Domination and the Everyday: Videos and Films by Martha Rosler – ​Part III

Domination and the Everyday: Videos and Films by Martha Rosler – ​Part III

Martha Rosler, Domination and the Everyday (still), 1978.

Domination and the Everyday 

Videos and Films by Martha Rosler

Domination and the Everyday: Videos and Films by Martha Rosler – ​Part III
Screening and discussion with Martha Rosler and Nora M. Alter

Admission starts at $5

Date
March 20, 2022, 6–8:30pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
USA

Join us at e-flux Screening Room for Martha Rosler's Domination and the Everyday (1978, 32 minutes), If it's too bad to be true, it could be DISINFORMATION (1985, 17 minutes), Secrets from the Street: No Disclosure (1980, 12 minutes), Chile on the Road to NAFTA, Accompanied by the National Police Band (1997, 10 minutes), Flower Fields (Color Field Painting) (1974, 3 minutes), Because This Is Britain (2012, 3 minutes), Pencicle of Praise (2018, 12 minutes), followed by a discussion between Rosler and scholar Nora M. Alter.

The evening constitutes the third part of Domination and the Everyday: Videos and Films by Martha Rosler,, a three-day program taking place on the evenings of Friday through Sunday, March 18-20 at e-flux Screening Room. The program will present a selection of film and video works by Martha Rosler, and discussions with the artist and invited guests Nora M. Alter, Ernie Larsen, and Shelly Milner. Throughout the three days, a projection of Rosler's silent Museums will eat your lunch (2013, 2 minutes) will be on view at the Screening Room library, where a reading group with Rosler will also take place as a post-script to the program (date and more details to be announced).

See the full three-day program here.

Screenings

Domination and the Everyday
1978, 32 minutes
Rosler calls Domination and the Everyday, with its fragmented sounds, images, and crawling text, an artist-mother's This Is Your Life. Throughout this work, we hear—but do not see—a mother and small child at dinner and bedtime while a radio interview purrs in the background, as a a pioneering L.A. gallerist looks back at California art of the 1960s. The soundtrack moves into overdrive with feedback, a passing train, barking dogs, and a bedtime story. The visuals—all still images—are drawn from television, movies, advertising, and the family album. The sequence begins with a portrait of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and his henchmen, followed by street scenes, movie stills, ads, family snaps, Disneyland. A crawling text, based on the writings of Frankfurt School philosophers, contrasts the dire situation in Chile with the soft domination here at home by mass culture and social expectations of women and the nuclear family. The soundtrack (mother and child, interviewer and interviewee, random interruptions) continues while the image-and-text portion repeats. 

If it's too bad to be true, it could be DISINFORMATION
1985, 17 minutes

In a fusion of text and image, Rosler re-presents the NBC Nightly News and other broadcast reports to anatomize their deceptive syntax and capture the confusion built into the news script. The story is centered on the retracted announcement of a dangerous Cold War event, the purported discovery of MiGs (Mikoyan and Gurevich-designed) high-performance Soviet aircraft, in socialist Nicaragua. The work’s title is drawn directly from a New York Times headline related to this scandal.
This work addresses the fallibility of electronic transmission by pacing through the distortion and absurdities that occur as a result of technical interference. Stressing the fact that there's never a straight story, a character-generated text slides over the randomly erased images, isolating excerpts from the broadcast sound much like a poetic reading and effectively doubling the remnants of the broadcast source. As the work reverts to intact news stories, we necessarily view the “straight stuff” with a new attention, noting their construction from file footage, textual juxtapositions, absurd graphics. In an unedited clip of President Reagan’s portentous State of the Union Address of 1983, we hear him assert that attack is self-defense, among other reversals of common language. A graphic of the entwined flags of Cuba and Nicaragua shows bags of cocaine peeking out, while green dollar bills fly down to Cuba from a “known fugitive,” and a reporter standing in front of a bush goes on to confuse us with two stories hinging on two forms of white powder: cocaine and sugar. The work ends with a shoot-'em-up music-video ad for the Army Guard, sung to bursts of rifle fire. The randomly erased story relating to the MiGs provides a formal analogue for the role of broadcast television in repeating government disinformation and, most particularly, its banally hypnotic, systematic quality. In the play of media information, the formal structure is inseparable from the work’s political analysis. 

Secrets from the Street: No Disclosure
1980, 12 minutes 

Reading the graffiti, the billboards, the cars, and the people of the street as cultural signs and drawing attention to the structure of society's fabric, this work extracts the network of social power and domination, divided by race and class. The work, stemming from the era of the U.S.’s covert wars in Central America, is composed of Super-8 footage shot from a car while Rosler cruised the streets of her predominantly Latino San Francisco neighborhood. Surveilled and unofficially cordoned off, the Mission was a site of both Chicano and Central American agitation but also touted as an exotic shopping district for the rest of the city. The work’s soundtrack features radio snippets, in Spanish, announcing the victory of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and an insistent voiceover that asks whose culture is reported in the press and whose must take place in the street, reframing what the dominant culture calls “trash.” Unusually for Rosler’s work, it liberally employs music: the '50s rock'n'roll adopted by the local Low Rider subculture, and more militant contemporary tunes. 
Optically reshot from projected Super-8 film, its flow of streets in perpetual motion periodically pauses, while small distortions are also introduced into the soundtrack; as Rosler has done in several works, however, the images continue while the voiceover text repeats. At the end of the work, this eminently local work presents the local cable announcements from Vancouver, B.C., where the work was edited. 

Chile on the Road to NAFTA, Accompanied by the National Police Band
1997, 10 minutes

The low hills fronting the main California road artery of Highway 5 exhibit a beautiful spectrum-like pattern of stripes formed by the fields of flowers being grown there for commercial sale. The camera zooms in from a paused vehicle across the highway, revealing workers, many of them very likely to be undocumented, stooping in the fields—but barely noticeable to cars flying past at highway speed. Later, in a run up Highway 5, the immigration police at their mobile roadblock pass by in a flash, as does a mobile Bank of America banking facility, roadside hitchhikers, and people riding horses. The road trip ends among the palm trees and glowing sunset of a Southern California night.

Flower Fields (Color Field Painting)
1974, 3 minutes, silent

The low hills fronting the main California road artery of Highway 5 exhibit a beautiful spectrum-like pattern of stripes formed by the fields of flowers being grown there for commercial sale. The camera zooms in from a paused vehicle across the highway, revealing workers, many of them very likely to be undocumented, stooping in the fields—but barely noticeable to cars flying past at highway speed. Later, in a run up Highway 5, the immigration police at their mobile roadblock pass by in a flash, as does a mobile Bank of America banking facility, roadside hitchhikers, and people riding horses. The road trip ends among the palm trees and glowing sunset of a Southern California night.

Because This Is Britain
2012, 3 minutes

A ribbon of phrases swirls by, plucked from Prime Minister David Cameron’s August 2011 speech in Oxfordshire addressing the riotous events in several cities following the shooting death of Mark Duggan at the hands of London police. Selected phrases condemning the insurrectionary behavior of residents emerge from the stream of Cameron’s speech, punctuated by images of ordinary passersby, youths at a job center, looters, and police, as well as the riot “wombles”—good citizens who showed up to clean up the mess. We see a famous (formerly embargoed) photo of Eton’s Bullingdon Club in black-tie attire, a group whose members include several high-ranking Tories including Cameron and Boris Johnson. The reel ends with portraits of two highly placed former journalists: Andy Coulson, Cameron crony and former official, and his sometime boss and paramour, the Murdoch confidante Rebekah Brooks, both under indictment for phone hacking, most sensationally the 2002 hacking of the phone of the missing 13-year-old schoolgirl Millie Dowler, later found dead—which permanently brought down Murdoch’s scandal sheet The News of the World. The last image of this video, made for airing on Britain’s Channel 4, shows a tent at Occupy London.

Pencicle of Praise
2018, 12 minutes
Vice President Mike Pence eagerly played cheerleader-in-chief for Donald Trump. In accepting the vice-presidential nomination in 2016, Pence proclaimed, “I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican—in that order,” neglecting to mention “American” but suggesting how we might understand his role on the political stage. This ground-breaking, earth-shaking video begins with a pomp-ridden but poorly stage-managed press conference, accompanied by uplifting music, in particular “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” foregrounding war and the Lord. Many young, white female staffers are in attendance, parked on the lawn with other attendees and behind an immense array of television cameras. Held in June 2017 at the White House Rose Garden, the event showcased the President’s announced withdrawal from the historic Paris Climate Accord. In later scenes, Pence and other minions enact pious gratitude, deference, and obeisances on behalf of the President. The video ends where we began, at that fateful Rose Garden conference, as on-air television personalities do standups. With the Vice President lurking in the shot, the video finally launches a takeoff. Just don’t look up!
The renditions of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the U.S. national anthem in this work were part of the Rose Garden broadcast, which both begins and ends the video. The kazoo, like the incursions into the televisual images, is an unauthorized eruption.

On view at the library

Museums will eat your lunch
2013,  2 minutes, silent
In this silent video, still images of stores and residential build­ings along a stretch of the Bowery in New York City appear in a stream within a cutout template, based on the “giftbox heap” silhou­ette of the New Museum, newly located on the Bowery. As these images of shiny storefronts, dwellings, and official Certificates of Occupancy of the “new Bowery” of the twenty-first century go by, set phrases rel­ating to the merits and demerits of museums roll desultorily down from above to below.
This silent video was commissioned by the New Museum for a street festival but barred by a ruling of the City of New York, which prohibits the projection of words on buildings except in certain designated corridors, as they might be taken for advertising.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Subject
Video Art, Experimental Film
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Domination and the Everyday: Videos and Films by Martha Rosler

Martha Rosler utilizes various media in her work, primarily video and photography, and also installation and sculpture; she also writes about art and culture. Her work has for decades considered matters of the public sphere and mass culture; war and geopolitical conflict; housing, urbanism, and the built environment, and systems of transportation—especially as these affect women. Many of her projects have been extrainstitutional or developed and enacted with groups of people. Rosler sees her work, her teaching, and her writing as continuations of a broader engagement with the currents of cultural critique and social and political change. Her work may best be summed up as both a conceptual art and an activist practice—focused on questions of representational form but joined, however uneasily, to a commitment to political agitation. Video, which she adopted in its infancy, presented itself as at the crossroads of both. Rosler spent the 1970s in California and Canada. In 1980, she returned to her native Brooklyn, where she lives and works.

Nora M. Alter is a scholar of comparative film and media arts at Temple University. She has published widely on German and European Studies, Film and Media Studies, Cultural and Visual Studies, and Contemporary Art. Alter has written on a wide range of contemporary artists and filmmakers. She is author of several books including Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage (1996), Sound Matters (2004), Chris Marker (2006), and most recently The Essay Film after Fact and Fiction (2018). She has written the companion essay to the Video Data Bank’s Martha Rosler Crossings. Alter has a forthcoming book on Harun Farocki.

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