Kathy is a single-channel video depicting Kathy Bates’ performances, sourced from film and television appearances throughout her career. Aleesa Cohene culls, cuts, and edits these performances to reveal a fraught existence of unceasing solitude between Bates’ many characters. The interactions in the work draw attention to how Bates’ roles—ones that in film industry parlance were typically “secondary,” and that explicitly failed to meet normative standards—reinforced the legitimacy of those standards precisely by virtue of their failure. In her combined subaltern roles, she is sexual, aggressive, subservient, abused, abusive, truth-telling, manipulative, non-woman, and non-man. Rather than playing her usual role as a foil to other characters, in Cohene’s work, Bates takes up central space, playing only with and against herself.
With Kathy, Cohene continues her practice of visualizing the tropes, codes, and stereotypes that make up the dominant White, heteronormative, Western visual culture. In Kathy, as in her past work, the artist plays with affect: Through cutting and splicing she undercuts convenient, comfortable viewership to expose its complex, often insidious, and sometimes paradoxical implications. In doing so, Cohene pushes viewers to more deeply engage with the ways contemporary visual culture operates and, consequently, to thwart its hegemonic impulses.