Cynthia Maughan: Daylong Tribute Screening

Cynthia Maughan: Daylong Tribute Screening

EAI pays tribute to Cynthia Maughan (1949—2019) with a daylong screening of video works by the under-sung artist who produced hundreds of darkly humorous, feminist direct-camera performance tapes.

July 25th, 2019
10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
535 West 22nd Street, 5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011

Free admission

Beginning with her master’s thesis at Cal State Long Beach, Maughan made more than 300 videos between 1973 and 1980. Riffing on the short form, deadpan style of her contemporary William Wegman, and made with one of his hand-me-down cameras, Maughan’s tapes draw inspiration from sources like true-crime magazines, gothic literature, B-movies, and pop music to create faux-confessional mini-narratives and understated performances on themes of femininity, the body, violence, and death. Earnest and ironic in near-equal measure, her wry, frequently macabre work has close affinities with many of her Southern California contemporaries such as Paul McCarthy, Martha Rosler, Nina Sobell, and Eleanor Antin, all of whom she was featured alongside in David Ross’s landmark 1975 Southland Video Anthology. After a short but extremely prolific period, Maughan essentially ceased making video works and withdrew from the art scene. Her inclusion in the Getty Center’s equally landmark 2008 exhibition California Video, curated by Glenn Phillips, reintroduced her work to a generation that was ready to recognize the prescience of her self-directed camera personas and identity shifts.

For this tribute screening, EAI will screen 65 of Maughan’s videos as part of a 160-minute program, which will loop three times throughout the day. This includes digitizations of eight unedited 1/2” camera reels onto which Maughan directly captured her one-take works. (True to the form of early Portapak artist video, the artist can be seen and heard switching the camera on and off in between each piece.) In general, the works contained within each reel are thematically linked. Tape #3 (1974-1975) includes “The Magician’s Cabinet,” “Frozen & Buried Alive,” “Baskets from My Wedding” and “Taking Medicine,” which draw from Edgar Allan Poe, Harry Houdini, and Symbolist literature revolving around themes of illusion, escape, romantic fatalism, and illness. In Tape #50, “Trailer Life” (1977) features Maughan enacting a series of skits taken from and inspired by Trailer Life, a periodical for recreational vehicle enthusiasts. The collection of letters, columns, and stories that Maughan assembled from the magazine reflects a range of class, gender, and racial stereotypes—a dark side to the giddy post-war passion for convenient travel in America that Trailer Life espoused. Tape #57 (1979) includes a number of videos, several of which thematize violence and death to variously amusing and harrowing effects, set to the languorous, syrupy tones of slow-spinning pop, soul, and surf-rock 45s.

Absorbing Hollywood's beguiling superficiality, Maughan treats the closed-circuit camera as a two-way mirror, in which and for which she prepares her public persona. In an era of extensive self-documentation and tailoring of appearances for social media, her work resonates as strongly as ever.

About EAI
Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is a nonprofit arts organization that fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution, and preservation of moving image art. A New York-based international resource for media art and artists, EAI holds a major collection of over 3,500 new and historical media artworks, from groundbreaking early video by pioneering figures of the 1960s to new digital projects by today’s emerging artists. EAI works closely with artists, museums, schools and other venues worldwide to preserve and provide access to this significant archive. EAI services also include viewing access, educational initiatives, extensive online resources, technical facilities, and public programs such as artists’ talks, screenings, and multi-media performances. EAI’s Online Catalogue is a comprehensive resource on the artists and works in the EAI collection, and features expansive materials on media art’s histories and current practices:


Electronic Arts Intermix
535 West 22nd Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10011
t (212) 337-0680
f (212) 337-0679

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This program is made possible in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the Ostrovsky Family Fund.