Archive for the ‘video art’ Category

Get Us Out From Under

February 4, 2008

I’ve been feeling skeevy over the Demonlover pics of a bound Wonder Woman that I’d uploaded last week, so, to counter the appropriation of Wonder Woman for Olivier Assayas’ evil, Gallic, purposes, I decided to dig out some early video art I collected years ago.

After digging a while, I ended up finding what I was looking for, namely Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman from 1978. Her video mix of moments from the Linda Carter Wonder Woman show stuff is pre-Youtube, dating back from when someone could call him or herself a “video artist” without embarrassment. You were still being pretentious, but there was some street cred in the pretentiousness. I’ve never had any interest in the Wonder Woman comic, but the tee vee show was monumental. I fondly remember fagging out in in the roller rink and doing Wonder Woman twirls as a little kid to the excruciated mortification of my brother.

The video is about the “stuttering” steps every “real” woman can take to symbolically transform into a superhero. It’s pretty commonplace now to take images from the mainstream media. What I like about it is how she uses condensation, fragmentation and repetition — all elements from dreams — to produce the structure of the video. It’s a dream where Wonder Woman cuts her own throat in the mirror, passes through the looking glass and changes out of work clothes, but more importantly changes into her fabulous cocktail party outfit. While sub-text emerges from the stutter-step progression of the video, Birnbaum also picks out the aspects of Wonder Woman she finds useful by spelling out the lyrics to “Wonder Woman in Discoland” — an awesome, ghetto-sounding song full of insinuation, “Wonder Woman, get us out from under.” (If anyone has an mp3 of this song, I’d appreciate a copy).

Ice Pick

Birnbaum was one of the pioneers of early video art, but this is unfortunately the only full-length piece by her I’ve ever seen. Youtube has some small clips, and I’d read that this is listed online as being 24 mins. If there’s a longer, “complete,” version out there I’d like to be made aware of it, though this 5 minute one is probably it. I’m glad. 24 minutes would get seriously annoying.


I also dug out and watched some Martha Rosler videos, including my favorite “Semiotics of the Kitchen,” which is basically Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxuelles on crack.

Back to Wonder Woman, this weekend I watched Matt Ogens’ Confessions of a Superhero. Since it’s the opposite of Birnbaum’s video, it focuses on people taking the superhero icon and using it to beg for spare change. Formally, it’s all about nearly freeze-framed composition, taking another route than that of a frenzied dream. It’s irresistible inasmuch as it’s a beautiful looking documentary and it’s about a bunch of superhero panhandling crazies. I’ll probably discuss it and post representative screen caps in another post.