Zoe Beloff: Labor Organizer for Cartoon Characters

THE DAILY PIC: Beloff presents a 1920 short about a strike by Mutt and Jeff.


MY DAILY PIC (#1506): One of Zoe Beloff’s greatest talents is as a finder rather than a maker. In her recent installation at the CUNY Graduate Center, she found and displayed all sorts of amazing documents about the brief employment of Sergei Eisenstein and Bertolt Brecht by Hollywood. Now, for her installation called The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff, at Momenta Art in New York, she’s uncovered similarly fascinating archival evidence, this time about “intersections between industrial labor management, the cinematic apparatus, and utopian visions of social progress.” My favourite “find” from her latest show – the most exciting work of art I’ve seen in any medium, in a while – is a newly restored comic short from 1920 called Mutt and Jeff Go On Strike. (Click on my image to watch the whole thing.) The short tells the story of a day when the two cartoon characters of the title decide to seize the means of production for themselves, by becoming their own animators. The little film marries surrealism, conceptualism and social and institutional critique before any of those terms were in fashion. Watch it, and pity the poor artists of today who have to measure up to its heights.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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