In this interview, American filmmaker, teacher, and video artist Peggy Ahwesh (b.1954) delves into the key figures and primary texts that have inspired her work in Super-8 and video since the 1970s. She discusses her early influences as a member of the underground art scenes in Pittsburgh in the late 70s and Soho’s Kitchen in the 80s. Ahwesh’s experimental hand-processing and controversial subject matter can be traced to feminist theory, and her exposure to underground experimental films, including works by Werner Herzog, George Amaro, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and her teacher at Antioch College, Tony Conrad.
Photographer, theorist, and lecturer Victor Burgin lives and works in London. A Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and former Professor Emeritus of the History of Consciousness at University of California-Santa Cruz, Burgin’s work explores the semiotics of meaning in visual art. His books include The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity (1986), In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture (1996) and, as editor, Thinking Photography (1986), Between (1986) and Formations of Fantasy (1986).
In this interview, political and social theorist, Terry Eagleton (b. 1943), shares stories of his Irish upbringing and British education, and sums up his current engagement with art theory, leftist politics, and spirituality under capitalism. With reference to Henry James, Frederic Jameson, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, among others, this interview spans a vast landscape of literature and social theory.
Created in a deadpan presentational style reminiscent of Coonley's faux-instructional "Pony" videos, The Experimental Philosophy Trilogy fuses a farrago of materials appropriated from stock media archives, chroma-key mischief, and simulated audience polls to illustrate recent findings from the burgeoning field of experimental philosophy, or "x-phi." This controversial young discipline, which takes a burning armchair as its emblem, supplants traditional ways of conducting philosophy with empirical research methods borrowed from psychology and the social sciences.
An ordinary living room with a green screen, TV, and domestic cat serves as the backdrop for this DIY introduction to experimental philosophy. The president of a company is considering a vice president's moneymaking scheme. He says, "Look, I know this program will harm the environment, but I don't care at all about that. All I care about is maximizing profits. So let's start the program." The company adopts the policy, and sure enough, the environment is harmed. Now consider a seemingly straightforward question: Did the chairman of the board harm the environment intentionally?
Is Miley more or less happy than June Cleaver? Given very fragmentary information about the lives of two stereotypical figures with identical emotional states, people tend to give strangely asymmetrical evaluations of the two characters' propensity for happiness and unhappiness. An illustration of a controversial study called "The Ordinary Concept of Happiness (and Others Like It)".
An intrepid academic travels the world, asking people if it is OK for someone to stab a friend in order to test the sharpness of a knife. If one person says it's OK and another says it's not OK, can both respondents be right? This video is an illustration of a multi-layered experiment designed to test the claims of several traditional philosophers that non-experts (folk) tend to hold rigidly absolutist views of morality.
A philosopher and intermedia artist, Adrian Piper focuses on xenophobia, racism, and racial stereotyping
“As a black woman who can 'pass' and a Professor of Philosophy who leads a double life as an avant-garde artist, Piper has understandably focused on self-analysis and social boundaries. Over the years her work in performance, texts, newspaper, unannounced street events, videos, and photographs has developed an increasingly politicized and universalized image of what the self can mean.”—Lucy Lippard, Issue: Social Strategies for Women Artists (London: ICA, 1980)
46+ years after Debord wrote "...the heart of the unrealism of the real society...," a nine-year-old child is instructed to repeatedly recite thesis #6 from The Society of the Spectacle. The recitations are re-mixed at one-second intervals forming a fragmented, discursive, strangely optimistic and melancholic chant. Additional audio is provided by the child's playing a Call of Duty: Back OPS game.
The movement’s founder Lois Severin, a former Trotskyite turned suburban housewife, was responding to the move from mass sociopolitical engagement of the 60’s and 70’s to the personal fulfillment fantasies of the 80’s—the Jane Fondaization of the Left. While rightwing activists prepared the ground for the Reagan Revolution, the Inner Trotsky Child movement was an attempt to radicalize the personal fulfillment and self-help scene and prepare the ground for a 21st Century revolution of the mind.