Standing Here, 2010. Click for video.
My recent obsession with hitting things (see below for how I do this constructively) was sparked by a viewing of Ms. Kate Gilmore's work at the currently showing Whitney Biennial. The performance artist has this habit of putting herself in some seriously punishing predicaments that she has to smash, strain, and struggle her way out of. Her piece in the Biennial (a clip of it is linked above) knuckle punched and stole my heart. It features her demolition dance with a 12 foot high, four-walled column enclosing just enough empty space for her move around in. Once she crashes her way in, Kate kicks, punches, and elbows her way through the walls to the top of the structure. She does this in a pretty red polka-dot number with black dress shoes and a thin pair of leather gloves. Her ensemble does little to protect her from the torturous fight, and much to emphasize the hard hits she is give/taking. The piece is a phenomenal, in-your-face play of feminine anger, and Gilmore's oeuvre of clever ways to punish herself is stunning, or shall I say smashing.
Wallflower, 2006/2007, Video. Click for video.
From being pelted with tomatoes, to encasing her foot in a bucket of plaster, to having to claw her way out of a homemade, fenced-in dirt ditch. It's all so gruntingly gruff, and yet--and this is why it's more than just punishment to watch--she seems so normal, so lovely, so unassuming. Her girl next door demeanor makes you spend less time worrying about her sanity and more time rooting for her victory. When I saw the piece at the Biennial I saw female anger clear and present. The repetitive thud of her fist against drywall made me wince in sympathetic pain, but also made me jealous. She tore that mother up. I can't even tell you how refreshing it was to see a woman just go to it and get herself out. What a release, what a show of strength. And, Ms. Gilmore puts care into choosing her clothing.
The performance wouldn't be the same without her co-star, that red dress. She hikes it up every now and then so that she can kick holes in the walls, and maybe show you some leg. The glory cry of tough chicks everywhere: "You want this, boy? How about now...you still want it?" I want to be it.