Marina Abramović • The Onion


© Marina Abramović, The Onion, 1996 – 20:00 mins

watch excerpt

The first shot is a close up of Abramović looking upward and holding a large onion. Her fingernails are painted bright red, just like her lips. Slowly she brings the onion closer to her mouth, taking a large bite from it and beginning to chew. Her voice-over keeps repeating the following as she devours the onion: ‘I’m tired of changing planes so often, waiting in the waiting rooms, bus stations, train stations, airports. I am tired of waiting for endless passport controls. Fast shopping in shopping malls. I am tired of more career decisions: museum and gallery openings, endless receptions, standing around with a glass of plain water, pretending that I am interested in conversation. I am tired of my migraine attacks. Lonely hotel room, room service, long distance telephone calls, bad TV movies. I am tired of always falling in love with the wrong man. I am tired of being ashamed of my nose being too big, of my ass being too large, ashamed about the war in Yugoslavia. I want to go away. Somewhere so far that I’m unreachable, by telephone or fax. I want to get old, really, really old, so that nothing matters any more. I want to understand and see clearly what is behind all of us. I want not to want anymore.’

As she is complaining, Abramović is noticeably agitated by eating the raw onion. Her eyes are tearing up, her saliva is dripping out of her mouth as her lipstick is rubbed off and bits of onion layers stick to her face. Her chewing is slowing down, but she continues to take ferocious bites from the onion while the voice-over continues. In certain respects, ‘The Onion’ shows familiarities with early performances like ‘Art must be Beautiful, Artists must be Beautiful’, in which Abramović is violently brushing her hair and face while reciting the title of the piece. As the early performances revolve around mental and physical limits of pain, ‘The Onion’ resumes Marina’s dedication to idea of the inseparability of body and mind by challenging apparent limitations of physical stamina. The video is also part of the 16-channel installation ‘Video Portrait Gallery’ (Abramović 1975-2002).

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Gary Hill • Mediations, 1986

“The beginning of a remake of an earlier work [Soundings, 1979] in which I wanted to extend the reflexivity of each text in relation to the interaction between different physical substances—in this case, sand—and the speaker cone. A loudspeaker fills the screen and I begin to speak, referring to the speaker itself. This is followed by more declarations of what I am doing, ‘…a hand enters the picture….’ A hand filled with sand enters the picture and slowly releases it into the loudspeaker’s cone. Every nuance of speech vibrates the speaker’s cone (or membrane), bouncing the grains of sand into the air. The more I speak about what is happening, the more it changes—or feeds back into—the movement and patterns of the sand. At times the grain of the voice seemingly merges with what is experienced as ‘sand.’ The hand allows more and more sand to trickle onto the loudspeaker until the cone is no longer visible. The timbre of the voice crackles and is radically muffled. When the speaker is completely buried, the voice sounds distant but remarkably clear.” – Gary Hill

Colin Campbell

Born in Reston, Manitoba, 1942, Colin Campbell studied at the University of Manitoba (BFA) and Claremont Graduate School in California (MFA), then taught at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, where he made his first video works. He moved to Toronto in 1973 and taught first at the Ontario College of Art, now the Ontario College of Art and Design, and then, beginning in 1980, in the Department of Fine Art at University of Toronto. Campbell died of cancer in October 2001 and is greatly mourned by friends and colleagues.

Canada’s premier video artist and author of over fifty titles, Campbell was active in the artist-run centre movement in Canada, a founding member (and for many years president) of Vtape independent video distribution. He curated video and performance programs in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Rio de Janeiro, and published texts in FILE and Fuse magazines, as well as the artist’s books The Woman from Malibu (1978) and Modern Love (1979), commissioned by Art Metropole, Toronto. A retrospective exhibition, Colin Campbell: Media Works 1972–1990, was mounted by curator Bruce W. Ferguson for the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1990, and toured nationally the following year. Campbell received the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 1996.

Colin Campbell represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and at biennial exhibitions in Sao Paulo in 1977 and Istanbul in 1992, as well as at OKanada in Berlin (Akademie der Künste, 1982) and Documenta in Kassel, Germany in 1977. He exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris), the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), and at museums and galleries elsewhere in Europe and throughout Canada and the United States. His video and film were included in the television series Ghosts in the Machine (Channel Four Television, London) and Video Art Vidéo (TVOntario) and aired on Vision Television (Toronto). His work has been screened at the Melbourne Film Festival, British Film Institute Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Festival of Festivals (the precursor to the Toronto International Film Festival), the Chicago International Film Festival, and elsewhere.

– Peggy Gale, excerpted from her text “About Colin Campbell” on the Video Art in Canada Website (Vtape/Virtual Museum of Canada, 2006)

http://www.vtape.org

Martha Rosler: “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975)

Semiotics of the Kitchen adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration in which, Rosler states, “An anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated ‘meaning’ of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration.” In this performance-based work, a static camera is focused on a woman in a kitchen. On a counter before her are a variety of utensils, each of which she picks up, names and proceeds to demonstrate, but with gestures that depart from the normal uses of the tool. In an ironic grammatology of sound and gesture, the woman and her implements enter and transgress the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings — the securely understood signs of domestic industry and food production erupt into anger and violence. In this alphabet of kitchen implements, states Rosler, “when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression.”

Electronic Arts Intermix
http://www.eai.org

Hollis Frampton • (nostalgia), 1971

“In (nostalgia), Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton’s comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience.” – Bill Simon

maya deren: meshes of the afternoon (1943)

A solitary flower on a long driveway, a key falling, a door unlocked, a knife in a loaf of bread, a phone off the hook: discordant images a woman sees as she comes home. She naps and, perhaps, dreams. She sees a hooded figure going down the driveway. The knife is on the stair, then in her bed. The hooded figure puts the flower on her bed then disappears. The woman sees it all happen again. Downstairs, she naps, this time in a chair. She awakes to see a man going upstairs with the flower. He puts it on the bed. The knife is handy. Can these dream-like sequences end happily? A mirror breaks, the man enters the house again. Will he find her?