Happy Slapping is a term used for degrading and/or humiliating physical assaults on strangers that are filmed and enacted for distribution across various media channels. Inspired by advertising, this recreational phenomenon began gaining popularity among young people in the 1990s. In the decades that followed, Happy Slapping quickly grew into an illegal movement in which victims were increasingly dehumanized for the camera’s benefit.
Sira-Zoé Schmid’s photofilm of the same name is part of a multimedia project the artist initiated in 2012 called “Daily Warfare”. This project, which is comprised of multiple works, looks at symbols and gestures from the military context, and examines echoes of them that appear in everyday life. The artist highlights these and assembles them into new information conglomerates using various materials, media, and means of de- and/or reconstruction.
In doing so, she doesn’t just use various meta levels to expand on what is visually depicted, but in breaking it down and blending it, also reflects on contemporary relationships with media and information in general.
In her fictitious “Happy Slapping” video, Sira-Zoé Schmid recreated metaphoric gestures of violent body language in a 7.4 second loop, in which—among other things—the victims and perpetrators perpetually reverse their roles.
Schmid lends this photographic performative action a new narrative by compiling it into a photofilm. The aesthetic of the film thus replicates that of cell phone cameras used by perpetrators of real Happy Slapping incidents to publish and propagate their actions via the internet, MMS, and social media.
Text by Mag.phil. Annika Lorenz
English translation by Penaloza Patzak & So.