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Elisabeth Subrin Videoworks

Video Data Bank is proud to present a compilation of celebrated titles by the artist Elisabeth Subrin, featuring four award-winning video works: Swallow (1995), Shulie (1997), The Fancy (2000), and Well, Well, Well (2002), each of which engage conventions of documentary and experimental narrative. Available together for the first time, these conceptual projects work strategically to undermine their own forms, shifting historical periods, genres and identifications to explore the nature of psychological "disorder," the residual impact of feminism and the hazy boundaries between fiction and non-fiction.

In the end, Subrin’s films and videos always return to the sober realization that there are innumerable obstacles to any attempt at understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Her efforts to express the fluidity of truth are vital in an age when new methods of recording experiences and information abound. All too aware of how flawed approaches taint memory, Subrin invents new procedures for chronicling history.

— Nicole Armour, Film Comment, November 2000

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Swallow Elisabeth Subrin 00:28:07 1995 United States
2 Shulie Elisabeth Subrin 00:36:38 1997 United States
3 The Fancy Elisabeth Subrin 00:35:21 2000 United States
4 Well, Well, Well Elisabeth Subrin 00:03:49 2002 United States


Elisabeth Subrin
1995 | 00:28:07 | United States | English | Color | | 4:3 | Video


Based on accounts of girlhood anorexia, Swallow unravels the masked and shifting symptoms that define clinical depression. With a densely layered soundtrack, humorous and painful scenes of potential psychological breakdown reveal a critical loss of meaning, and the failure to diagnose mental illness. Weaving narrative, documentary, and experimental strategies, Swallow intimately traces the awkward steps from unacknowledged depression to self-recognition.

This title is also available on Elisabeth Subrin Videoworks.


Elisabeth Subrin
1997 | 00:36:38 | United States | English | B&W and Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video


"A cinematic doppelganger without precedent, Elisabeth Subrin’s Shulie uncannily and systemically bends time and cinematic code alike, projecting the viewer 30 years into the past to rediscover a woman out of time and a time out of joint — and in Subrin’s words, "to investigate the mythos and residue of the late '60s." Staging an extended act of homage, as well as a playful, provocative confounding of filmic propriety, Subrin and her creative collaborator Kim Soss resurrect a little-known 1967 documentary portrait of a young Chicago art student, who a few years later would become a notable figure in Second Wave feminism, and author of the radical 1970 manifesto, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. Reflecting on her life and times, Shulie functions as a prism for refracting questions of gender, race and class that resonate in our era as in hers, while through painstaking mediation, Subrin makes manifest the eternal return of film."

— Mark MacElhatten and Gavin Smith, Co-curators, Views from the Avant Garde, New York Film Festival, 1997

“It’s a fascinating tape. Not a clone in the end, but a brilliant rethinking of history... Subrin has created a document within a document that makes us remember what we didn’t know, then makes us realize all over again how much we’ve lost. Subrin turns the past into an amusement park attraction for the present, strapping us playfully into our seats, and in the process gives us a glimpse of the video of the future.”

— B. Ruby Rich, San Francisco Bay Guardian

This title is also available on Elisabeth Subrin Videoworks.


The Fancy

Elisabeth Subrin
2000 | 00:35:21 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 |


The Fancy is a speculative, experimental work that explores the life of Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), evoked by the published catalogues of and about her photographs. Structural in form, the video radically reorganizes information from the catalogues in order to pose questions about biographical form, history and fantasy, female subjectivity, and issues of authorship and intellectual property.

“Continuing her exploration of experimental biographical forms, the maker of Swallow and Shulie turns her critical gaze to the life and art of a renowned young female photographer whose early death left behind a controversial body of work rife with psychosexual implication. Rigorously structural in form, this speculative bringing-to-light meticulously sifts physical evidence and sketchy facts in an attempt to uncover the traces of a seemingly suppressed history embedded behind the photographer’s pictures.”

—Nicole Armour, “Disappearing Acts,” Film Comment 36:6 (November/December 2000) 

This title is also available on Elisabeth Subrin Videoworks.

Well, Well, Well

Elisabeth Subrin
2002 | 00:03:49 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video


An experimental video for electro-feminist-performance-artists Le Tigre, the early eighties MTV aesthetic unpacks a thoroughly current obsession: the hidden erotics of office supplies.

This title is also available on Elisabeth Subrin Videoworks.