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Performance, video artist Fusco examines how visual media shape social issues

Video and performance artist Coco Fusco, at home in Brooklyn, will visit MIT as part of the Abramowitz Artist-in-Residence Program.
Video and performance artist Coco Fusco, at home in Brooklyn, will visit MIT as part of the Abramowitz Artist-in-Residence Program.
Photo / Kambui Olujimi

Coco Fusco, a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist and writer known for her engaging and provocative video making and performance art, will present two public talks at MIT March 12 and 14 as part of MIT's Abramowitz Artist-in-Residence Program.

Coco Fusco's performances and videos have been featured in numerous exhibitions and festivals around the world, including the Whitney Biennial and the London International Theatre Festival. Most recently, she participated in a symposium on feminist art organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Her writings have appeared in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, The Nation, Ms., Art in America and frieze magazine.

Fusco examines how visual media shape perception of social issues, using ethnographic documentary forms, soap operas, talk and variety show formats, surveillance cameras and closed circuit television as her signature media.

Intrigued by the role of women as "victimizers" in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Fusco is currently developing a series of new videos and performances about the role of U.S. female interrogators. For her 2006 film, "Operation Atropos," the artist, in a group of six women, took a course designed for civilians who want to learn techniques both for extracting information and resisting interrogation themselves.

"The Couple in the Cage," Fusco's 1993 documentary about her caged Amerindian performance with former MIT visiting artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, has been screened in more than 200 venues around the world. Her 2004 video, "a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert," was selected for the 2004 Shanghai Biennale and the Museum of Modern Arts Documentary Fortnight in 2005. Her 2002 video installation, "Dolores from 10 to 10" received an honorable mention from the 2003 Transmediale in Berlin. The exhibition that she curated for the International Center of Photography on racial taxonomy in American photography, "Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self," is currently touring the United States.

Fusco, who teaches at Columbia University, is the author of "English is Broken Here" (The New Press, 1995) and "The Bodies That Were Not Ours and Other Writings" (Routledge/inIVA, 2001) and the editor of "Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas" (Routledge, 1999) and "Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self" (Abrams, 2003).

On Monday, March 12, she will present "What You Don't Know Can Kill You: The Art of Coco Fusco" at 8 p.m. in Kirsch Auditorium (Room 32-123, 32 Vassar St.) in a program cosponsored by the MIT Office of the Arts and MIT's Visual Arts Program (Department of Architecture).

On Wednesday, March 14, Fusco will discuss "Gender, Sexuality and the Performance of Interrogation" at 8 p.m. in Room 6-120 (enter at 77 Massachusetts Ave.).

Both events are free; no tickets or reservations are necessary. For more information, call 617-253-ARTS (2787).

The Abramowitz Memorial Lecture, presented by the Office of the Arts, was established at MIT through the generosity and imagination of William L. Abramowitz '35 as a memorial to his father. It has been sustained since his death by the devoted interest of his wife and children. Since 1961, the series has brought renowned performing artists and writers to MIT to perform, present public lectures and collaborate with students in free programs.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 7, 2007 (download PDF).

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