Miranda July’s Ode to an Extra
Earth has a surplus of both babies and information. As a result, sexual reproduction no longer begets evolutionary success. Historical relevance and cultural achievement have become the de facto objective of existence, and getting lost in the shuffle of all this information– being forgotten– is akin to Darwinistic failure.
In the language of cinema, extras are designed to be forgotten. Miranda July‘s recent series of photos (a collaboration with Roe Ethridge), in which she unthinkably excavates background players from historically popular films and poses herself in homage to these bygone human props, is a declaration of war on the finality of culture. She dares to reverse the mandate of natural selection.
What can you do with a corpse that’s been dug out of an unmarked grave? Mary Shelley would advise against resuscitation, and July heeds that wisdom. There’s no forced narrative electricity coursing through the deadened veins of these anti-icons. They are simply frozen in space, taxidermies of the futile. July’s Easter egg hunt through cultural detritus is less of a resurrection and more of an exorcism, conjuring spectral reminders of decay’s certainty for a round of sorrowful communion.
The images instill us with nostalgia for that which we’ve all seen but never noticed. They find us guilty for missing the beauty in our periphery, for unconsciously condemning the insignificant. More than that, the project seems to hint at the deceptive nature of fame—the tragic trick of success. Even if these extras had legitimately been put front and center, there’s no guarantee that the quality of their lives would ultimately change. July’s protagonist, the woefully ignored Sandy, dreams of a life where she’ll be important: “One day I’m gonna surprise everyone with my talents. They will be laughing and crying and texting me so often that I will be annoyed.” Who wants to be annoyed, really? Let’s all just have fun.