Bay of Plenty

2018, animated short film, 12:03 min, 16:9, color, sound

Exhibition view, One is too few and two is only one possibility, LOKAL14, Zurich


A film by Milva Stutz

3D – David Schlatter
Stop-Motion – Milva Stutz

David Schlatter
Milva Stutz

Sounddesign & Mastering
Lucia Cadotsch
Ludwig Wandinger

Text by irene müller

A virtual island platform is the setting, its inhabitants and some plant-like objects are the characters of Milva Stutz’s animation film. Ocean and island are characterized by an artificial smoothness, while all living creatures have a sculptural body. The characters are made of orange Plasticine and show traces of manual fabrication; in some camera settings, one can even see fingerprints. In four scenes set on different parts of the island, the “lilits”, as Stutz calls her naked characters, act out rituals of (self-) discovery, of making contact and of encounter. While the “lilits” merely have female sexual characteristics in the beginning, they turn out to be sexual beings whose body language and gestures make them curious, experience-seeking and reflective subjects during the course of the movie. Their ability to transform their bodies, to change their sexual identities and create new, temporary forms, leads to slapstick-like situations. Early, rather clumsy attempts to communicate with the island’s plants are followed by increasingly intense body fusions and transformations, until, towards the end of the movie, one of the “lilits” expands her body significantly and transforms into a viscous, swirling mass. The bronze coating overlays the ocean’s surface, before spreading out virally into the universe.

What Milva Stutz creates in her animation film is not an island of bliss. In fact, the seemingly paradisiac primal state of the little island community harbors substantial challenges and difficult decision processes. In what state of fluid identity that eludes clear attribution should they remain? How can they recognize one another when physical boundaries and biological differences can be changed, when the mere thought of (self-) optimization has an immediate physical “effect”? It is not by chance that the mutable beings’ features remain impassive, rather laconic. They virtually surrender to the fascination with their abilities and physicality, follow the urge for change, reinvention and the dissolution of boundaries. It cannot be excluded that the “lilits” will be denied a return to a concrete representation of the physical. The end of the film, however, rather indicates a cycle potentially repeating at different places, at different times.

The dichotomous layout of characters and actions and their formal correspondence make it evident that Milva Stutz picks up on queer theory approaches. Not by chance, Bay of Plenty seems to be a feminist update of the great Christian genesis story: the creator’s attitude, strongly manifest in the kneaded creatures, the moment of knowing someone, in the literal and the biblical sense, the (presumably) irreversible transformation of the world as a consequence of the (physical) boundary crossing - all these aspects give the animation film the character of a (social) vision, despite or even because of its medial realization and the semantics that go along with it: enveloped in spherical sound, the “lilits” test their physical potential, explore options of a physical dissolution of boundaries and gradually learn how to create (new) living conditions.