Before there was Isadora Duncan, there was Loïe Fuller.
Obsessed with Light is a meditation on light and the enduring obsession to create. The film pulls back the curtain on Loïe Fuller, a wildly original performer who revolutionized the visual culture of the early 20th century. Creating a dialogue between the past and the present, the documentary features Jody Sperling and her Time Lapse Dance ensemble and delves into the astonishing influence Fuller's work has on contemporary culture including artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Swift, Bill T. Jones, Shakira and William Kentridge. In the process, the film uncovers commonalities that connect these creative luminaries to Fuller and each other.
The American creator of modern dance, Fuller (1862-1928) created a completely new kind of spectacle which combined dance, fabric and movement. She also pioneered the ingenious use of electricity for the stage, even building a glass floor so that she could be lit from below. Fuller propelled herself into swirling abstractions that made audiences gasp and she immediately understood the importance of protecting her ownership of these innovations. Always struggling against a flood of imitators, Fuller was the first choreographer to attempt to copyright her dances and sued in court as early as 1892. Given the recent Supreme Court decision in the dispute between the Andy Warhol Foundation and photographer Lynn Goldsmith, Fuller's early battles against copyright infringement are incredibly relevant.
Anyone who has been to a rock concert has seen a modern version of the lighting designs that Fuller patented over a century ago.
Fuller shot to international stardom after performing at the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her rise to fame was intertwined with the very beginning of cinema and her Serpentine dance became an iconic subject for the earliest filmmakers like Georges Méliès and Alice Guy Blaché. It was also among the earliest footage ever to be hand colored. All of the hand coloring or tinting in the archival clips in Obsessed with Light is original.
Obsessed with Light is a film about transformation. It is about a Midwestern vaudeville performer who performed with Buffalo Bill before becoming a world-famous star of Belle Époque Paris and the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement with her elaborate productions of ephemeral, shape-shifting abstractions. It's about a woman, described by contemporaries as "odd and badly dressed," who transformed herself into the "Fairy of Light" onstage. It's about a woman who became famous on her own terms– unapologetic about her body type and open about her sexuality. And it's about a visionary artist who disrupted the prevailing notions of dance and the imagined limits of the human body. Lastly, the film is about a lost modernist whose story is crucial to understanding both early cinema and performance.