Ellen Zweig


I started as a poet, and like many American poets of my generation, I wanted the poem to be oral. I wanted it to be a kind of music. English is a language that pays a good deal of attention to stress. It's not a musical language in terms of tone, but more in terms of the rhythms of spoken language. I wanted to make music from the rhythms of ordinary American English. I got involved in the sound poetry movement; text-sound composition or poesie sonore as it was called in Europe. I was influenced by the minimal music of composers like Steve Reich, Harold Budd and Philip Glass. I experimented with repetition ­ because when you hear a poem out loud, you need the phrases repeated over and over in order to take in the complexity of the language. But I also wanted to do with words what these composers were doing with music. Repeating phrases with small changes, playing with the words so that they made patterns of sound. I used a technique I call the "human loop." Instead of electronically looping a repeated phrase, I recorded several voices saying the same phrase for up to a minute. When these are played together, the different speeds of the individual performances cause the voices to chorus and separate.

excerpt: She Traveled

I began to perform these compositions in the 1970s. It was a time of great interchange between all of the arts in the U.S. and I soon found myself performing in spaces in the visual arts world, music world and poetry world. I began to use projections ­ slides and Super-8 film ­ and I performed live with audiotape in order to multiply my voice.

Running Errands

In 1986, I created my first camera obscura ­ a dark room which takes in images from the outside world and projects them on a screen. For New Music America in Houston, Texas, I made a camera in a stagecoach. I dressed as a Victorian lady traveler and stood waiting for the coach to arrive.

Lady Waiting For Coach

It was a stagecoach pulled by four white mules.

Stagecoach Camera

I had entirely enclosed the coach so that the only light came through a lens system that projected the outside world onto a screen when I closed the door.

Lens System Screen

The image was very alive, moving and curved. I didn't fix the image ­ didn't take a photograph with my camera. Instead, I invited viewers to take a 15 minute ride around Houston. There was an audiotape that played in the coach, a soundtrack for our ride.

Image On Screen

audio excerpt: She Traveled

In the 1990s, I collaborated with the photographer, Meridel Rubenstein, on a large project called "Critical Mass." It was about Edith Warner, a woman who lived near Los Alamos during the time of the making of the atomic bomb. She was friends with J. Robert Oppenheimer and served special dinners to the scientists from the Los Alamos Laboratory; she was also friends with the people of the Pueblos who lived nearby. One of the pieces we made was a video installation called "Archimedes' Chamber." When you approached it, you saw a portal with images moving on four video monitors; the video was flanked by photographs by Meridel.

ArchimedesPortal & ArchimedesPortal1

When you entered the installation, you saw a projected video on the floor and you heard the soundtrack.

Archimedes Projection
audio excerpt: If Arch (omitted on account of space constraints)

In 1994, I made "Hubert's Lure," an installation on 42nd Street in New York City. Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus was on West 42nd Street from 1925 until well into the 1960s. If you visited Hubert's, you might see Lady Olga, a famous bearded lady who was in Tod Browning's movie "Freaks." I made the outside of my installation look like the outside of a Dime Museum or Freak show with painted banners advertising the wonders inside.

Huberts Lure Museum

One part of the window had a miniature stage where a performer might come out to do the "bally," the talking that lured the customers into the museum. I made this "bally" by creating a Pepper's Ghost illusion.

(Image: PeppersGhost ~ not received)

This was a 19th century optical illusion and you can see it yourself if you sit by a window at night. Inside put a bright light so that it illuminates you; then, look out the window and you'll see yourself hanging in the air. This is because the reflection in the glass looks like a projection.

In my installation, I projected a video image of myself performing as Lady Olga onto a piece of glass that was installed on a diagonal in front of the miniature stage. Although the glass was in front and the video was above, you couldn't see either one. You only saw the performance, a little person made out of light, walking on the solid stage or sitting on the solid chair.

Huberts Lure Lady
(video clip: HubertsLureExcerpt2 ~ not included due to disk-space constraints)

In 2000, I began my video series, HEAP, experimental portraits of Westerners who have studied, invented, misunderstood and loved China. Each portrait concentrates on a historic figure and tries to understand the complex attitudes that have developed in the West, creating an ambiguous and intense portrait of cultural contact.

In "(The Chinese Room) John Searle," a little girl is running. Calligraphy, reflections of a garden in the glass that frames calligraphic texts, tourists on a misty mountain top. A small boy shouts at me in Chinese: "you can't shoot here." The camera invades the country. The philosopher, John Searle, attempting to prove that artificial intelligence could appear intelligent but could never really recreate a human mind, wrote about a thought experiment called "The Chinese Room, " in his article, "Minds, Brains and Programs." He needed a foreign language to prove his point and he chose Chinese. This video is about the viewer as traveler, inside but outside, embarrassed and ecstatic, locked in the Chinese room and trying to understand.

4 videostills from '(The Chinese Room) John Searle'
(videoclip: SearleExcerpt ~ not included due to disk-space constraints)

In "(tongue tongue stone) G.W. Leibnitz," the viewer follows a trail of associations, encountering Leibnitz through a Deleuzian language of fissures and folds. The camera is close-up, caressing the surfaces of unusual rocks and folds of falling silk. We hear the ringing sounds of sonorous stones. An American man categorizes rocks by tasting them with his tongue. A dog carries a rock in her mouth. Leibnitz is said to have invented calculus because of a misunderstanding of the I-Ching. He is the philosopher of surfaces and of the penetration of matter, which he divided into "monads" or atoms, each object equivalent to each other object in a world of interconnected depths.

3 videostills from '(tongue tongue stone) G.W. Leibnitz'
video excerpt: Leibnitz (omitted on account of space constraints)

In "(Unsolved) Robert van Gulik," there are references to the Dutch diplomat van Gulik's many interests in a mystery story with no resolution ­ the ancient Chinese musical instrument, guqin; the wonderful ape called gibbon; the Judge Dee mysteries intermingled with a Caucasian man who is transformed into the Chinese opera character Judge Bao. Meanwhile, there's something hidden under the tarp on that boat ­ is it a body? This one's about an attempt to learn to be Chinese - earnest and eager, failing and sometimes hitting one right note, miscommunicating and translating. Texts spoken in English seem to appear on the screen in Chinese, but the Chinese text tells another story.

5 videostills from '(Unsolved) Robert van Gulik'
(videoclip: VanGulikExcerpt3 ~ not included due to disk-space constraints)



  • 2004: videotape: precarious, 8:20 mins.
  • 2003: videotape: (unsolved) Robert van Gulik, 18 mins. (from Heap) Thailand New Media Festival 2004.
  • 2002: videotape: (tongue tongue stone) G.W. Leibnitz, 9:36 minutes (from Heap) World Premiere, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Jan. 26, 28, 2003
    videotape: (The Chinese Room) John Searle, 7:30 minute videotape (from Heap) World Premiere, Viper Basel, Switzerland, November, 2003
  • 1993-7: video installation: Critical Mass, (with Meridel Rubenstein),
  • 1997: Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Jan.25-Mar.22.
  • 1996: Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Sept.1-Nov. 5.
  • 1995: List Center for the Visual Arts, MIT, Oct. 7-Dec. 18.
  • 1993: New Mexico Museum of Fine Art, Santa Fe, Nov.6-Feb.13,1994.
  • 1995: radio play: Mendicant Erotics (Sydney), commissioned by ABC Radio, Australia, first aired October 23.
  • 1994: video installation: Hubert's Lure, 42nd St. Project (Creative Time), July-September.
  • 1993: installation: Botanizing on the Asphalt, Art in General, New York, March 13-May 1. video installation: The Invisible Woman..., P.S. 1,New York, Feb.14-Mar.21.
  • 1992: video of installation, Ronald Feldman Gallery, May 2-June 6. camera obscura object: Barrel Camera, Canary Wharf, London, Jan.20-Mar.1. previously shown at Technorama, Winterthur, Switzerland, Sept.27-Apr.30, 1991.
  • 1991: installation: Monstrous Wonder, Broadway Windows, New York, Oct. 25-Dec.1.
    video installation: Portal to Archimedes' Chamber, San Francisco Camerawork, Jan. 31-Mar. 9.
  • 1989: a multi-lens camera obscura installtion: Such Ruins Give the Mind a Sense of Sadness, Exploratorium, San Francisco, permanent.
  • 1988: camera obscura installation: Silo and Barrel Cameras, Artpark, Lewiston, N.Y., July-Sept. camera obscura objects in group show: Beyond the Camera Obscura. San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, March 24-May 1.
    installation: Three Camera Obscuras and a set of photographs, Diverse Works, Houston, Texas, February 27-May 1.
  • 1989: audio anthology: guest editor, False Phonemes, Tellus #22.
  • 1987: camera obscura installed in a gazebo: Gazecamerabo or Hannah's Tea Party, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Oct. 24-Dec. 15.
    radio play: Impressions of Africa: The Play (a radio play), aired on ABC Australia.
  • 1986: text-sound composition installed in a camera obscura stagecoach: She Travelled for the Landscape, , for New Music America, Houston, Texas, April 5, 6, 12, 13.
    audio work: We Must All Be Explorers (with music by John Di Stefano), Awkward Sentence(002), San Francisco.
  • 1985: audio work: "Fear of Dining and Dining Conversation, for Part IV of Foodchain, a performance by Rachel Rosenthal, Japan
    American Center, Los Angeles, May 10-12. soundtrack for a film: "Other Reckless Things", by Janis Crystal Lipzin, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Oct.21, and touring.


  • 2000: Artist-in-Residence, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    "The Electric Travels of Lucy Anna Morel," performance on the internet
  • 1995: Artspace, Sydney, Australia, August 3. Universal Theater, Melbourne, Australia, August 1. Van Gogh's Ear Lobe, Brisbane, Australia, July 24. U of California, San Diego (Center for Research in Computing and the Arts), April 21.
  • 1994: The Lab, San Francisco, June 3.
  • 1991: Whitney Museum of American Art(Downtown), May 9.
  • 1990: Festival de la Batie, Geneva, Switzerland, September 15.
  • 1989: Exploratorium, San Francisco, December 3 & 5.
  • 1988: Artpark, July 30. SUNY Binghamton, April l6. Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, March 27. Diverse Works, Houston, Texas, February 27 & 28.
  • 1987: New Langton Arts, San Francisco, California, September 19. Jacques Marchais Center for Tibetan Art, Staten Island, New York, June 7.
  • 1986: Eyemediae, Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 9. Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, December 7. Yellow Springs Institute, Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania, August 3. (a collaboration with poet Armand Schwerner) Giant Camera, San Francisco, June 21(part of EX(CENTRIC) LADY TRAVELLERS). Falkirk Community Cultural Center, San Rafael, California, June12,14, 22. (a site-specific theater piece in a Victorian house; part of EX(CENTRIC) LADY TRAVELLERS. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, May 13. Performance Space, Sydney, Australia(Sydney Biennele: Soundworks), May 9. Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, May 7. Camera Obscura Stagecoach (New Music America), Houston, Texas, April 5, 6, 12,13. San Francisco Camerawork, San Francisco, March 18. Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 19.
  • 1985: Village Voice, Paris, France, July 24. White Swan Pub, London, England, July 16. St. Mark's, New York, April 8.
  • 1984: San Francisco Art Institute, August 31. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, June 25. Stichting Logos, Gent, Belgium, June 20. On Broadway, San Francisco, May 12 (premier of IMPRESSIONS OF AFRICA: VARIATIONS FOR RAYMOND ROUSSEL)
  • 1983: Roulette, New York, October 24. Teatro Carcano, Milan, Italy, June 25(Polyphonix Milano). Theatre de la Bastille, Paris, France, June 16(Polyphonix 5). Sushi, San Diego, California, April 30. Metropolis Space, Los Angeles, California, April 23. Newfoundland Theater, New York, March 27.
  • 1982: New Performance Gallery, San Francisco, December 3, 4, 5. Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, July 29. Exiles Bookshop Gallery, Sydney, Australia, July 23. Espace dbd, Los Angeles, California, March 6. 10 Leonard St., New York, January 7.
  • 1972-81: performances include: 1st National Congress on Women in Music (Washington Square Church), American Center, Paris, France, (Polyphonix 2), 12th International Festival of Sound Poetry, New York,18th Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  • 2000: Artist in Residence: Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (performance experiments with Internet 2)
  • 1998: Residency, Bellagio Conference and Study Center.
  • 1992: Electronic Television Center, Finishing Funds(video). Artist-in-Residence, Harvestworks, New York.(video soundtrack)
  • 1988: National Endowment for the Arts, Interarts. Art Matters, Inc.
  • 1986-7: Artist-in-Residence Program, Harvestworks, Inc., New York, and Commission from ABC Radio, Sydney, Australia for production of the radio play IMPRESSIONS OF AFRICA.
  • 1985: Interarts of Marin, Small Projects Award. National Endowment for the Arts, Interarts.
  • 1984: National Endowment for the Arts, Literature, for POLYPHONIX, a festival of language and performance.


  • 2000: Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties, interview, ed. Linda Montano, U. of California Press.
  • 1999: On the Beaten Track, pp. 57-58, by Lucy Lippard, New York: The New Press.
  • 1997: Chicago Reader, February 21, review of Critical Mass by Mark Swartz Chicago Sun Times, January 24, review of Critical Mass by Delia O'Hara
  • 1995: Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 32, review of radio play The Age, August 1, Melbourne, Australia, Danielle Talbot.
  • 1994: Boston Sunday Globe, October 13, review of Critical Mass by Christine Temin.
  • 1988: Artweek, review of group show Beyond the Camera Obscura, by Jamie Brunson. High Performance, Issue 40, review of EVERYTHING YOU'RE GIVING ME IS JUST THINGS YOU'RE GIVING ME, by Christine Tamblyn.
  • 1987: Afterimage, article by Christine Tamblyn.
  • 1986: High Performance, Issue 35, review of SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE at the Giant Camera, San Francisco, by Alfred Jan. Artweek, July 12, review of EX(CENTRIC) LADY TRAVELLERS AT FALKIRK, by Christine Tamblyn. Image Magazine(San Francisco Examiner), June 15, article on SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE at the Giant Camera, San Francisco, by Misha Berson. Artscene(Houston), Summer, review of SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE, text-sound installation in a camera obscura stagecoach, by William Steen. Public News(Houston), April 10, interview on the occasion of SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE, Houston, by Barry Brice. High Performance, Issue 33, review of RUNNING ERRANDS IN AFRICA, at Video Free America in the show INVENTED LOCATIONS, by Alfred Jan
  • 1985: Unsound, Volume 2, No. 2, (San Francisco), interview


  • 1994: New York 1 News
  • 1987: Fresno Arts Center and Museum, videotape of RUNNING ERRANDS IN AFRICA and photographic documentation of SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE(Giant Camera and stagecoach camera obscura versions), EX(CENTRIC) LADY TRAVELLER IN AUSTRALIA, and IMPRESSIONS OF AFRICA included in the exhibition "Passages: A Survey of California
    Women Artists-Lively Arts: Video and Performance II, March 29-June 7.
  • 1986: WDR T.V., West Germany, documentary on SHE TRAVELLED FOR THE LANDSCAPE(Giant Camera), by Hans-Gerd Weigand.
  • 1983: High Performance, Issue 20(photography issue), COMMON CROW.



  • 2002: "Les Os Sensibles" (Sensitive Bones), Polyphonix, Centre Pompidou, Editions Leo Scheer,.
  • 1996: "Mendicant Erotics [Sydney]," The Drama Review, #151.
  • 1995: "They Spoke to the Angels," "If Archimedes...," "The Dinner," from Critical Mass, Conjunctions 24.
  • 1994: "Everything You're Giving Me Is Just Things You're Giving Me", (with Armand Schwerner), Kenyon Review, Vol. XVI, No. 1
  • 1992: "A Barrel of Her Own Design", Resurgent: New Writing by Women, University of Illinois Press.
  • 1990: "The Lady and the Camel", Women and Performance, Vol. 5, No. 1.
  • 1988: "Mapping..."; "Posing for Photographs", Drukwerk De Zaak 37, Groningen, The Netherlands.
  • 1986: Impressions of Africa: Variations for Raymond Roussel, Part IV: The Play, e.g. press, San Francisco.
  • 1985: "The Act of Watching", Unsound, Vol. 2, No. 2. "Trade Routes", Moving Letters, 7, Paris. "Long Time No See", Assembling, 12, New York.
  • 1981: "Fear of Dining and Dining Conversation", High Performance.


  • 2003: "Voicebox," Millenium Film Journal, Nos. 39,40.
  • 2000: "Moving Pictures: Some Notes on Counting Above 100," Millenium Film Journal, Nos.34-35.
  • 1999: "Absent Bodies, Writing Rooms," Chora 3, McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • 1997: "The Lurker," Being on Line, Net Subjectivity, Lusitania, Vol. 8.
  • 1996: "Constructing Loss: Film and Presence in the Work of Eleanor Antin," Millenium Film Journal, No.29.
  • 1994: "The Best Kept Secret," American Book Review, Vol. 16, No. 3. "Describing Writing Describing," CTheory, online.
  • 1990: "Life/Art Projects", The Act, Vol. 2, No. 1
  • 1988: "The Missing Context", Exposure, Vol. 26, Nos. 2/3
  • 1986: "Suspicious Language", The Act, Vol. l, No. l.
  • 1984: "Feminism and Formalism", Poetics Journal, No. 4.
  • 1982: "Jackson MacLow: The Limits of Formalism", Poetics Today, Vol. 3, No. 3.
  • 1981: The Poetry Reading: A Contemporary Compendium of Language and Performance(ed. with Stephen Vincent), Momo's Press, San Francisco.


  • 2002: from Mendicant Erotics, Golden Handcuffs, Vol.1, No.1.
  • 2001: from Mendicant Erotics, Fish Drum, Vol. 16.
  • 1995: excerpt from Surveillance, 13th Moon, Vol.13, Nos.1&2
  • 1993: excerpt from Surveillance, Black Ice, No. 10.
  • 1992: excerpt from Surveillance, Trivia, No. 19


  • 1997- School of Visual Arts, Computer Arts, MA Program
  • 1999: Brown University, Visiting Associate Professor, Modern Culture and Media Department
  • 1996: Duke in New York Arts Program, Academic Director
  • 1995: Rhode Island School of Design, Sculpture, Visiting Artist
  • 1992-1995 Brown University, Visiting Associate Professor, Visual Arts
  • 1993: Kansas City Art Institute, Visiting Associate Professor, Photo/Video Department
  • 1989-1992: Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania Performance Studies Program, Associate Professor
  • 1988-1989: St. Lawrence University, Assistant Professor Fine Arts Department (Performance)
  • 1987(Fall): Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Visiting Artist Fine Arts Department (Performance)
  • 1980-1987: San Francisco State University, Lecturer Interarts Center
  • 1984-1985: San Francisco Art Institute, Visiting Artist Film Department (1985) Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (1984)


  • 1980: PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thesis: Contemporary Performance and Poetry
  • 1970: MFA Columbia University, New York.
  • 1967: BA University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ellen Zweig
90 Hudson St. #3E
New York, NY 10013

e-mail: ezweig@ix.netcom.com