If there was ever such a thing as modern nostalgia, then that’s how Chloe Sheppard’s work would be described. The young British artist’s gauzy images, which always circle back to the themes of girlhood in all its iterations, somehow evoke both a longing for the distant past and a decidedly 2018 take on the female gaze. Her newest project, A Much Better Illusion, is no exception.
Shot over the summer on 8mm and 16mm, A Much Better Illusion is Chloe’s first foray into short film. Starring her long-time collaborator Sylvie Makower it’s heavily inspired by 60s cinema and photography, exploring the themes of isolation, detachment, the mundane and the suffocating loneliness of adolescence and coming of age. The film invites viewers to enter that headspace themselves with its lack of one specific plot or overarching narrative; it’s more of a stream of consciousness with various subplots revolving around the idea of isolation.
“I’ve been wanting to make a short film for a while, especially one shot on 16mm, and it was around my birthday this year that I decided I was just going to make one and stop waiting for the right opportunity to come my way for it,” Chloe tells i-D. “I asked Sylvie if she’d be up for it, as someone who I have spent the last few years of my career collaborating a lot with, it made sense for her to be in the first proper short that I did. “In my mind I already had specific shot ideas, so I started writing them down and expanding on them to try and get inspiration in linking it all together and figure how it could work as more than just stills. I’d recently watched Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, directed by Chantal Akerman , and was so intrigued about how the film worked when the entire movie is mainly just focused on this one character in the most mundane settings, yet I still found it beautiful and appealing to watch because of the aesthetics of it.”
The film, which feels quite like if Jean Luc Godard set up a joint Instagram account with Petra Collins (in the best possible way), is broken up with scenes subtitled with lines from Sylvie’s own poetry. Chloe says, as well as being influenced by her favourite directors John Hughes, Susan Seidelman, Godard and Richard Linklater, A Much Better Illusion’s Tumblr-chic aesthetic is deliberate. “I feel like nobody likes to admit they use Tumblr anymore, but I still use it all the time,” she says. “It’s such a good way of finding inspiration as so many accounts post incredible stills from films I wouldn’t have necessarily heard of otherwise.”
Alongside the short film itself, Chloe’s newest exhibition features an accompanying limited edition zine and photos from the project. “The zine is full of stills I shot while filming,” Chloe explains. “There are also polaroids and posters. I wanted the zine to be a sort of elaboration on the film, and inside are handwritten notes that give context in a way.
“As an artist I am obsessed with tangible things, so to go with the release of A Much Better Illusion I wanted to make something that people could hold and take home themselves too, rather than just the memories of the film in their heads.”