Ennui:  A Modern Ethos invites us to experience a space of both sardonic and poignant sympathy, as the characters struggle to foster a connection with the lost parts of themselves.  People versus machine, the body and the Earth versus "progress" and technology...

This mixed media project touches upon modern concepts such as the emptiness of novelty contained within the monotony of "the everyday", and the utilization of mechanized connections in lieu of actual connections leading to unsatisfactory parallels between the biological and the societal hamster wheel, asking:  What is the actual amount of free will that can be categorically obtained?

Representative of ennui itself, the main image of this piece is echoed both in photos, video, and physically:  an empty, old, "used up" toilet paper roll--still stuck on the holder--most often found with a fresh, new roll sitting atop.  In video footage contained in this piece, this image comes to life.  In the first video, a laugh track punctuates the silence and mundanity of everyday living.  The new roll, as it is being used, moves against the old one--representing both low vitality, and fear of forward momentum, and also the unrelenting persistence of life.  This, in effect, showcases the collision into each other of the forces of both life and death.  This trapped psychic space containing both friction and frustration (or a "silent, violent stalemate") is symbolic of the commonly found "stuckness" of ennui, and perhaps its natural birthplace.  I feel that this "stuckness", often found in people blocked to moving forward (for various and/or nefarious reasons), is in fact, ennui.  As one remembers being caught in the soul and mental hijacking from everyday societal realities, responsibilities, and commitments, a few questions are raised:  Is this modern template of living, indeed, worth the sacrifice?  Are there alternatives to move into freedom towards rather than freedom from?  Can the daily grind, and prosaic nature of the everyday that leads to varying states of disconnect, be escaped from, and, what is the price of that freedom?

In a subsequent video sequence, images of the animated toilet paper roll across the female character's face--the white remnants of the "used up" roll providing the visual likeness of tears streaming down her face while "life goes on".  And, another related video portrays an image of mechanized stimulation, showing the active toilet paper rolls tucked into the character's underwear, strategically placed to symbolized the dripping out of sacrificial life energy:  Paper tears, paper blood, pay per view. 

 

The every day ritual sacrifice of self can indeed encourage self pity.

In another short clip, teeming ants are imposed on a still of the male character's head, as he lays in bed, staring blankly into space.  As the insects move--seemingly in chaos and reminiscent of roof-top chatter--one is encouraged to ask this question:  Are their chaotic actions wisdom-inspired, or subconsciously programmed?

These ideas, and more, are echoed in the written piece which was added in order to underline and provide context for the audio-visual works--supplying a meeting point between the photos, ideas, and video imagery.

Perhaps these characters' internal barren landscape indicates not only a desperate attempt to exert control over their life, but an intuitive response to a stuck-on-progress culture.  Perhaps these sentiments are most aptly described in the well-known words of Krishnamurti:  "It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

Copyright 2019 by Sarah St. Lawrence.