"Young and Restless." (Various Video Artists, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY)

By Jones, Kristin M. | Artforum International, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

"Young and Restless." (Various Video Artists, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY)


Jones, Kristin M., Artforum International


MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

When Jean-Luc Godard showed producers a rough cut of his film Le Mepris (Contempt, 1963), featuring megastar Brigitte Bardot, they were aghast to find the film devoid of nudity and demanded scenes with "BB" in the buff. Godard complied but used distancing devices that included colored filters. While heightening the spectator's awareness of Bardot's status as a commodity - a status echoed in the film's tragic narrative - the filters also rendered her body an integral part of a color scheme at once hypermodern and classical. Based on Contempt, Cheryl Donegan's Line, 1996, does not, the artist maintains, "seek to analyze or critique the Godard film, but to use it as a . . . classical language through which other stories can be told." Donegan borrows Godard's reds, blues, and yellows but references the paintings of Barnett Newman; mimicking the filmmaker as well as the male and female protagonists, she peers through a plastic container, flips through a monograph on Newman, mouths phrases from the film, and paints lines with her foot - invoking a shot that fetishizes Bardot's. In generating parallel/narratives, she suggests her own uneasy relationship to a far from neutral Modernism.

Line's plastic-jug-as-camera gives added resonance to Donegan's vivid simulation of erotic abandon, Head, 1993, in which she pleasures a container spurting milk. Both numbered among the twenty-one videos in "Young and Restless" (organized by guest curator Stephen Vitiello, with Sally Berger and Barbara London), a recent series of works by seventeen artists, all female and all based in New York. Many of the videos had been seen in New York before (or documented earlier performances in the city), but what was arresting about the show was the work's cumulative strength - bearing out the curators' claim that this was "not so much an exhibition about 'youth' as a recognition of a youthful energy that has returned to video." In addition to Donegan's videos, many works - in particular Tatiana Parcero's Life Lines, 1995, Linda Post's Shore and Crack (both 1996), and Nurit Newman's Respite, 1996 - contained echoes of the early days of the medium, recalling performance-based videos by artists like Hannah Wilke, Carolee Schneemann, and Bruce Nauman.

If the influence of '70s video work was a vital thread running through much of the series, an ambiguous, often ironic relationship to television and other electronic media was another. …

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