Home > New Classics, Videos > Palindrome


June 23, 2010

by Isabelle Carbonell

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This is a “videopainting” about what society demands from us as either immigrants or citizens: to assimilate our individual identities and cultures into a larger mainstream persona. The metaphor of a mannequin — arriving from the factory with pre-painted makeup on large arresting eyes, pre-fab white skin, and the seemingly perfect bust — is evocative of the dehumanizing aspect of cultural assimilation. However, this image we construct to integrate into our cultural surroundings is often incomplete, tentative or conflictual; many find themselves going forwards and backwards with this facade, sometimes equally behind and in front of it. This short film is a palindromic painting of an emotional landscape that plays on the mirrors of identity, the multiple masks we offer in different settings, and our subconscious rebellion that emerges in times of epiphany.


Isabelle Carbonell (website, blog) is a documentary photographer and documentary filmmaker whose determination to give a voice to the voiceless has driven her to document political, social, and environmental injustices around the world. When filming, she becomes her environment — sleeping, eating, and breathing with those she is focusing on, transcending the divide between observer and subject easily. With all the ambitions of an artist, she also employs her rigorous academic training as a researcher to produce an in–depth reportage. As a result, her documentary films and photos try to reveal a deeply complex social understanding while still offering an exquisite artistic vision. Isabelle’s documentary skills have taken her to countries such as India, Qatar, Cuba, Mexico, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

  1. June 24, 2010 at 4:59 am

    I like this very much. It’s beautiful and disturbing to look at and evoked a deepening spiral of thoughts and feelings whose force quite took me by surprise.

  2. June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I agree, Jean. I too found this piece quite emotional. And now I am sitting in what it stirred up.
    I do not know if I have ever consciously seen a palindrome in visual images. I am quite fascinated with palindromes and approached this pieces with a curiosity that was well rewarded.
    I do not know why to me it even viewed as a visual poem.

    thanks for the depth of your work, Isabelle.

  3. JJS
    June 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    So glad you sent this piece, Isabelle: both Ann & I reacted with the same feeling the previous commenters note. It does just what we hope a ‘new classic’ will do: stirs up deeply personal and startling responses by way of a familiar-seeming archetype of some kind.

    For me, this piece raised the beauty standard ‘classic’and interrogated the hell out of it. There’s a wonderful transparency about it, though, which leaves it wide open to many interpretations.

    An evocative, painful, strange and powerful experience to watch this film.

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