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Fleeting encounters: artist explains ‘controversial’ films


Summary of story from The Observer, October 12, 2011

A film showing a young woman posing in her underwear whilst an unknown man draws her may seem risqué to some.

But in her current exhibition, performance artist Laurel Nakadate aims to change the way people react to fleeting encounters with strangers.

As a new student at Yale, studying photography, Nakadate found herself friendless and lonely in a new town. But instead of automatically dismissing the men who approached her  in ‘parking lots or grocery stores’, she agreed to visit them at their apartments.

She then filmed the results, which includes her dancing to Britney Spears and participating in a fake birthday party.

The films aim to be funny and tragic, she says –the attempted birthday celebration, the subject of her first film Happy Birthday, in 2000 – also reflected this paradox.

Nakadate admits that people have often found her work uncomfortable viewing, but she says they are designed to make people consider their own judgements –particularly who we should befriend.

She describes herself as an optimist, seeking to create something ‘beautiful out of an encounter with a perfect stranger’.

Nakadate says she would have to be naive to think that people wouldn’t see an erotic side to her dancing or posing in underwear with strangers – but insists this was never a part of it. Although she sees sexual anticipation when she watches the videos, she says she never felt threatened when making them.

Ultimately, Nakadate wants people to understand that fleeting encounters can be important.

Her work is currently showing at the Zabludowicz Collection, London NW5.

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