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Ericka Beckman, Cinderella, 1986, installation view, Zabludowicz Collection, 2018. Photo: Tim Bowditch. Courtesy of the artist and Zabludowicz Collection.

Distinguished through their use of basic special effects, amateurish acting and post-punk inspired soundtracks, Beckman’s films initially come across as poppy and playful. This surface whimsy thinly veils much more serious and troubling moments of violence, harassment, and claustrophobic repetition.

Cinderella is a musical re-rendering of the fairy tale in which the title character staggers through various levels of narrative, as if in a video game. Over thirty years after its release, this work loses none of its power and relevance: from the clear gender politics at play, to the artist’s concern of how we position ourselves within a post-industrial world. Cinderella’s voyage of self-realisation takes her from hearth, to palace, to factory, and sees her transformed from a labourer to a mass-produced doll, entrapped within a net constructed from her own skirts.

Throughout this journey, Beckman draws parallels between the loss of identity among workers in a moment of robotics and automation, with that of her female protagonist. Cinderella is caught in a game she can never win, as a female figure in a male-dominated space: one that forces her to act in very specific ways, or fail. So she abandons the Prince and the game completely, choosing an alternative path to discover her true self.

Produced, directed, shot and edited by Ericka Beckman. Starring Gigi Kalweit and Mike Kelley. Soundtrack composed by Brooke Halpin. Vocals by Katy Cavanaugh. Produced with funds from The Jerome Foundation and The New York State Council on the Arts. Courtesy of the artist.