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A publication of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

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Up Close and Personal – An Award Winning Intimate Video Portrait

Robert R. Gerlits, MSW
Member, Washington Center for Psychoanalysis
December 2014 | Volume 1 | Issue 5

Biennially, the National Portrait Gallery fosters a competition where artists around the country submit intimate portrayals of another human being – sometimes themselves. In the 2013 winning submission, Bo Gehring presented a “video portrait.” In this video portrait (http://vimeo.com/61985871), Gehring turns portraiture on its head by giving us a piecemeal portrait of George Zweig starting at his toes. With his intimate video, Gehring presents us with parts of George and each is given equal time and equal distance. Gehring’s egalitarian approach leaves us emotionally challenged. How do we understand George where time and space is equal for a scarf, pants, hands, eyes, mouth and an expanding and contracting stomach? We are left with equal slices of George that are hard to mentally stack into a human being. Paradoxically in Gehring’s video portrait, it is George’s choice of audio that endures throughout. George’s chosen music (“Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen) serves as a proxy for George’s voice and emotions. When George looks us in the eye and then turns away, it is “Suzanne” that helps us integrate our experience with him. We are reminded there is something special about the face, particularly the eyes, as we fix our gaze on George. But the genius of this work is to bring to our attention the myriad of other details of body parts, whose presence we no doubt register but do not consciously notice in our usual interactions.

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