Without You I'm Nothing

A series of film screenings exploring mass identification, spectatorship, and spectacle in contemporary culture


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Memory

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Catherine Liu, David Slovic

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce an evening of film screenings on February 5, 2004 from 6:30-8:30pm featuring Without You I'm Nothing (1990) by John Boskovich and Paris is Burning (1990) by Jennie Livingston. The films will be simultaneously screened in different rooms at Slought.

Boskovich's first film, Without You I'm Nothing (1990), remained his singular film credit for almost eleven years until North (2001). Mixing stand-up comedy, lounge act and a sly satire of the debased celebrity culture and the unverifiable ways in which we go about constructing our identities, it features Sandra Bernhard and is based on her 1988 New York stage show. Gender-buster Bernhard fascinates even while her aggressive, confrontational act leaves viewers uneasy. She sings, tells outrageous stories about her upbringing and bares herself, emotionally and physically, amidst an edgy and uncomfortable atmosphere that was an essential part of her live performance and the larger milieu of which she was a part, but is now past.

Without You I'm Nothing will be screened alongside Paris is Burning (1990), a documentary that examines the young men of Harlem who originated "voguing," and turned these stylized dance competitions into expressions of fierce personal pride. It is a story of urban survival and gay self-affirmation amidst a fantasy world of high fashion, status and acceptance. Slought selected this film to accompany the Without You I'm Nothing screening in part for its portrayal of a complementary social milieu joining intimate, even outrageous, gender-busting performance in an uncomfortable and aggressive atmostphere, now also past.

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Associated Screenings

Slought is pleased to announce an evening of film screenings on Thursday, December 4, 2003 featuring Burt Barr's 'Aeros' (1990) and a selection from Robert Breer's 'Recreation' series (1954-1997).

Burt Barr began working in video in 1984. Reshaping traditional film and television narrative, Burt Barr's understated narratives, which include minimalist fiction, wry anecdotes, and nonlinear performance documents, relay their stories through precise, lucid imagery and a spare use of language. His performance works often blur the line between fiction and document, transforming conventional documentary technique by allowing a narrative line to emerge from his subject. In recent years he has translated these formal and narrative strategies into works that take the form of video projection installations. Burt Barr's work has been broadcast on public television and exhibited internationally, at festivals and institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Sebastian Film and Video Festival, Spain; The Reina Sofia Museum; Madrid, Spain; the Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Berlin Film Festival; The Platform Gallery, Turkey; Festival du Nouveau Cinema et de la Video, Montreal; and the International Center of Photography, New York. In Burt Barr's Aeros (1990), working at night, under the glare of automobile headlights, a man scours and restores the facade of a building in New York's Soho district. With this visual metaphor, Barr opens Aeros, a look at the evolution of Trisha Brown's dance work Astral Convertible, choreographed by Brown with sets and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg. (1990, 32:14 min, color, sound). Courtesy of the artist.

Robert Breer, best known today as an animator, was an American painter in Paris during the 1950s when he began exploring the film medium. With roots in the graphic cinema of Richter and Eggeling, Breer began creating animations with his first series of films, Form Phases I-IV (1952-1954). Following these first experiments, he moved on to study motion through his flip books and then worked in collage films. At the end of the 1950s, he returned to New York, where he continues to work as a filmmaker, painter, and sculptor. With more than 40 films to his credit, Breer has established himself as a pioneering entertainer and artist of short, playful animations and self-propelled sculptures. He infuses his work with a dry wit and visual cleverness, despite being rarely screened in the United States. "Single images one after another in quick succession fusing into motion... this is cinema." (Robert Breer, 1959) Selections from the "recreation" collection will be screened, including : Form Phases IV (1954, 5 minutes); REcreation (1957, 2 min.), A Man and His Dog Out for Air (1957, 2 min.), Jamestown Baloos (1957, 5 min.), Blazes (1961, 3 min.), 69 (1968, 5 min.), Fuji (1974, 9 min.), LMNO (1978, 10 min.), Swiss Army Knife with Rats and Pigeons (1980, 6 min.), Bang! (1986, 10 min.), and Time Flies (1997, 6 min). Courtesy of the artist.

Slought is also pleased to announce an evening of film screenings on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 featuring the United States premiers of documentaries on composers Earle Brown and Morton Subotnick. The documentaries were both produced in 2002 by Evelina Domnitch, Dmitry Gelfand, Duff Schweninger, and Willoughby Sharp.

Earle Brown, a major force in contemporary music since the early 1950s, died on July 2, 2002. A leading composer of the American avant-garde for more than fifty years, Brown was associated with the experimental composers John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff who, with Brown, came to be known as the New York School. Although only 25 when he first met Cage and began working with him as a colleague, Brown's musical experiments and philosophy pre-dated their first encounter. Among Brown's key works was Folio (1952-53), which Brown described as "experiments in notation and performing processes," a series of sequential experimental single-page scores that explored space and time parameters in variable and flexible ways. Brown composed December 1952 (the score was a stark, abstract series of floating rectangles) as a musical equivalent to Alexander Calder's mobiles.In the 1960s and early 70s, Earle Brown created the now legendary series of eighteen recordings, underwritten by Time-Mainstream, through which he introduced the works of composers such as Nono, Maderna, Kagel, Birtwhistle, Giacinto Scelsi, Boulez, and others to the United States. Brown was a collector of Porsches and first editions of Gertrude Stein.

Morton Subotnick (Mel Powell Chair in Composition) is one of the acknowledged pioneers in the field of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media. He was the first composer to be commissioned to write an electronic composition expressly for the phonograph medium, Silver Apples of the Moon (Nonesuch, 1967). This now classic work and The Wild Bull (also an electronic commission for Nonesuch, 1968) have been choreographed by leading dance companies throughout the world and remain in permanent repertory. In addition to composing numerous works in the electronic medium, Subotnick has written eight works for orchestra (including a Bicentennial commission played by the six major U.S. orchestras), chamber and ensemble works (including The Fluttering of Wings premiered by the Juilliard String Quartet) and music for the theatre and multi-media events.

"Without You I'm Nothing gives us the rundown, our being run down, on the links and channels of mass identification. The other can never name himself as other. In a culture of diversity and commodity that means that we're all always passing, passing as spectator, passing as spectacle, passing through the metabolism of identification, in particular the mutual identification or admiration (or rage) found in groups."

-- Laurence Rickels, "North by North," artext #77