The Pleasure Park, Elena Dorfman’s most recent body of work, is a comprehensive look at the world of thoroughbred horse racing and jockeys. Dorfman has created a 5-minute panoramic film that both reconstructs a horse race and explores the milieu of the track. As companion pieces, Dorfman produced a 1-hour video that gazes quietly at jockeys, revealing both their power and vulnerability. Photographic portraits of racehorses in a studio setting complete the series, presenting the formidable and sinewy animals off the track, deprived of visual cues. Although the ritual and pageantry of the race are alluded to in the accoutrement represented, the animals are suspended in motion, removed from the culture of commodity and winning at any cost. The intent behind The Pleasure Park is to capture the poise and resilience of the fleeting animal in space while placing the spectator directly in the racing environment, creating an overwhelming sensation of the beauty of the physical form and sheer force of these athletes.
Much of Dorfman’s earlier work has explored the interplay between fiction and fact and the thin line that separates the two. Rather than focusing on the unknown, The Pleasure Park creates an alternative perspective on a popular icon: the horse. Beginning with her years as a competitive rider, Dorfman has been intrigued by the historical and contemporary manifestations of equine imagery in film and here examines the sexuality, power, performance, vulnerability and sometimes unsteady performance of horse and rider. This series not only gazes at the beauty of the racehorse, but also raises questions about the ongoing fetishism of thoroughbreds and their ultimate expendability for spectacle.