Dir. Olympia Stone, USA, 2017, 61 min.
Independent film producer Olympia Stone is known for delivering insight into the private lives of eclectic visual artists. In her latest film Double Take: The Art of Elizabeth King, the Chapel Hill-based documentarian unveils the world of sculptor and stop-action animator Elizabeth King, whose strange, iconic work is featured in permanent collections nationwide.
Candid interviews with friends, mentees from her days teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University and other artists reveal a playful, curious and meticulous woman obsessed with exploring the scope of human facial expressions, gestures and anatomy. Her decades of work hinge on the hypothesis of “uncanny valley,” the theoretical relationship between the extent of an object’s resemblance to human beings and the viewer’s emotional response to that object. The hypothesis suggests that the closer an object comes to looking fully human, the more likely it is to elicit feelings of revulsion and discontent, and some of King’s automatons approach believability with startlingly realistic mechanical operations.
What’s makes Double Take a worthwhile watch is that the film doesn’t merely feature interviews — viewers get close-up shots as the artist fidgets with the lighting in a display case or crafts new works and explains the labor of producing a single finger over the course of a week. Stone shows King as the small-scale engineer she is. Of King’s process, her sister said, “It’s exacting, it’s devoted and it’s religious.”
Double Take: The Art of Elizabeth King screens on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Aperture Cinema and Saturday at 5 p.m. at SECCA. Director Olympia Stone and the film’s subject Elizabeth King will be in attendance for screenings.