SUPERSTAR

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by anna ghublikian

Statement

Instead of a poster, I went in a slightly different direction with the collage/found image project and made two flipbooks using images from Todd Haynes’ film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987). This film is not only a personal favorite, but also seems like appropriate material for both this assignment and the larger scope of the class given its history with copyright issues. I used this particular medium because I feel that the flipbook both embodies an extension of the original film’s aesthetics and also engages the work in critical discussions around the notions of original and copy.  The main purpose of creating these flipbooks is to introduce new avenues for thought and response around the film.  

The size of the books allows text to be legible, and images clear enough to attract a closer look. The play here is that often times the text cannot be distinguished from the background, and the images are too dark to provide the details they seem to promise. One can pause on a page, and spend time reading the text that might be rendered illegible by the darkness of the original film. Yet while the flipbook allows us to dwell on the moments that the film refuses, it also holds true to the Haynes’ aesthetic and proves, even in this extensive iteration, its allegiance to the original.

Throughout the semester I’ve been intrigued by the relationship between original and copy. I am fascinated by the idea that the copy is not merely a derivative of an original, but rather an essential iteration that causes the evacuation of the original from its sacred ground.* It is not my aim to perform such an extreme, and somewhat reductive, maneuver with Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story in my project. I hope, instead, to build constructively upon the idea that copies are not always bad. Through repetition - which is to say, copying - we might find new ways to engage with a text, an image, a film, etc. I chose to use screen shots because they are essentially, in the context of this project, film stills. In an effort to make them as “copy” as possible, I have not altered them or edited them.   

The flipbook also emphasizes the rhythm of the original film which is (purposefully, I would argue) oddly syncopated. Furthermore, Haynes’ use of Barbie and Ken dolls instead of live actors results in the sometimes awkward movement of figures within spaces.

*I was inspired to take this theoretical approach from Rosalind Krauss’ 1985 text “The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition” and Judith Butler’s 1993 text “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.”  

Materials

To create the flipbooks, I played Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story on my computer and took a series of screenshots 2 seconds apart. While I legally obtained a DVD copy of the film, I did not ask for permission to take or use screenshots for any - even academic - reasons. Once I had my series of shots, I merged them into single PDFs and took them to RISD prints/Conceptlink and had them printed and bound.

Nota bene: I instructed the staff at RISD prints/Conceptlink that I wanted the books to be perfect bound on the shorter side so they could be flipped horizontally. For whatever reason, someone chose (without consulting me) to bind them on the longer edge. 

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