The liminal space between art, artist and audience takes an unexpected, beautiful and haunting form in Scott O’Connor’s masterful Zero Zone, which brings to light the intangible thoughts and feelings swirling around an interactive art installation in the desert.
Jess wasn’t always the artist in her family; her brother, Zack, was. But after their parents’ deaths, their California aunt teaches Jess to use art as a way to navigate and contain her emotions. Jess goes to art school and falls in love with a fellow student, while Zack retreats into an underground film scene. Jess’ art explores light and space, and as she attempts to create an ambiance for her internal struggles, she discovers room to empathize with others’ troubles, too.
Then one of Jess’ installations, titled “Zero Zone,” becomes the setting for a showdown between viewers who refuse to leave. Police are called to the scene. Similar circumstances threaten to repeat themselves two years later, and Jess must decide whether to act as a distant artist or in a new, more involved manner.
The chapters shift like a camera lens focusing for the shot. Early chapters take a panoramic view of Jess’ troubled past. Middle chapters zero in on her artworks and follow the stories of the young people involved in the standoff at Zero Zone. Final chapters click past, rapid-fire, as Jess’ story collides with those of the Zero Zone audience.
Zero Zone celebrates burgeoning female relationships, such as the ones between Jess and her aunt and between the women who see Zero Zone as a haven. In contrast, dangerous relationships with charismatic men tint the story with an eerie hue. An intimate experience of art from the inside out, Zero Zone raises questions about to whom art belongs: its creator or its recipients. Untangling the web of answers makes for a tantalizing inquiry.