9. 1979 Hey! Baby, Chickey! LA

Hey! Baby, Chickey! sprang onto the screen five years after Chicken On Foot 1974 LA, and preceded Chicken Pieces 1980 LA. Baby, Chickey! and Chicken on Foot depended on me watching the image on the close circuit monitor which was the audience and frame respectively. I was most amused watching myself; the piece would not have worked otherwise, and it was imperative for the aesthetic of Chicken on Foot, that as specific exposure of my leg remain constant in the monitor's frame. I was living in London between Chicken on Foot and Hey! Baby, Chickey. I could not, although I tried, to do any 'Chicken Pieces' while I was there, 'only in America.'

Hey! Baby Chickey! by Chris Straayer from Deviant Eyes, Deviant Bodies
P280-281 1996 Columbia University Press

In her performance art video Hey! Baby Chickey! (1978) Nina Sobell appears nude "playing" with a raw cooking chicken. With a few simple manpulations, she eradicates the cultural distance between mother and woman as sexual being. The scene opens with Sobell unwrapping a store-bought chicken as one would to prepare it for cooking. She then proceeds to use the chickenıs detached neck as a penis, inserting it into the chickenıs pelvic opening. That area of the chicken (that now represents the female genitalia) is then massaged with the chickenıs giblets in an explicitly sexual manner. Finally Sobell rubs the chicken against her own bare chest. Playing on the symbolic connection between food and sex, cooking is transformed into sexuality, but the involvement of the dead chicken pushes that sexuality towards bestiality and necrophilia. The scene is further complicated when the same chicken is given the role of baby. Sobell plays with the chicken, rocking it, holding it up by its arms as if teaching it to walk, and swinging it from breast to breast in what can only be described as a milking dance. This collapsing of the baby role with the chickenıs already established roles of dead animal, food material, and sexual object violates other taboos, including infanticide, cannibalism and pedophilia.

Sobell reiterates the relationship between food and sexuality by (bisexually) sucking and licking the (hermaphroditic) chickenıs legs and pelvis, and dancing with the chicken. In the next shot, she dresses the chicken in a feather garment and puts it into her purse. Now the chicken has turned into a woman through socialization through another woman (Sobell). By donning a feather shawl, the (chicken) woman is connected symbolically to both the (chicken) animal and its slaughter. Even while women are consumers, they are also commodities and the medium of exchange. On womanıs body, society collapses numerous dichotomies: life and death, nurturing and killing, subject and object, captor and possession. This structure of coexisting contradictions situates womenıs cultural existence to both maintain and erase taboos. While taboos act to enforce certain separations through oppositions, institutions like religion, art, popular entertainment, and commodity advertising conflate these oppositions conflate these oppositions by means of condensations such as sex/death and displacements such as sex-love-food-sex.
Chicken on Foot - I am carefully observing what is being seen in the video frame, as I carefully balance eggs on my knee, that leg is crossed over the other. You do not see my foot until I smash the egg with my fist, and at that moment, my foot comes up into the frame with a raw headless chicken on it.

Chicken On Foot by David James for ARTWEEK
1983 Vol 14 #23 p7

Tersely, but accurately titled, Sobell’s Chicken on Foot opens to reveal a naked leg diagonally traversing the screen. A hand attempts to balance an egg upon the knee, and no sooner is this accomplished than the egg is smashed. As the goo runs down the leg, the foot attached thereto kicks high in the air. A knee-jerk response, you say; but more follows. A pan-ready chicken, leaving the foot, is treated to trips up and down the slime-covered leg, dandled on the knee and engaged in some sophisticated baby talk. Finally, as its off screen mother decides to take it to some egg laying, it says bye-bye to the camera and to us. The tape is funky in a way Rufus Thomas would never have imagined and neo-humanist readings aside, what I liked best about it is that it’s so entirely off the wall, so entirely incompatible with my mundane reality, that I get a glimpse of a profoundly original frame of consciousness. By investigating thoroughly idiosyncratic territory, Sobell has circumvented the disadvantages most video artists stumble over and made a tape in which comparisons with commercial video are neither possible nor relevant.

Chicken on Foot was first made in 1974 in Black and White in my studio in Venice, Ca. with no dialogue, and remade at the LBMA video studio in Long Beach Ca. in 1979 with dialogue.