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Martha Rosler • Secrets from the Street: No Disclosure

1980, 12:20 min, color, sound


Reading the billboards, the trash, the cars, the people, and the graffitti of the street as cultural signs, Rosler extracts the network of social power and domination that determines whose culture gets represented where, asking, « Whose culture gets in the magazines and whose culture is required to exist in the street? » A collage of super-8 footage shot while cruising the streets of a predominantly Latino neighborhood with a voiceover of Rosler’s commentary, the tape successfully combines social analysis with everyday observation, drawing attention to the structure of society’s fabric and reevaluating what the dominant culture calls « trash. »

Secrets From the Street examines the intersection of cultures and classes as exemplified by the street life of San Francisco’s Mission District. This videotape, produced for an exhibition held jointly at San Francisco’s City Hall and its Museum of Modern Art, argues — against the show’s theme and title, Public Disclosure: Secrets from the Street — that accounts of cultural life that omit the question of social power are mythical: The real « secret » is the obscured relation of economic and political domination exercised by one’s own culture over the observed subculture. Or, as Rosler states in the tape’s voiceover, « The secret is that to know the meaning of a culture you must know the limits of meaning of your own. »EAI