Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II

Howard Fried1971

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

In the early 1970s Howard Fried became known for his pioneering work in video, performance, and installation art. This film installation investigates the psychological complexities inherent in decision making by addressing the concept of approach-avoidance conflict: indecision about pursuing a goal or activity that is both attractive and undesirable. Reflecting Fried's characteristic wit and use of metaphor, the piece deals with polarities such as control vs. randomness, functional vs. nonfunctional, active vs. passive, and forward vs. backward.

Fried's system-based editing breaks up the linearity of four pairs of opposing action sequences that play with the moving positions of figures and objects in the artist's studio. The slightly different film lengths produce an infinitely changing set of juxtapositions. Two men are restricted to opposite sides of the space, while the third (Fried) freely crosses over the dividing line, acting cooperatively or antagonistically with the others. With an emphasis on process, Fried objectifies the mental state of continually reevaluating one's own criteria.

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  • Title: Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II
  • Creator: Howard Fried
  • Date Created: 1971
  • Physical Dimensions: w3048 x h1143 in (projected images, overall)
  • Type: video installation
  • Rights: © Howard Fried
  • External Link: SFMOMA
  • Medium: two unsynchronized Super-8 film loops, color, silent, transferred to HD video, with two unsynchronized audio loops
  • More Info: More About This Artist - SFMOMA, Read: One on One: Tanya Zimbardo on Howard Fried
  • Credit Line: Accessions Committee Fund purchase
  • About the Artist: A major figure in Conceptual art in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1970, Howard Fried became known for his performance, video, film, and sculptural installations. Early works that often featured the artist in and around his studio metaphorically addressed and objectified aspects of his daily experience and psychological processes. Exploratory in nature, Fried's work reflects an interest in decision making and how information is perceived and read. His highly composed and edited videos are characterized by his attention to the role of time sequences, camera perspective, and spatial and semiotic relationships. Several groundbreaking pieces establish a problem or conflict and the possibility of its resolution within a piece. In such works the artist often uses the structure of a game or activity between multiple participants to observe the behavior of the individual in response to the situation. Based in the Bay Area since 1967, Fried received his B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1968 and his M.F.A. from the University of California at Davis in 1970. He founded the performance and video department (now New Genres) at the San Francisco Art Institute.