Leslie Thornton, ‘Jennifer, Where Are You?’, 1981, Winkleman Gallery

"Jennifer, Where Are You?" is structured by a speech-act, a constant proleptic call, a man’s voice which has been edited and recut into a repetitive and pervasive presence. The insistence of this male voice, which repeats the phrase “Jennifer! Where are you?” every 30 seconds, parodies the authority conceded to voice-overs in the cinema. The voice is patriarchal, relentless, and runs the entire length of the film. Cut-aways to a small girl, glancing at the camera as she plays with lipstick and matches, reapportion the relation between patriarchal phonocentrism and masculine gaze. But is this small child subject to either? No. Not really. There she is, hiding in plain sight–ours, not ‘his’–a ‘purloined subject’ successfully evading subjugation through response or acquiescence. ‘Jennifer,’ whoever she might be (a cipher, a pseudonymous textual marker of gendered cinematic presence) is never apprehended, and the film, for all of its suspense, simply ends.

About Leslie Thornton

In complex digital works that tread a line between film, video, and installation, Leslie Thornton examines how technologies dominate American culture, constructing our realities and shaping our sense of history, time, and the natural world. Thornton is best known for Peggy and Fred in Hell (1985–2010), a video series in which she presents a dystopian vision of two children apparently raised by a television set and living in isolation from others. More recently she produced Luna (2013), a triptych of vertical flat-screen monitors, each displaying shifting, kaleidoscopic images—fluctuating between representation and abstraction—of the iconic parachute jump tower at Coney Island. The 250-foot-tall ride, constructed in 1939, is envisioned in various different time periods, which Thornton alludes to through visual and aural effects. In earlier work, she incorporated archival footage related to Hiroshima and the atomic age, addressing themes of trauma and anxiety.

American, b. 1951, Oak Ridge, Tennessee