Consumer culture

1.1 Acre Flat Screen is a 45-minute video about a year-long effort to improve a lot of 1.1 acres of desert land in Utah, which we purchased on September 4th 2002 on eBay. The video starts with ways of finding a lot in the desert, using satellite images, topographical maps, a compass and string. It displays ideas and plans on how to improve the land’s value and documents our preparations to face the unforgiving desert.

2@, 2000

2@ is part of the Pop Manifestos series, a five-video project realized in collaboration with Cokes' former students Seth Price and Damian Kulash, and originally conceived as part of a series for the conceptual band SWIPE.

3#, 2001

3# is part of the Pop Manifestos series, a five video project realized in collaboration with Cokes' former students Seth Price and Damian Kulash, and originally conceived as part of a series for the conceptual band SWIPE.

5%, 2001

5% is a ten-minute work that questions the cult of pop stardom, deconstructs music industry practices, considers the problematics of live performance, and suggests other, more anonymous working strategies.

6^, 2001

6^ is part of the Pop Manifestos series, a five video project realized in collaboration with Cokes' former students Seth Price and Damian Kulash, and originally conceived as part of a series for the conceptual band SWIPE.

Ad Vice, 1999

"Ad Vice consists of a succession of colored projection surfaces with segments of text from the worlds of advertising, sport and popular culture.  These projection surfaces in turn alternate with images of a rock band whose music continuously frames the whole. As regards form and content, the video looks like a commercial, an advertising spot for SWIPE country. The fast changing images, the continual music, and the starting and ending credits refer to it. The viewer is greeted with the words: welcome to SWIPE country... enjoy the sound... make contact...

This music video for the band Julie Ruin, fronted by Kathleen Hanna, formerly of Bikini Kill, critiques the cynical music marketeers of corporate America. Criticism particularly targets campaigns aimed at women, which Benning and Hanna refer to here as the "Girls Rule (kind of) Strategy."

For over two years we made it our business to document abandoned working gloves on the streets of NYC. The feelings and thoughts that surrounded this activity connected to the ways his family relates to Gregor Samsa as a cockroach, or whatever Franz Kafka intended him to be in The Metamorphosis after his transformation from a productive citizen to a useless insect. When Gregor can't grant them a comfortable life-style any longer, his family starts to resent and hate the once loved and respected provider, finds him disgusting.

"The head of a Berlin advertising agency explains his proposed strategy to his potential client, a Danish optical company. The communication strategy that we ultimately came up with as a basis or any creative act or means of communication has three headings. The first is 'relevant, not arrogant'; the second, 'varied, not uniform'; and the third is, 'creative, not pushy'. These are essentially translations, strategic translations of your basic requirements and your analysis of the market, as well."

-- From the transcription of The Appearance

Atomic Ed & the Black Hole tells the story of a scientist-turned-atomic junk collector known as Atomic Ed. More than 30 years ago, Ed quit his job making “better” atomic bombs and he began collecting what he calls “nuclear waste,” non-radioactive high-tech discards from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. As the self-appointed curator of an unofficial museum of the nuclear age called “The Black Hole,” Atomic Ed reveals and preserves a history of government waste that was literally thrown in a trash heap.

Spanish subtitled version available.

®™ark is an organization dedicated to bringing anti-corporate subversion and sabotage into the public marketplace. This updated video compilation includes a glitzy promotion for the ®™ark system (Bringing It All to You!); a behind-the-scenes look at some ®™ark propaganda efforts; an ®™ark PowerPoint presentation concerning "the Y2K bug”; a Danish television report about ®™ark and Hitler; a Boston news report about ®™ark; and, finally, the grand prize winner of ®™ark 1998 Corporate Poetry Contest, reading his winning entry.

MICA-TV creates a video format to express the idea of verticality and optimism common to the work of artists Dike Blair, Dan Graham, and Christian Marclay. Using a 360-degree camera rig to create a seamless revolving background of vertical camera moves, the video integrates the work of these artists who deconstruct and then reassemble elements of our culture to create their work.

Chain, 2004

As regional character disappears and corporate culture homogenizes our surroundings, it's increasingly hard to tell where you are. In Chain, malls, theme parks, hotels and corporate centers worldwide are joined into one monolithic contemporary "superlandscape" that shapes the lives of two women caught within it. One is a corporate businesswoman set adrift by her corporation while she researches the international theme park industry. The other is a young drifter, living and working illegally on the fringes of a shopping mall.

The Videofreex tape a group of young people working on a farm run by Chris Locke and his wife in Shandaken, NY.  After learning how to take care of the chickens, they are taught how to kill and pluck one.  Later they sit down for a communal dinner, and one of the group exclaims "Mmmmm, tastes good!"

 

China Town traces copper mining and production from an open pit mine in Nevada to a smelter in China, where the semi-processed ore is sent to be smelted and refined. Considering what it actually means to "be wired" and in turn, to be connected, in today's global economic system, the video follows the detailed production process that transforms raw ore into copper wire--in this case, the literal digging of a hole to China--and the generation of waste and of power that grows in both countries as byproduct.

"Perhaps Cuevas' most chilling work, Cinepolis forecasts an image-driven invasion of everyday life, picture-perfect and unnoticed. This alien intrusion comes in the form of a fully branded consumerscape that cheerily foists fast food along with the fantasy. Irreverent and biting, Cuevas fights back with the only weapon available--images of the enemy, and the enemy’s images."

— Steve Seid, Pacific Film Archive, 2004

This title is also available on Half-Lies: The Videoworks of Ximena Cuevas.

"Conspiracy Of Lies speaks of the alienation of minorities, of consumer culture, urban isolation and the fine balance between mental order and chaos. The video begins with a voice (my own) recounting the story of the discovery of a series of diary entries and lists written by an anonymous author. When I found the texts, I assumed the author to be a white, gay man, like myself. Through the use of twelve narrators of different race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, I attempted to destabilize my own subjectivity and challenge my pre-existing assumptions regarding difference.

Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 is a re-imagining of scenes from filmmaker Derek Jarman’s 1978 queer punk film Jubilee, starring Susanne Sachsse and Cassils. Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 follows author Ayn Rand (Susanne Sachsse) and members of her Collective, including economist Alan Greenspan, on an acid trip in 1955. Guided by an artificial intelligence named Azuma, they are transported to a dystopian future Silicon Valley.

COOK, 2003

Transcription of voice over from COOK: "I’m a chemist/I’m a cooker/I’m a manufacturer and a distributor/I’ll do whatever the fuck I want in the privacy of my own home." 

A disguised and threatening voice repeats this rhythmic slogan over found footage of meth labs seized by law enforcement. Made in 2003, this video remains eerily relevant, addressing the violent and irrational impulses underlying the American Dream of free enterprise.

County Down is a cross-platform, episodic, digital video, exploring an epidemic of psychosis among the adults in a gated community, coinciding with a teenage girl’s invention of a designer drug. A rave-culture period-piece that harnesses the unwarranted optimism of the 1990s, County Down presents a society so obsessed with novelty and consumerism that it euphorically sews the seeds of its own destruction. Tracking the genesis of our current political climate, the ensemble cast banks on cultural appropriation and a constant din of micro-aggressions.

Uncomfortable journeys through the work and ideas of Christopher Cozier, a leading contemporary artist in the Caribbean. The video presents Cozier's witty and incisive drawings, installations and videos in the context of post-independence Trinidad with its oil-rich economy, complicated ethnic politics, and vibrant cultural forms.

Brave new shopping worlds are being created. What have mall owners, architects, surveillance technicians, and supermarket workers done to turn human subjects into pure streams of consumers, into the perfect inhabitants of shopping mall paradise?

Crush, 1997

Crush is the story of a man who wants to turn into an animal as told by the man himself, and one or two observers. He employs a variety of techniques to transform himself into a beast, including cutting off parts of his body, exercising, swimming; he wants to return to the water, to speed up evolution a little. Has he gone mad, or is he just tired of being human? As the narrator descends into private obsessions, we begin to perceive the distorted outlines of reason which guide his descent.

The language and imagery related to celebrity perfumes (both descriptive and visual) are a starting point to think about consumer desires and the corruptness of branding. Give us your songs, your smells and we will give you everything. The rich get richer, everyone smells poorer.

Dark Sun Squeeze is a darkly meditative exploration of a sewage treatment plant, revealing the hidden rhythms and bizarre journey of raw human waste. The images of flowing waste speak of decay, destruction, of madness inherent in excessive consumption. At the same time they reveal the redemptive side of detritus, its regenerative potential, the sublime that exists in the abject.

“Paweł Wojtasik delivers the final word on the absolute value of news, money, politics and just about everything else.”

-- Holland Cotter, The New York Times, Oct 1, 2004