Surveying Condit’s videos from the 1980s up to 2017, the screening program will expand the focus beyond her most well-known macabre feminist tales, Beneath the Skin (1981) and Possibly in Michigan (1983), to include more recent, visually lush, installation works, such as the three-channel Within a Stone’s Throw (2012). Condit will introduce the program and take questions from the audience following the screening.
Cecelia Condit’s early video works are dissonant fairy tales set in a grotesquery of suburban America, a potent signifier for the insidiousness of oppressive social conventions. Female identity, as it is informed by conventional attitudes towards marriage, childbearing, aging and beauty, is a key concern for Condit, who counters these attitudes with dark humor. An almost whimsical tone – Condit’s use of a storyteller’s inviting cadence, sometimes sweetly sung – is set in striking contrast to narratives of murder and cannibalism, and themes of bodily violation and decay.
Condit studied sculpture at the Philadelphia College of Art, and studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she shared a class with David Lynch, who encouraged her to transition to filmmaking, mirroring his own evolution from painting to moving images. There are other intriguing points of comparison, including a shared interest in the odd stories lurking beneath the banal surface of the everyday, and the use of an indelible formal style, with careful attention paid to sound, texture, composition, color and form. The effect is something of a surreal waking dream.
Distinguishing her work is Condit’s attention to her own identity and experience. Speaking of her approach to genre in an interview with the online magazine River’s Edge, she states: “As a child I found fairy tales fascinating. As I grew up and grow older, I find that making fairy tales, contemporary ones, gives me tremendous artistic freedom. I like the narrative unpredictability, the shape-shifting and the slight touch of feminism. I discovered a book of drawings I had made when I was a little girl. In it, there were pages and pages of crowds of people, young and old, and everyone was a woman. Even at age ten I was trying to define what was the female identity in myself. Perhaps with a twin brother, I had difficulty defining what it means to me to be a woman.”
The program reveals an arc in her career from domestic situations and settings to more global concerns, quite literally in World(2012), while establishing consistent themes that are deeply personal for the artist. At the center of the screening, Condit’s intimate portrait of her mother, Annie Lloyd (2008), will be paired with the more mythical Within a Stone’s Throw, which she filmed in the haunting landscape of coastal Ireland following her mother’s death. The installation features a monumental Condit, dressed in a red dress, as a vibrant lone figure in the sodden grays and blues of the seascape.
Approximate runtime: 63 min.