The Agony and the Irony: Video Art by Jeanne C. Finley and Dale Hoyt
Jeanne Finley is, among other things, a chronicler of the dizzying variety of forms that human gullibility can take. There is the charming ingenuousness of Ms. Ramona Barraras, "a tiny contemporary woman" who, while rolling her husband's burrito, saw the pained visage of the Savior peering out of a tiny brown spot in a tortilla and made scandal-sheet headlines (I Saw Jesus in a Tortilla, 1982, 3:30 mins). There is the more dangerous credulity of people in power portrayed in Common Mistakes (1986, 15 mins, Color): In mock-documentary style, Finley humorously delineates the fine line between "error," "blunder," "accident" and "fallacy," illustrating this with diagrams and educational film footage. It's all a cover for sheer stupidity, whether the wrong-thinking leads to spilled milk or the Three Mile Island meltdown, and the familiar voice of authority suggests both complicity and victimization of the individual in relation to the big issues of racism, environmental pollution, and imperialism. Misguided parents haunt Finley's tapes: In Deaf Dogs Can Hear (1983, 5:20 mins), "a true story," a child's first pet chihauhua suffers the family trials in the worst way, and this same dour humor is applied in Risks of Individual Actions (1985, 11:50 mins, Color), where again in mockumentary style, the pain of losing a loved one is charted in graphs and discussed in relation to other catastrophies or unconscious acts which may shave hours or years off our life expectancy. Flowered walls, a child's room, tiny chairs around a toy globe: Finley searches a home for signs of life while shadow cut-outs describe, clinically, the symptoms of human emotions. Accidental Confessions (1987, 5 mins, Color), premiering tonight, utilizes outtakes from Common Mistakes to comic effect, combining them with found footage of stock-car races and similarly futile human endeavors. ~ Videotapes by Jeanne C. Finley. (Total running time: 40 mins, Tapes from artist) In The Complete Anne Frank (1985, 36 mins, Color), Dale Hoyt has dared to render the seemingly inviolable Diary of Anne Frank as a "psychedelic soap operetta": audacious? iconoclastic? bratty? Not really. The Complete Anne Frank is a more faithful reading of Anne Frank's ordeal than might be imagined. It is irreverent, but purposely so: Hoyt wanted to give back to the Anne Frank of the diaries some of the dignity she has lost in becoming a sacrosanct icon, and he did it in the way he knows how. The text, taken from Anne's diary "Kitty," is shot as a teleplay on cluttered Kucharesque sets of vivid colors, lurid angles, squalid images. Four actresses portray Anne Frank, further defeating our natural attraction to the très triste. Moreover, the tape is littered with the debris of contemporary media fallout: Anne's "Hello Kitty" diary, Kevin Collins' freckled face on a milk carton, shots of animal fascism and terrified tots from The Birds. But it's all strangely relevant to a portrait of youthful claustrophobia and the psycho-sexual tensions of family life, and the extreme cruelty to children that seems to fester in a time of general crisis. The Complete Anne Frank is about complete domination, complete usurpation-of image and soul. Hoyt, who was born in Auburn, New York and lives part of the year in Rochester, returned to his roots to make Braille (1986, 15 mins, Color). It is an interview with his father, Wilbur Hoyt, who happens to be the Muzak maven of Rochester. Wilbur shares his feelings about this thing that is "more than music-a positive environment," and tells of the "stimulus progression format" that makes Muzak what it is. It's "not to be listened to," he admits, and finally, neither is Wilbur: Dale augments his father's narrative with his own lurid, painterly interpretation of nature-the blue-green grass and purple skies of Rochester.