‘The inventory is key to Steve Reinke’s practice, in which semi-confessional videos assemble musings on critical theory and pop songs, desires and fantasies, historical events and pornography, offering him endless permutations of ways to make ironic but pointed juxtapositions. Andy (1997), for example, contrasts a man listing his dull decorating choices in minute detail (colour scheme: cream, ivory and off-white) while appearing in different choices of underwear, rubbing his cock for the camera as though proffering a series of pornography options.
‘Reinke pounces on the moment when the presence of two items in a list creates a levelling of unlikely objects. In his Anal Masturbation and Object Loss (2002) he is shown gluing together the pages of the texts ‘Oral Autoerotic, Aggressive Behaviour and Oral Fixation’ and ‘Anal Masturbation and Object Loss’ (an act that gained unexpected resonance after reading in the last issue of frieze (issue 120) about the censoring of a homo-erotic text by Cerith Wyn Evans, by gluing its pages together after the catalogue was printed).
‘In the video Reinke explains that he is preparing a library for his new art school, in which discourse will be limited to three subjects: classical rhetoric, theosophy and Martin Heidegger – and Heidegger ‘not as a philosophic system but as a series of provocative compound words’. Following on from this move from philosophy to words, the commentary then considers the relation between meaning and physical space occupied – for example, by glued-together books or the projection of a video in a gallery – while also lampooning Heideggerian etymological riffs and the desire for a precision of meaning (‘I would like anal masturbation to refer only to anal masturbation’) so drastic that ideas turn from sculptures to objects to placeholders (‘Object Loss’). The film is a tour de force.
‘In a recent gallery exhibition, Reinke arranged photographs of American servicemen who died in Iraq in order of their looks (The American Military Casualties of the Second Gulf War for Whom Photographs Were Available as of November 6, 2006, Arranged by Attractiveness, 2006), again provocatively inverting conventional organizing principles but also pushing to an extreme his persona as gay aesthete, interested only in ‘flowers and boys’, as he puts it in one film, or even as gay pervert, delivering immodest confessions and fantasies in his friendly, almost hokey, Canadian accent.
‘Such an alter ego – or just ego in extremis – is one of the most interesting aspects of Reinke’s practice, suggesting not only a sustained project of construction of the self (similar to his penchant for turning individual videos into larger projects – such as ‘The Hundred Videos’ or his current series ‘Final Thoughts’, which will continue, he says, until he dies) but also his investigation of the way in which art theory, the diaristic form of avant-garde cinema and home use of videos has developed a rhetoric of conflating the technological apparatus of the video with one’s own ordering and remembering capacity: mind as machine, memory as pop songs and Super-8 reels, happiness as photographed flowers. By trespassing and acting within these genres Reinke’s videos push to the limit the capacity of the videotape to function as a means of ‘making sense’ of material, whether this material is a library, a philosophical system, sexuality or the self.’ — Melissa Gronlund
My Rectum Is Not A Grave
Steve Reinke @ VIMEO
Steve Reinke @ Video Data Bank
Steve Reinke at Isabella Bortolozzi
Steve Reinke – The 100 Videos (2002)
Steve Reinke: The 100 Videos, a monograph
Steve Reinke @ Facebook
Steve Reinke @ IMDb
Two New DVD Sets by Steve Reinke
THE GENITAL IS SUPERFLUOUS: FINAL THOUGHTS SERIES FOUR
Lonely Boys: Steve Reinke in the Company of Some Other Men (John Smith, George Kuchar & Joe Gibbons)
Podcast: Episode 361: Steve Reinke
A Bit of This and a Little of That: Steve Reinke at Gallery 400
Everybody Needs a Friend: Queer Journeys with Allyson Mitchell and Steve Reinke
Talk Shows and Case Studies: The Hundred Videos by Steve Reinke (1997)
Final Thoughts Series Four (The Natural Look), Steve Reinke
THE GENITAL IS SUPERFLUOUS: FINAL THOUGHTS, SERIES FOUR with Steve Reinke
STEVE REINKE, IMPAKT EVENT Integral
Fan Letter to Steve Reinke
Interview Steve Reinke about “A Boy Needs a Friend”
How do you assemble your works? Text first then footage, or footage first, or a combination of both?
Sometimes the text comes first and I have to search for the image or make an animation. But finding compelling footage first and then using writing as a way to explore it — to find out why it is interesting — happens just as often. Mostly I work in chunks, crafting the chunks into chapters, moving stuff around. Sometimes I just come across the footage, which is great. But increasingly, it is really quick to do specific searches for online stuff. Sometimes the British artist James Richards sends me great clips, like the baby and dog making out in the new piece.
A Boy Needs A Friend is part of your series Final Thoughts. What is the Final Thoughts project?
Final Thoughts is name of my ongoing series of video essays. Thought replaces thought — shifting, contingent — in a chain that finds an endpoint only in my death. Rather than being diaries, though each is quite personal, the “thoughts,” like diaries, contain a lot of the quotidian. But Final Thoughts is not meant primarily to document my day-to-day life. The video subtly mocks — and also validates — our culture’s mania for the “authentic.”
In most of my work, I’ve mocked and played around with any notion of authenticity. A Boy Needs A Friend is actually more personal, closer to a kind of confessional mode [than previous works]; though never one that would presume that the artist/narrator has any solid, authentic core, just a cycling through various masks and positions. But these masks and positions are a bit closer to me than usual.
The “carnivorous leopard urine” section plays around maybe most clearly with this — the claim to have determined someone’s psychic core by looking at them, yet having that projection still hold possibilities that might be true. The passport section does this, too.
In your early works you played a kind of gadabout, a gay ingénue. Now you’re a 50-something wise daddy!
Yep, the persona has changed, often from work to work. The stuff from 10 or 15 years ago, like Anthology of American Folk Song often had an unstable voice, sometimes personal, sometimes cold. Starting from 2014, the narrators have become more grounding, with more charm and humour, but also a kind of looseness and a willingness to speculate, philosophize, spin nonsense.
Has your method of recording your own voice changed with “the persona,” as you put it?
I used to use a voice over booth, but now I just have a mic at my desk. I rehearse the texts half a dozen times, getting the pauses and intonation down. Then I record — usually in one take, maybe two. I often keep little mistakes and the sound of breath and spit. I want to seduce viewers with my voice, seduce them and slap them around, although the slapping is more often through images and non-vocal sound.
You’re mellowing, perhaps?
I do feel a bit different. I have become much warmer, more emotional (though still not terribly emotional) and social, even occasionally outgoing. For me the video is more about intimacy and queer intimacy. Most of my actual friends, for instance, are women and have no place in this video. The video has my husband and some sex buddies, but not really many friends or friendships.
How has living most of the last 20 years in the United States changed your practice?
Hmm. I never wanted to live in America, but I couldn’t get a job in Canada. Likewise, if I had to live in America, I wouldn’t have chosen Chicago, but I keep getting jobs here. And now I have property, tenure and a husband who loves Chicago, so I’m stuck here. One of the nice things about being a young artist in Toronto was that marginal practices (that is non-commercial) like audio art and experimental film/video seemed central to the scene. In America video art — unless it’s in a fancy gallery — can be dismissed as quaint. I also like Canadian audiences more as they get the work — the sense of humour and literary ironies, the McLuhanesque aphorisms — better than other audiences.
21 of Steve Reinke’s videos
Excuse of the Real (1989)
‘Once I went to a party, far across the city and got drunk. When it was time to go the subways had stopped, so I began walking. I knew the general direction home, miles across the night. I was very drunk, all those houses, all those streets. I came across a row of town houses under construction, the basements dug were out to be garages and I climbed down, the earth was hard and cool and I slept for twenty or thirty minutes, awoke and was thirsty, wanting a glass of water and to cup some in my palms and bring it to my face, splashing. I came to a street of large houses. I went around back to one and entered a side door, which should not have been left unlocked. I proceeded up the stairs. Dawn was approaching, a blue and grey light all shadow but I could see a man lying in bed and next to him, on the floor, a German shepherd which looked at me, wagging its tail. The man was facing away, he would not turn around. Is that you, he said. Have you come back to me?’ — SR
Family Planning (1990)
‘My grandmother kept her legs clenched while sweeping. She did not believe in science, but she believed in the possibility of air-borne sperm. And who can be blamed for their beliefs? She was Catholic, but found the rhythm method unacceptable, waiting into the night for the right-tempo song to come on the radio. After five children she began using things around the kitchen as IUDs, common household utensils which would not be missed. Bent spoons and salt shaker bottoms disappeared through her cervix, never to be seen again. They were absorbed, integrated into her internal genitalia. She installed a new one every two years. Tea figurines illustrating famous nursery rhymes. The coroner paled.’ — SR
Barely Human (1991)
‘I think it’s true: sexual pleasure is located in the head — specifically the face.
‘They are barely human. They verge on the angelic. I guess that’s how they get away with it, why it doesn’t kill them.
‘I am not so much interested in the rest of their bodies. I am glad for the erectile tissue of the nipples, the blood-gorged shaft of the glans and penis, as well as there little dilating assholes, but when the cum spreads all over their chests and bellies, it is only their faces I want to gaze upon.’ — SR
Michael and Lacan (1991)
‘Michael: Stephen, is the camera rolling? Hi. I’m here. Still. This is my home.
[genesis of the ego: imaginary identification]
Suzie: Is there sound on it?
Michael: There’s sound. Of course there’s sound. Is there sound? Yeah, okay. Aren’t I great looking.
Suzie: Okay where’s my empty glass?
Michael: I love this camera.’ — SR
Speculative Anthropology (1992)
‘It wasn’t very long ago that the imagination could make its way into the world as an autonomous agent of seemingly repressed desires. I want to return to that time when the world was an unfinished ethnographic map and it was possible to imagine a tribe with a specific set of characteristics and be fairly confident that they would eventually be discovered, naked and scarred and superstitious. But now that hope has degenerated into faith. Now that we have found whatever is out there and can successfully determine what they will develop into, the imagination is useless.’ — SR
Instructions for Recovering Forgotten Childhood Memories (1993)
‘It is my true desire, Thom, to ascertain your true desires. I want to know exactly what you really want. I didn’t bother to ask you, because I knew any answers you could give me would at best be partial. I wanted to capture the truth in its rarest, most primal form. Little animals of desire burrowing into the deepest layers of your psyche, I want to cup their shivering little bodies in my hands and bring them into the light. So I’ve been watching you as you sleep. Even though your slumbers look very peaceful, I know that inside you are seething. After all everything of importance happens in our sleep, below our dreams. So I whisper things into your sleeping ear, possible desires transcribed into verbal form, and I watch. I observe you to see which ones give you an erection. I must admit I was surprised how well my methods worked, but one of your erections looks pretty much like another so I could not tell which of my whispered fantasies really really turned you on and which turned you on to a lesser degree. As it happened, almost everything I whisper into your ear does give you an erection. So what my system of desire-retrieval needed most was a ranking system.’ — SR
‘These images are from a film the CBC made in the early seventies. It’s part of a series about children from different parts of the world, although I’ve only ever come across this particular episode. It’s about an elephant boy from Sri Lanka. I was a child on the brink of puberty when I first saw it, and I guess you could say it made a deep impression. I remember it very well, or at least parts of it. Of course I can’t claim to remember it exactly in its entirety. Memory is just a sub-routine of desire, so what I’ve tried to do here, and I’ve been pretty successful, is to re-create for you the edited version of the film that desire has consigned to my memory. So what you are looking at is a rare and genuine artifact of the psyche. I’m not going to make any attempts to interpret this artifact-any attempt would at best be partial, half-true. It’s enough I think that I have been able to discover and re-create this precious artifact.’ — SR
‘This child has confused the concept “angel” with the idea “snowman.”
‘The warm air is shot through with small icy arrows.’ — SR
Love Letter to Doug (1993)
‘I think it’s true what they say in all those songs: falling in love requires overvaluing the tiny ways in which one individual varies from another. It’s true, but also beside the point. When I say I value your tiny ways, cherish is the word that could be substituted. I like things better when you are around. You are my preference. If I were ever to replace you, for whatever reason, however much I liked the new person, there would be a space, a lack, left from your departure that would remain forever empty, unfilled.’ — SR
Oprah: When you were at his home, there was a time when you were at his home after he had moved to Milwaukee, I know we’re skipping a lot here.
Lionel Dahmer: My mother’s home.
Oprah: At your mother’s home. And you had gone to look at a box and he had said, “Don’t open the box,” because their was what, pornography in there?
Lionel Dahmer: I had found some pornographic material prior t that and I thought there was pornographic material…
Oprah: By this time you know your son’s a little off though, right.
‘Recently my psychiatrist dismantled his practice in favour of becoming a baker. My interminable analysis had been going on since the first days if his practice so I had hoped to get the brown leather couch which my shoulders and back had worn into their likeness. There was no more comfortable in the world for me. Instead he gave me the rough notes for a paper he’d been thinking of working on, “Ass Play: Anal Eroticism as Transformative Agent in Disney’s Pinocchio” in the hope I would complete it.’ — SR
I am sorry you lost the tournament to that pimply-faced guy. You are really the better player and deserved to win. I was rooting for you the whole time. When is your birthday? Is this the last year you will be able to play in the youth league? It looks like you are pretty much a man to me. Do you have any pen pals? I used to have a few, but I got tired of them. I guess when you start to get older its time to re-assess who you want to spend your time on. Anyway, I’m looking for new pen pals. I don’t use a pen any more though, as you can see. Now I use a computer. I have over a hundred fonts, but I only ever use Courier and Helvetica. This is done in Helvetica. Do you have a girlfriend? You are so good looking you probably have lots. I don’t have a girlfriend or anything like that. I am not so good looking, but I have plenty of other good qualities.’ — SR
Talk Show (1995)
‘If I was ever on a talk show, the topic would most likely be: People whose life has been so uneventful they have no other reason to be a guest on a talk show. And when the host asked how it felt to be me, I wouldn’t repeat what I had said in the pre-interview. Instead I would say:
‘Every human, Rolanda, is exactly interchangeable. By this I don’t mean that everyone is born equal, born with the same human rights, or anything as confusing as that. I simply mean that we are all exactly interchangeable.
‘Perhaps this is most demonstrable on a genetic level. Slight chemical variations diverge into individuals recognizable enough to be named. Soon the technology will be available to let this genetic information flow more easily between individuals. Then we will finally know what democracy is. Then we will live in a Utopia of endless unsolvable crimes. Love will completely cover the white-noise hum of anxiety and death will become meaningless. And talk shows will be able to use the same guests everyday and we’ll never know the difference. We’ll be seeing ourselves on the television.’ — SR
24 Jokes (1995)
How do you stop a black guy from drowning? Take your foot off his head.
What do you call two Ethiopians in a sleeping bag? Twix.
What’s green and smells like bacon? Kermit the Frog’s fingers.
Why did the native Indian have such high cheek bones? (puts hands to face) Wonder when the liquor store’s opening?
How do you circumcise a Newphie minister? Slap the choir boy in the head.
Why I’ve Decided to Become a Painter (1996)
So the pink one turned out okay.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about orange.
It’s not that I consider these pieces small. It’s more like they’re affordable.
Amsterdam Camera Vacation (2001)
‘Completed while in residence at Smart Project Space in Amsterdam. The artist refuses to see any of the sites and rarely leaves the abandoned research hospital where he is staying, but speaks in compulsive and frantic monologues.’ — SR
J.-P (Remix of “Tuesday and I” by Jean-Paul Kelly) (2001)
Ask the Insects (2005)
‘Part home-made science (before it became doctrine and law), part animated video reverie, Reinke’s brief and episodic compression is an incendiary release which opens by announcing the death of the reader, of any audience capable of pulling its fragments together, or better, of dissolving into its tissues, of allowing the body to change shape, to identify, for instance, with an insect. Or a stone. It begins with the death of the reader and ends with the death of the author, and between he stops along the way to muse on rain falling up, the “useless bio-diversity” of insects (meaning life is mostly decoration), signal deconstruction and beautiful noise, and burning books. His style is abrupt and associative; he jumps and jumps again, producing these small beautiful abysses which no one can see. He has produced something invisible to treasure, an impossible movie, which refuses to adhere to memory’s sound-byte continuums. It is waiting for a new body to store or restore it. And while it is waiting it speaks, like a lover on the phone.’ — Mike Hoolboom
My Rectum is Not a Grave (To a Film Industry in Crisis) 2007
‘The sixth component of “Final Thoughts, Series One,” this video uses film footage Ivan Besse shot in his town — Britton, South Dakota — in 1938/39.’ — SR
Untitled Siobhan Video (2011)
’11th component of “The Tiny Ventriloquist: Final Thoughts, Series Two,” condenses and re-frames a video shot by my niece Siobhan on her mother’s iPhone.’ — SR
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Top of the morning to you! And thank you! ** Steevee, Hi. Maybe it’s the just stuff I tend to listen to, but Throbbing Gristle and Ride are not unusual things to hear, influence-wise. Didn’t Armond White used to be kind of an interesting critic some years ago? Am I misremembering? I haven’t read his critiques in a long time though, I don’t think. I’m glad you liked the Dominowe. It’s a cool EP, I think. The new Malick seems to be easily as divisive as his last several films were. Three people whose opinions on Malick I trust loved it and think it’s his best film in a while, so there you go. Same old cleaved reaction, I guess. I’m about 100%+ positive that, whatever it is, I will not think it’s a terrible film, that’s pretty absolutely for sure. Or that I’ll think it’s homophobic. Anyway, you thought the new Dumont was terrible, so … ha ha. But, hey, one never knows. I’ll let you know what I think when I see it. It hasn’t opened here yet. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! Oh, well, the actor we auditioned and liked but who probably doesn’t have time came via our producer who’s worked with him in other films that he’s produced, and it happened quickly so I don’t think the actor knew anything about our film or when it’s going to be shot when he showed up. That was an usual situation. Thanks, yeah, I think we’ll do a bunch of auditions for ‘Tim’ on Friday and just hope desperately that one of them is perfect. Yes, supposedly my gas/heat will be turned on this very morning! I might even have to interrupt the p.s. for a bit to help the technician do that. Cool, I’ll see ‘T2’. I saw a clip from it, and, if nothing else, I loved seeing Spud, who was my favorite character in the original. Working on your book is, of course, the very opposite of uneventful, but, yes, writing doesn’t tend to generate interesting anecdotes, ha ha. Yesterday there was a big film meeting where we started figuring out the exact schedule of the shooting, and, boy, is it going to be an extremely tight fit with ultra-long days. Our ‘script girl’ — horrible term, but that’s what she refers to herself as — worked out a guess at how long she thinks the finished film will last, time-wise, based on the script and on our description of the pacing we want to use, etc., and she came up with 1 hour 27 minutes. I think it’ll be longer than that, though. Then I came home and had my internet turned on by a technician. Then more film stuff. We’ve been hoping to work with the sound guy who did most of ‘Cattle’ ‘cos he’s great, and it’s looking like that might work out. And other phone calls and technical matters. That plus talking to friends sort used the whole day. It was good. And you and Tuesday? How did you two get along? ** Chris dankland, Hi, Chris! Always a great pleasure to see you. Nothing but pleasure on my part about the gig. Interesting that you’re back into rock. I’ve been looking for a way to get back into rock. Rock has become pretty marginal to me, which is weird ‘cos I was such a rock guy for a long time. I love Alex G. I’m going to try those bands you referenced. Has it been ten years since the initial era of New Times Viking and No Age and etc.? That’s trippy. That was a good rush of a phase. I don’t think you could be boring if you bribed boredom to manifest inside you. Me, I’m busier than a bee, and I’m doing good. Awesome to get to talk. ** Grant Maierhofer, Hey, Grant! Huh, I’m reading the Charlie Fox book right now too. I’m liking it a lot. Funny, comparing reading it to the blog experience. That’s very interesting to think about. Cool. I promise I’l get to those emails pronto. Nutsy time over here at the moment. Take care! ** _Black_Acrylic, Cool, yeah, I just recently discovered the Kleistwahr project. Very interesting indeed. I’m looking forward to those exact same three albums. People have said the new Adult is quite different. Curious about that. ** Jamie, Hey there, buddy! Awesome, I’m glad the gig hit some of your marks, yay! My Monday was the flavor of busyness, not surprisingly. Which means, hm, kind of spicy but utilitarian. Mexican food spicy? Yeah, office life … never have had to do that. It must be weird. It’s even weird for me that artists have studios where they go to make their paintings or sculptures or whatever. I don’t think I could even do something like that, much less work in an office. I’m sorry your emotions are acting erratic. When you’re even-keeled, or I mean when I am, I tend to get romantic about the times when my emotions are combustible. It’s weird. Do you know what’s making that happen? I hope finishing the cartoon will dot some kind of ‘i’. Where are you in that process today? Me too about getting heat, shit. I’m feeling very romantic about the concept of showering and shaving. It should happen any minute, ‘God’ willing. Today, mm, means a possible bit of a break in the film stuff, although that probably won’t pan out. I have to go finish cleaning my ex-apartment in hopes of getting my deposit back. Catch up on some non-film stuff, hopefully. I haven’t wandered around and checked out my new neighborhood yet, so I’d like to take a tour and see what’s what in my vicinity. Stuff like that. Office de-regulating and amusement park-izing love, Dennis. ** Jeff J, Hi. I saw on FB that you saw Braxton. Fantastic! I haven’t seen him perform in decades. So great, Braxton. I will watch for him playing here. France/Paris is unusually very into jazz, as you probably know, and everybody comes through here, so no doubt he’ll show up at a festival if not a ‘solo’ gig. Mm, I can’t think of a particular Simon Fischer Turner to recommend. I have heard all of the new one. It’s really all over the place. A little of everything. A nice thing to play-through. Oh, gosh, ‘The Erasers’ and ‘La Maison de Rendezvous’ are quite different. It’s probably a matter of whether you feel like cleaner, early Robbe-Grillet (‘Erasers’) or more dense, lush R-G (‘LMdR’). Both are great. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Me too: busy. But I somehow end placing one hand on the blog’s steering wheel almost every day, I don’t know how, ha ha. So you did the ‘LCTG’ experience, thank you! Thanks about how good it looked. Kiddiepunk gets the lion’s share of credit for that. Lovely description of its themes. I’m honored, thank you, George. Yeah, it was made to work as a whole. The scenes collecting and changing your perspective on the earlier as you watch. I think one doesn’t really get how the overall film works until you get to the fourth scene. That’s what we worked for anyway. Well, you know orginally the first scene was going to be graphic, but it just wouldn’t have worked, we realized, or I mean it wouldn’t have done what we wanted the scene to do. Our upcoming film ‘Permanent Green Light’ is … well, certainly not traditional, but it has a single story and characters that run all the way through the film, so it’s going to be at least close to the kind of film you were asking about. It’ll be quite different from ‘Cattle’. And it will be much more like a ‘real’ movie, I guess you could say. Anyway, thank you again so much! I’ll alert Zac to your words of wisdom, and I know he’ll be very appreciative too. I know nothing about ‘Closet Monster’ except the name, so I will be interested to hear about it and your take on it. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. Thanks, man! I hear you. I’m either crazy busy or using my short spates of non-film prep work to try to catch up with everything else. I sure hope that you get to poke. Please poke. Excellent Tuesday, whatever that ends up meaning! ** Okay. I have my buddy Zac to thank for today’s post because he was a student of Steve Reinke’s when he was at university in Chicago, and he turned me on to Reinke’s work, and, at longish last, I’m passing my discovery and interest in Reinke’s work onto you today. See you tomorrow.