Introduced by Ellen Blumenstein
HD video, stereo, 8' 47''
Dance with me was originally conceived as part of a broader project called “A Disturbance Traveling Through A Medium”—which corresponds to the scientific definition for the term “wave.” The starting point for the overall spatial installation as well as for each single work is an imaginary future, in which aerospace is dominated by women, and in which data analysis and the affective relation to the cosmos merge.
Ellen Blumenstein: Can you tell me about your interest in astrophysics and space travel? In which way is your perspective particularly feminine?
Marianne Vlaschits: I have always been interested in cosmology—as a child, I tried to imagine the universe until my head hurt. The idea for this project was born when I finally saw distant galaxies with my own eyes at the Mount Wilson Observatory on a trip to L.A. in 2014. Around the same time, I read an article about “An all female mission to Mars”, in which the author argues for preferring women astronauts over men because of their lower weight and nutrition demands. This idea, together with the first emancipated female action hero, Ellen Ripley from the Alien movie sequel, inspired me to create a female crew in an imagined future, in which space travel is a female domain—as opposed to nursing, like today.
EB: You mostly work on painterly installations, oftentimes starting from a thematic interest. Dance with me is your first video—did this change of medium influence your imagery? How was it made?
MV: It was a start from scratch. I knew the medium had to be animation so I was looking for ways to incorporate time as a fourth dimension to my painterly and installational practice. After writing the script, which I think of as a poem, I collaborated with a musician and artist for voice-over and sound. For the visuals, I learned how to use Illustrator and worked with an after effects specialist who taught me a lot. But overall, the whole process felt more like creating a narrative dance than an actual video.
EB: You are deliberately using ‘naïve’, comical aesthetics, which stand out against today’s dominance of either post-internet tech- or documentary-styles. What’s the background? Are you drawing them from a specific reference?
MV: Generally, I prefer to look at things from a camp perspective, and I am more interested in the margins of events than in what is—or appears to be—up-to-date. One of my sources is scientific illustration in popular science publications, whose function is to explain difficult subjects to the amateur. These images often are dramatically staged with flashy colors against a black background. I got particularly obsessed with the aesthetics of a book from the 1990s on quantum physics, the video’s imagery draws a lot from it. Another source is the TV animation series Superjail, and then, very importantly, the “pink elephant” scene from Dumbo, especially a Sun Ra cover version of it.
EB: The frame story for the video makes the viewer slip into the role of the female spaceship commander, who enters observation deck and contemplates the cosmic panorama over a cup of tea containing DMT—the main hallucinogenic component of the traditional indigenous Ayahuasca brew, among others. The substance affects the brain’s visual cortex and profoundly changes cognition, allowing the consumer to experience “other” realities parallel to or complementing the “sober” one. Here, the mixture initiates a travel to the beginning—or the end?—of space and time. Is the film presenting a specifically female vision of the cosmos, and if so, how does it differ from conventional narratives?
MV: When consuming DMT, the high lasts only for a couple of minutes, but many feel that during this time, they touch the heart of the universe—understanding the essence of being and communicating with the divine. I wanted to bring this spiritual level together with rational data, such as the speeds of celestial objects, or how particles and radiation pass through the body.
The dialog is based on the imaginary opportunity to ask a cosmic deity (which is clearly female to me) about her own origin, the purpose of human existence, and how our consciousness works, or why it evolved. I like the idea that humans literally are the cosmos observing itself. It is as if a painting came to life and watched its reflection in a mirror... I also liked coming up with a simple answer to a tantalizing question—like a mother would tell a child as a bedtime story.
Courtesy the artist
Script: Marianne Vlaschits
Direction: Marianne Vlaschits
Music/Sound, Voice Over: Battle-ax
Special effects advisor: Wolfgang Schwarzenbrunner