Miami-based multimedia artist Jillian Mayer has unveiled many intriguing and provocative pieces over the past decade, and her visual works have screened at Sundance, SXSW and the New York Film Festival… but arguably none of them has made a stronger impression on worldwide viewers than her surreal one-minute short “I Am Your Grandma.”
Presented like a brief music video, the “autobiographical video diary log” depicts the artist speaking to the camera in heavily distorted voices, wearing a wide assortment of bizarre, inventive and often extremely creepy masks, costumes and makeup.
Comparisons to Lady Gaga and other flamboyant artists have been made — and Mayer may indeed be riffing on their eye-grabbing imagery — but there’s another commentary lurking below the masks.
“The work challenges notions of mortality, celebrity, and the universal impetus for creation and legacy,” states Mayer’s official site. “By placing the video in a public forum (YouTube), Mayer conducts a phenomenological study of why people ultimately share their personal feelings with anonymous strangers.”
The video has definitely reached that target audience since it was uploaded in 2011 — after all, it’s been shared nearly four million times — so Mayer’s social experiment definitely worked, although not necessarily for the reasons she intended: “Grandma” has achieved much of its viral notoriety from dozens of “Creepiest YouTube Videos” lists, and its unnerving images still baffle and intrigue viewers today.