Barbara Kruger

  • Private eyes and their parts: prime-time sex crimes.

    GIRL/BOY CRIME-BUSTING DUOS have sleuthed their way through decades of black-and-white mystery films and color caper movies and are now a staple of prime-time TV programming. From Mr. and Mrs. North in the ’50s to Moonlighting, the genre has functioned not only as a pleasurable mix of sneaking and sexing, but also as a succinct barometer of the dispensations of the duo: of what is shared and who is slighted and how all this defines the division of labor. Early examples of the genre required the couple to be hitched, exceptionally solvent, and unusually susceptible to the scenes of crimes. In

  • “The Killing Floor”

    The Killing Floor, 1985, is the first in an upcoming series of films concerning the American worker. Entitled “Made in U.S.A.,” this ambitious project is the brainchild of Elsa Rassbach, who not only functioned as executive producer of The Killing Floor but also did much of the historical research, wrote the original story, and assembled the film’s formidable cast and crew. Rassbach believes that “the history of working people is very much American history,” and her proposal is to reinsert, through the documentary film, what has been deleted from the narrative depiction of America’s economic

  • Television

    DECIPHERING WHO’S REALLY WHO in TV’s world of substitutional histories and circuitous ventriloquisms is a game that hardly anyone wants to play. Things are accepted at face value, at the surface of the screen, because the audience thinks this scrim of fascination is all the medium has to give. And the scrim is usually more than enough. Offering itself up as a rest stop for wandering eyes, the tube offers a parade of personalities masquerading either as other personalities or merely as themselves. Neither real no illusory, they appear and disappear at the flick of a switch, controlled by some

  • Roger Deutsch, Dead People and Jews

    Before the widespread use of photography, painting (and, to a lesser extent, drawing and sculpture) was the means by which people recorded their appearance for both “now” and later. These documentations swelled the ranks of the portraiture genre and coupled the vanity of the present with a necrophilic regard for the future. Gloating in their jewels and fine tailoring, the dead stare out at us, highlights bouncing off the tips of their noses, peach light caressing their plump cheeks. But deterring us from our fascination with their subsequent rot and disappearance are the institutionalized esthetic

  • Waiting for Gloria.

    PERHAPS THE MOST OBVIOUS feature of any rhetoric of realism is its offering of assurance: its suggestion that “yes, this is the way things look.” The illustration of the seemingly real lets us know where we stand, what side we’re on, and who’s winning. As long as sides are being taken and good battles evil, as long as stories are climaxed and laws enacted, we can continue to think that we’re in the neighborhood of ethics, principles, and truth.

    We look at television. Its delivery of conventional narrative via soap operas, sitcoms, and miniseries comforts the viewer with the recreation of

  • Television, the permanent guest—we’ll be right back.

    A WELL-OILED BICEP fills the screen and flexes to the strains of the already ancient “Purple Rain:” It’s sort of an orange color and, in this extreme close-up viewing, totally unrecognizable as a swatch of human anatomy. It mobs the viewing aperture and looks like a cross between a slab of fatty bacon and kryptonite approaching its melting point. It is then quickly replaced by a talking roll of toilet tissue which pleads with members of a family to “touch” it. The rotund glob of needy, animated paper gives way to an “anchorman,” a somber talking head who reports a catastrophic plane crash. We

  • Tosca’s Kiss, directed by Daniel Schmid

    Casa Verdi was founded in Milan by Giuseppe Verdi as a home for retired opera luminaries. He referred to it as his finest work, and, indeed, for the past 83 years it has provided benevolent shelter for those who have enlivened Italy’s concert halls. In the film Tosca’s Kiss, 1984 (recently distributed in the US), Daniel Schmid focuses his camera on the goings-on at Casa Verdi, capturing the stubborn culminations of lives left slow-dancing to the choreography of memory. The past reigns here, issuing its hegemony through old photographs, recordings, steamer trunks, and walls papered with

  • “Recoding Blackness: The Visual Rhetoric of Black Independent Film"

    “Recoding Blackness: The Visual Rhetoric of Black Independent Film” was a collection of recent film and video works curated by James Snead. According to Snead, the ideological coding of blackness suggests a condition of submissiveness, lacking, and absence: a continual “otherness” that exists only to substantiate the power and pervasiveness of whiteness. And, of course, it is this very whiteness that constructs and colors the ideological code.

    The films and video presented here were divided into three programs, the first of which worked to “clarify the effects that codes have on the self-image

  • “Our Marriage,” directed by Valeria Sarimento

    Valeria Sarimento’s Our Marriage (1984) is a film about a father who marries his daughter. But not really. Actually, it’s a scrutiny and demi-reenactment of filmic melodrama which works to expose how the genre’s soggy machinations perpetuate convention. But not really. Actually, it’s about a man who sells his daughter because he can’t afford her hospital bills. Well, not really. Actually, it’s about all this and more. Like the films of Douglas Sirk, Our Marriage partakes of a type of contextual mutation, a chameleonic procedure which varies greatly from spectator to spectator, from venue to

  • Mark Rappaport

    During the ’70s Mark Rappaport directed a number of films that can be seen as comedic homages to misinformation, missions impossible, and mistaken identities. Though varying in narrative specificity and construction, these films seem to coalesce into a continuous stream of visual and verbal gambits which seem intent not on telling us something but on telling us everything and nothing. Eluding characterological particulars and conventional closure, they stick together pieces of stories and act like thesauri of circumstances—crazy quilts of mismatched paragraphs strewn amid the lives of their

  • “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality”

    The films included in the “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality” exhibition are clearly not the same as those produced by corporate Hollywood. There are no stories of adorable boy hoodlums overtaking entire high schools, no renegade cops undermining police bureaucracies by virtue of their sheer wit and cuteness, and no square-jawed private eyes navigating through a miasma of calculating jiggle. Rather than showing sexuality in an immutable, natural state, the films suggest a socially constructed sexuality, a perpetual shifting of positions, voices, and bodies only biologically fixed to

  • Steve Fagin, “Virtual Play”

    Her face adorns the cover of a book. She wears a direct gaze, adamantly askew hair, and a full, welcoming mouth, all of which are framed by a fur collar. The book is The Freud Journal of Lou Andreas-Salomé and it is she who covers it. The blurb beneath the title reads, “A fascinating glimpse at Freud and his circle in the early years of the twentieth century.” So Lou Andreas-Salomé is the one who glimpses, who (according to Webster’s definition) gives us faint, passing appearances or inklings. The glimpse is that which shines unsteadily; the intermittent glow and not the beacon. The glimpse is