July 13, 2024

UMW Galleries Present Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment

The University of Mary Washington Galleries is proud to host the first exclusively video exhibition at the Ridderhof Martin Gallery. Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment features five groundbreaking moving image artworks from the 1980s by internationally renowned artists.

The exhibition explores feminist videos and films of the 1980s, taking its title and framework from artist and theorist Martha Rosler’s influential essay, “Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment” (1985-86)[1] . Rosler’s essay, first delivered as a talk in 1984, proposes that the utopian moment is at the birth of video art in the late 1960s. Apart from the apocryphal beginnings of video, however, the breadth of this artform and subsequent video art is paid little attention in standard art histories. Focusing on artworks by Cecelia Condit, Ximena Cuevas, Mona Hatoum, Maxi Cohen, Ericka Beckman and Mike Kelley, Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment seeks to counter the prevailing histories of video and art with the diverse experiences and formal languages employed by these artists.

The videos included in this exhibition are within a postmodernist discourse at odds with the critical or explicitly formal modes of the previous generation. The works largely center on specific events or narratives drawn from daily life and individual subjectivity, such as Maxi Cohen’s Anger, giving a voice to those marginalized by society through direct address to the camera. Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance centers on the artist’s relationship with her mother as they are divided by war. Cecelia Condit also uses contemporary events and her own experiences with violence against women to create Beneath the Skin. Antes de la Televisión by Ximena Cuevas as well as Mike Kelley and Ericka Beckman’s Blind Country feature humor, play and absurdity. As such, the videos offered in this exhibition provide an alternative to both modernist formalism as well as a male-dominated canon, which so often go hand in hand.

The exhibition will also feature a special screening on Wednesday, April 20 from 7-8:30 with two additional media artworks, Damnation of Faust Trilogy (video, 1983-1987) by Dara Birnbaum and Mayhem (film, 1987) by Abigail Child.

Video: Shedding the Utopian Moment is on view in the Ridderhof Martin Gallery through April 29.

Rachel Hutcheson, Assistant Curator & Exhibition Coordinator

[1] Martha Rosler, “Video Shedding the Utopian Moment,” was originally delivered as a talk, “Shedding the Utopian Moment: The Museumization of Video,” at the conference “Vidéo ‘84” (Université de Québec à Montréal).