"I still think the social function of art is that kind of negative aesthetic. Otherwise there’s no social function for it."
From "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 2 (2003)
Thoughts and responses to themes of “Loss & Desire” surface in many areas of our lives, from the philosophical to the emotional. In this episode, specific works of art cause us to contemplate issues such as war and peace; the loss of community and the desire for connection; and the age-old human longing for perfection. Filmed on location in New York, New York; West Point, New York; Blair, New Jersey; Stuttgard, Germany; Paris, France; Mexico; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Created by Charles Atlas, the opening for “Loss & Desire” begins with four-time Oscar-nominated actress Jane Alexander seated before a mirror in a glamorous dressing room, reflecting on the emotions that motivate some of the characters she has brought to life on stage and screen. Alexander notes that as an actress this emotional range is “familiar territory.” Alexander introduces the artists featured in the hour, commenting that they create works that are “both personal and universal.”
"Gender, religion, nationality—they’re all sort of things that are in flux in my work," comments Collier Schorr, pointing out the ambiguity that is so important to each image. Filmed taking pictures of a wrestling practice and match, Schorr captures the physical exhaustion and camaraderie of her subjects. Shifting to the subject of art history, Schorr's images of her male model and friend, Jens, dramatize poses made by American painter Andrew Wyeth's female model Helga. The segment ends in Germany where Schorr recreates a fictionalized military occupation of the landscape, bringing to the surface the personal histories buried and repressed by war.
"I don’t have a studio, so I don’t have a specific place of production," remarks Gabriel Orozco. "What happens when you don’t have a studio is that you have to be confronted with reality all the time." The segment follows Orozco as he creates situations with objects on the street and photographs them. Orozco's interest in logic, systems, and physics is revealed in his series of games and in the dramatic "La D.S."—a Citroën car split down the center and reassembled to elongate its shape. "I tried to use the tools that everyone can use," explains Orozco, commenting on his use of everyday objects and his recent series of handmade clay shapes and pots.
The third and final artist in the hour is Janine Antoni. Filmed weaving a rope out of materials donated by friends and relatives, Antoni comments that the rope is like a "lifeline." The artist is later shown walking a tightrope, preparing for the video "Touch" where she appears to walk on the blue ocean horizon of her childhood home in the Bahamas. Antoni's use of unusual sculptural materials such as chocolate, soap, lard, and rawhide is explored as the artist takes the viewer on a tour of a major exhibition at SITE Santa Fe. "There are so many objects that...we’ve lost a connection to what they’re made of, who made them," explains Antoni.