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More than Fifteen Minutes of Fame

The Changing Face of Screen Performance


Ken Miller

More than Fifteen Minutes of Fame tracks screen performance’s trajectory from dominant discourses of realism and authenticity towards increasingly acute degrees of self-referentiality and self-reflexivity. Exploring the symbiotic relationship between changing forms of onscreen representation and our shifting status as social subjects, the book provides an original perspective through international examples from cinema, experimental production, documentary, television, and the burgeoning landscape of online screen performance. In an emerging culture of participatory media, the creation of a screen-based presence for our own performances of identity has become a currency through which we validate ourselves as subjects of the contemporary, hyper-mediatized world. In this post-dramatic, post-Warhol climate, the author’s contention is that we are becoming increasingly wedded to screen media – not just as consumers but as producers and performers.


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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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