Juan Downey (1940-1993)
Shifters (1984)
1984, 28:10 min, color, sound

Downey examines meanings and interpretations of signs, symbols and systems of representation in Western cultural history in the third part of The Thinking Eye series. Employing linguistic and semiotic analyses as interpretative systems, Downey weaves literary, musical, art historical and personal references in his study of cultural icons and symbols. Using video effects and nonlinear narrative modes, Downey creates an associative "hall of mirrors" of meanings and representations that echoes the elusiveness of his subject. Shifters takes its title from the theories of Jacques Lacan — "[a shifter] designates the subject of an enunciation, but it does not signify it." In this fascinating essay, Downey plays with the subjectivity of what Leo Steinberg terms the "meaningfully ambiguous" gestures and signs of art and culture.

With: Pavel Libovicky, Charlie Morrow, Julia Husson, Victoria Larran. Camera: Kirk Von Heflin. Audio: Bob Schott. Music Synthesis: Gary Masters. Video Engineer: Rick Feist. Associate Producer: Marilys B. De Downey. -- EAI

This title is available for exhibitions, screenings, and institutional use through Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), NY. Please visit the EAI Online Catalogue for further information about this artist and work. The EAI site offers extensive resources for curators, students, artists and educators, including: an in-depth guide to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving media art; A Kinetic History: The EAI Archives Online, a collection of essays, primary documents, and media charting EAI's 40-year history and the early years of the emergent video art scene; and expanded contextual and educational materials.