This compilation features several of Cohen’s pieces from the late 1980s and early 1990s: a paean to both the physical and mental aspects of the New York City landscape, an exploration of cinematic genres from narrative to music video, a sensual and romantic portrait of swimmers at a water hole, and a sound and image piece inspired by a telephone confession line.
“The Commision is an ambitious narrative in operatic form that blends video effects and electronically manipulated sound with stylized docu-drama. Based on the real-life drama of Niccolo Pagnini, the 19th Century violinist and composer (Ernest Gusella), and his contemporary, Hector Berlioz (Robert Ashley), the work addresses the exploitation of genius, the artist as tragic hero, and the historical exploration of inspiration in the Romantic tradition.”
—Bob Riley, FOCUS: Steina and Woody Vasulka (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1986)
The Trick Pony Trilogy is a series of parodic instructional videos hosted by the artist and a talking mechanical hobbyhorse. Human and pony present lessons on a series of rule-based systems including Texas country dancing, the film editing principle known as the “Kuleshov Effect,” and football strategy. The pony serves as sidekick and foil to Coonley’s stuttering pedantic Everyman, disrupting his academic demonstrations with songs, whinnies and frequent requests to be brushed.
Utilizing a four-way split screen, Divided Alto documents Landry’s improvised flute performance—focusing on the harmonics of the instrument as he plays double and triple chords. The camera centers on the elements that make the music—the mouth and fingers of the musician—as the music moves from counterpoint to synchronization, establishing rhythms that ebb and resurface. The tape is double-tracked in stereo, video, and audio.
Paul D. Miller (b. 1970) is a conceptual artist, writer, and musician better known as DJ Spooky. A popular and prolific recording artist, he has collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Butch Morris, Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Kool Keith, and Killa Priest (of Wu Tang Clan). Miller’s work uses a wide variety of digitally created music as a form of postmodern sculpture.
Drink Deep is a lyrical vision of friendship, hidden secrets, and desires. Cohen uses several types of film image to add texture to the layered composition. Beautiful shades of grey, silver, black and blue echo the water, reminiscent of early photography and silverprints. Cohen says, "The piece was constructed primarily from footage I’d shot of skinnydippers at swimming holes in Georgia and rural Pennsylvania. It’s about water and memory and stories just submerged. It is also, in part, a response to thinking about censorship.
Commissioned for the Ocularis curated Free to Be…You and Me Invitational compilation, which premiered at Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space and also screened at Chicago Filmmakers, where Mercedes Landazuri and I performed a banjo and synth rendition of “It’s Alright to Cry” (the song that followed Dudley Pippin on the compilation).
A fantasia that makes twisted use of elements from the Elektra myth and vampire stories. Imagine a woman listening to Richard Strauss's Elektra while watching Carl Dryer's Vampyr and the dream she might then have that night. The protagonist imagines herself as Elektra. She has an unhealthy obsession over her dead father Agamemnon. She also passionately despises her mother Clytemnestra, as she is the one who murdered her father. Elektra exhumes the ax used to kill her father in his bath.
"The Flag is the second part of a video series about the state-controlled national day ceremonies of the Turkish Republic. Shot during the April 23rd Children’s Day celebrations, which mark the establishment of the new Turkish Parliament, and hence the official demise of the Ottoman Empire back in 1920, this split screen film documents a pompous patriotic performance devised by elders to be performed by children.
This is a colorful fable of many foibles involving a man of the cloth who wishes to shed those accouterments for something of a more sinister fabric. The plot tumbles unrelentingly toward a sci-fi tone when a time machine is thrown into the vivid melange and our anti-hero gets caught up with an ancient soul who has the hots for less ancient hunks. There’s spectacle on a budget and young and old doing their best to put on a big show about the sacred, the profane and the goofy.