This project investigates my personal relationship with Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Its realization as my MFA thesis, having been cut short as a result of the 2020 pandemic, is still speculative (or, more accurately, in progress). However, the project will eventually present viewers with a stylized film set that will deconstruct and remix central signifiers of particular importance to the film's depiction of femininity, which vacillates wildly between two poles tentatively named as "the masquerade" (Doane) and "the abject" (Kristeva). The resultant installation will endeavor to excavate the splintered desire of the central female protagonist (Judy-Madeleine-Carlotta) and physicalize my embodied spectatorial experience of the film.
The image above is a bird’s-eye-view diagram of the installation, which will consist of three main sculptural components. The first, depicted at the bottom of the diagram, is a modification of an earlier project titled The Souvenir of a Killing, images and further descriptions of which appear below.
The central component is a 7’ x 7’ x 1’ water tank fabricated out of steel. The interior of the tank will be painted a deep black, and tracks of platinum blonde hair extensions will be pasted along the bottom in the shape of a Lissajous curve. The entirety of the form will be illuminated by a set light, with the bleach-blonde hair thus appearing to undulate against an abyss.
The final component is that of a vintage car seat housed amongst an enclosure of one-way mirrors. It will sit against a rear projection screen which will display a compendium of the rear projections that appear in Vertigo behind Scottie’s car as he follows Madeleine around San Francisco. A viewer perceiving the structure from the outside will be able to discern the shape of the car seat, the images on the rear projection screen, and anyone seated inside. Once entering the interior, however, the one-way mirrors transform into traditional mirrors, and the viewer becomes trapped in a suffocating mise-en-abîme of voyeurism.
The desk portion of the piece makes reference to the desk which appears in Gavin Elster’s office towards the beginning of Vertigo, and functions as a symbol of masculine authority. The wallpaper on its surface points to the wallpaper in Ernie’s—the restaurant in which Scottie encounters Madeleine for the first time. In the forthcoming iteration of this piece, which will be incorporated into the larger Dolly Zoom installation, I intend to utilize a smaller projector than the one employed here, and elevate it off of the bench lathes seen above, supporting it instead by a C-stand.
Components seen here that will metamorphize in the next development of this piece include the circular saw, which will be flocked with red felt; the set light, which will be upgraded to a Fresnel; and the 3D print visible at the end of the desk (and detailed shots of which appear below), which will be printed at a larger scale.
Scottie’s dream sequence from Vertigo (interrupted by an animation of scanning bars which replicate those used by 3D scanners) is projected upon a 3D print made from two still frames from the film. The first – the side upon which the projection falls – captures the moment in which Scottie first sees Madeleine. The second – another profile – is extracted from the scene in which Scottie first sees Judy. Madeleine and Judy are literally, within the diegesis, two sides of the same woman. Madeleine, a spectral image of perfection – pure masquerade – is manifestly visible and desired, whereas Judy, the woman’s “true self,” is represented as being both disgusting and invisible to Scottie – a repulsive, abject essence that must be disguised.
A replica of the necklace that Judy dons at the end of the film sits upon a bust in the center of desk. The necklace is a particularly significant symbol within the narrative, as it is when Judy-Madeleine-Carlotta adorns herself with the necklace that Scottie realizes her involvement in the murder plot in the first half of the movie. As Slavoj Zizek writes in “Art: The Talking Heads,” “If Scottie were to be minimally open to Judy, he could have read [the necklace] as the sign of Judy’s love for him” (Zizek 158), but instead, he interprets it in an exclusively egoistic manner, and can only see it as “the souvenir of a killing” (Vertigo).
The bust and necklace will be incorporated into a single sculptural form, fashioned out of translucent red porcelain, in the next phase of the project.