Like many contemporary artists, Peggy Ahwesh incorporates a critical dimension of art and media into her work, a personal reading of psychoanalysis and feminist theories, as well as a penchant for deconstructing and disorder. She has always practiced the art of hybridization: through films and videos both disruptive and entertaining, she mixes the personal and the theaterical, the profane and the human. By asking questions about gender, language and representation, Ahwesh integrates various mediums (Super 8, 16mm, Pixel-vision), eclectic genres (documentaries, theater pieces, sequences), and cultural references to all sorts of things all while rejecting the rules of classic narrative. The scripts of her films and videos (which, moreover, voluntarily display the quality of amateur films taken over by the Dogme brethren) are as disjointed and chaotic as real life. I leave you with a selection from her work:
From Romance To Ritual
Seen from above, a very ebullient woman digs and scratches at the earth to give us a show-and-tell tale of the megalithic site at Avebury. A bit tongue in cheek, like playing around in the most prehistoric of sandboxes that is a backyard, but not far from the truth in its reading of the erasure of matriarchial societies from traditional histories.
Based on a story by Bataille, The Deadman is made in collaboration with Keith Sanborn and charts the adventures of a nearly naked heroine who architects a salacious orgy before going back to the house to die. A combination of slovenly defilement, barbaric grandeurs and lots of elegance.
“A response to Pee Wee’s Playhouse, focuses on the girl child, grappling with the fluidity of gender roles as she role-plays with her toys.” – Peggy Ahwesh
“A psychological horror film built on the conflicts of a woman tortured by the ambiguity between reality and illusion, dream and desire.” – Peggy Ahwesh
Re-editing footage collected from months of playing Tomb Raider, Ahwesh transforms the video game into a reflection on identity and mortality. Exchanging the rules of gaming for art making, she brings Tomb Raider’s cinematic aesthetic to the foreground, and ducks the pre-programmed “quest” of its heroine, Lara Croft. Ahwesh recognizes the intimate relationship between Lara and her player/handler. Moving beyond her implicit feminist critique of the problematic female identity, she enlarges the dilemma of Croft’s entrapment to that of the individual in an increasingly artificial world.
The Third Body
Here Ahwesh interlaces an appropriated film depicting the arrival of Adam and Eve to an exotic Eden with VR demonstrations; a hand shadowed by artificially generated renders, surgery bots operating, and people in bulky VR sets navigating virtual spaces. Cyberspace here adds to Genesis a third possibility as suggested by the title, a Virtual Reality existence that tests the very limits of social definitions of gender and mortality itself.
Beirut outtakes is a collage of electrifying visions stitched from scraps salvaged from a closed Beirut movie house.
Ed Halter writes in the Village Voice: “Outtakes appears to be a ready-made, albeit one tailor-made for Ahwesh’s career obsessions, pre-filled with her signature elements: gleeful disruptions of high and low, affection for decayed textures, a peeping eye for lurid sexuality, and a fascination with unlikely images of the Middle East. Just one sequence of a go-go-booted belly dancer wriggling in an Arabic-language cinema advertisement for home air conditioners alone has the power to shatter more stereotypes than 500 pages of Edward Said.”
“Working through my archive of accumulated video footage, I pretended it was found footage from anonymous sources. What began as a tribute to Bruce Conner of the period of Valse Triste and Take the 5:10 to Dreamland, with their deliberate pace and bittersweet memory of home, ended as a dedication to my father as I wound my way through miscellany with distance and another aim.” – Ahwesh