ARTPULSE Magazine 2011
Doublespeak at UMOCA -Cara Despain
"Julie Orser’s video pieces in the exhibition, Bottleneck and Occurrence at Lookout Rock, are acutely aware of filmic history and devices, and reference character stereotypes and landscape imagery in old westerns-a typically male, typically violent genre. Bottleneck restages a “catfight” scene between two female characters from the film Destry Rides Again, but without the male influence and behavior save the original sound. In the film, the fight is broken up by a male bartender, who drenches the two women with a bucket of water as an all-male audience hoots and hollers (which seems to enable and escalate the skirmish). In Orser’s work, they fight in isolation with only props and white walls and are drenched by water pouring on them from nowhere. This exalts the fight to a sort of hyper-female alternative to the male-influenced “catfight” (a gendered term that makes a female fight into both male fantasy and female hysteria) and simultaneously perpetuates it by forcing the viewer to be the voyeur. Ironically, if the filmic reference is lost on them, the viewer is merely watching a sexy, soggy wrestling match and misses the very pointed flipped message.
Like many other works in the show (as those by Fernández, The Fourth Height and Comani), Occurrence at Lookout Rock swaps male characters for female counterparts and, as in Bottlneck, Orser removes the male actions in addition to the males themselves. The four-channel installation creates a panoramic setting for a desert standoff with projection, again with the viewer as integral part. The Outlaw, Saloon Girl, Cowgirl and The Lady enter and walk to their respective screens. They face off with no guns, culminating in a drawn out, anti-climatic end where the expected violent shootout (stereotypical male action and weapon) is replaced with the woman’s art-historical munition: the female gaze."
15 bytes: Utah's Art Magazine 2011
Doublespeak at UMOCA -Ehren Clark
"You stand in the center of four large screens. Angled to surround you, each screen offers a different perspective of a rocky desert landscape. From a single perspective of rock emerge, one by one, four women dressed in old-west, 19th century-costume: a spirited, blue-clad pioneer, a fierce cowgirl, a menacing female bandit and a sultry and commanding saloon girl. Each takes a stance and stares heavily and coldly at you. They walk around the virtual space and take a position in one of the perspectives and wait, restlessly; you do not know what for, but the mood is uneasy. The women are seemingly unaware of each other, but are alert to one thing … you. Each emerges from her position and assumes a stance front and center, and you feel a veritable moment of panic. Then, suddenly the perspectives begin to revolve, jumping from screen to screen, whirling around your perspective until, finally, the scene settles down and the women have vanished. Was it an illusion? Was it truth? You can’t be sure, but you’re glad it’s over. Julie Orser’s inventive video installation, "Occurrence at Look out Rock," challenges the concept of gender identity in typically-construed male and female norms of the 19th century in a male dominated "Western Frontier." As we find ourselves face to face with these moving images, and our own conscience of gender, we encounter an uncanny challenge to norms of aesthetics."
Drama of the Gifted Child: The Five Year Plan -Micol Hebron
"Another group of works in Drama of the Gifted Child embraces elements of horror, enigma and the macabre. Julie Orser's video Blood Work (2009), for example, extracts quintessential visual and aural elements of horror films. One by one, archetypal props (teddy bears, high heeled shoe, lampshade, purse) are foused with bright red fake blood as familiar horror movie melodies and Foley effects amplify the drama. The scenes are inter-cut with images of the perpetrator, who dons a white janitorial suit and ineffectively mops up the pervasive red liquid. The iconic and succinctly paired images and sounds stand in for our psychological projections and sublimations. In its camp indulgance, the video alternately elictits shock, laughter and uneasiness."
Santa Barbara Independent 2009
America’s Absurdist Videos: Unusual Behavior Open at CAF -Elizabeth Schwyzer
"And then there’s “Blood Work,” Julie Orser’s delightfully slick send-up of the horror genre. At just three minutes, it’s a gem of an art film, with one crisp sequence following another. Blood drips from a bare light bulb with an amplified splash, oozes from the base of a white leather handbag to the crashing minor chords of a piano, and splatters across a room to the sound of bowling pins being struck. The “blood” in question is thin and watery, making the film a pastiche of the gory horror genre rather than a horror film in its own right. And yet, when the camera pans across the faces of wide-eyed dolls to the sound of demented laughter, the hair on the back of your neck will stand on end; we’re programmed, after all, to react to this stuff."
Santa Barbara News Press 2009
Off the Off Radar Art -Josef Woodard
"Julie Orser's 'Blood Work' is a send-up of horror film shtick teeming with dripping, splashing and otherwise uncontained blood - well, the irrationally bright red fake stuff. The grisliness flips over into giddy satire in Orser's work, whereas Tamy Ben-Tor's 'Izaak' tells the Old Testament parable in disjointed, puppetry-styled form."
THE Magazine Feature 2009
On THE Radar: Seventeen Artists You Should Know About -Shana Nys Dambrot
"Born in Chicago in 1974, Julie Orser studied photography and studio art, and currently does something that could easily be mistaken for filmmaking, if it weren't for the fact that modern cinema is the very thing her art most deftly deconstructs. Her videos and photographs are shown in institutions from MoMA and REDCAT to the Royal College of Art, but she also does well on the avant-garde film festival circuit. Taking apart and reconstituting the poisonous allure of fashion, the psychological dimension of science fiction, horror, and noir, she amplifies key signifiers (dolls, designer bags, blood pools, bare light bulbs, the woods, lighting, music and all the indispensable clues that let the audience know how to feel) in order to reveal how gender archetypes are created, perpetuated, and subverted in society. Orser's work, screened recently at The Company, was also part of the Armory Center's recent Drama of the Gifted Child: The Five Year Plan."
Julie Orser, Roma, Changing Role -Helga Marsala (translated from Italian)
"The good old '50s cinema lives in a fascinating project. A story built around the desires and neuroses of the vintage female, with women film heroines transformed into video while crosscutting a disturbing set and intense close-ups.
The mysterious name given by Julie Orser (Chicago, 1974; lives in Los Angeles) to this new female character seems to come from the dawn of cinema. Anna Moore was the protagonist of Agony on the Ice, a drama with strong hues of D.W. Griffith. In 1920 the director continued to give excellent evidence of technical innovation and storytelling that codified the modern language of film. From there we arrived at the psychological drama, historic epic, and sentimental comedy in a perfect mix between art and the entertainment industry. And if everything began with Griffith, perhaps it is no coincidence that the woman designed by Orser for Anna Moore is a fascinating video creature with a celluloid-spirit that recalls the extraordinary experience of a great pioneer of American cinema. The video installation on three channels recreates themes and atmospheres of classic Hollywood films of the 40’s50’s noir and melodrama, imbued with pathos where intricate human affairs unfold within specific social contexts. It is women who occupy a strategic place in these stories, often built around the emotional strength of the feminine. Anna Moore is a sharp and concentrated plethora of female-cliché.
In the video In This Place and Double Bind everything is pushed to the excess: the gestures, the set, the facial gestures, attention to detail, lights, colors, shots; the embittered aesthetic transforms the original innocent cinematic memories into an ambiguous remake flavored with obsession. Anna Moore is in her too colorful kitchen, a cheerful home crystallized in an apparent calm bourgeois. The maniacal order betrays the shadow of tragedy, the crime, and the nightmare. Anguish, overwhelming passions, neurosis, recondite fears, sexual repression, hypocrisy and hidden perversion are the character’s precipice questioning this ordinary femme fatale, put forward by Orser in some key moments of a hypothetical, symbolic script. Beautiful in her evening dress, Anna Moorea new Lana Turner or Grace Kellyexplodes in a desperate and hysterical scream, her hands sunk between platinum blonde hair, to interpret its most beautiful scene mother. Slipping in silence, Annain a black suit and spiked heelsleft inside rooms with mysteries which are never revealed, secrets suspended in slow time and circumspect of the movie camera.
Victim of social codes, unhealthy complacence or a drive for recovery, the woman, at last, is finding her release in crying, while musical excerpts taken from old films merge in an evocative soundtrack. Halfway between the b-movie disguises of Cindy Sherman and the media distortion of Candice Breitz, Orser’s project brings together a strong seductive structure. Made of artificial stereotypes and controversial desire, a new heroin is trapped in the screen as human as she is theatrical."
ARTFORUM.com Picks 2007
Julie Orser, Paul Kopeikin Gallery at Domestic Project Space -Andrew Berardini
"Rarely has the project space at Domestic been as smartly employed as it is for Julie Orser’s photo-and-video exhibition, curated by Kaycee Olsen as part of her Opus Projects and titled “Anna Moore.” The gallery space mimics the interior of a house and gives shape and context to the on-screen performance. A classic 1950s-style blonde experiencesand, on the audio track, narratesa series of incidents both domestic and sinister, and each screen in the three-channel installation plays out different portions of a noirish suburban melodrama. Anna is a primly dressed housewife, a wigged and black-suited femme fatale, and a ravaged, hysterical prom queen. Footage of each role is intermixed with dreamy close-ups of sexual caresses that are either her own soft-focus fantasies or a ravishment that spurs madness. Her flat, ghostly voice reverberates throughout the gallery, haunting the various rooms with a fragmentary narrative that complements rather than illustrates the simultaneous six-minute videos loops.
As Cindy Sherman did with her "Untitled Film Stills," 197780, Orser creates a female image that falls somewhere between icon and cliché. But Orser’s blond star cycles through multiple roles in one work, evidencing the twists and turns of the postwar genre film. The visual tropes of that era’s movies make for beautifully composed period pieces, prompting the question of how these fifty-year-old formal elements currently affect the popular imagination. In examining the conventions of genre, Orser foregoes narrative complexity to maintain semiotic integrity. But as an examination of signs, "Anna Moore" deftly re-creates the lurid dramas of cinematic pulp to study them as sites of fictional femininity."
Roma, Changing Role, Julie Orser -Maria Leonardi (translated from Italian)
"Two souls caught in one woman, that of the perfect housewife and that of a femme fatale… suggested by the films of the fifties. Both roles are in fact those imposed by the dominant male, and the American artist Julie Orser presents them in video at Changing Role Gallery of Rome. Anna Moore, the character played by one actress, also bears this dualism in name: Anna is a palindrome you can read in both directions, from left to right, and from right to left. The perfect housewife, innocent in her dress and hairdo, composed in her movements, a cook and queen of the kitchen, the angel of the house, embodies the ideal wife at the service of her husband, a stereotype of submission. A screen shows Anna who moves through a domestic scene, illuminated, fresh and cleaned up, punctual in the details and the colors, from the yellow rubber gloves to the yellow flowers in a vase. In the other projection the femme fatale, exhibits herself as sensual and available, sinful and voluptuous, wrapped in an elegant dress and ready to respond to sexual demands. A double personality, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in one female, good and evil, however intentionally still wanted by man and in the service of man. If this is one woman! But where are the dreams? And which is the true woman? A chilling scream that burst suddenly is the artistic element that unites and exceeds the dualism of the images, it is the resurrection of the real female, natural and wild, buried for centuries in physical and psychological slavery, hidden beneath the imposed stereotypes. The interior life of women that runs like an underground river beneath the surface coated and deceptive is a powerful force, free and creative, which seeks to come to light. The work of Julie Orser intent on depicting the suffocating environment of the fifties, but it does reflect particularly well on today's society, where nothing has changed for women. Indeed, to these old stereotypes, if they are, we’ve added new ones, such as the obsessive thinness of models imitated by girls with anorexia, or the obsession of successful managers. At the same time, achievements painstakingly made over the years, such as the right to medically assisted abortion are being swallowed up in a vortex of new obscurity. Where is the real woman? Only the scream remained, but it is an act that can evoke powerful freedom. And then we scream, scream, scream, to finally come to light."
ART LTD. West Coast Art + Design Magazine Reviews 2007
Julie Orser: “Anna Moore” at Paul Kopeikin Gallery -Shana Nys Dambrot
"The powerful, romantic, unsettling and unforgettable new multimedia project from Julie Orser inaugurates the Paul Kopeikin Gallery’s second space, introducing the video and film installation programs to be shown there under the Opus Projects rubric. “Anna Moore” is a three-channel video and one-track audio installation with prints of captured videos frames. The soundtrack is a first-person voice-over narrative by Anna’s character, relating, interpreting and editing her own story, which in turn is played out on three simultaneous video loops. Large screens installed in different rooms each project a visually arresting sequence styled in saturated colors and warmly lit. It’s impossible to watch more than one at a time, but the voice provides a fractured cohesion as the viewer moves between rooms in the space, shadowing Anna through a series of rooms in the video. Across several costume changes, Anna’s clothing and surroundings are expertly styled in the iconic fashion of postwar America. One screen shows Anna moving through a domestic scene, brightly lit, crisp and clean, from her yellow rubber gloves to the yellow flowers in a vase. She moves from the kitchen to the bedroom where she sits on a taut chintz bedcover with her back to the viewer.
The action shifts to a dark room, which appears to have recently been ransacked, and Anna as a black-clad femme fatale investigates the scene solemnly. Her cool seductive voice says, “I followed her between houses.” A second screen shows Anna in the heavy makeup of a stage actress. Glamorously coiffed and evening gown clad, she proceeds to have a nervous breakdown in the halo of a spotlight. There is a nearly comic effect to the melodrama as she tears at her hair, her makeup runs, she poses and makes a show of pulling herself together. The coolness of the voice-over is punctuated by screams escaping from the actress, who for the most part emotes without sound. It starts over. The third screen presents a highly sexualized and modernin a Calvin Klein perfume commercial sort of waydream sequence of close-ups of Anna’s hands caressing her own thighs, her finger held to her pouting mouth, and other sensual abstractions. It has a feeling of being both quaint and taboo, like a daring and private curiosity. Her voice wonders, “Are you daydreaming? Look again.” Good advice for fans of the artist and the gallery."
Portland Mercury 2007
Arts Calendar -Chas Bowie
"Several years ago, Julie Orser dazzled viewers at Soundvision Gallery with an installation of more than one hundred intimate, delicate black and white photographs printed on the back of dominoes. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Los Angeles, although she resurfaced recently at the PDX Film Fest with a very smart and entertaining short film that took top prize in the hotly contested shorts competition. Now she returns to PNCA (her alma mater) with a sound and video installation from her series entitled Anna Moore. Shown concurrently with Orser's show is a program of international video works organized by ART OFFICE, a collective co-directed by Orser in California."
City Weekly Omaha 2006
I-80 Cultural Exchange -Michael Joe Krainak
“Bit Parts” by Julie Orser. Again, a nice change of pace, we move from the literal to the metaphoric as the “bits” in this film connect only randomly and conceptually as a bouncing ball crashes to the floor as a pile of broken dishes, a phone rings, off the cradle, a vacuum cleaner roars, plugged in, and a squirt gun squirts, with a bang."
OC Weekly 2005
Where's the Crazy -Rebecca Schoenkopf
"Most of the MFA students’ works are well-done, but few embody white-hot-heat. Julie Orser, from CalArts, offers three lovely, almost identical photos of a couple in a verdant, New Jerseyish farmscape. She’s taller than he, until she digs a hole to stand in so she can cut herself down to size. The pop psychology might as well have a neon sign blinking about men’s need for superiority and women’s efforts to reassure them, but Orser still manages to keep it sly and let it speak for itself."