Through her versatile use of video technology, Nina Sobell explores nonverbal means of communication that interfere with normative modes of behavior and closely regulated interpersonal relationships. Deeply informed by the pursuit of intimate connections, her practice fosters reflection on how we modulate our sense of selfhood through interactions with others. This article examines Sobell’s video performances with chicken carcasses, instantiating the ambiguities of mother- infant relationships, in connection with her Brainwave Drawings, a series of installations based on biofeedback that unveils reciprocal influences between art participants’ psychic states. Even though these sets of works were developed during the same time frame (1974–82) and are equally concerned with bodily communication, they are almost never interpreted as conceptually related. Underscoring their mutual affiliation with a feminist agenda, this article argues that these works are deeply intertwined at the level of their interrogation of socially sanctioned forms of interaction. Embracing the dynamics of open systems, Sobell cultivates fluid forms of communication and exposes the invisible threads that connect us to others. She relies on technological mediation in order to advance a more complex understanding of the biological and social underpinnings of selfhood. Sobell’s works invite viewers to consider interpersonal exchanges that surpass linguistic forms of communication and reveal the porous thresholds between body and mind, self and other, nature and culture.
Cristina Albu; Intimate Connections: Alternative Communication Threads in Nina Sobell’s Video Performances and Installations (1974–82). Camera Obscura 1 May 2020; 35 (1 (103)): 39–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-8085111
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