of the ear. Very important topic.
The work of artist Cecilia Dougherty explores the nature of queer women’s relationships to one another, society, and the everyday, as well as a feminist analysis of lesbian sexuality, psychologies, and intimacies inside a culture that is, at best, indifferent and at worst, hostile. She often uses methodologies borrowed from documentary and biography to map contemporary realities over pop-historical icons, creating art that deals with nostalgia, popular culture, and the state of society. Looking to Dougherty’s lasting legacy, we are pleased to present the lecture “Make Believe, It’s Just like the Truth Clings to It”: In Conversation with the Work of Cecilia Dougherty given by Amanda Mendelsohn, Graduate Distribution Assistant at the Video Data Bank, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago M.A. candidate in Modern and Contemporary Art History.
Exploring the earlier video works of Dougherty, this talk will address issues of identity, queerness, and experimentation. The four titles discussed, The Drama of the Gifted Child, My Failure to Assimilate, The dream and the waking, and Gone, range from 1992 to 2001, illuminating a specific time period of Dougherty’s work. Based on their VDBTV essay in part drawn from their interview with Dougherty, Mendelsohn explores their relationship to Dougherty’s experimental practice and catalog, as well as how the pieces fit into the broader picture of analysis. The lecture will be followed by an interview between Mendelsohn and Dougherty, then followed by an audience Q&A session.
“Make Believe, It’s Just like the Truth Clings to It”:
In Conversation with the Work of Cecilia DoughertyMonday, February 27, 2023, 7:00pm (EST)
The work of Cecilia Dougherty explores the nature of queer women’s relationships to one another, society, and the everyday as well as providing a feminist analysis of lesbian sexuality, psychologies, and intimacies inside a culture that is, at best, indifferent and at worst, hostile. She often uses methodologies borrowed from documentary and biography to map contemporary realities over pop-historical icons, creating art that deals with nostalgia, popular culture, and the social realm.
Looking to Dougherty’s lasting legacy, we are pleased to present the lecture “Make Believe, It’s Just Like the Truth Clings to It: In Conversation with the Work of Cecilia Dougherty.” The event is a conversation between Cecilia Doughery and Amanda Mendelsohn of the Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Cecilia Dougherty got her start as a video artist in an unconventional way, fitting for her experimental body of work. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Dougherty was a painter. However, in her last semester of college, she took a video production class, changing the course of her education and career permanently. Dougherty fell in love with video art, and was inspired to singularly pursue the medium. Using the one video she made for that class,
Dougherty applied to the Performance and Video MFA program at the San Francisco Institute of Art in the late ‘80s, and the rest was history. Prior to this, she had very little knowledge about the history of video art, let alone the process of making it. Additionally, during this time period Dougherty was grappling with her identity as a lesbian in a heteronormative society, working to “find an adequate expression of it as a place to exist inside the social realm sexually, politically, and personally.”
She was simultaneously breaking ground in new territory as an artist, and that territory for lesbian expression was in no way near established for video art. Combining this aspect of her life with her practice, Dougherty created the following works included in this program: TheDrama of the Gifted Child (1992), My Failure to Assimilate (1995), The dream and the waking (1997), and Gone (2001).