Cecilia Dougherty’s Time Before Memory
Review by Tony Huffman, Arcade Project, June 2020
“Users of Time Before Memory are invited to replay a defining moment in human history: the final encounters between Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and Cro-Magnon humans (Homo sapiens). The story explores the shifting power dynamics between the “Magnons” and the “Neanders”, as well as each group’s relationship to the surrounding landscape and animal populations. As the artist explains, humanity as we know it began with settlement, possession, and the destruction of “anyone who was not ‘us.’” In Dougherty’s non-linear narrative the user is cast, in one instance, as the female Neander protagonist Haizea; in another, as a third-party observer; and occasionally as other characters. One of the most interesting and important features is that players have the ability to return to diegetic junctures and pursue different branches of the saga, uncovering interrelations among characters and intersecting plot lines. The narrative matrix is akin to cave networks or forest pathways with dead ends, loops, and intersections. Reinforcing this aspect, imagery and sounds of caves and forests recur throughout the adventure in background images, descriptions, and sound effects.
“. . . The longer the user investigates Dougherty’s work, the (hi)story and psyche of characters and H. sapiens becomes apparent. Time Before Memory encourages reflection on the deeply-ingrained tribal mentalities and impulses that structure our present-day behaviors. The link between the characters in this Stone Age saga and contemporary participants is highlighted by grafting imagined prehistoric decisions and thought processes onto photographs of early human sites at Altamira and Lascaux.”
College of Staten Island Faculty Exhibition
Review by Cynthia Chris, 2018
Cecilia Dougherty’s In-Between Theories takes a ubiquitous moving-image format, the GIF (graphics interchange format) and infuses it with unexpected purpose. Many of us encounter uncountable GIFs on a daily basis, since the easily shareable format, marked by compressed data and limited color palettes, has joined the lingua franca of the internet. Dougherty’s startlingly rich GIFs, however, embrace vast timelines of geological epochs, the immediacy ofpolitical upheaval, and incisive resonances between text and image.
Art Practical Interview
Cecilia seemed to be ahead of the curve with performance reenactment, not only Fuck You Purdue (1987), but also riffing on canon with the all-women send-up of Lennon and Ono in Grapefruit (1989).
Grapefruit was a landmark work. It was a great appropriation of a typically masculine space.
Scott Northrup and Jonathan Rajewski, Desire as Politics, Valade Family Gallery, College for Creative Studies, exhibition catalogue, 2018, pp. 5-6.
Daniel Benjamin and Eric Sneathen, The Bigness of Things: New Narrative and Visual Culture, Oakland, Wolfman Books, 2017, ix, x, 107, 110-113.
Glen Mannisto, “Desire as Politics: Eight Video Installations at Valade Family Gallery at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit Art Review,
Susan Tommaney, “Coal Miner’s Granddaughter,” Arts, Film, Repertory and Special Screenings, HoustonPressBlaffer, 2015
“Cecilia Dougherty: Coal Miner’s Granddaughter,” Texas Visual Art, Glasstire, 2015
Original program notes for Coal Miner’s Granddaughter, screening at the Pacific Film Archive, September 1991:
“I’m Jane Dobson and this is my damn story.” So begins an off-kilter comedy of sexual reckoning in the seventies. Coal Miner’s Granddaughter uses semi-autobiographical tidbits to dis a dysfunctional family. Lancaster, PA is the opening site for the specifics of the great American breakdown. Jane (played with comic fragility by Leslie Singer) is the quiet, sickly one in a domestic unit comprised of venomous daddy Dobson (Kevin Killian), momma unbearable (Didi Dunphy), and two hapless siblings. Relieved of the family fetters, Jane leaves for college, only to discover that she isn’t attracted to academia, she’s attracted to women. This new-found knowledge takes her to San Francisco where she gets the grand erotic tour, from floor to Sealy. Jane’s sexuality is an expression of her haunted vulnerability. You can read her helplessness in every glinting thigh, every leathery harness. Shot with a low-end camcorder, C.M.G. has the murky look of memory; the camera wanders restlessly as if searching out some truth from Jane’s past. What it finds are Plain Janes with big desires.-Steve Seid
Rachel Del Giudice, “Art of the Real: Cecilia Dougherty, ‘Grapefruit,’ Film Linc Daily, Art of the Real, 2015
Andrew Lampert, “Laboratory: Video by Cecilia Dougherty,” Anthology Film Archives, April 2012, 18.
Kevin Killian, “Cecilia Dougherty: In A Station, Petals,” interview, with Cecilia Dougherty, 2011
Sarah Schmerler, “Cecilia Dougherty, Participant Inc.,” Art in America, review, 2011
Paul David Young, “Bearing Witness: A Week of Performance at CANADA.” Art in America International Review December 16, 2011
Elizabeth Freeman, “Junk Inheritances, Bad Timing: Familial Arrythmia in Three Working-Class Dyke Narratives,” Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories, Durham: Duke University Press, 2010, 21-33.