New Blood/New Media: Digital Media Interactions and Projections opened in the Florida Gulf Coast University Art Gallery last evening. Straight from curator Michael Salmond's Department of Awesome, this highly diverse digital exhibition wrangles maximum artistic content out of a host of technological media that installation artists are only just now beginning to embrace.
One of six installations in the exhibit, Over and Under and Through is a short film created and directed by 27-year-old filmmaker Desiree Moore. It ran without sound last night while Desiree chatted with curator Michael Salmond during the Gallery Talk portion of the exhibit's opening in front of the audience of students, faculty and art lovers who turned out for FGCU's first-ever digital media show.
Moore is keenly interested in female adolescence, and that's what her content-dense, highly metaphorical short is all about. The piece depicts a young woman trapped inside a patriarchal home structure that includes jumping twin cheerleaders, a matronly fish-cleaning grandmother and the identity-questing Iris who is dressed in a skeleton-emblazoned blue T-shirt that symbolizes the audience's voyeuristic ability to look beneath her skin and peer deep inside. But Moore isn't concerned with Iris' developing fecundity. It's her inner psyche that the film's really about.
At its core, Over and Under and Through is a coming of age film about a girl who seems out of place in what should be considered home. Her passive confrontations lead her beyond the home and into a world where she must face who she is in a surprisingly dark way. That said, however, the viewer would need a degree in clinical psychology to deconstruct the film into its component parts. Or they could have just turned out to listen to Desiree dissect her imagery and symbolism as Salmond's gentle but insistent prompting.
"Lots of the imagery comes from the '70s, '80s and '90s," Desiree revealed. "Culture now is kind of retro. It's all mashed together." To make that point, for example, she employed gestures from the past out of context in the present in order to create startling yet strangely familiar sequences like the one where the grandmother uses a wire hanger to cinch up a zipper on a grimacing twin while the other holds her in place. The seemingly violent, sexually suggestive struggle causes Iris to recoil in horror, but in reality all she's seeing is one of the twins being helped into a skin-tight pair of jeans.
"My mother told me one time how in the '70s or '80s they'd wear jeans so tight that the only way to get into them was to lay on the bed and use a pair of pliers to pull up the zipper," Desiree explained. The image stuck and Moore incorporated it into the film. But without this innocuous backstory, what's taking place in the sequence is mysterious not only to Iris, but to the audience, which perceives the action through the window of her reaction.
The film's visual language also uses gymnastics to illustrate how body image is inextricably connected to a young woman's developing sexuality. "A couple of years earlier, a young girl would do a handstand without any cares. But at a certain age, she's suddenly cognizant that someone could see her underwear," Desiree said by way of illustration. "So it's about growing awareness," a topic which holds a great deal of fascination for Moore, whose videos mix dance, theater, and myth to create a physical language that attempts to articulate the psyche.
As Iris navigates her house from interior to exterior and day to night, she is confronted with many of these typically-feminine roles. And as she does, she realizes that she doesn't fit in. She is pushed from the house into a landscape that challenges her to confront who she is. "In the end," the experimental filmmaker confides, "she is able to grasp the notion of true self."
A University of South Florida MFA graduate, Moore began thinking about photography during 8th grade. But she had to wait until her junior year in high school to begin her journey, since the class was restricted to juniors and seniors. After a brief stint at the Art Institute of Chicago (which she didn't particularly care for), she switched to the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, where she received her BFA in Photography, with a minor in art history.
At USF, she took Best in Show at the 36th Annual USF Juried Student Show as well as a top 5 in a recent Creative Loafing Video contest associated with the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Desiree also had three of her works screened at the Videoholica Film Festival in Bulgaria in 2011.
New Blood/New Media will be on view in the FGCU Art Gallery through September 19. The gallery is located inside the FGCU Arts Complex, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Blvd S, Fort Myers FL 33965. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 4-8 p.m. on Thursdays for Evenings with Art.