MIRANDA J FRIEDMAN

$ellibate



$ellibate, November-December 2018, video, crank calls, mixed media sculpture, found footage, synthesizer, performance (dimensions variable, sculpture approx: 4 ft L x 3 ft W x 7 ft H)



Recordings of crank calls to Hermès stores

A multi-iteration work examining how consumers attempt to fulfill traditional roles and images via the maintenance of consumerist behavior. Recordings of crank calls to Hermès stores are mixed with video and music in which looping female voices represent consumerism as a track on which target demographics are susceptible to being stuck. The piece explores through comedy how buyers can comfortably slide into a futile cycle to replace all other goals and ambitions with the pursuit to mirror societal ideals.

The title, $ellibate, is a suggestion to the ineffective material objects and hopeless consumer to just give up. The piece offers an alternative to the cycle of trying to become something by buying in the form of $ellibacy, or the state of abstinence from the perpetuation of material goods. The caller’s inability to reach a sales specialist and the desired silk scarves, in addition to interruptions in the audio, exacerbate the struggle to reach the ideal.


$ellibate (on view at Torrance Art Museum, December 2018, Torrance, CA), video, crank calls, mixed media sculpture, found footage, video game recording, synthesizer.

Similar to my previous work, $ellibate implements participatory research and collaboration, in which I create with and directs a team of artists as experts in each of their respective media. In the performance at PAM Residencies, Los Angeles, in November 2018, two performers initiate rudimentary choreography. Movement is humorously cued by audio and the flashing of visual cues in the video, which are designed to look like Instagram call-to-action buttons, i.e. “Buy Now.” As in my previous work, the simple choreography and basic cues symbolize the ease and willingness one can comfortably enact what they are told to do by patriarchy, in this case, in the form of capitalism.

Projected behind the performers is a video collage including consumer profiles used by ad agencies, found Hermès ads and 1990s runway footage, as well as videos I made parodying the latter using an iPhone. The parody depicts a consumer’s fruitless endeavor to recreate the world in the advertisement. Also in the set design is an eight-foot-tall rectangular mylar structure, operated by a performer who is concealed within the structure. From the structure, giant abstract strands of hair made of black plastic trash bags are constantly growing from follicles.


The arduousness of the performers’ impulse to continually pluck the regrowth in their maintenance of the hair, as well as the disrupted audio, increase the difficulty to reach Hermès. An original audio score includes music created with a synthesizer and the crank calls to Hermés. Interruptions take the form of found music, often of women covering male-written lyrics and of looping moaning female vocals, and audiobook clips from Lorrie Moore’s “A Gate at the Stairs.” The excerpt from Moore's novel is a first person narrative about a woman buying a reading lamp from a catalogue based on the photo of a man and his "model wife," and her attempt to bring the image into her own reality is an example of buyer futility. The clip comedically concludes with, "The lamplight was as bright as the noon sun, and as I studied next to him, Reynaldo could not sleep. ... I turned off the light and fell behind in my reading."