Miranda July (1974, United States) is an artist, writer and filmmaker based in New York whose work often provides meaningful and poignant commentary on many issues of today’s society. Her projects are wide-ranging and include books, plays, performances and technological platforms.
Most recently, July has been involved in the launch of a project commissioned by Artangel. The project itself, Interfaith Charity Shop, is located on the third floor of the infamous Selfridges store in London. Her first commission in the UK, it encourages visitors to browse through the typical charity shop fare in an otherwise expensive setting. And the structure itself is literally a shop within a shop, complete with walls and windows and staff. The items are the same. The prices? The same. The location itself is so jarring being next to the pretentiously pricey labels, often the cheapest thing available nearby is a t-shirt at over £100. This is what makes the project. Instead of buying expensive clothing proclaiming a working-class lifestyle, regular customers might wander in to the charity shop and spend a fraction of the cost on items that, though second-hand, are of an equal quality. July is encouraging them to buy for less with the addition of a limited time experience inside her work. With money, or a lack thereof, being the number one worry of many households there is a grotesque honesty here that is typical of July’s approach.
A particularly interesting, and somewhat recent, social experiment that July than ran for a year between 2014 – 2015 was Somebody ios app that she created with fashion house Miu Miu. Playing along the lines of dating and social media apps – the kind that people use many times on an average day – Somebody created a physical interaction from a random digital order. On any given day, you could ask, or indeed be asked, to perform some action on behalf of another person to a complete stranger. The decision and selection process was completely random, all you had to do was make yourself available on the app and await someone’s request. The requests ranged from hugging a person, saying something or performing (literally) some sort of gesture. The end result was remarkable, touching and personal. In a society that largely blames technological advances for lacks in social interaction, we saw here the capability of human nature to accept directions through machinery in the creation of actual human results. The irony is inescapable
Perhaps it is this understanding of human nature and the instinctual rendering of humour that makes July’s work so intriguing on the screen where the interactions are entirely choreographed and staged. The resulting films are quizzical, the plots are unusual and non-linear. In The Future (2011) the end result of a couple taking in a stray cat is the questioning of every aspect of their lives and relationship.
Miranda July has written a number of books including; The First Bad Man (2015), It Chooses You (2011) and Learning To Love You More (2007). She wrote, directed and starred in The Future and Me and You and Everyone We Know — winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Her commission for Artangel, Interfaith Charity Shops, runs until 22 October.
Amy E. Brown