Howard Fried
Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II, 1971

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.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Inside the Harlequin: Approach-Avoidance III and II
Artist name
Howard Fried
Date created
video installation
two unsynchronized Super-8 film loops, color, silent, transferred to HD video, with two unsynchronized audio loops
each projected image: 45 in. × 60 in. (114.3 cm × 304.8 cm); overall: 75 5/8 in. × 120 in. × 87 in. (190.5 cm × 304.8 cm × 220.98 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Howard Fried
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Other Works by Howard Fried

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