Exemplary Lives

March 1998

The authors and their projects:

Jennifer Reeder gives us “White Trash Girl”, the protagonist of the videos The Devil Inside and The Law of Desire.

“White Trash Girl” is a super-heroine born in a sewer, the result of a rape. Their she develops her superpowers (her bodily fluids are toxic) and a great strength which lets her avoid ever becoming a victim. Her body works without inhibitions, doesn´t reject its functions and converts into powers all that has none. She is a heroine whose body, manners and language defy traditional notions of “good taste.” As such “White Trash Girl” is a project about the search for personal power as an effective way of creating a criticaldiscourse on issues of class, gender and race. To articulate this discourse Jennifer Reeder uses the female body to defy social conventions, assuming that the body symbolizes the social, and as a result control of the body is a symbolic expression of social control.

Sadie Benning was a lesbian adolescent student when she began filming her “diary” with a toy video camera. This situation, these recordings she has made for years in the privacy of her room, and this camera, are the fundamental references in the work of this video artist. Through her work, Sadie Benning perceives that, in an image filled world, none has been offered with which she can identify, a problem common to all “so-called minorities”, whose representation in media is invisible or distorted. Her videos place us within the fight to be one´s self, to defend oneñ´s difference and the intimacy conferred by the fact of being. In A Place Called Lovely she presents us with a racist and homophobic America. Allusions to the unnerving proximity of fire arms are mixed with violent images from Psycho, ending with a scene in which Sadie Benning, wearing a long blond wig, smiles stupidly in front of a U.S. flag. The following year she made It Wasn´t Love, where she explores different identities, reviewing media types like the gangster, the blond singer, etc. The sadness of her first videos is replaced by celebration and theaffirmation of her identity. About Girl Power, made that same year, Sadie benning says “this video deals with desire and sexuality and also is about being a girl. I´m a lesbian, and I´m not about to ignore that, but its not the main focus.” In this video Benning illustrates her personal rebellion against school, family and the conventions of being a woman, and transforms the image of the traditionally passive young woman into another which defends a radical independence.

Jennifer Reeder. The Devil Inside. 8', 1995. USA.

Sadie Benning. A Place Called Lovely. 14', 1991. USA. 

Sadie Benning. It Wasn't Love. 20', 1992. EE.UU. USA. 

Sadie Benning. Girl Power. 15', 1992. USA. 

Jennifer Reeder. The Law of Desire. 17', 1997. USA.

  • Jennifer Reeder - Sadie Benning