Eleanor Heartney - 1998
What is the relationship between desire and action? To what extent
Does society dictate our life choices? Have meaningful roles and
Relationships become impossible to construct?
In these two new video works, Iranian born American artist Elahe
Massumi considers these and other questions.
Longing explores self-inflicted Pain.
A man and a woman, each attractive and apparently well adjusted, search
For their soul mates. They recount the efforts they have made - through
Personal ads, classes, trips and other staples of the dating life - to find
Someone to share their lives with.
But the viewer, reading beneath the surface narrative, begins to
Sense another story. The young man concludes, after citing the failure of his
Search for the ideal woman, that "When I think of it, I don't want to get
Married." The young woman dismisses her dating partners with disparaging
Epithets. Despite earnest assurances of their desires for commitment, its
Hard not to conclude that the real barrier to intimate relationships is there
The visual and audio components of the video enhance this conclusion.
Snippets of the two characters and intermingled with scenes of the city - the
Glitter of Times Square, the flux of the street, the fleeting encounters of
The outdoor cafe- provide a metaphor for the shifting, center-less interior
Lives of the young urban denizens.
By contrast, Mine is a two part work which Suggests how adoption challenges conventional definitions of self and family.
Part 1 focuses on Annemarie, a woman who has been the foster parent for two
Daughters of the same crack addicted mother. She recounts her frustrated
Efforts to adopt the two girls in the face of an adoption policy that
Privileges the rights of birth parents, no matter how irresponsible, over the
Childrenšs desires and best interests.
Part 2 shows the other side of the coin - a young woman, happy in her
Adoptive family, who is curious about her birth mother. Stymied in her
Efforts to get information from the adoption agency, she wavers between
Longing to make a connection and fear of the disruption it may cause.
Mine's protagonists are thwarted by the impersonal and impenetrable
Rules of adoption policy.
Together, Longing and Mine, suggest how modern society has
Destabilized traditional roles. Bereft of old models, some, like the foster
Mother and adopted daughter, forge new ones. Others, less resourceful, find
Themselves unmoored and adrift in a world where individualism has made
Genuine relationships a distant dream.
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Eleanor Heartney is an art critic and curator based in New York who is a regular contributor to Art in America.