The Universal Expectations and Frustrations of the Dystopian Female


Sally Annett

The Universal Expectations and Frustrations of the Dystopian Female

Notes on Voices_Gazes_Traces


Art history has to acknowledge the implications of an ever-changing visual and technical culture, incorporating and including a much wider range of cultural formats and artifacts, as they become normalized in society. Interestingly, the bulk of art historical critique is concerned with the visual [and static] experience of artworks and has only very recently begun to provide informed and informative text about inter/transdisciplinary works such as dada, situationist derive, fluxus, conceptual happenings, activists and interactive arts practise. The media and cinema have readily embraced these methods of communication and marketing at the same time.

The emergence of serious bodies of work in this style, the 1960’s and 70’s developed work forms which included dialogue and interaction as well as observation and documentation as central to the work. This in turn has generated certain ‘strata’ of conceptual and dialogical practice as the ‘method’ has been adopted by both monumental and community artists and has political, for example feminist arts practice. Avant guarde film has continually provided a platform of the marriage of fine art forms, which spill out of the art world into the wider commercial domain. From the early days of American ‘Film Noir’ with female icons like Barbara Stanwick, through to the Warhol ‘Film Factory’ output to the 2009 low budget ‘Paranormal Activity’ which has taken over £10million at box office, film allows the melding of artist disciplines and political and social belief.

Ilic and Prostran use the medium of film to develop both social and artistic projects and philosophies. ‘Doplgenger’ have a very specific European background to their work, lives and ideologies in which politics and social development are inextricable. Whilst Prostran’s interests have developed from an overtly political viewpoint, Ilic’s come from a feminist perspective [though no less politicized]. Both have a fascination with the use and portrayal of images of women in cinema and the media, and indeed the roles of ‘Woman’ and ‘Nation’ become blurred in much of their work, potentially interchangeable. See ‘Surplus’.

Ilic is, to some extent, Prostran’s muse, but she additionally ‘uses’ herself in the way that Karen Merkel, Lorraine Leeson and Cindy Sherman did throughout the 1980’s as model and performer, extending her role as writer, artist and director. She plays along with the objectification of women, in the context of poststructuralist nationalism, her performances nearly always mute, and mimics and shadows the history of women on the big screen, emulating cinematic greats such as Bacall and Hepburn. There is always a sense of stifling frustration which makes the viewer question, uncomfortably, the portrayal of the feminine, and in fact the purpose of the portrayal. These works hold similarities to artists’ collaborations and works like those of Carol Conde and Karl Beveridge.

In ‘Voices_Gazes_Traces’ the film we watch Ilic walk through domestic environs, searching in cupboards and rooms for some elusive item or object, her back to us, semi-frantic, never finding what she is looking for, banging doors, or brushing her hair in a large bay window, turning in circles in her closed situation with cinematic echoes of Jonze and Allen. We subconciously question who, why, and what she is? What is her purpose? We are offered views of other women, who pose awkwardly in the Iconic stances of Hollywood greats. These are ‘real’ women: residents of Milton Keynes, but as is the nature of the city, they are all newcomers, whose ancestry is from all the world not just the UK.

The pace of the film is beautiful, and the black and white imagery timeless; it moved many of the audience to tears. ‘Doplgenger’ are the masters of technique and apply academic and artistic rigour to all their work, embracing both cinematic histories and genres seamlessly with cutting edge technologies. The works they produce are multi-facetted, experimental and avant guarde. They employ dialogical and philosophical methods, soliciting collaboration on the part of the viewer, yet still maintaining the distance film and photography command. There are obvious references to the ongoing battle between archetype and aesthetic [stereotype], but their art authentically responds to the politics and aesthetics of our era in archetypal, temporal and instantaneous ways. Whilst the outcomes are sometimes beautiful and dark, there is the constant, deliberate and prevalent influence of humour and irony in the works; they never take themselves too seriously and acknowledge the multitude of influences and factors present.


* Sally Annett is UK based multimedia artist, curator and artistic director of Fringemk Art Festival



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