Sara Eliassen
A Blank Slate

Sara Eliassen’s video work A Blank Slate (2014) employs cinematic effect to investigate the relationships between subjectivity, gaze, and memory. Set in a sleepy and unidentified coastal town, the film begins as the protagonist unexpectedly finds herself inside a hotel room in a lucid state. Attempting to grasp her surroundings, she falls into a deeper metaphysical reality where her memories blur with her awareness of her surroundings until she finds herself again alone in a dream-like state. As she leaves her room, she walks through a nighttime boardwalk of carnival games and boarded-up shops, weaving through the thin crowd of revelers with an over determined gait. The camera follows her in reverse shot, trying to keep pace with her speeding and erratic pace. Suddenly, she arrives at a Ferris wheel and gets into a car; the ride begins, and the camera focuses on her in close-up as she looks off into the distance, her expression at once detached and intensely aware. In a scene borrowed from Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 2000 novel Sputnik Sweetheart, the woman sees herself having sex with a man through a distant window of her own hotel room. Scenes of female characters from film history are interspersed between these moments of surreal dissonance, creating a heightened sense of temporal disjunction. These disjointed shifts of perspective and narrative represents a decisive attempt to disrupt what theorist Laura Mullvey describes as the “male gaze” inherent to visual culture, and in these moments of fragmentation, A Blank Slate offers a compelling meditation on how media-based cultures shape how we define our subjectivities and, by extension, ourselves.

Sara Eliassen is a conceptual filmmaker working in video, drawing, installation, and public practice. Her films often question the notion of self and that of the audience’s gaze, as typically positioned in society. She uproots expectations of narrative structures in cinema, often using iconic cinematic moments as departure points for her investigations of the viewer-character dynamics and of collective memory in film. Eliassen’s work also involves projects in public space: the activist anti-ad project Not Worth It; making false TV-ads interfering with Norwegian public and commercial TV-channels. Eliassen holds an MFA in experimental filmmaking from San Francisco Art Institute and was a studio fellow at The Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 2011. Her films Still Birds and A Blank Slate have played extensively at international film festivals, amongst them Venice Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam and Sundance.