Video Humanism: Multimedia masks that "amplify as well as conceal"

NYT article about the compelling work of multimedia artist Gillian
, whose tough-to-watch video work called Trauma is now on
display at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary
. Screenshot from the video at left. Excerpt:

"In one of the video's eight short scenes, a middle-aged woman sits before
the camera, her face obscured by a shiny plastic mask of a sad-faced child and
a blatantly synthetic wig. It is a laughable disguise, but her words are not
funny. In a pained, quiet voice, the woman recounts being molested by her grandfather
as a young girl every Sunday for several years, an ordeal that ceased only with
his death.

The mask alters the revelation in a fascinating way, both buffering and intensifying
its dreadfulness, creating the conflicting desire to hang on every word while
also pulling back to decipher the visual power and artifice of the scene. The
mask is delicately tactful, yet deadening. It respects the speaker's need for
privacy, yet it executes a weird, surreal transformation, turning the speaker
into a kind of freak… Yet the masks' crude but effective magic can trigger
hope and giddy delight, feelings that often signal the presence of good art.

In these days of reality television and confessional talk shows, when Family
is played for real, Ms. Wearing has managed to do something new with
the ever-volatile combination of people and cameras. Making a few easily discernible
technical adjustments or adding accessories, she separates voices from faces,
souls from bodies, inner thoughts from outward appearances in a process of masquerade,
ventriloquism and displacement, drawing the viewer into a complex emotional
web. At her best she slips rather raw chunks of real life into pristine envelopes
clearly marked 'art' while keeping both hands on the table."

Link to museum web site, Link to NYT article (registration required) Discuss
(Thanks, Reverse Cowgirl!)