Marisa Olson: Double Bind

POSTED BY: Richard Rinehart | Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 5:03 p.m.

Marisa Olson: Double Bind
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
June 1 - August 31


A double bind is commonly known as a paradox or conflicting set of demands. But it also has a specific meaning in the world of cybernetics, where it refers to messages that conflict with each other at different levels of meaning, making it difficult for the recipient to determine the nature of the paradox, to confront the inherent dilemma, or to escape the conflict.

Marisa Olson's Double Bind (2010) is a two-channel internet video project involving two clips simultaneously and perpetually linked to each other as YouTube response videos. While the webcam-recorded clips clearly represent the before-and-after actions of Olson wrapping and unwrapping her head in pink vinyl bondage tape, their recursive linking and synced looping problematize their chronology. This perpetual feedback loop takes the word 'tape' as a double entendre, as it plays back the tropes of early feminist video art, while venturing into the stickier, tapeless world of digital memes. Despite the cause and effect narrative structure embedded in the work, there is a glaring lack of motivation beyond the recitation and unraveling of these pre-recorded histories.

Like much of Olson's interdisciplinary work, Double Bind embodies a desire to both participate-in and critique cultural phenomena. The artist's parallel research practice explores the ways in which the internet and other social media enable such forms of critical parody. In this case, she takes on what she perceives as the relative "prohibition" of art history (its own form of pop), and explores the public platform of the internet as a viable site for cultural critique.

Both channels of Double Bind will be presented side-by-side on a dedicated webpage, for Olson's exhibition. However, behind this screen the videos will be subject to the unanticipatable comments and response videos of a viewing public predominantly unaware and unconcerned about the work's status as art or its participation in art historical discourse. The artist explains that relinquishing control over the reception of her work in this way is just as pleasurable to her as any of the more classical forms of masochism implied in the videos. Essentially binding herself to broader digital culture, the true impulse in Olson's critique is a desire to pierce the confines of the white cube so as to engage more directly with participatory media. Double Bind therefore positions us between the false dilemmas of high and low culture or utopic and dystopic views of media culture.

Marisa Olson is a New York based artist, curator, and writer who is currently Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase. Her artistic practice ranges from performance to installation to video to net art and her subjects range from participation in pop culture to the aesthetics of failure. She has shown at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, and Whitney Museum; screened at the BFI and Sundance; been a visiting artist at Yale, Brown, and Penn; curated programs and shows at the Guggenheim, SFMOMA, and the New Museum; written for Afterimage, FlashArt, and Art Review; and been written about in Artforum, the New York Times, and Wired. She is a PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Film at UC Berkeley and studied History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz.