Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Call: Kate Gilmore at the 2010 Whitney Biennial

Double Dutch, 2004. A piece in which Gilmore jumped rope on a perforated platform in stilettos.

This weekend is beautiful. It's crisp, it's sunny, it's three days long, and BBQ's are smokin' everywhere. I know that, but if you haven't seen Kate Gilmore's piece in the 2010 Biennial, I want you to ignore everything I just mentioned and get your ass to The Whitney before the exhibit dismantles and disappears. Go inside for a while (you can eat burgers later) and sit with Ms. Gilmore's projected image as it struggles, bashes, and bangs it's way to the top of a four walled column while decked in a red polka-dot dress in Standing Here, 2010. It's a great piece, one that reignited my interest in this endurance artist who sets herself to tough tasks for the sake of getting through them and leaving a record. In fact, the piece--and especially it's interesting choice of wardrobe--prompted me to get in touch with Ms. Gilmore and find out more about the role of clothing in her work. In an email conversation a little while back she graciously answered my sartorial questions:

With Open Arms, 2005. Gilmore dons a special something for a torrent of tomatoes.

I want to wear it. (IWTWI): I had an inkling when I saw Standing Here, 2010 at the Biennial that the red dress you wore was quite planned and intentional. However, I was still surprised to catch a video of you on the Whitney site showing a Christmas-time Loehmann's shopping trip with paint swatches in hand. How important is what you wear to your work? Are the decisions made for aesthetic purposes, or are your clothing choices about communicating ideas?

Kate Gilmore (KG): I think it is a combination. It is very important that there is a female character carrying out these actions (thus, the clothing), but the type and colors of the dresses and shoes are really aesthetic and formal decisions.

IWTWI: Do you choose the clothing you are going to wear as you are initially creating a piece? Or, is that a decision made later in your process?

KG: Definitely later. I think about the sculpture first and then i figure out what outfit would either go best or contrast, both in terms of the aesthetic quality of the dress and in the type of person it might convey.

IWTWI: Considering the physicality of your work, do you make any clothing choices for your performances based on safety or protection?

KG: Well, the shoes can actually help me with the activity. I can hook a heel, bash a wall with it, etc. So, for the piece at the Whitney, I knew I needed a heavy, strong high heel. I made a bit of a mistake with the dress at the Whitney because it was too long--I had to keep pulling it up to get my legs up to kick and climb. So, the things I wear can be tools and hindrances.

IWTWI: Do you keep the clothes from your pieces as artifacts of the work?

KG: Yes! Sometimes I like them so much that if they aren't ruined, I will still wear them.

IWTWI: Have you sustained any injuries from your work? It looks so brutal in some cases.

KG: Luckily not. The pieces are made so that I can be successful in my endeavors. They are built around my body and my capabilities. That said, sometimes I think I am stronger or more agile than I am and I have to adapt on the spot.

IWTWI: Do you follow fashion at all? Have any favorite designers or style icons?

I really don't follow fashion that much. However, I do follow people who follow fashion. For instance a character like Leigh Bowery is someone I have looked to both as an individual who dealt with fashion in an interesting way, but also someone who took it to an extreme where it became something more than just clothing.

IWTWI: High heels: Sexy accessory or sharp weapon?

KG: Both...

Standing Still, 2010. Kate's smashing feat now showing at the Whitney Biennial 2010.

Thank you so much to Kate Gilmore for taking the time to answer these questions, and even more for her work which is inspiring.

All images from

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