Notes on "Cupid"
buffalo sauce, frame animations, and dancing online forever
On May 24, 2023 I filmed a webcam video of myself dancing to the song “Cupid (Twin Version)” by the K-pop group Fifty Fifty. The track was viral on TikTok at the time. As I flitted through videos on the app, I would hear the sped-up audio about unrequited love ringing out.
I'm feeling lonely (lonely)
Oh, I wish I'd find a lover that could hold me (hold me)
Four and a half months later, long after the song’s peak in Internet time, I’m done editing the video. The 2 minute and 52 second webcam video has been dragged to my desktop, split into frames, printed out, sifted through, dirtied, stacked, scanned, and reverse-engineered into a frame animation.
I wanted to take a video meant for online consumption and physically break it down. A webcam or cell phone video of a girl dancing is meant to be quickly shot and uploaded. The Internet is built on millions of these dancing videos. 10 million videos exist for the song “Cupid”—both the sped up and original version—on TikTok alone. Girls dance in their rooms in perpetuity.
My “Cupid” performance, which would have normally joined these girls dancing until the end of time, endured a self-imposed interception. The video was broken down frame by frame (roughly 5,000) and each frame was then printed out. I embraced the limitations of my $300 laser printer, attempting to push the toner as far as I could before completely exhausting it. Some pages would lean more yellow, sometimes more cyan. Black toner running low would result in the copy paper showing through in its absence, creating ghost-like figures.
Once the dance of printing each frame out, running out of toner, ordering more toner, and stacking the pages on top of each other was completed, I moved onto the next phase. I wanted to leave a visible mark on each page. Sitting down in my room with an order of 20 chicken wings covered in mild buffalo sauce—plus an extra bottle of Frank’s RedHot® Buffalo Sauce in case I ran out—I began moving pages from one pile to another.
Touching each individual frame, I would imagine myself as a man in his office on his lunch break scrolling through images of women online, half-heartedly sorting through a pile of papers for work. Maybe I was an experimental filmmaker from the 60s, leaving gestures with my grimey hands on film, pointing to its material and structural qualities. Or I was a messy toddler handed an iPad to watch at a restaurant, food-covered fingers smacking the screen.
I learned that even the mildest of buffalo sauces causes a slight chemical burn if left long enough on the skin. After each finger painting session, I’d wash my hands repeatedly or hold onto a cold can of soda for relief.
Now I'm crying in my room
So skeptical of love (Say what you say, but I want it more)
But still, I want it more, more, more
The capsaicin and sheer volume of pages made it so that I had to slowly chip away at handling the material. A second performance, the performance of assembling the actual piece, was happening. I’d document the process from multiple angles and recording devices: top down with a vlogging camera; sitting in front of a white seamless with my webcam; sitting on my bedroom floor with my cell phone.
Many bottles of buffalo sauce later—a small amount of which still exists in my fridge—I was ready to begin scanning. Any time I had a night off or any free time at all, I’d sit in front of my computer with a stack of pages and scan them in. There’s something pleasant about the repetitive nature of this office work. Screenshots of my desktop during this time act as the only documentation of this phase of the performance.
Putting everything back together again happened quickly, in a way that almost felt unceremonious. These images of myself that have been broken down, printed out, distorted, and tampered with have been my constant companion. I feel attached to her, by virtue of having spent so much time with this iteration of myself, and detached, by virtue of having flattened myself into so many parts.
Because the piece exists in so many parts and fragments, I am leaving you with the web version. There will be other iterations in the future.
I gave a second chance to Cupid
(Hopeless girl is seeking someone)
But now I'm left here feelin' stupid
(Who will share this feeling)