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Eleanor Heartney - 1998 

What is the relationship between desire and action? To what extent Does society dictate our life choices? Have meaningful roles and Relationships become impossible to construct?

In these two new video works, Iranian born American artist Elahe Massumi considers these and other questions. 

Longing explores self-inflicted Pain. A man and a woman, each attractive and apparently well adjusted, search For their soul mates. They recount the efforts they have made - through Personal ads, classes, trips and other staples of the dating life - to find Someone to share their lives with. 

But the viewer, reading beneath the surface narrative, begins to Sense another story. The young man concludes, after citing the failure of his Search for the ideal woman, that "When I think of it, I don't want to get Married." The young woman dismisses her dating partners with disparaging Epithets. Despite earnest assurances of their desires for commitment, its Hard not to conclude that the real barrier to intimate relationships is there Own self-involvement. 

The visual and audio components of the video enhance this conclusion. Snippets of the two characters and intermingled with scenes of the city - the Glitter of Times Square, the flux of the street, the fleeting encounters of The outdoor cafe- provide a metaphor for the shifting, center-less interior Lives of the young urban denizens.

By contrast, Mine is a two part work which Suggests how adoption challenges conventional definitions of self and family. Part 1 focuses on Annemarie, a woman who has been the foster parent for two Daughters of the same crack addicted mother. She recounts her frustrated Efforts to adopt the two girls in the face of an adoption policy that Privileges the rights of birth parents, no matter how irresponsible, over the Children¹s desires and best interests.

Part 2 shows the other side of the coin - a young woman, happy in her Adoptive family, who is curious about her birth mother. Stymied in her Efforts to get information from the adoption agency, she wavers between Longing to make a connection and fear of the disruption it may cause.

Mine's protagonists are thwarted by the impersonal and impenetrable Rules of adoption policy. 

Together, Longing and Mine, suggest how modern society has Destabilized traditional roles. Bereft of old models, some, like the foster Mother and adopted daughter, forge new ones. Others, less resourceful, find Themselves unmoored and adrift in a world where individualism has made Genuine relationships a distant dream.

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Eleanor Heartney is an art critic and curator based in New York who is a regular contributor to Art in America.

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