“The Feeling of Power”: Bodies of Resistance
Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is a New York-based resource dedicated to fostering the creation, exhibition, distribution and preservation of moving image art. EAI’s archive of over 3,800 moving image artworks spans the 1960s to the present, from seminal video art works by pioneering figures to digital works by new generations of artists.
This program, drawn from EAI’s archive, features four artists—Anthony Ramos, Carolee Schneemann, Robert Beck, and Sondra Perry—who deploy diverse moving image technologies and conceptual strategies to give voice to notions of cultural resistance and political action. In works that date from the 1960s to the present, these artists employ metaphoric devices such as direct performance and mass media appropriation to respond to the urgent cultural conditions and events of their time. In each of these works, the body represents a charged site for their investigations. Tracing an arc from 16mm film and black-and-white analogue video, through the 8mm camcorder to digital software, these works also speak to the evolution and meaning of moving image technologies as tools for artists’ political engagements. The history of video art is inextricably linked with the history of video activism. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, video was seen as a potentially radical art-making tool. Reproducible and mutable, with the possibility of widespread, democratic access that was at odds with the aura of the unique art object, early video carried with it the idea of an “alternative” paradigm that articulated a countercultural, often transgressive sensibility. Early video collectives, as well as pioneering individual artists, deployed the portable ½” Sony Portapak equipment as a weapon with which to “talk back” to the mainstream media and culture.
Almost fifty years later, a new generation of artists is advancing this legacy in the digital era, exploring the body and its representations—particularly as refracted through race and gender—in relation to current digital technologies and interfaces to reflect on their cultural and political meanings. Across five decades and through evolving technologies, these artists chart resonant investigations into the expressive power of media as a tool for resistance.