aza’s chemtrails is a striking art film through which we venture into intimate snapshots of the artist’s life. Using the screen recording feature on their iPad, aza allows us to look through their own eyes as we listen to music, scroll through photos, and read old notes with them. In chemtrails, aza layers vignettes from their life to paint a broader portrait of themself on film. Yet, when pieced together these individual narratives don’t necessarily make up a larger story. Instead, chemtrails juxtaposes sensual moments with more everyday experiences–like taking out one’s contacts at the end of the night–conflating the two in order to explore how memories and past lessons inform their body, the way they inhabit space, and how they root themself in the present. This convergence also begs another critical question: In what ways are these ordinary, instantaneous moments just as (if not more) illicit and private than more suggestive images?
Sure enough, chemtrails feels so severely personal not because it displays something provocative or taboo, but rather because it turns audiences into voyeurs of the most ordinary moments of the artist’s life–moments that so often go unrecorded and unremarked upon. In a way, aza makes us feel like intruders as we read their dream journal, listen to their music, or watch them eat in the bath. One particularly jarring instance of this occurs when the music, playing from SoundCloud on the artist’s iPad, is abruptly interrupted by an advertisement, bringing our attention to the liveness of the piece. On one hand, the interruption almost feels like a mistake to which we should not be privy, a very raw and unedited moment; on the other, it feels incredibly intentional, blurring the distinction between authentic and performed life.
This liveness is also emphasized through the form of the piece. aza’s use of screen recording allows us to sit directly in the moment with the artist while the film is being created. Similarly, in many instances throughout the film, aza uses the burst feature on their camera to create videos stitched together from a series of still photographs. Here, aza fundamentally interrogates the performance involved in trying to record the passage of time. We also face these themes through the scenes spent scrolling rapidly past thousands of photos on aza’s camera roll. Even though we actively stop time to take these photos, they become almost ephemeral when we gather so many that we can no longer even stop to look at them. Through chemtrails, the artist prods at the illicit, guilty feeling associated with stopping to assess and capture a given moment. In what ways is taking a selfie like breaking the flow of time? How do we reconcile the spontaneity of these private moments with the consciousness of pausing to take a photo?
–Afriti Bankwalla, curator
aza is a performance and visual artist and co-conspirator at No Nation Tangential Unspace Lab. This coalescence is one to galavant in dreamscapes, ancestral juke joints, chaturbate masturbation web temples, fish tanks, and the Heartspace. They organize Smudge Cinema Project, a now-and-then screening series that takes a look at what happens when a film is projected on a wall for people to watch.