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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Semiotics of the Kitchen (Rosler)

Semiotics of the Kitchen ; 1975 ; Martha Rosler, video 6'29" (at UbuWeb) Wikipedia
"I was concerned with something like the notion of 'language speaking the subject,' and with the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity."
—Martha Rosler

The setup of this video is simple: a woman (Rosler) stands in a generic kitchen behind a table covered with cooking implements. She puts on an apron and verbally identifies it as such to the camera. Rosler then presents every item on her table to the camera and demonstrates how each instrument can be used. Most viewers do not realize until the end that her list of objects is in alphabetical order, with one item representing every letter of the alphabet (Apron, Bowl, Chopper, Dish, etc.), with the exception of the final six letters. While Rosler maintains a neutral tone of voice and minimal facial expressions, her body language is quite jarring as she demonstrates unproductive and violent ways to wield the instruments. Her treatment of objects is counter-intuitive, as if each one is to be used for destructive purposes as opposed to the productive act of cooking.

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Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles ; 1975 ; Chantal Akerman

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