Aging

2015
I'm Dying

I once read a story about the Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche in a book by death-teacher, Steven Levine. Trungpa went into his son's room and said to him, "I'm dying." And then he said to his son, "You are dying too." This story made a deep impression on me because death is the last taboo, the hidden boogey-man, the unspeakable. It was a beautiful lesson in impermanence this father gave his son.

1998
Karaoke

An ailing, elderly man listens to a private performance in his room. The singing is a halting mix cross-cultural-Inuktitut and Country & Western. Transgressive and mesmerizing, Karaoke distorts the landscapes of sound and body.

In Inukitut.

This title is also available on Donigan Cumming: Controlled Disturbance and Donigan Cumming Videoworks: Volume 1.

2002
Language Lessons

Language Lessons entwines the search for the fountain of youth with the dream of a common language. The fountain both promises and frustrates eternity, while this dream offers hope for common ground. The lessons, made vivid by watery, elemental images and multiple voices, suggest that communication remains at the limits of our imagination.

Music by Pamela Z.

2014
Living Art Dying Art

In the late 1990’s I presented a slide lecture on how my art references impermanence and dying. In 2014, video artist and editor Tobe Carey scanned the slides from the lecture and we collaged together the spoken narrative, images both of my own work and also of death rituals from many different cultures, creating an Endgame-like collage. There are images from my study in Benares at the Burning Ghats, images from my film Mitchell’s Death, and descriptions of ways that my work and death seem to be close cousins.

2003
Lock's Way

Locke’s Way is the photographic path to knowledge, full of twists and turns, treacherously steep. What has happened down here? A family’s photographs tell us everything and nothing about the subterranean past. "One of the central questions of philosophy has always been: what can be known? Locke’s Way provides a vivid illustration of this perennial philosophical dilemma. In this short video, Donigan Cumming is preoccupied with the story of his older brother, who seems to have been brain-damaged and spent much of his life in institutions.

2000
Loss Prevention

Loss Prevention combines documentary and fiction to tell the story of Irene, arrested at the age of 79 for stealing a bottle of aspirin from a Miami Wal-Mart and sentenced to ten weeks of Senior Citizen Shoplifting Prevention School. Narrated through the voice of her daughter, this film explores the alienation of aging and the evolving relationship between a daughter and an elderly mother.

1990
Madam Dante's Inferno

A lonely dowager's last, desperate fling at reactivating her long dormant libido leads her on a path toward depravity and lurking danger.

1998
Making the Crystal Quilt

From The Crystal Quilt performance, Suzanne Lacy, Phyllis Jane Rose, Nancy Dennis, Sage Cowles, Minneapolis, 1987.

1990
Marx: The Video

Kipnis describes this tape as "an appropriation of the aesthetics of both late capitalism and early Soviet cinema—MTV meets Eisenstein—reconstructing Karl Marx for the video age.” She presents a postmodern lecture delivered by a chorus of drag queens on the unexpected corelations between Marx’s theories and the carbuncles that plagued the body of the rotund thinker for over thirty years. Marx’s erupting, diseased body is juxtaposed with the “body politic", and posited as a symbol of contemporary society proceeding the failed revolutions of the late 1960s.

2015

"Every object in the room will outlive him. The aspirin bottle is two hundred miles away and his robe is in another time zone."

—Mike Kuchar

2018
Susan Mogul "Mom's Move"

Part bio, part memoir, Mom’s Move is an intergenerational film about mothers and daughters, women and photography, remembering and forgetting, and the tension between women’s private and public selves.

Rhoda Mogul, housewife and mother of six, was a lifelong avid amateur photographer.  Her creative drive – though confined to the home – had a major influence on my public life as an artist and filmmaker.

2007
Mother

A Timeless subject that is not immune from Time.

2001
My Dinner with Weegee

In My Dinner With Weegee Donigan Cumming weaves together two life stories. The central figure, a man in his seventies named Marty, remembers his experiences in New York as a young Catholic labour organizer and peace activist, his friendships with David Dellinger, the Berrigan brothers, Bayard Rustin, Weegee, and James Agee. This mixture of first-hand knowledge and gossip brightens Marty’s dark passage—he is old, sick, depressed, and alcoholic.

2016
My Mother, Artist and Teacher

My mother's life and death were both extraordinarily epic. A painter who art therapized herself out of depression. Her resiliency could have rewarded her with a Badge of Courage; alchemizing trauma into art, activism and humor. Modeling these gifts for me, I look at our lives which could have been charted and copied page for page, letter by letter, and I recognize that I have imitated her style, not missing a beat.

— Linda Montano

2018
Richard Fung, Nang by Nang

Nang has lived outside the box. Born in a Trinidadian village in 1934, she grew up poor, illegitimate, mixed-race and female, but she survived by defying convention. She left the first of five husbands when he cheated on her. With no formal training, she danced with choreographer Geoffrey Holder, who later won Tony Awards for The Wiz.