The Changing Face of Screen Performance
CHAPTER FIVE: Sadie Benning and Jonathan Caouette 175
175 CHAPTER FIVE Sadie Benning and Jonathan Caouette Sadie Benning and Jonathan Caouette are two filmmakers who create screen performances that interrogate the self, document the self, play out versions of the self, and/or simply revel in the narcissistic urge to exhibit the self. Benning’s ‘Pixelvision’ video productions made mostly during the 1990s,1 and Caouette’s documentary, Tarnation (2003), utilize images and sounds in the creation of complex inter- plays of autobiography and fiction in their performance of identity, or, rather, a multiplicity of identities. In the works of both Benning and Caouette, we can see examples of the creative use of cameras and screens that vividly demonstrate how the construction of contempo- rary identity is intimately tied to images, media and performance. Their works — and their creative aesthetics — have emerged from a range of influences including experimental and avant-garde cinema and the content of mainstream popular culture, indicating a postmodern sensibility that can be said to contain fertile mixtures of media aware- ness, irony, self-reflexivity, and theatricality. In some respects the rela- tively minimalist and work of Benning is in contrast to Caouette’s al- most overwhelmingly rich collage of images and sounds. At the same time, though, the work of both screen practitioners clearly anticipates our expanding media universe of so-called ‘user-generated content’ in which increasing numbers of young people now express themselves (and perform themselves) via cameras and audio-visual screens. Sadie Benning: Coming Out with a Camera Sadie Benning is a highly regarded American video artist/filmmaker.2 Her early...
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