The images above are from Michelle Handelman’s film Irma Vep, The Last Breath, starring Zackary Drucker and the late Flawless Sabrina.
The video installation is based on Musidora, the French silent film actress, and the character she is best known for Irma Vep from the 1915 film Les Vampires directed by Louis Feuillade.
From the exhibition’s caption-
It’s a piece about living in the shadows, criminal anxiety, and the relationship between the artist and her creation, both fictional and real.
Irma Vep and Musidora are played by Zackary Drucker (Transparent) and the late Flawless Sabrina (The Queen), two artists whose identities transgress the border of art and life. Together, they developed a relationship that documents a cultural evolution of gender.
Musidora was an early 20th century feminist who took control of her career, not only acting, but also producing/directing films and theater. She was an artistic force of her time, producing several works by her lover Colette and having many documented affairs with both men and women. After financing dried up for her projects, she lived in relative obscurity until her death in Paris, 1957. In her later years, she worked the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise, where few people ever knew that the woman selling them their movie tickets was France’s beloved vamp of the silver screen.
Irma Vep, The Last Breath takes up motifs from the silent movie such as gazes, affected body language and the figure of the masked woman. It’s shot on a starkly illuminated set that makes space for anxious projections of desire on the void that is Irma Vep- a space between genders, between vamps of the silent era and the contemporary queer- smashing the shiny veneer to reveal dark, subconscious layers of fluid identity.
The film is part of the larger exhibition Idol Worship, a group show curated by Emily Colucci, at Smack Mellon which “celebrates the ongoing cultural, social and political significance of role model adoration as an essential survival strategy”.
The exhibition closes 12/29/19.