What's the Difference Between a Yam and a Sweet Potato?

Adriene Jenik

1992 | 00:06:00 | United States | English | B&W and Color | Mono | 4:3 | 3/4" U-matic video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: African-American, Food, Humor, LGBTQ, Race, Sexuality

This video was originally part of an installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, part of which included the video collaboration Channels of Desire. Recreating coin-operated porno booths, Channels aired one photo image on seven TVs, interrupted only by the viewer inserting a coin and choosing a segment. The concept behind it was the construction of desire in categorical ways, the form of the piece speaking to sexual desire as something that is constantly evading the viewer. The images presented women’s experiences with interracial, lesbian, and heterosexual encounters. Those Fluttering Objects of Desire also investigates the different construction of sexuality among white and black women, as well as multicultural readings.

"Adriene Jenik and J. Even Dunlap collaborated on What's the Difference Between a Yam and a Sweet Potato? and took the installation instructions about sex to heart: Jenik and Dunlap are rollin' around in bed with their questions, their images alternately moving or frozen on the screen (via the still camera Cheang employed as a mechanism in all the the tapes) as their voices question racial assumptions that both unite and divide them. Jenik and Dunlap felt that the very context of the installation - knowing they'd be one pair among sixteen women contributing - was liberatory: "It allowed us to focus on pleasure." Relieved of the burden of having to be the representative work about race and sex, they could play: with each other, with the subject, with the body and with the color of its flesh, and even the simple (not so simple) names of the food that nourishes it. And play, as with sex itself, can steer a sure route through the shoals of race." 

- B. Ruby Rich, "When Difference Is (More Than) Skin Deep," Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video.


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