The George Kuchar Experience
I spent six days at the Video Data Bank in Chicago, watching as much of Kuchar's video work as I could. I made a short list of the twenty-five or so works I found the most compelling. I chose the fifteen works that comprise the exhibition from this short list. I tried to show at least one work from every year since Kuchar began making videos (1986). The tapes I like best feature George in his inimitable process of self-examination, rather than those works which primarily document his friends. I've favoured the Bronx tapes over the San Fransisco ones, partly because I like to see George's mom. I decided to show only one student collaboration and chose the funniest, Evangelust, rather than the darker, more complex The Fall of the House of Yasmin.
Kuchar has said that the difference between his melodramas and documentaries is that the turds are fake in the melodramas, but real — and always his — in the documentaries. The melodramatic turds are fashioned from dog food. The documentary turds ostensibly function as evidence of the over-consumption of sausages and pizza, the plight of Kuchar's aging body as it eats its way through America's junk (food) culture. But like Kuchar's other gentle transgressions, the turds are a parody of the confessional mode.
Where there are turds — voluminous, loose turds — dirty underwear cannot be far behind. We must confess any irregular bowel movements. We must maintain acceptable levels of personal hygiene. In such matters the ultimate authority is always Mom. From the final scene in Cult of the Cubicles: "Dear Lord, I'm sorry I had a fight with my mother, but my underwear is my business and the business of my audience. They ain't that yellow." But why is it our business and not Mom's? In this seeming reversal of power relations, of public and private, Kuchar has destabilized discourses of self-knowledge, which include the diary, the confession, the autobiography. And he's made us complicit. His dirty laundry is not only business, it's the raison d'etre of the tapes. It's not that George's white cotton briefs are always dirty. He just has no reason to show us his clean ones. What would be the point?