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Aileen June Wang

(b San Leandro, CA, Feb 3, 1972).

American performance and video artist of Chinese ancestry. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1994. She showed her first solo exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, in 1999. Her body of work focused on how people can be deceived, either through sight—what one sees is not necessarily true—or through mainstream assumptions about such topics as Asia, sexuality, and socially accepted behavior. Chang attributed her past stint in a cybersex company as the catalyst for exploring illusion as a theme. She realized that video flattened three-dimensional, live performances into a stream of two-dimensional images, enabling her to engage in visual deception.

Most of Chang’s early works investigated problems of gender and sexuality, using her own body and elements suggesting violence or transgression. The photograph Fountain (1999) depicted her inside a cubicle of a public lavatory, with a urinal visible on the far wall. Wearing a business suit, she knelt on hands and knees, seemingly kissing herself but actually slurping water off a mirror on the floor. The accompanying video focused on Chang’s face and her passionate interaction with her own reflection. While the photograph suggested female humiliation in a male world, the video complicated matters by implying that the act was motivated by narcissism....

Article

H. Alexander Rich

(b Honolulu, HI, 1966).

American video artist and sculptor. Pfeiffer exploited the latest in computer and video technology to examine the overwhelming power of mass media. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute (1987) and his Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College in New York (1994). He participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (1997–8) and, among his many prizes and fellowships, was awarded the Whitney Museum’s Bucksbaum Award (2000).

Pfeiffer was born in Honolulu and grew up primarily in the Philippines but moved to the continental United States to pursue a career as an artist. Although he began producing his art in New York City in 1990, it was not until his breakthrough showing at the 2000 Whitney Museum Biennial that Pfeiffer was officially “discovered” by the art world. Even in his earliest works, he demonstrated a keen eye for the contradictions inherent in a world both dominated by celebrity culture and in which images define the ways people look at and interact with each other. Although photography, video and computers ostensibly connect people and transmit information as directly as possible, Pfeiffer dedicated his art to upturning these faulty assumptions about the veracity of what we see. Again and again, His work reveals his fascination with the ways in which the human image can be conveyed, distorted and fetishized through the mass media....

Article

Marita Sturken

Culture of images and visuality that creates meaning in our world today. This includes media forms such as photography, film, television, and digital media; art media such as painting, drawing, prints, and installations; architecture and design; comic books and graphic novels; fashion design, and other visual forms including the look of urban life itself. It also encompasses such social realms as art, news, popular culture, advertising and consumerism, politics, law, religion, and science and medicine. The term visual culture also refers to the interdisciplinary academic field of study that aims to study and understand the role that images and visuality play in our society; how images, gazes, and looks make meaning socially, culturally, and politically; how images are integrated with other media; and how visuality shapes power, meaning, and identity in contemporary global culture.

The emergence of the concept of visual culture as a means to think about the role of images in culture and as an academic field of study is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in the late 1980s and becoming established by the late 1990s. There were numerous factors that contributed to the idea that images should be understood and analysed across social arenas rather than as separate categories, including the impact of digital media on the circulation of images across social realms, the modern use of images from other social arenas (such as news and advertising) in art, and the cross-referencing of cultural forms displayed in popular culture and art. It was also influenced by the increasingly visible role played by images in political conflict and a general trend toward interdisciplinarity in academia....