Microscope is very pleased to present “Avant-Barb(ie),” a screening of 16mm films, animation, and video works spanning nearly 60 years by artists Pierre Bennu, Ava Bogle, Penumbra Carter, Joe Gibbons, Vincent Grenier, Faith Holland, Jessy Jiao, Lauren Kelley, Lucretia Knapp, Susan Kouguell, Narcissister, and Addie Wagenknecht. The screening will take place both in-person and online.
“Avant-Barb(ie)” acknowledges the many Barbie movies made before the release of the billion-dollar-grossing “Barbie” on July 21, 2023 — and in addition to the well-known “Superstar” by Todd Haynes, which is not included here — as this single doll has a long, consistent history of providing inspiration for artists to make work, in many cases that break with or mark a turning point in their practice.
Using a Barbie doll as herself or in the role of a main character, the works in the program interrogate, subvert, or dismantle the stereotypes surrounding the doll, women, sex, gender roles, as well as offer wide commentary on American society and culture, even while considering the act of playing with dolls as an enjoyable, social or empathic tool.
“Avant-Barb(ie)” also asks: Will Gerwig’s movie spur further Barbie-related investigations, or will it be more of a deterrent, for the film and video art of the future?
Many thanks to Yiran Xu for her assistance with the program.
Pierre Bennu is a multimedia artist working in paint, sculpture, animation, film, digital video, sound art, puppetry and performance. His work explores themes of resilience, nature, self-love, wellness, and intergenerational legacies of creativity, black joy, and liberation. Bennu is the principal creative of exittheapple, an alternative media and arts company. As a multi-hyphenate, his work often blurs lines between genres, crossing boundaries and interrogating silos of creativity.
Ava Bogle is a writer, solo performer, and filmmaker. Her film Meryl Fuckin Streep won Best Short Film at SF Indie Fest and Best Experimental Film at Lady Filmmakers Festival. Her one-woman show The Pleasure Project, about five aliens who believe the clitoris can save humanity, toured the U.S. and Australia to critical acclaim. Bogle seeks to create irreverent, cathartic, and surprising work, and ever since she was a child alone in her bedroom, Barbie has been one of her favorite collaborators.
Since 2007, Elizabeth Holmes has been making Machinima in Second Life. Her avatar name is Penumbra Carter. She uses Second Life as a medium, a material to create art using a virtual reality. Carter has learned how to build virtual installations, as well as use the worlds within Second Life to film and travel about creating machinima (defined as the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production).
Joe Gibbons is a singular figure in the history of American experimental cinema. He is widely regarded for the incomparable, dryly humorous works that he began making in the mid-1970s. At the time, Gibbons was considered a pioneer of Super 8 filmmaking, however he left this intimate home movie format behind in the late 1980s to work in 16mm and video, including Pixelvision which is used in “Barbie’s Audition.”
Vincent Grenier is a native of Quebec City, Canada. In the early 70’s he began to make films in San Francisco where he worked as the programmer for then Canyon Cinema. After moving to New York City he was a frequent contributor to the Montreal art scene of the 70’s and 80’s. Grenier’s experimental films and videos have earned numerous awards, and retrospectives of his works have screened on many continents. He has received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2010 and the Stan Brakhage Vision Award in 2019. He lives in Ithaca NY and teaches at nearby Binghamton University.
Faith Holland is an artist whose multimedia practice focuses on gender, intimacy, and technology. In works that exaggerate our physical and embodied relationships to technologies, Holland uses equal measures of humor and tenderness in sculpture, performance, video, animated gifs, and net art works. Previous solo exhibitions include at TRANSFER (New York/Miami) and at L’Unique (Caen, France). She has also exhibited at venues such as The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), NRW Forum (Düsseldorf), Fotografisk Center (Copenhagen), Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Boulder), Human Resources (Los Angeles), and DAM Gallery (Berlin). Her work has been written about in Artforum, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Sunday Times UK, Elephant, Hyperallergic, Broadly, and The Observer. She has been a NYFA Fellowship Finalist in Digital/Electronic Art, an artist-in-residence at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and Harvestworks, and a finalist for Fotomuseum Winterthur’s
Post-Photography Prototyping Prize. She is the recipient of a 2021 New York State Council on the Arts grant. Faith Holland lives and works in New York, NY.
Jessy Jiao is a writer and multimedia artist from China who graduated from VCU Arts. She tends to use psychological methods to project her experience, observations and thoughts into her artworks, aiming to create authentic and complex East Asian female characters and explore their struggles in the Western world.
Lauren Kelley is an interdisciplinary artist who employs a wry wit when commenting on matters of innocence, race, and girlhood. At the core of her practice is a series of short, stop-motion animated videos that combine clay-mation with her brown, plastic dolls. Stylistically evocative of children’s television programs of her youth, Kelley stages absurd, jittery, and sometimes endearing narratives. These low-tech scenarios occur in her Technicolor dioramas; a plush backdrop in contrast to the flaccid tales of a discontented cast of ingénues. For Kelley, dolls are a vehicle for navigating the space between luxuries and necessities; sweet and unsavory sentiments; Black and non-black worlds. Currently she is developing a body of work inspired by mid-century American history and the grotesque charm of Todd Haynes’ 1987 cult classic, “Superstar:The Karen Carpenter Story.”
Lucretia Knapp is a writer, film and video artist whose work challenges traditional cinematic form. Experimentation is a critical part of her practice, and an investigation of the malleability of the digital medium. She is interested in how we see and show ourselves, how we occupy time and space, and how being present can bring a change. Lucretia has been creating work that involves the communities she has found, and is a part of. Knapp has screened and exhibited at venues that include A.I.R. Gallery; the Directors Guild of America; Frameline; the Wexner Center for the Arts; Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival; OutFest; Mix NYC; MoMA PS1; Akihabara TV, Tokyo; Eiszeit-Kino, Berlin; Chéries-Chéris, Paris and WOFFF, Lewes. Lucretia has taught at Ohio State University, New York University, The School of Visual Arts, The International Center of Photography, Film Video Arts and Dyke TV. Since 2003 Lucretia has been a lecturer at Smith College in Northampton, MA.
Susan Kouguell is an award-winning writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Kouguell’s experimental shorts won many international prizes, and are in the Museum of Modern Art film archives and permanent collection, and were in the Whitney Biennial. Fellowships and grants include MacDowell, Jerome Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, Edward Albee Foundation, Art Matters, Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS), Brooklyn Arts & Cultural Association, Artist’s Space, and a SUNY Purchase Faculty Support Award for her recent experimental documentary feature essay.
Narcissister is a Brooklyn-based artist and performer. Wearing mask and merkin, she works at the intersection of contemporary dance, visual art, and activism. She actively integrates her prior experience as a professional dancer and commercial artist with her art practice in a range of media including live performance, collage, sculpture, video, film, and experimental music. She has presented work worldwide at festivals, nightclubs, museums, and galleries. Her art video “Vaseline” won Best Use of a Sex Toy at The Good Vibrations Erotic Film Festival. In 2013 she received a Bessie Award nomination for the theatrical performance of “Organ Player” and in 2015 she received Creative Capital and United States Artists Awards. Interested in troubling the popular entertainment and experimental art divide, she appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2011. Her first feature film “Narcissister Organ Player” premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018; the European premiere was at the Locarno International Film Festival. Also in 2018 she had a solo exhibition at Participant Inc. gallery in New York. She is a Sundance Theatre Lab 2018 Fellow for the development of a new evening length performance commissioned by the Soho Rep in New York. She was nominated for the ArtPace Residency in San Antonio, Texas in Summer 2019 and her activist short art film “Narcissister Breast Work” premiered at Sundance 2020.
Addie Wagenknecht‘s work blends conceptual art with forms of hacking and gestural abstraction. Previous exhibitions include Centre Pompidou, The Istanbul Modern, Whitechapel Gallery and The New Museum NYC – among others. She has collaborated with CERN, Chanel, Whitney Museum of American Art and Google’s Art Machine Intelligence (AMI) Group. Her work has been featured in numerous books, and magazines, such as TIME, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Art in America, and The New York Times. She holds a Masters degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, and has previously held fellowships at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York City, Culture Lab UK, Institute HyperWerk for Postindustrial Design Basel (CH), and The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.