Bio / cv

Cecilia Dougherty

The image above is of a 3-story mural of Biggie Small at 1091 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. This mural is astonishing in its height, boldness, beauty, and in its Bed-Stuy setting. It was going to be painted over but has been saved. A story about it here.

my cv

About Cecilia Dougherty


I’ve been a video artist since the mid-1980s and had already been a painter for a number of years before that. I’m a photographer, an anti-theorist and a writer as well. My videos have screened in many venues internationally, and I’ve participated in many film festivals and gallery shows.

Regarding video, I love the medium and it has given me an electronic and digital tool for entering into a many-thousand-year’s discourse of storytelling. What I love are the colors and textures video will show you. I love the sharpness and brilliance of reds and blues, and the harshness of straight-edged shadows. I also love the friendliness and lack of mystery of video’s presence at any scene. The invitation to perform that it brings to a situation. Video invites the young to invent themselves and invites seasoned artists to frame a moving world.

Video stills from Gay Tape: Butch and Femme, The Drama of the Gifted Child, Gone, Grapefruit, and My Failure to Assimilate (1985-2001)

When I first took up video, I made work about lesbian oppression, lesbian subjectivity, about community and about sex and sexuality. I was completely consumed with the inextricable elements of my sexual and social situation that made it necessary for me to see my oppression in terms of my liberation.

I began making video portraits of writers I knew whose work had influenced me and brought me into the confluence of various scenes in New York. The videos about writers  Laurie Weeks, Leslie Scalapino, Eileen Myles, Joe Westmoreland, Kevin Killian and Cedar Sigo gave me room to experiment with ways of visualizing writing styles. I tried to bring the text back to images and performance.

I have also experimented with animation, most of which is meant for small formats, for iPods and cell phones.  My journey continues as I have been making web-based work for the past four years, including two large interactive fiction pieces and two photo essays, also interactive. I enjoy coding and also enjoy working in a platform that is both temporary and seemingly forever.

My videos are housed at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley and The Video Data Bank in Chicago is my distributor.


Poster from my retrospective at Anthology Film Archives, curated by Andy Lampert


Writing is important to me as well. My writing is less about expressing myself and more about a drive to document and to experiment. All of it is about observation, having been influenced by the work and ethos of Georges Perec. I have written and published stories and book chapters for anthologies as well as written fiction, art criticism, poetry, reviews, commentary, and conducted interviews.

In 2013, my book, called The Irreducible I: Space, Place, Authenticity, and Change, was published by Atropos Press, which was associated at the time with the European Graduate School, where I earned a PhD in Media Philosophy. The book is based on my doctoral dissertation . Writing The Irreducible I also pushed me out of theoretical thinking and into looking at situations and circumstances of naturally forming connectivities and the pathways, via connectivity, to social change.

My book, The Irreducible I: Space, Place, Authenticity, and Change

The Irreducible I: Space, Place, Authenticity, and Change by Cecilia Dougherty

You can read a selection from The Irreducible I here.

The Irreducible I: Space, Place, Authenticity, and Change by Cecilia Dougherty, Atropos Press, 2013. Also available in KINDLE version.


I take photographs as a daily practice. My photographic practice is visual note-taking on the environments I’m walking through on a daily basis. I have no agenda, but have collected many visual notes on the city, the seasons, people in transit, daily living, and architecture. Themes emerge when using photography that don’t emerge with video: irony, empathy,  and the transitory nature of the physical world – everything is always in transit.

I also have a series of digital prints based on video stills from my installation, In A Station, Petals. thanks to Kevin Killian for the title, by the way. In 2007-8, I was really broke and had almost no equipment except my Nokia flip phone and my computer. I stilll wanted to make work! I took stills based on tv shows I was watching on Hulu, without much of an idea about what they would become, but after amassing a lot of them, I started a selection process and took Ezra Pound’s title and turned the metro station into a tv station to create a dreamy poverty-stricken human-scape of borrowed and captured images.

Digital print from the series IN A STATION, PETALS

On the other end of the spectrum, and not really infused with much more cash, I take photos of architecture. I’m deeply effected by how buildings sit in the landscape, or more simply, how they sit on the earth and how they are grounded. The building below is the St. Paul’s Bookstore building on victory Boulevard in Staten Island. I passed it a hundred times while taking the S.I. Ferry Shuttle from the Ferry Terminal to the College of Staten Island, where I teach. St. Paul’s is one of the ugliest brutalist structures I’ve seen. I love brutalist architecture because I can occupy my mind for a long time trying to understand who designed it, why they designed it as they did, and who would ever allow it to be built. Fun things to think about.

St. Paul's Bookstore, Staten Island
One of the most remarkable and, to my eye, ugliest buildings around – it’s the St. Paul’s Bookstore on Victory Boulevard, Staten Island. Brutal.