Social Media Is an Infinite Set of Virtual Portals

Filmmaker and visual effects artist Zak Tatham offers up 'Doorcuts,' a short film parable for the virtual age.

07 June 2016, 5:30pm

Screencaps via author.

Most people have imagined opening a door, or several, that leads to an unexpected place, real or virtual. In Doorcuts, filmmaker and visual effects artist Zak Tatham does just that, featuring an anonymous girl played by Jesi the Younger who opens various doors into both physical and virtual spaces. But what at first seems playful and amusing becomes unnerving when the traversing of doors-within-doors has no end.

For Tatham, Doorcuts was an opportunity to explore how online platforms mediate identity. In the 90s—the early days of the public internet—doorways were built to allow users access to the Web. Tatham explains in an essay that accompanies the video, “These doors were called ‘web portals.’ Public portals included Yahoo!, MSN, iGoogle, and many other chat rooms, message boards, and search engines; these online spaces were gateways to a new world of connections and data.”

As the internet grew via accessibility and content creation, stepping through an online portal was akin to adopting a new identity. For Tatham, it was like moving into another plane of existence where previous identity was irrelevant and unknown to others. These halcyon days of the internet were great and unpredictable—until the monetization, the platforming, and the curation of the self via social media took hold.

“As the internet becomes more and more an ever-present part of our daily lives, not only is it much more challenging to disconnect from the Net, the old possibility of total online anonymity is rapidly disappearing,” Tatham says. “It’s becoming more common for users to link different parts of their internet identities together, pushing Twitter and Instagram posts through to Facebook, and registering dozens of different accounts onto one email.”

“The internet is less and less a space for subversive exploration and expression and more simply another part of daily life,” he adds. “This means that the same day-to-day care is now required to maintain an online presence as you put into your personal appearance. Self-curating begins to feel like a constant necessity.”

The anonymous character’s self-curation overload matches our own. She is blitzed by an unending panoply of virtual spaces—ones that seem completely disconnected from everyday reality. The visuals and the sounds seem off, though the anonymous character herself isn't overly freaked out.

In myth, literature, and films of the past, doors or portals lead characters and viewers to something fantastical, usually with a problem that had an endpoint. As Tatham suggests in Doorcuts, the constant creation of platforms that live off personal data has created a blended real-virtual world where the journey does not end.

Whether we like it or not, this blended reality just keeps going. And for some strange reason very few of us are freaking out about it. So maybe we don’t really need to strap on those VR headsets to experience a virtual reality, because we’re already living it.

DOORCUTS from Zak Tatham on Vimeo.

Doorcuts is being exhibited at Xpace Cultural Centre’s The External Space in Toronto from May 17th to August 1st. Click here to see more of Zak Tatham’s work.


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