Through both a visual and audible experience, Becky Brown explores the liminal space of the home in her video piece Dark Parts (2020). We experience her piece through a blurred lens that walks in a disorderly fashion around a perfectly curated house. Digital static and a somber song play in the background while our perspective is moved around the home from room to room. Viewing the piece during COVID-19, Brown’s theme of defamiliarization of the home directly correlates to the universal experience of isolation and disconnectedness that people felt during the initial pandemic lockdown.
The video begins in the living room of a house with every piece of furniture orderly. The perspective is through a subtle gaussian blur which scans the home in an abrupt motion. Although the imagery clearly depicts the inside of a house, the blur effect and uncertainty motioned through the viewer’s lens creates disconnect from the environment in which they reside. A subtle voice speaks the word “inside” while the visuals begin to further obscure the viewers perspective with unrecognizable blank figures and clouds of darkness looming over the various rooms. The audio then pivots a series of beeping noises, which resemble the sound of a hospital heart monitor.
The effects of unfamiliarity and disconnect were common themes in artists’ writing and work during the initial pandemic lockdown. As novelist Heidi Piltor expresses in her essay on the elastic nature of time and space in quarantine, “without some self-imposed structure, it’s easy to feel a little untethered” (2020). As the world began to go indoors, people from all over the world began to feel trapped in their homes and ultimately lost the sense of amenity and familiarity they were originally accustomed to. People were imprisoned in their houses, which ultimately altered the perception of the home from comfort to confinement. Many also began to experience levels of paranoia from the profusion of time spent enclosed in household spaces, which Brown heightens in her piece. The sporadic use of animated, faceless figures and gradual use of blurred empty space emphasizes the psychological impacts of lockdown and quarantine in this evidently tense and uncomfortable environment. Moreover, the glitching noises help accentuate the tension and isolation of the home and the viewer’s distortion of familiar spaces.
Although Dark Parts originally references the general theme of disconnect from the home, I was undoubtedly moved by the piece’s ability to connect my personal struggles with lockdown confinement to the piece’s overarching message. As the rooms of my home gradually lost the sense of comfort they once had, I too began to develop feelings of unfamiliarity and began to view my own home through a hazy, distant lens. Like myself, the rest of the world was forced into a spiral of anxiety while people were trapped in familial spaces that were meant to provide comfort, but instead presented the opposite effects. Overall, Dark Parts successfully reminds its viewer of the shared isolation and disconnection that everyone experienced during the most psychologically challenging part of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Check out Becky Brown’s piece Dark Parts