Puzzling: Testing a Subject

Testing a Subject is populated by willing participants, domesticated animals, inert bodies, disobedient creations, robotic performers, and incidental actors. Through the revealing and often humorous process of testing these varied subjects, this program frames agency and control as central concerns. The social constructions of masculinity unravel in ways both amusing and revealing; the human and the artificial entwine in a curious and sensual blurring of authority. Confused, inarticulate, and debased, sometimes barely clearing the threshold of sentience, the subjects being tested also reveal themselves, in telling and poignant moments, to be stand-ins for their masters and creators.

Mark Toscano, Rating Dogs on a Scale of 1-10, 2012, 2.5 min, 16mm
Jeanne Dunning, Getting Dressed, 1999, 5 min, digital
Daria Martin, Soft Materials, 2004, 10.5 min, 16mm
Karl Sims, Evolved Virtual Creatures, 1994, 4 min, digital
Lilli CarrĂ©, Jill, 2016, 7 min, digital – in person
Joe Gibbons, His Master’s Voice, 1994, 6 min, digital
Kenneth Tam, Breakfast in Bed, 2016, 32 min, digital – in person


Flaherty NYC’s PUZZLING: About the Series
A puzzle is something puzzling– it expects deduction and solution, while at the same time describes a condition of open confusion. The six-part series “Puzzling” considers these concurrent modes to explore different registers of knowing, the generative possibilities of uncertainty, and the film form as a choreography of sense and stimuli. How can a puzzle, as a challenge and as a structure, destabilize or shape the world? How are the boundaries of sense and non-sense policed? Human and non-human test subjects, compromised figures of authority, and metaphysical detectives populate the series, alongside inquiries on communication, abstraction, and agency.