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Lousy revolutionaries: fiction, feminism, and failure in Ilene Segalove's The Riot Tapes (1984)

Bradnock, Lucy

Authors

Lucy Bradnock



Abstract

In 1970, Ilene Segalove was a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during a period of violent protests against the American Vietnam War. In 1984, as Ronald Reagan was elected to his second term as US President, Segalove made a video art work entitled The Riot Tapes, which re-enacts those student days via the visual vocabulary of popular television. This article explores The Riot Tapes in the context of televised politics and the deployment of national and geopolitical historical narratives of conflict and protest. Drawing on Lauren Berlant’s delineation of ‘the female complaint’ (1988) and Hayden White’s ‘practical past’ (2014), I argue that in the video Segalove performs the position of failure, both in her quasi-autobiographical narrative of the “lousy revolutionary” and in her adoption of cultural genres historically deemed trivial and subordinate. She does so, I contend, in order to critique the gendered rhetoric of protest narratives, to resist the co-option of history in the era of the “televised presidency”, and to reclaim affect and ambivalence as viable modes of resistance.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 4, 2019
Print ISSN 0142-6540
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Institution Citation Bradnock, L. (2019). Lousy revolutionaries: fiction, feminism, and failure in Ilene Segalove's The Riot Tapes (1984). Oxford Art Journal, doi:10.1093/oxartj/kcy031
DOI https://doi.org/10.1093/oxartj/kcy031
Keywords Ilene Segalove, Vietnam War, video art, protest
Publisher URL https://academic.oup.com/oaj/advance-article/doi/10.1093/oxartj/kcy031/5369185