Red Film

Visual artist Sara Cwynar sees red in this video essay. In fact, she sees it everywhere: in cosmetics and cars, in clothes and on printing presses. That color red serves as the organizing principle of this piece: it’s the (red) thread running through a motley mix of seemingly unconnected images. The voice-over narration does little to tie all those images together, as it too is fragmented and seems to string together haphazard thoughts.


But make no mistake: there is a logic and a method to Cwynar’s approach. In fact, the deluge of images and texts is the point. “We built an idealized image world on top of the real world and we live in it,” the artist herself puts it. Her Red Film is a barrage of icons and signifiers of that unrealistic ideal, a “world of options and choices and things to buy and things to look at” (again, Cwynar’s words) that we are stuck in.


“Is this a woman’s dream?”
“I’m telling you these reds aren’t real.”
“Who owns the way you look?”
And also:
“I just want the new.
I want you to be new to me and me to be new to you.”


According to the end credits, the narration of this video references Adorno, Baudrillard, Barthes, Descartes, Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard and a dozen other thinkers (also including Queen Elizabeth I of England). Don’t expect any fully formed philosophical theories however: the voice-over is an outpouring of enigmatic one-liners, cryptic and evocative text fragments that complement the disjointed imagery.


“Technology disciplines its audience,” the narrator proclaims near the end of the video. This piece certainly does: it pummels us with pictures and thumps us with thoughts. The effects are only felt in retrospect, when the viewer tries to find their balance again.