Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained

1977, 39:16 min, color, sound

This chilling tape, "operatically" conceived — but neither a musical nor a documentary — probes the objectification of women and others in a technological/bureaucratic society. At its core is a long, continuous shot that reveals the part-by-part measurement and evaluation of a woman by a white-coated male examiner and a chorus of three women assistants. How do we come to see ourselves as objects? How do fragmentation and comparison assist in social control? This ordeal of scrutiny thinly alludes to a monumentally protracted episode of Truth or Consequences. The final sequence presents re-framed government photos of women being measured, accompanied by a voiceover litany of "crimes against women." Rosler's distanced depiction of the systematic, institutionalized "science" of measurement and classification is meant to recall the oppressive tactics of the armed forces or concentration camps, and to underscore the internalization of standards that determine the meaning of women's being.

Video: Brian Connell. Post Production: John Baker. With: Phil Steinmetz, Darrell Westlake, Adele Shaules, Pam Wilson, Dana White, Martha Rosler.