Zoom Beauty: On Appearance & Beyond

“Depth must be hidden. Where? On the surface.” (Hugo Von Hofmannsthal)

The images I am sharing today are from the latest film shoot, in which I continue to explore themes of embodiment in film, as well as the idea of the screen as a transparent wall beyond which some of our senses aren’t allowed to extend.

The film is a second one in the series of films exploring these ideas directly, ideas that have come into forefront because of the pandemic, with so much of our time spent online, facing others via various video interfaces such as Zoom and Skype.

Specifically I wanted the focus here on the idea of ‘appearance’ and mirrors. In some way this has become such a preoccupation during the pandemic for anyone meeting people online. We are constantly having to face the computer camera, which reflects back to us our own face, next to all the other faces that we interact with. What is the effect of this new omnipresent experience in a world already obsessed with surface and appearance?

In this film the computer screen is treated both as a mirror as well as an actual person who can be touched. This kind of game of pretence enables me to ignore reality and instead employ the imagination to open up access to various other dimensions of experience, to play.

To feed the imagination during the shoot, I create an atmosphere in the room of enveloping pink glow, of warmth and sensual pleasures. There are plants touching the computer, flowers, as well as make up tools, creams and perfumes, sweets and feathered lamps glowing invitingly.

The border between here and there, which the screen embodies, is thus pleasingly softened, blurred by the feathered touch, by the pink brushes and scent of perfume.

Additionally the glowing image of the face of the woman inside the window is refracted at times, with the help of a real mirror, so that it no longer dominates, but is instead echoed elsewhere.

Animation is introduced with the help of a blow dryer, creating a momentary sense of the woman inside the screen being an astronaut, floating in zero gravity, weightless.

In a recent conversation for Sensory Orders exhibition , in which I participated, the idea of living in a kind of “fire” of electronic impulses was brought up and discussed. I found it a compelling thought and immediately considered the idea of earth and being grounded in a place as the right antidote to this weightlessness.

Within the virtual space our existence can feel too light somehow, like the earth has been burned below our feet.

In his novel Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera muses on our human condition: “the heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes a man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.”

The online virtual existence certainly feels only half real and equally only half significant.

At the end of the filming the young woman “here” covers the screen with an embroidered fine fabric which she previously wore. This veil becomes the tangible version of the transparent screen.

The computer has now been transformed into a window through which a woman looks at us.

The imagination rejoices. It knows that all windows are there to be opened.

Reflections, images and concept by Tereza Stehlikova.

With Tereza Kamenicka as the woman behind the screen and Anna Wozencroft as the woman in front.

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