Howard Fried

American (Cleveland, Ohio, 1946)

Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II

video installation | two unsynchronized Super-8 film loops transferred to video with two audio loops
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  • Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II

    Howard Fried, Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II, 1971; two unsynchronized Super-8 film loops transferred to video with two audio loops, projected images: 45 in. x 120 in. (114.3 cm x 304.8 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Howard Fried

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.

Projected images: 45 in. x 120 in. (114.3 cm x 304.8 cm)
Acquired 2000
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Howard Fried


Conceptual art, artist studio, psychological conflict, parallels, juxtapositions, working, men, making, construction, destruction, destroying

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