The mother-daughter lookalike duo originally contacted me thru Craigslist about a movie role that had already been cast. I was compelled by their email and asked if they wanted to make a portrait video with me – after spending time with them at their house in Connecticut and exchanging emails, we decided to make a video recreation of a public service announcement they had acted in several years prior.
[I also documented our exchange in a 62-page book of our email correspondence – excerpts at bottom of this page.]
Full-length video [shown in Body Doubles exhibition, March-April 2016]:
In installation form, at Woods-Gerry gallery in Providence:
Some writing on the piece, by Victoria Haynes:
I open the packet with emails. I hope Eliza approaches this email exchange, with unknown strangers, with as much trepidation as I do!
How will Eliza relate to these women? We hope she won't harm them by irony or erase their dignity by misappropriation.
One of the things we notice is that the grounds for selection are interesting, perhaps a little troublesome. Is Eliza looking for a funny pair of women to profile?
As the exchange unfolds, however, we find a bridge being built between the director and the women, and we find ourselves involved in what feels like an interesting portrait of an improvisational exchange between two very dissimilar parties.
The bridge between Eliza and the women is architected by what appears to be two structural elements:
1- the mutual interest of the two parties (director and actress), earnest as it is odd.
2 - the relationship of mother and daughter, which is instantiated by the "twins" in the video. We assume that the mother/daughter relation finds an analogue in our director, and although Eliza's mother is omitted from the action, we know she's there.
These two things create a platform for something without definition to come into being between exchanges. This is very exciting to watch! Sometimes we want the women to withhold more of their personalities, to be more professional, to be more coded and secretive. I am impressed with Eliza's personal generosity here, greeting their enthusiasm in her responses.
It seems that the piece bears out an ethical proposal. It's tricky: craigslist as a site for experimental exchange always seems to be trying to dupe someone. It's a site of "total contract", and by that I mean that there's no obligation to do right by anyone since everyone on the internet operates as strangers.
However, the space of relational improvisation that craigslist enables is balanced by the serious character - and by character I refer to something like "moral character" - of the participants. Craigslist, a place that seems inhospitable to serious interpersonal generosity, surprises us here. But the good natured neighborliness of the participants does not.
The other element of this, too, is that the condition of mother- and daughterhood must have something to do with the trust you establish through all of this. And there's some tension there, in establishing the trust, the terms of contract. You're a woman, you are a single piece of that equation, working with and reaching out to another pair, one which is "whole". I like this a lot. Oh - and - the subject of the film is the trauma of the missing daughter.