Christine Tamblyn, in collaboration with Marjorie Franklin and Paul Tompkins, offers a good mix of humor, feminist theory, and pop culture to address the seduction of technology and ways in which women have been depicted within science fiction and conversely faced with a difficult task of penetrating a male dominated techno culture. This self-published CD ROM operates in the domain of the "artists' book" in the same idiosyncratic spirit of those tenacious printed works of the early 70s done on proof presses and xerox machines. In the opening of She Loves it, She Loves it Not: Women and Technology 16 Tamblyn greets us as interlocutor and a devilish puck. The main menu is in the form of a daisy, following the "loves me, loves me not" nursery rhyme but also harkening back to the not so innocent political commercial Lyndon Johnson's handlers devised to stigmatize Barry Goldwater. As we move through the menu, one almost expects a cataclysm at some point. There is no single detonation but a series of chain reactions. Each of 12 daisy pedals represents a thematic loop, for example: ideology, power, other, control, violence, communication, and memory. The combination of 1950s science fiction graphic art, video clips from popular films, written comments on culture, technology and women are combined with personal anecdotes from Tamblyn. These are depicted on the screen as little sealed letters, animated and undulating-beckoning the viewer to get personal. Sound is also important as another editorial device and to keep ones attention in moving through loops. The main daisy menu is announced with the sound of heavy breathing further suggesting the seduction of technology-without reaching a climax, which is part of the point. There is no resolution either to the direction that technology is taking nor to the social issues that surround questions of access, learning and control. Tamblyn's "pedal" labeled "Power" shows "How men use technology to consolidate and extend their power over woman." Fortunately, this CD ROM make a solid effort to counter this prevailing notion.
While Tamblyn looks at issues of women's identity and uses her own persona toward that end, The Residents subsume individual identity within a single name. These San Francisco multimedia artists have been working under this term of postal anonymity for over 20 years. They have now added a CD ROM to numerous records, performances, videos-they probably invented the "music video," but well outside of the commercial genre. To enter the world of The Residents means leaving a lot of our cultural baggage at home and excepting the ridiculous as common and the unexpected as the rule. "Freak Show"17 is no different. This CD ROM, published by The Voyager Company, uses some very sophisticated spatial movement within scenes that are rendered using effective lighting and surface construction. This work combines elaborate fictions, historical information, cinema noir qualities to create an experience where the computer disappears and we become mesmerized by both the story-telling and our own thirst to penetrate deeper into dark, forbidding reaches. "Freak Show" greets the viewer with an old fashioned circus tent, within which we are introduced to the "freaks," human aberrations who are both compelling and foreboding. While one navigates throughout the space using the mouse button you quickly forget the interface-there is an astonishing 3D quality to the images and the illusion of physical movement is quite complete-almost like short tracking shots. In addition to characters like Harry the Head, Jelly Jack The Boneless Boy, and Wanda the Worm Woman, The Residents themselves can be found on a stage which lends a democratic quality to the definition of "freak." Within one tent area a vast history of the 19th century American freak show can be found including Tom Thumb and many lesser-known people. As one moves around the circular tent dropping in to the nine acts, there is one area which we are forbidden to enter. The ring master berates the viewer if one tries to pass the sign with a few mouse clicks. But persistence pays off and we exit behind the tent where the circus trailers are parked. There are many people to visit and stories to be told in dark private spaces. Like Franz Kafka's, "The Hunger Artist," there are many twists to "Freak Show," and all is not as it seems. The Residents' parting comment is typical of the seriousness of their humor: "Life is like a freak show, nobody laughs when they leave."
Reality? Introduction Revolution Satellites Spirit of Invention Nation Building Priesthood and Sisterhood TV Community Old Art, New Look New Art, New Ontology 10_holtzer_shaw.html Interactive Installations Interactive Publishing Art and the Net Truth?
17 The Residents, Freak Show, New York: The Voyager Company, 1994.
18 Pedro Meyer, Truths and Fictions: A Journey from Documentary to Digital Photography, New York: The Voyager Company, 1994. With additional programming in MacroMedia Director by Stephen Axelrad, this CD also functions as the exhibition catalog to a traveling show by the same name curated by Jonathan Green and organized by the California Museum of Photography.