In 50 Blue a young man (the artist’s brother) pushes an elderly disabled man (the artist’s father) in a wheel chair through a muddy landscape. It is a long and exhausting trip to an unknown destination only discovered at the end. After an arduous struggle the two arrive at the edge of a grey lake where a 10-meter high guard tower stands. The young man ties the wheel chair to a rope and hoists the old man up on the tower platform with the help of eight men, all dressed in yellow plastic raincoats.
Donigan Cumming’s improvisational style traverses the boundaries of tragedy and comedy, drama and documentation. In After Brenda, Cumming redefines the genre of popular romance. His abject hero is Pierre, a fifty-something male who has lost everything in the name of love. He is homeless and adrift, an unwanted guest with nothing to offer but a tale. After Brenda searches the hearts and rooms of his audience, seizing the evidence of sex, love, and survival.
alexia is an experimental video about word-blindness and metaphor. Word-blindness is a condition that usually afflicts people who have suffered a stroke, causing them to lose the visual recognition of individual letters but perceive the entire word, or vice versa. Metaphor is here discussed in its function to reveal and obscure perception. Divided into five short sections, the video draws a pattern with the motif of the finger and the moon to ruminate on language and blindness.
amaurosis is an experimental documentary about Dat Nguyen, a blind guitarist living in Little Saigon, Orange County, California. Dat Nguyen was a "triple outcast": blind, Amerasian, and an impoverished orphan. His American father left Viet Nam in 1973, and his mother died in 1975. Living on the streets of Saigon, he sold lottery tickets for food money. At the age of 12, Dat met a classical music teacher who was also blind and who taught him to read Braille as well as supported him.
Through the testimonies of five women, this video lays out the complex problem of anorexia, detailing how the disease develops as a response to both personal and societal pressures. The common thread in these accounts is how the disease clusters around a need to control one’s body, and how not-eating becomes a way to gain that control, with anxieties and frustrations being displaced onto a negative obsession with food.
This absurdist, microscopic film noir follows the activities of an underground network of ill people, desperate to create alternative methods of self-care in a world where natural resources are disappearing. While examining the meaning of health, disease, and well-being in the post-industrial world, Apple Grown In Wind Tunnel imagines the development of a culture at the margins, linked by illicit radio broadcasts, toxic waste sites, the highway, and ultimately by the overwhelming desire to find a cure.
In this interview, American cartoonist and author Lynda Barry (b. 1956) describes the philosophy of teaching that has inspired and mobilized her art since the 1970s. For Barry, the connection between gesture and thought collide in drawing and expose the therapeutic possibilities of art. Whether teaching undergraduate art students or prison inmates, her goal is to help others develop art making skills as an “external immune system” that will protect and monitor their emotional and mental health.
In Birth of a Candy Bar, the young people who worked on the video participate in a pregnancy prevention and parenting program at Henry Street Settlement in New York City. The title of the video comes from a poem that comments on sex and birth by way of names of candy bars. ("...nine months later she had a Baby Ruth.") Poetry, fast-action music, dancing, interviews, statistics, street scenes, and docudramas are combined in segments written, taped, and produced by each participant—personalizing the problems of teenage pregnancy and assessing its causes.
In The Body Parlor, both man and sheep as combined sacrificial bodies become subjects of biological investigation. As symbols of ritual sacrifice, they are bodies that give of themselves. In discovering new forms of health-care (regenerative medicine) and tissue engineering (such as stem cell research), the body becomes sacrificial material for the greater purpose of a social good. The performers employ the material objects, either as products of or as extensions of the body as a way of exploring giving from one's self in sacrifice.
Body Prep helps fortify and support the body during any level of activity—low, medium, or high intensity. It compares various alternatives to weightlifting with natural and artificial light sources. Exercise is explored through the change of seasons.
In his signature photographic style, Donigan Cumming eulogizes a dying friend through his exploration of “culture” in all its manifestations: 1. culture: a particular civilization at a particular stage 2. culture: the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group 3. culture: all the knowledge and values shared by a society 4. culture: the growing of micro-organisms in a nutrient medium 5. culture: the raising of plants or animals.
In these two videos, Cumming investigates the worlds of a pair of abject heroes, Colin and Pierre, one a recovering alcoholic, the other an addict. One talks angrily about his former addiction and of the sacrifices he made for the “romance” of a life on the street. The other has lost everything in the name of love, and now tells the tale in a manner both tragic and comedic.