A Screening as part of George Kuchar
Thursday, August 1, 7:30pm
Living Inside, 1989, 5 min, video
Me and Rubyfruit, 1990, 5 min, video
If Every Girl Had a Diary, 1990, 8 min, video
A Place Called Lovely, 1991, 14 min, video
Girlpower, 1992, 15 min, video
Selected and introduced by Kris Cohen
Sadie and George. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where the hell the idea came from. Kris Cohen. We borrowed it from his Reed College class on Video Art. Kris teaches a section of his class about George, Sadie Benning, and intimacy. In an email to us, Kris wrote, “In 1989, Sadie Benning was a 16 year-old with a Fisher-Price Pixelvision camera making videos on cassette tapes in her bedroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ostensibly about youth, sexuality, and queer life, these early videos underscore how radical imaginaries are intimate with—even parasitic upon—conventional love plots; how attempts to build new worlds in the 80s and 90s assembled themselves through the screens of a hectic commodity culture peddling sex, happiness, belonging, and the cheap cameras that would record the various failed unions of those desires.”
Kris Cohen is Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities at Reed College. He teaches and writes about the historical relationships between art, economy, and media technologies, focusing especially on the aesthetics of collective life. His current project, entitled Never Alone, Except for Now addresses these concerns in the context of electronic networks.
Sadie Benning lives and works in NYC. She has had solo exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; Dia Art Foundation, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY and Orchard Gallery, NY. She also co-founded the rock band Le Tigre, incorporating many of the concerns of her video practice into their music.Thanks to Maxwell Smith-Holmes and Dorothy Howard, our first research fellows. Their contribution to all our programs, especially this one, is no small thing.
“In 1987 a low-cost and lightweight video camera that could record moving images on a standard audiocassette appeared in toy stores. The PXL 2000, or Pixelvision, was mass-produced and marketed by the child-focused Fisher-Price, and at $100, it was the cheapest self-contained camcorder ever made. With a molded plastic body powered by six AA batteries, it was also significantly lighter than any other moving image camera on the market in the late 1980s. In some ways, the PXL 2000 was an early glimpse of a world in which cameras can go anywhere and be operated by anyone.
Today Pixelvision is a unicorn: rather than a mass cultural phenomenon, the format is now a pre-digital memory. Marketed to teenagers with the slogan “You’ve always been heard, but now you can be seen,” the imagery produced by the PXL 2000 was a pale shadow of the glossy and colorful TV commercial that heralded its arrival. The camera’s technological appropriation of audiotape for video recording resulted in an extremely lo-fi aesthetic, grainy and high-contrast. Video requires far more data than audio tape is designed to hold: about four minutes of footage could be recorded on a single cassette with a resolution of 100 vertical lines at 15 frames per second. The degraded quality probably contributed to the camera’s commercial failure. It would have been hard to convince a teenager enthralled by the saturated color and slick editing of commercial television (the kind at work in the Fisher-Price ad campaign) that the PXL 2000 offered an adequate substitute. Production and marketing of the device stopped in 1988.” Megan Heuer, Rhizome