The Laughing Alligator
Juan Downey, 1978, 27'29''

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The Laughing Alligator is a part of Downey's 'Video Trans America' series that he began in 1971 and which consists of more than 30 tapes and installations. Due to Downey's premature death in 1993, this series will never be completed. Apart from its anthropological orientation, Video Trans America is also Downey's attempt to gain insight into his Latin American origins. The Laughing Alligator was made while Downey was living amongst the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon. The traditional documentary often creates the impression that the film or video camera is an objective eye that records reality. However, the camera's position (and its very presence) inevitably influences what is being presented on tape. Downey in no way attempts to dish up an 'objective' portrai of the Yanomami. Instead he allows his own presence and that of the video equipment to make an important contribution to the form and the content of this work. Here, the Yanomami (who are neither naive nor blas when confronted with pictures) enter into a dialogue with their own image. However, this is not before they have been convinced that the camera, which they view as a potential weapon, cannot not harm them nor their dead. The results of this encounter are both exciting and fascinating. Downey also depicts the Yanomami's mythological origins: the laughing crocodile from whom fire is stolen so that Man can survive. Downey introduces an extra dimension through his subtle interweaving of documentary material with autobiographical images. Read more...

  • Date: 1978
  • Length: 27'29''
  • Type: Video
  • Copyrights: All rights reserved (c) LIMA
  • Genre: (experimental) documentary (artwork genre), autobiography, self-portrait
  • Keywords: identity, communication, culture