Pregnancy and the postpartum period represent transformative and dynamic stages, marked by myriad expectations across domains including perinatal mental health, birth experience, postpartum fitness, early childhood development, etc. This time can be laden with uncertainty, and women find themselves in the crossfire of a web of external and internal assumptions, recommendations, and prescriptions with increasingly high stakes: arrested in an internet onslaught of disorienting soundbites and deconstructed fragments. The viewer of Bioloop is left to make sense of a nonlinear barrage of juxtaposing images, sounds, and messages in the absence of a didactic, point-of-view thesis, but with extraordinary visual, sonic, and semantic resonances and parallels across timescales, industries, thematic domains, and spheres of life.
The film begins: “the life history of a star is marked by the opposition of two kinds of pressure: the energy in the core of the star pushing the surface outward [and] the crushing force of gravity, pulling the star's surface inward.”
Women are under increasing pressure to surveille the state of their bodies and minds for the sake of the next generation: mitigate harms, optimize potential. The nascent field of epigenetics has shed new light on the mechanisms by which maternal environment influences child development and recent neuroscience findings indicate that experiences during neurobiologically critical periods irreversibly influence the brain. Children’s trajectories of wellbeing viewed through the epigenetic lens are characterized by affronts and protective factors: “When these are balanced, a star becomes stable and shines steadily.”
In Bioloop, mimetic juxtapositions of divergent images and sounds afford unexpected harmonies and dramatic dissonance. Macro footage of internal human anatomy and astral imagery are at points indistinguishable; sound and image fragments are placed in unexpected poetic dialogues. At one point, collagen, a milky substance, is isolated in solution in a lab and subsequently two pints of milk — the daily recommended prenatal diet in a 1958 PSA — plummets from a pitcher into a stout glass. A man in a suit addresses an audience: “you can lose ugly fat fast with the wonder ten-day diet.”
Online today, within a few clicks, one can interact with drastically different kinds of messaging and imagery that can shape expectations of personal experience and can impact mental wellbeing, experience, choices, and self-understanding. Bioloop employs archival footage and still imagery to evoke these contemporary dynamics through a historical lens, inciting reflection on the present by way of an implicit link to the past.
Bioloop is rooted in extensive interdisciplinary research and is a recasting of personal observation and qualitative data for the medium of film. It draws out and emphasizes embodied details of mothers’ accounts in addition to my own experiences and impressions. The title draws from the psychic phenomenon of a bioloop: the somatic amplification of a sensation by way of increased bodily fixation, emotional arousal and self-identification. Societal portrayals of women and scientific constructions of health or risk prompt constant self-surveillance and assessment of “(ab)normality” vis à vis dominant images and narratives: this preoccupation can catalyze looping trajectories of augmented, chronic distress.