Martha Rosler - Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained; Losing: A Conversation with the Parents (1977)

Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained
1977, 39:20 min, color, sound

This chilling tape, "operatically" conceived -- but neither a musical nor a documentary -- probes the objectification of women and others in a technological/bureaucratic society. At its core is a long, continuous shot that reveals the part-by-part measurement and evaluation of a woman by a white-coated male examiner and a chorus of three women assistants. How do we come to see ourselves as objects? How do fragmentation and comparison assist in social control? This ordeal of scrutiny thinly alludes to a monumentally protracted episode of Truth or Consequences. The final sequence presents re-framed government photos of women being measured, accompanied by a voiceover litany of "crimes against women." Rosler's distanced depiction of the systematic, institutionalized "science" of measurement and classification is meant to recall the oppressive tactics of the armed forces or concentration camps, and to underscore the internalization of standards that determine the meaning of women's being.

Video: Brian Connell. Post Production: John Baker. With: Phil Steinmetz, Darrell Westlake, Adele Shaules, Pam Wilson, Dana White, Martha Rosler.

Losing: A Conversation With The Parents

1977, 18:39 min, color, sound

This distanced narrative, which approximates a soap opera or a TV interview of bereaved relatives of a victim, confronts two means by which food is used as a weapon: the internalized oppression of self-starvation as a consequence of social learning (anorexia nervosa), and starvation because of poverty and economic domination. In a scenario that merges documentary elements and theatrical acting, an impossibly young couple is addressed by an unseen questioner. "Interviewed" in their plush living room, the parents struggle to make a connection between food and political oppression, moving from their confrontations with anorexia to starvation in Third World countries, where food is often a weapon of political subjugation. They juxtapose but never resolve these dual questions of power and powerlessness. Rosler exposes underlying social realities, from the family dynamics of lying and contradiction, to the phenomenon of dieting and starvation in the creation of an ideal female self in contemporary culture.

With: Susan Lewis, Peter Hackett. Video: Brian Connell. Post Production: John Baker.

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