Sira-Zoé Schmid

Working within the extended field of photography Sira-Zoé Schmid explores the different (multilayered) possibilities of multimedia pictorial invention.

The examination of all media and sociocultural topics that surround us are very important to Schmid and are conducive to her artistic work.

While on Artist in Residency in the US in 2017 Schmid created her latest (so far) two-part video performance ‘Desert Flower’. “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” (Curator Sophie Haslinger).

The photographic film ‘Happy Slapping’ (2012) as well as the two-part video ‘The yellow shoe’ (2013) are part of her multimedia project ‘Daily Warfare’.

In 2016/17 she mostly worked on her other ongoing multimedia project ‘Past | Present | Future’ a comprehensive archive about women as art producers.

Her work has been shown in several international institutions and galleries, such as ada, Bildraum 01, Galerie im Traklhaus, among others.

Sira-Zoé Schmid is living and working in Vienna and Salzburg.

Desert Flower I

HD Video / 03:00 min / 2017

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.

The Yellow Shoe I

HD Video / 10:00 min / 2013

Sira-Zoé Schmid created several video and photographic works in Beijing that examine shoes as social uniforms that occupy a space between individuality and collective identity.

A first glance at the two-part video “The Yellow Shoe” does not reveal a specific geographic location as it focuses on the feet of bus passengers. In our world of globalized consumerism and standardized cultural codes that span great distances, the shoes in the video appear as if they could have been bought and worn almost anywhere on the planet. It is only after some time that the background noises and the passengers’ behavior patterns reveal the scene to be located in China.

Schmid thus reminds us that, as identity-shaping clothing, shoes can be instrumental in our efforts to associate with groups—be they cultural, political, or professional—or to consciously distance ourselves from them. The far-reaching implications of contemporary tendencies of conforming cultural codes on the one hand, and the individual’s means of outward self-expression on the other, also become evident in her work.

Text by Mag. Nicole Alber
English translation by Penaloza Patzak & So.

Happy Slapping

Photofilm / 7:4 sec (duration 02:14 min looped) / 2012

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.