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  • Dahlia Bloomstone

Didactic Mergers, Things r Happening, We r Aging and Here

Updated: May 30, 2023


In my new video/sound work, Didactic Mergers, Things r Happening, We r Aging and Here (7 mins, 2023), there is a collision of the animated and IRL. The first part is within a cute, vibrant, damask-ed fish tank world and begins with the main character separating herself from herself. She knows it is happening and whispers, “Goodbye self, goodbye self, goodbye.” That acute awareness aims to bring the audience in to let them know: this is ordinary. Other computerized voices rain in on top of a restless piano score and say things like: “I certainly have not wasted my time,” “the sound of cash,” “I feel pressure to use it,” “Do you read books?” and “self-worth and self-esteem,” while the character is being accosted from all sides by a shark. She looks at us post anxious radial blur, but we’re unsure if this breaking of the fourth wall is a call for help or simply part of the performance to the audience. I’m here. I’m ambivalent.


The repetitive parts of the script are meant to think through aging in the sex work industry from different perspectives and timelines. Embedded is a constant questioning of intelligence and well-being with a humorous nod to the ever-present point and abiding addiction to sex work: the sound of cash.


Next, a man’s voice tells a short, succinctly misogynistic fable: “I would just like to tell you that I knew this man. He died. Everyone wanted to be around him. He had very alluring anxieties. I do not find your anxieties particularly alluring.” At this point, bad JPEG images of strip club wallpaper layer on the screen while the character turns to look at herself in the mirror in her empty home space. Men don’t find her aging anxieties alluring. Anxiety is only attractive, compelling, complex, intelligent, and charming when men are. A gaggle of menacing-looking, adorable sharks surround her, and she acknowledges that “in the end, I have you guys.” Ironically, the limbless character is thanking her club regulars for still being there, despite aging into her late twenties. In the age of Andrew Tate’s violent male e-gospel, the bar is low. Thank you so much.


After, the video opens with a woman in a tight red dress on her bed from two different camera angles. Her room is adorned with makeup, a ring light, stripper heels, eyelashes, flowers, and sweets. The scene is as staged and synthetic as her hair and makeup, and if one looks closer at her computer screen, OnlyFans is open. Where are we in the timeline? Did she just finish filming for all of the internet to see?


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My research always begins with and centers around attempting to reconcile representations of sex work, domesticity, labor, and control absent or under-theorized in the film, sound, new genres, and video art canons. I’m often drawn to moody, frenetic piano scores, multiple computerized voices in dialogue, and the evocation of video game music. The sounds I often use in my work are (other than my own voice) sounds of things that are not human. In my work, you will hear video game bubbles, fishbones, or the sound of cash. I also am interested in sounds that are “feminine,” like the sound of hair being brushed, both synthetic and real hair. I would like to join Foreign Objekt to explore and expand these ideas and see how they can unfold. I submitted the Video/Sound work entitled Didactic Mergers, Things r Happening, We r Aging and Here as a part of my research proposal. This work explores the sound of artificiality in one’s own voice when doing service work. The character in the video work tries to explain repeatedly, with specificity, in the right way while she is also processing and getting distracted, what, in life, makes her (the most) sad. What makes her sad is her mom’s difficulty with getting older and consuming anti-aging products, but she tells us this story nauseatingly slowly, three times, and in her client-facing, soft, dumb, ditzy, feminine voice. As much as the viewer might be processing this durational tale of sadness, so is she. Why can’t she turn off her service voice at home during (interrupted, dreamy) introspection? Will her economic status change if her voice deepens? Is her sadness a part of a meticulously monetized exchange? Is it alluring this time? As she repeats this anecdote, harshly drop-shadowed Reddit posts jump on the screen. The first reads: “What’s so bad about working into your 30s?” on r/stripper. The watcher is confronted not only by Reddit sex work discourse and memes, the second to last one being a highly upvoted and awarded post entitled “I’m so tired” on r/SexWorkers, but also by the characters' inability to shut off her work voice, or take off her work makeup, or stop positioning herself uncomfortably, in her home space—at times, the damask pattern layers on top of the character. Anyway, who has the time to take their eyelashes (Ardell Wispies) off after work with all this discourse metamorphosing online? The last section, a black screen, opens with a mild, “what I’ve done is what I’ve always done.” Then, there is a loud, distorted, ominous laugh track while two women talk in front of an audience. “Did you pay her to be here?” Picture whatever angry, wanting, moral arbiter of a man that comes to your mind. One woman asks the other woman what she does for work, and the woman answers honestly. But, of course, things devolve from that point forward. This research proposal’s inception is within this conceptualization of devolving, what is unseen, and what is artificial.

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