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Alix Pearlstein’s Program notes

Alix Pearlstein's videos are performance based, abstract narratives. Generally presented in installation as large-scale projections, they are often accompanied by photographs. Though she has performed in many of her pieces the newer works are driven by collaboration with professional actors. They are concerned with the psychological tensions of primary relationships and social constructs. Pearlstein received her B.S. from Cornell University and her M.F.A. from SUNY Purchase. One person exhibitions of her work include The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Grossman Gallery, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Lugar Commum, Lisbon, Postmasters Gallery and Artemis Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York. She has presented her work in the Video Viewpoints Series at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as well as in group exhibition there. Other group exhibitions include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Haus der Kunst, Munich and SMAK, Ghent. Her works have been broadcast on Channel Thirteen, New York and Channel Four, U.K. and have been screened at numerous Festivals including Transmediale, Berlin, the World Wide, Amsterdam, InVideo, Milan and Pandemonium, London. She is currently on the faculty of The School of Visual Arts and the Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, New York. She was born in New York, where she lives and works.

List of tapes to be screened during her talk:

Two Women (2000, 2:20 Min., Color / Sound)
Two Women combines intimacy and distance to foreground the problematic of desire and mass media. The piece juxtaposes a live male performer with a magazine cutout of a nude woman, which is hung in the foreground. This creates an illusion through depth of field, which continuously shifts the scale relationship as the camera sways back and forth. The soundtrack contrasts two distinct female voices- one’s responsive moans and sighs, which are simulated by sound effects, and the other’s voiceover of coaxing directions. This implies the presence of another, possibly ‘real’ woman, one whose role as participant or director remains ambiguous. Her suggestions, directions or commands at once address the live performer and the viewer, imploring their complicity in this suspension of disbelief and seduction.
Embrace (2000, 2:20 Min., Color / Sound) 
Embrace is an abrupt tragicomic scenario of a crash and burn love affair. As in many a May-September romance, this piece ends almost as soon as it begins. The sequence of embraces, each slightly different in their mood and intensity, are like a series of waves without crescendo, instead only increasing weariness. They are accompanied by the reiterated refrain from the beginning of the Carpenter’s song "Superstar", suggesting the ersatz emotionality and temporality of those first fleeting moments of passion. The piece abruptly shifts into the man’s distorted, hysteric plea to the viewer. Once the lyrics finally begin and end, we are left with just one side of the story, and the consequent void.
Conversation (2000, 4:00 Min., Color / Sound)
Conversation is a dialogue between two people who are never actually together, never occupy the same space, and never really communicate. It presents a series of fragments and glimpses into a highly charged emotional terrain, which seems largely delusional. In this artificially constructed and reflexive relationship, communication lies in the pre-verbal interstices, the gaps in between. Here conflict finds no resolution, only moments of respite as the character’s roles as instigator or recipient are continuously in flux. The only constant is in their insistence on circularity as we question the nature of their relationship, their conflict and whether or not it exists outside of their own heads.

Damn Spot (2000, 2:50 Min., Color / Sound)
In Damn Spot we see a man first stalking, then attacking a purple spot. The spot is simply that, a circle of purple paper, which hangs in front of the camera. As such, it functions as an abstraction, a representation of the "the other", a foil for his rage and desire. His attempts to grasp it, are repeated to the point of frustration, along with lyrics from The Who’s "Tommy"; see me, feel me, touch me, can you hear me . . . can you? The lyrics implore the man to continue his efforts, seemingly taunting or daring him to make contact.

Episode (2002, Two Channels, 10 min. each, Widescreen Format, Color/Sound)
Episode, a two-channel installation, presents a group of four characters acting "as if" they were a standard nuclear family unit: mother, father, daughter and son. Through a series of eight scenes they act out the dynamics of familial relationships, exposing the underlying complexities and subtleties. The scenes depict the formative attachments and experiences that shape our behaviors throughout life, from modeling behavior to conflict, discipline, rivalry and affection. The nuances of the interactions reveal  that no family is standard, wholly functional or dysfunctional, but rife with contradiction both humorous and sad.

Forsaken (2003, 10:00 min., Color/Sound)
Forsaken presents a group of six characters, with one being the center of attention. He appears to be a combination of celebrity, guru, teacher, political leader, boss and provider. The others appear to be fans, devotees, constituents, employees, caretakers and dependent relations. In the first three scenes actions play out that depict this hierarchy, while revealing tensions beneath the surface. The piece climaxes in the fourth scene with the cathartic undoing of this codependent power structure. The group forsakes him, humiliates and discards him. Their decisive abandonment does not imply  that a new or improved structure will emerge, but that power has been exchanged and nothing has really changed- and the cycle begins again.


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