Thursday, February 25, 2016

Disgust Down By The Sea

In less than 11 months, "American Reflexxx" has accrued 1.5 million views on YouTube. The video, a social experiment by artists (and couple) Signe Pierce and Alli Coates, follows Pierce the night she strolled Myrtle Beach wearing just sky-high neon green heels, a micro mini-dress, and a chrome face mask. Against a backdrop of blinking amusement rides and technicolor souvenir shops, Pierce is spat at, verbally assaulted, tripped, hit on, laughed at, run away from, called a man, and pushed to the ground by total strangers-- all in less than an hour.

I first saw Pierce's work--as a self-proclaimed "reality artist"--on Instagram. In an onslaught of colors pulled from the Lisa Frank ads of yesteryear, she aims to question traditional notions of gender and sexuality and disrupt patriarchy, capitalism, homophobia, and other societal tendencies. "American Reflexxx," specifically, brings attention to the terrifying reality of transphobia and mob mentalities in the US.

The production is markedly low-budget, Coates recording with a single handheld camera and only editing the clip's speed. Both the editing, the theme, and the aesthetic of this video remind me of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, an homage to the gritty (but beautiful) reality of drug- and sex-dominated beach cultures.

"American Refluxxx" is uncomfortable to watch, and that's the point. By also being weirdly mesmerizing, Pierce manages to gets eyes on her works and--more importantly--minds on her various troublesome subject matters. And 1.5 millions minds realizing how tragic and warped the behavior in "American Refluxxx" is, is a start in the direction of positive change.

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