Kaucyila Brooke is an artist based in Los Angeles. She has been a regular faculty member of the Program in Photography and Media at CalArts since 1992, and served as Program Director (1999 –2004) and Program Co-Director (1994-1999, 2013-2015).
Brooke’s multidisciplinary practice addresses the politics of cultural production and sexual representation. In diverse narrativized and serial formats—including large-scale photomontages, photo novellas, and photographic archives—she reevaluates the status of the photograph as object.
Often based on archival research, many of Brooke’s projects focus on the recoding of the photographic genres of portraiture, still life, documentary reportage, and landscape. Pursuing a structural approach that is inherently allegorical, the work opens upon a range of interpretation brought about by the juxtaposition of disparate photographic fragments. In Tit for Twat, an ongoing photomontage series Brooke began in 1993 that recodes the biblical creation myth of Genesis, she restages the narrative with reference to lesbian sexual identity. In the series Kathy Acker’s Clothes (1999–2004), she constructs a posthumous portrait of the late American experimental poet, writer, and feminist by photographing selected items from Acker’s personal wardrobe. In The Boy Mechanic (1996–ongoing), she documents a social history of lesbian bars by photographing their present and former locations in cities such as San Diego, Cologne, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In 1990, she and Jane Cottis also co-produced the feature length videotape Dry Kisses Only, which uses manipulated film, clips, and the humorous commentary of Theory Woman, to explore the lesbian subtext in classic Hollywood films.
Brooke also investigates strategies of knowledge production in institutions, urban structures, and the private sphere, analyzing the ways in which Enlightenment thought invented, revised, collected, and displayed their curiosity about science, the body, art, and nature. In Vitrinen in Arbeit (2002–2005), an extensive photographic archive documenting the changing exhibition strategies in the Natural History Museum in Vienna, she captures the conflicted beauty of such spaces. In Alma Mater (2009), a five channel video installation, women scholars and artists enact a feminist, peripatetic pedagogy as they walk through the 19th century arcades of the University of Vienna populated by the busts of 154 male scientists and scholars. In Brooke’s performative slide lecture Where Does the Venus Come From? (2009, 2015) as Dr. Julia Savage, she discusses the unknown origins of the pre-historic figurine known as the Venus von Willendorf and traces the 19th century’s masculinist bias in such academic sciences as anthropology and archeology.