Christine Tamblyn: Mistaken Identities

  • ©,

  • ©,



    Mistaken Identities


Creation Year:




Artist Statement:

    Mistaken Identities is an inter­active CD-ROM inspired by the lives and work of 10 famous women: Josephine Baker, Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine the Great, Colette, Marie Curie, Marlene Dietrich, Isadora Duncan, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Mead, and Gertrude Stein. It dis­covers bridges that link the lives of these women, using the CD-ROM format’s branching structure to create parallels and overlaps among their stories. The 10 women were chosen for their emblematic status as female role models; however, the CD-ROM examines them as complex figures whose identities are not essential or fixed, but contingent and mutable. Their identities are configured in the negotiated space between self and other, a negotiation that continues in my relation to them as narrator.

    Each of these women derived her power from her ability to continually reinvent herself in response to the pressures and contradictions presented by her situation. Each woman also made a substantial contribution to culture and society in fields that were not particularly open to her participation. Mistaken Identities constructs a genealogy around these women, observing the overlaps and parallels between their histories without undermining the specificities of each person’s particular accommodation to the dilemma of how to be a woman.

    The project has six sections: the Portrait Gallery, the Timeline, the Scrapbook, TV Movies, Morphologies, and the Puzzle. A variety of rhetorical tropes are utilized to present text, sound, graphics, and QuickTime movies interactively. The Portrait Gallery incorporates archival photo­graphs in a montage format that presents the self as a series of personae assumed and dis­carded with the passage of time. The same photographs recur in Morphologies, but my image is morphed into the images of the other women in a virtual filmstrip format. An inventory of the generic poses utilized by painters and photographers emerges; when represented according to these conventional strategies, everyone looks similar and fictions of coherent identi­ties are produced.

    The Puzzle engages viewers as active participants by presenting them with the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to be assembled. Each time a piece clicks into place, a QuickTime movie plays. These movies present performance tableaus, organized around the manipulation of fetishes such as lipstick, cigarettes, mirrors, kisses, playing cards, and pens. The sensuality often lacking in virtual media is reinscribed through these surrogate objects.

    The boundaries between fact, fiction, and interpretation are intentionally blurred in the project. TV movies consists of clips from documentaries and Hollywood movies based on the women’s lives. The viewer can channel-surf to watch these cul­tural artifacts that iconize their female subjects to be emulated.

    In the Scrapbook, quotations from the women’s autobio­graphical writings are juxtaposed with snapshots that convey a sense of their daily lives. A gap opens between the images and the text, complemented by authorial intervention achieved through the insertion of sound effects. These sound effects rein­force or dispel the ambiance cre­ated by the images and text to enhance polyphonic dissonances.

    The multiple channels available in the CD-ROM format are also explored in the Timeline. Clip-art drawings that encapsulate mile­stones in the women’s lives are grouped as a timeline resem­bling a charm bracelet. These milestone markers open up to reveal explanatory texts juxta­posed with QuickTime movies that provide commentary on the texts. The texts encompass gen­der blending, anachronisms, abrupt elisions in point of view, egregarious exotica, theoretical interlocutions, lyrical interludes, personal vendettas, artificial embellishments, paradoxical pastiches, and salacious lacunae. Pharmacological adventures/ addictions, fashions, jewelry, perfumes, gardens, tragic accidents, nervous breakdowns, violent skirmishes, obsessive compulsions, legal transgres­sions, masquerades, seductions, psychic cannibalism, hysteria, bizarre domestic arrangements, lavish expenditures, eccentric eating habits, and sentimental deathbed scenes are perversely eroticized.

Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    Florida International University