The Body Dictionary is a screendance short film exploring the trappings of contemporary femininity amid chaos and order, rugged and smooth, natural and manmade. The surreal aesthetic lends itself to a dream that becomes a nightmare, wherein versions of the character’s self are made manifest between glass and rock, living in reflections and shadows. Bound together, these women perform acts of subtle aggression – mocking, taunting, and flaunting their different forms. Self-image is modulated through this lens, conveyed through a gestural vocabulary that escalates into chaos as quickly as it disappears.
These women echo the sensibilities of the early 1960s architecture in which they are trapped – outwardly appearing perfect, but inwardly smothering their imperfections. A carefully considered construction, the Albert Frey House II is a sun-drenched Desert Modernist creation draped amidst the rugged desert landscape.
Representative of a new turn in California modernist architecture, the home is a source of inspiration for the choreography of The Body Dictionary. The era of California Modernism brought the varied west coast landscape indoors, while also putting our private lives on display – hiding non-essentials became crucial to both aesthetic and social survival for decades to come. This concept of hiding our inner turmoil is reflected in the repetitive and antagonizing choreography of the film, permeating our contemporary lives in which we are pressured to conform to standards of beauty, knowledge, and form in lieu of being comfortable in our own skins and spaces.
Directed by Katherine Helen Fisher and Shimmy Boyle of Safety Third Productions, The Body Dictionary is a collaboration with the Palm Springs Art Museum, StandardVision, and Director of Photography John Torres. The film features clothing design by local Los Angeles company 34N 118W.