Discipline & the Moving Image
Presented by Zoe Beloff
June 11th, 2010 @ 6:30 PM
43 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PD
Obedience, Stanley Milgram, 16mm, 1962, 45 mins
Folie à Deux, National Film Board of Canada, 16mm, 1952, 15 mins
Motion Studies Application, 16mm, ca. 1950, 15 mins
Obedience documents the infamous “Milgram experiment” conducted at Yale University in 1962, created to evaluate an everyday person’s deference to authority within institutional structures. Psychologist Stanley Milgram designed a scenario in which individuals were made to think they were administering electric shocks to an unseen subject, with a researcher asking them to increase the voltage levels despite the loud cries of pain that seemed to come from the other room. Milgram saw his test, conducted mere months after Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, as a way to understand the environments that made genocide possible.
Tonight, artist Zoe Beloff pairs Obedience with two earlier works dealing with psycho-social control: Folie à Deux and Motion Studies Application. The former, one of a series of films on various psychological maladies produced by the National Film Board of Canada in the 1950s, presents an interview with a young woman and her immigrant mother afflicted by shared delusions that manifest when the two are together. The latter is an industrial film purporting to present ways to increase efficiency in the workplace: explaining, for instance, a means to fold cardboard boxes more quickly. In stark contrast to the nostalgic whimsy typically associated with old educational films, Folie à Deux and Motion Studies Application play as infernal dreams of systemic power and sources of surprising, unintended pathos.
The concept of ‘motion studies’ is central to cinema itself. Without the desire to analyze human motion, there would be no cinematic apparatus. But the history of motion studies is freighted with ideology. Its inventor Étienne-Jules Marey was paid by the French Government to figure out the most efficient method for soldiers to march, while his protégé Albert Londe analyzed the gait of hysterical patients. From the beginning, the productive body promoted by Taylorism was always shadowed by its double, the body riven by psychic breakdown. We see this in Motion Studies Application and especially Folie à Deux, where unproductive patients, confined to the asylum, understand with paranoid lucidity that the institution is everywhere, monitoring them always. Obedience stands as a conscious critique of these earlier industrial films, co-opting their form only to subvert them and reveal their fascist underpinnings.
Bio: Zoe Beloff is an artist who is particularly fascinated by attempts to graphically manifest the unconscious processes of the mind. She is particularly adept at dreaming her way into the past. Zoe’s work has been exhibited internationally. Venues include: The Whitney Museum, MoMA, The Freud Dream Museum (St Petersburg), Pacific Film Archives and the Pompidou Center