Art Voice on Looking Is Better Than Feeling You

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Interview in Art Voice for "Looking is Better than Feeling You"
Interview in Art Voice for “Looking is Better than Feeling You”

Looking Is Better Than Feeling You

Jan Nagle
Art Voice
Dec 5, 2002


Astria Suparak, a 24-year-old NYC-based curator, is coming to Squeaky Wheel this Friday with Looking is better than feeling you, a program of contemporary video, audio, and animation by women. The show features work by Kathy High, a former Hallwalls video curator, Miranda July, Kirsten Stoltmann, and Shannon Plumb, among others.

The work chosen by Suparak for Looking… is far from the collection of angst-ridden, hysterical, screaming, fainting rants one might, unfortunately, expect when ‘feminism’ is invoked. These works address ideas of looking – of the pleasures and intimidating powers of The Gaze – in subtle ways. These artists are asking questions that cannot and will not be answered by manifestos; they are forcing the viewer to look, and to look at them and their lives.

Suparak culls curatorial inspiration from her everyday life… ‘Many of the artists in this program are placing themselves in front of the camera, creating their own identity for consumption. These works ring familiar to me, of growing up so intensely aware of my body and how others create my identity based on it. What becomes my identity is filtered through others.’

Suparak takes this notion of manufactured identity one step further: ‘I’m interested in the idea of authenticity- how it is considered a virtue, but faking it can be just as reassuring. The intent can stand in for the actuality. Everyone wants to be “genuinely” loved, for who they “really are”, or at least something close to that, right?’

Confronted with ‘preaching to the choir,’ by presenting this type of work to young, hip art crowds at alternative spaces, Suparak responds, ‘Unfortunately, feminism isn’t fully established. I wish it was obsolete. But feminism needs to be introduced into every generation, because patriarchy is still the norm. The audiences [at the screenings of Looking…] are not always hip or an art audience. Some have never seen these forms or ideas, and they get really excited and want to try making their own videos that night. Maybe some of the aesthetics and concepts are simple, but that is just a different set of aesthetics and politics which still deserves to be shown, which still delights and riles up a crowd.’ [One Boston viewer interpreted the program as] promoting negativity toward women, but Suparak cites her very mission as a positive role: ‘I think it’s really important that I’m traveling across the world as a solo young female without a companion/protector, creating and solidifying a network for artistic endeavors which includes, but also veers far from, academia and high-art realms. I avoided Hollywood and independent cinema for years because I couldn’t bear to see one more flat image of a woman created to fulfill male fantasy…’

Says Suparak, “This program was created for adolescent girls who aren’t involved in arts programs or film scenes, who haven’t made their own work, and only have access to mainstream films. I am interested in women taking over their means of production, exhibition, and distribution, and women controlling their self-representation. The aesthetic is raw so girls can figure out how they can make their own work, and realize that ‘movies’ don’t need an impossibly expensive and unobtainable level of production.”

Suparak describes her editorial practice: ‘I try to create a rollercoaster of emotions and tension, without undermining the gravity or poignancy of some works or wash out the upbeat tone of others. I try to maintain the individual works’ distinctiveness. The works all link back to one another and several sets of ideas…’

Buffalo is Suparak’s final date in an eleven-week tour across America and Mexico, which includes other film and sound art programming.



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