There Is No "I" In Team
A Film By Amanda Mehl
Made in isolation while quarantining at home as a Covid challenge, in this film I forgo the crew and act all the roles while also shooting, editing, animating, creating props, digital sets and wardrobe all alone in my living room. Welcome to my world. The theme is a sporting event called the “Semiannual Amehl National Spirit Games” which take place at the intersection between capitalism and fascism in the Independent Republic of Amehlica (former Amehlican Empire). Shot on a green screen, I play all the contestants, judges, fans, reporters and sports broadcaster. It’s an outward representation of what plays out inside our heads. We construct situations and then fight against them, judge ourselves, and we’re also our biggest cheerleaders. An internal voiceover constantly comments on our strengths and weaknesses and tells us our narrative. The semiannual spirit games represent the pressure to perform in life and the demands we put on ourselves to be perfect.
I use recurring trophy imagery as a metaphor for the American Dream. The great scam of the American Dream makes us prisoners to our goals and preaches the toxic theory that you can succeed at life if you work hard enough, therefore if you aren’t succeeding it’s because you aren’t working hard enough. This doesn’t take systemic and deep rooted social inequalities into account. The shark mentality perpetuates an ableist culture of white supremacy, modern day slavery and overworking. Ironically it is those who work the hardest that are the least likely to obtain the shiny Dream trophy. Like in the video in which I compete with myself, we created these paradigms that we compete against. We start as kids in competitive environments with intense scheduled programming filled with studies, music lessons and sports. Then as adults lured by the rewards of capitalism, we overwork ourselves to exhaustion and then binge on TV like a sedative. Pre-covid life was more of a rat race hustle. Everybody was pulled in so many different directions. In the form of a championship that represents life, this video captures that intense success driven mentality that feels so strange now, almost surreal.
The Olympics can be seen as a microcosm Trump’s America. Both are characterized by mania and sensationalism of a victory, competition, strive for excellence, pride, “greatness”, desire to be a superpower, commercialization, and mass media corporate sponsorship. It is strikingly similar to the glorified nationalism, grandiose ceremonial rituals, and propaganda of communism, as seen in Leni Riefthenstahl’s film Olympia. The ancient Olympic Games were rooted in religion. They were thought to end plagues. (I can’t help but mention Covid here.) It was believed that straying from the gods had caused a state of wars and plagues and that restoring the games as a return of a traditional lifestyle would bring peace. Olympia became a central place for worship. A temple was erected on a mountaintop and during the games, animals would be sacrificed to honor Zeus. The winners of the events were celebrated and immortalized in statues and poems. The games were also a political tool for city-states to assert dominance over their rivals.
Creating work that is sensitive and relevant to this peculiar time is part of my fashion statement. Although I love collaborations and the vibrant energy of a huge crew, this season working solo and teaching myself new camera and editing skills was the clear way to create. The importance of being self reliant was a big 2020 lesson as we witnessed the collapse of civilization. I believe that this is a time to pause manufacturing to reflect, uproot industry standards and reimagine the role of fashion as a cultural force beyond consumerism. We are living through a revolution and I’m not interested in capitalizing during a pandemic. The pandemic’s influence is evident in this film. It is a direct result of too much social distancing with myself. Me interviewing myself in the video parallels my internal dialogue during the first lockdown. All the characters I play represent me quarantining with just my shadow and my camera, chilling with all these different versions of me and getting carried away in self referential fantasies. Other bizarre signifiers of this time which the video nods to include cardboard cut-outs in sport stadium’s stands instead of spectators and the Cold War with Russia for vaccine nationalism. Also influenced by my binging of old movies during the shutdown, this work also pays homage to Old Hollywood glamour and classic cinema, in particular Busby Berkeley who’s stunning sequences I’ve been projecting on my wall in the background.