Touch & Film: Video Container: Touch Cinema at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami

Focusing on the body and its relation to identity and sexuality, Touch Cinema marks the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA)’s second edition of the video series Video Container, which explores various topical issues in contemporary art making. In creating the video art presentation series, MOCA's mission was twofold, in that it sought to establish a platform to present interdisciplinary media to its audience and to create a dedicated space in which to explore experimental and critical video practice.


MOCA is dedicated to interdisciplinary media and making it an integral part of its programming and collecting goals. The museum’s permanent collection includes numerous video works, including those by Ryan Trecartin, Cory Arcangel, Bruce Nauman and Tracey Emin. In addition to work within its walls, the museum hosts Optic Nerve, an international open call for short videos, which are then reviewed and judged by a panel of world-class curators each year. The winning work is then acquired for the museum’s permanent collection. This year marks Optic Nerve’s 16th year, highlighting MOCA’s longstanding commitment to the medium of video.

The initial Video Container series, Museum as Method, explored the ways in which video could be used to ultimately disrupt institutions and “official histories,” presenting a critique on the changing relationship between artist and the institution. In creating Touch Cinema, MOCA followed the same curatorial approach and framework, although the premise and individual questions posed were different. With Touch Cinema, the role of performative narratives and the use of the artist’s body in addressing issues of gender and identity is explored, focusing heavily on mass media appropriation and performance in an ephemeral time and space. Museum staff members comment that Museum as Method was more challenging to organize than Touch Cinema, as it was the first exhibition in the series and required substantial planning. With Touch Cinema, the museum drew from the formula it established with Museum as Method, although the museum is interested in changing it up for future editions.

“Video Container: Touch Cinema” features videos by leading contemporary artists such as Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Sadie Benning, Shezad Dawood, Harry Dodge, Kate Gilmore,  Maryam Jafri, Mike Kelley & Paul McCarthy, Ursula Mayer, Alix Pearlstein, Pipilotti Rist, Carolee Schneemann, Frances Stark, VALIE EXPORT, and Hannah Wilke. The title for the exhibition stems from an iconic recording of a 1968 guerrilla performance by VALIE EXPORT, in which the artist attached a miniature curtained “movie theater” to her bare chest and invited passersby on the street to reach in.

Shezad_Dawood,_A_Mystery_Play,_2010,_video_stillMulti-disciplinary artist Harry Dodge's humorous piece, "Unkillable" (2011), explores the space between language and image, as well as the inexorability of narrative progress or momentum itself in different tonal and formal registers. Dodge presents a masked androgynous figure with a cube affixed to their forehead. Maryam Jafri's "Avalon" (2011) is a part-scripted, part-documentary look into a sex shop factory and its workers, who are deceived into thinking they are sewing body bags for the US Army, jackets for psychiatric patients and props for circus animals. Shezad Dawood's "A Mystery Play" (2010), was filmed in an early twentieth century Masonic building in Winnipeg, Canada. This film is inspired not only by Masonic rituals, but also the town’s history, renowned for its extensive culture of performance and burlesque, in particular the shows of Buster Keaton and Harry Houdini.

The exhibit is structured through a rotating schedule of questions and corresponding videos, which are selected through an intense research process. The research process begins with exploring critical and compelling developments in video practice, followed by an investigation into what artists are interested in expressing through these videos. Questions such as, "How is desire and sexuality mediated through acts of spectatorship?" are meant to act as a way to frame and present the selection of video works and further present an approach to the artist’s work through an inquiry that extends beyond their practice. This framing, which presents new ways of thinking about and engaging with both curatorial practice and contemporary art practice, represents new possibilities in the relationship between the institution of the museum and the artists who will continue to shape the body of work displayed within it.

Video Container: Touch Cinema is on view from June 1- June 13, 2014. Videos rotate daily, check MOCA's website for video schedule. 

Keah Fryar is the Plinth contributor for the Southern Region and a Freelance Exhibit Designer and Consultant.  Her website can be viewed here: