We see a valley in the Mojave Desert, California. A woman—the artist—enters the frame from the right, her back facing the camera. The protagonist, wearing a black dress and holding an electric-blue parasol, looks almost surreal in this barren landscape. She continues walking into the desert towards the horizon until her parasol becomes a small blue dot that slips entirely out of view as it disappears into the distance. In the second video, the artist repeats this performance in another part of the Mojave Desert near the Trona Pinnacles coral-like geological formations that rage out of the eternal landscape.
Like all of Sira-Zoé Schmid’s photo and video performances, “Desert Flower” (2017) is—as the artist describes—a “private performance” for the camera only, without the presence of an audience. Schmid also repeatedly works with fixed camera positions that enable her to simultaneously act as performer, director, and camera operator. The moving picture thus all the more replicates photography: each individual frame could exist on its own as tightly composed photographic work.
This (so far) two-part video ties into Sira-Zoé Schmid’s early performative works, which always grew out of personal experiences. Only rough concepts at first, she develops her performances intuitively and spontaneously, referencing her concrete surroundings. Following the suicide of a fellow artist and friend, “Desert Flower” deals with the departure and loss of loved ones. The protagonist walks calmly but determinedly on a straight path towards the horizon until she is no longer visible. The action of walking visualizes both ephemerality and the passing of pain and loss. At the same time, Schmid stages the walk as a meditative process—the vastness of the landscape corresponds with the eternity of thoughts.
The title “Desert Flower” signalizes the possibility of life and beauty within an inhospitable environment. Like a desert flower, the protagonist appears and disappears again shortly thereafter. What remains is a memory. Even if the video is inspired by a personal experience, “Desert Flower” is not an autobiographical piece. Only seen from the back, Schmid’s character deliberately remains anonymous, and can be representative of anyone. With a clear and poetic visual language, “Desert Flower” is a universal exploration into loss and ephemerality and the various mechanisms of coping with these sensations.
Text by MMag. Sophie Haslinger
English translation by Penaloza Patzak & So.