Among Reza Abdoh’s contributions to the last generation of 20th-century avant-garde theater was his innovative use of technology. The frenetic pacing and pop-culture content of music videos and cable TV informed Abdoh’s theatrical direction, in which he used video on monitors along with choreography, song, and rapid-fire performance to create his polyphonic environments. This program centers on a selection of these “Showtapes,” compiled by Abdoh’s video collaborator Adam Soch (who introduces the July 15 screening). In a given production, footage created in rehearsal would be intercut with film and TV clips, educational videos, political and religious imagery, and photographs. Further overlaid with graphics, video effects, and incongruous music pairings ranging from No Wave to the American songbook, these color-saturated media cut-ups recall pioneering video art collagists such as the UK’s Scratch Video and resonate with the same visual punch and subversive effect. Also presented are two video works by Abdoh, each in their way an exorcism of the body. Sleeping with the Devil (the first work made by Adboh following his HIV diagnosis) is a leveling of American masculinity through a looped, multilingual evocation of Charles Manson’s interview with talk-show host Geraldo Rivera; while Daddy’s Girl is a disturbing mash-up of abuse in which victim, perpetrator, and responding administrator are all awash in violence of some form. Closing the program is The Tryst, a portion of Abdoh’s unfinished second feature, which hints at the themes of intimacy and alienation underpinning the project. This excerpt, set to Jones & Stephenson’s trance anthem “The First Rebirth,” is the sole footage edited by Abdoh and was first shown at the artist’s memorial.
Program approx. 60 min.
Video from the productions The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice, Bogeyman, The Law of Remains, and Tight White Right. 1990–93. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Video design by Adam Soch. 25 min.
Sleeping with the Devil. 1988. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. With Luis Zaldivar, Ken Roht, Michael Whitmore, Anthony Cristian, Paul Durand, Ingrid A., Steve Oglesby. 12 min.
Daddy’s Girl. 1991. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Cinematography by Adam Soch. With Tony Torn, Juliana Francis. 9 min.
The Tryst [excerpt from an unfinished film]. 1995. USA. Directed by Reza Abdoh. Cinematography by Tal Yarden. With Tom Fitzpatrick, Tom Pearl, Tony Torn. 7 min.