Critical Writing Index

The Ghost of an Exquisite Corpse

by David Clark

LUX: A Decade of Artists' Film & Video, Fall 2000, pp. 58-76

Toronto: YYZ Books, 2000

David Clark traces definitions of intimacy, "real time", and identity construction from video art history to the contemporary video medium within notions of split subjectivity resulting from Freud's idea of ichspaltung, or split ego, and Lacanian conception of the mirror stage. Drawing the analogy of unconscious thought to the real experience and non-materiality of a ghost, Clark argues that postmodern remaking of canonical video art by contemporary artists (i.e. Kelly and McCarthy's Fresh Acconci) is like watching an "exquisite corpse" unfold.

From early video artwork of Vito Acconci to contemporary applications and appropriation of preceding video artists' techniques, Clark utilizes cinematic, philosophical, and artistic views of performance to show how pockets of transference precipitate invisible influential figures in cultural work. He discusses how the remake is an avant-garde strategy to refocus on the formal and essentialize a preceding artist's image and persona to his or her work. Ideas of intersubjective intertextuality, intimacy versus autonomy, and interpersonal dynamics originating from Ken McMullen's Ghost Dances (1984) and Acconci's early work are filtered through artistic practice generation after generation to add to the discourse of identity construction.

Clark concludes that real time and intimacy are still deliberated and transformatively reinscribed by contemporary video art practice; the usage of video camcorder footage in art marks video role as witness to the real. The subsequent popularization of digital technology after video, such as the internet has also allowed video artists who work within the paramenters of converged technologies (from past and present) to present real time and intimacy as a historical gesture. Clark identifies that video art has developed into an autonomous artistic genre with technical properties and social activities different from other media. However, the proliferation of the internet usage and internet personas will likely increase the emphasis on instability of identity formation.

ITEM 2000.121 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Ghost Dances (1984)Ken McMullen

Theme Song (1973)Vito Acconci

UndertoneVito Acconci

Air timeVito Acconci

Command PerformanceVito Acconci

10-Point Plan for VideoVito Acconci

Fresh AcconciMike Kelly

Fresh AcconciPaul McCarthy

Claim ExcerptsVito Acconci

Focal PointsVito Acconci

ContactsVito Acconci

PryingsVito Acconci

LifeSwapWilliam Easton

3 x 3William Easton

Joan and StephenMonique Moumblow

LiabilitiesMonique Moumblow

Dear Emily and Paul & Paulette: Episode One & TwoGoody B. Wiseman