Susan Mogul

Susan Mogul

Fellow: Awarded 2002
Field of Study: Video & Audio

Competition: US & Canada

In 1973, at the age of 23, I was compelled to move 3,000 miles away from my huge family in New York to Los Angeles to join the radical feminist art program (lead by Judy Chicago) at CalArts. With the “anything goes” YES “I am woman” support of my new LA “sisters” I finally learned to drive! I know, it’s a Los Angeles cliché, but traversing the freeways was especially exhilarating because driving a car was a fear I thought I could never overcome.

Mogul was now truly mobile and the impossible was possible. We made art about life and nothing was off-limits. I pointed the camera at myself, and the folks around me, and recorded the private and the public, with hilarity and pathos. I was a rambunctious woman who told intimate stories with a camera. I still do.

In the ‘70s I made satirical video art confessionals about my vibrator and bargain hunting with Mom. I dressed up like a female Moses and invaded Hollywood landmarks in a series of photo collages—Moses Mogul Parts the Hollywood Hills. Wearing “old school” director regalia I gave screen tests for “women only” in a Hollywood drugstore on Sunset Boulevard.

In the ‘80s I performed all over the U.S.A. I read letters from my mother and modeled her 1950s cocktail dresses in places called the Wah Wah Hut, Lhasa Club, and on the Summerstage in Central Park in New York City. But after I performed in front of one thousand people in Central Park, I longed for more intimate experiences, and in the ‘90s I produced video diaries and video letters with a small handheld camera.

Everyday Echo Street (1993,30 min.) was a video diary about being “the Lone Jew” in my working-class Latino neighborhood. It first screened at Armando’s, the local Mexican restaurant, and a year later was broadcast on public television—even reviewed by a TV critic. I thought I had gone to heaven and crossed over into the “real world.” My place in the “real world” of public television lasted only a few years at a moment when my interests in family and community were in sync and, by chance, considered politically correct by the suits at PBS. Not to mention that these diary/docs were not as brazen as my earlier work—I had taken a breather from flashing my tits on camera.

In the 21st century as I approached sixty, my interests became retrospective. (I even had my first retrospective in Switzerland, of all places.)

A few years before I moved to Los Angeles I was in a car accident. My first love was killed in the accident and the accident haunted my life. Driving Men (2008, 68 min.), my first feature-length work, a road movie, opens up with the car accident. This film is a culmination of the motivations, intentions, and aspirations of my previous work. It’s about a woman with a camera, about the desire to connect, about being Jewish, about relationships with men, about my Dad, and about being a never-married woman. It’s not quite documentary, not really avant-garde, yet not mainstream either. My work, like my life falls into a space in between—fitting in and not fitting in.

My retrospective impulse continued this year, almost by accident, with Susan Mogul’s Woman’s Building (2010, 9 min.). Snappy, seductive, educational, ironic, and poignant, yet brimming with the rightful desire to turn the sorry state of things upside down, this commissioned video features nine of my cohorts from the Los Angeles feminist art movement of the ‘70s. We sing, speak, and wax orgasmic about the impact of being in an all-female environment and building a public space we could call our own.

What direction will my work and life take me next? While I ponder that, let’s segue into the third person for a few accolades:

Mogul’s groundbreaking work has screened at film festivals, in museums, art galleries, and on public television, nationally and internationally. In addition to her Guggenheim Fellowship, she has received commissions and fellowships from the ITVS, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Durfee Foundation, and the Getty Trust. Considered a pioneer of the medium, Mogul’s video art was featured in the historic exhibitions California Video at The Getty Museum and Los Angeles: Birth of an Art Capital at the Pompidou, and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Mogul’s first retrospective was presented in 2009 in Switzerland at Visions du Reel. Driving Men  received critical acclaim in both popular and art periodicals—even Swiss television—and has been on the film festival circuit in the United States, Europe, and Japan for over two years.

In 2009 she had a solo show of her vintage conceptual photo works at Jancar, an art gallery in Los Angeles.In 2010 she was commissioned by Otis College of Art and Design to produce/direct Susan Mogul’s Woman’s Building  in conjunction with the Getty-sponsored exhibition Doin’ It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building; the exhibition will be mounted in Otis’s Ben Maltz Gallery in 2011.



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