Girl Fight is a small retrospective of Kate Gilmore’s performance-based video work from the last four years. The Washington, D.C.-born artist creates a series of challenges and situations and records herself as she attempts to complete, conquer, or even just survive the trials. The show features eight videos, including “Endurance Makes Gold” (2008), a site-specific film and installation made at Artpace.
In each video, Gilmore, dressed in casual yet feminine and stylish separates, heels, and makeup, sets about the task at hand dutifully and without unnecessary drama. She easily disguises herself as the everyday heroine and her individuality cleverly disappears in the well-shot and edited films. Each contest is humorous and compelling. I found myself losing time, silently rooting her on, scrutinizing her actions, sometimes criticizing her tactics, and carefully dissecting the environment for a solution.
Two videos looped in the conference room feature the addition of 1980s pop-music soundtracks, and for this reason stick out as the weakest set. I was at first very excited to hear Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” as I entered the room and saw “Before Going Under” (2007). The video is charming and hilarious. Gilmore stands in a grassy field by some trees with a bouquet in her hands, while a yellow lasso is repeatedly thrown from off-screen till she is snared. She immediately attempts to flee, running off screen in the opposite direction, but is eventually overpowered and dragged back across our view. Unfortunately the song and the video together remind me of a bad made-for-karaoke music video. It’s still funny, but the experience is cheapened.
The other video short, entitled “Baby, Belong to Me” (2006/2007), suffers less from the addition of the music, but is maybe the least visually interesting. Gilmore struggles to reach and free her suspended ankle from a noose. Only the leg and her outstretched hand can be seen in front of a white wall with red hearts. The struggle is earnest and believable, but not nearly as engaging or compelling as the similar fight to free her foot from a bucket of plaster in “My Love is an Anchor “(2004), one of the videos projected in the Hudson (Show)Room. The wider camera angle and more-involved, even desperate, attempts to free herself in this film are a clearer portrayal of the conflict between her career and a love life.
The large side-by-side projection “Main Squeeze” (2006), also in the Hudson (Show)Room, is a wonderful companion to the “Endurance Makes Gold” installation and video. The tight camera shots of “Main Squeeze” keep the viewer on edge and actively uncomfortable within Gilmore’s struggle to crawl through a tight wooden tunnel she constructed. The looped videos never offer a conclusion, only an endless and frustrating process. In contrast, the wide-angle, open-air video “Endurance Makes Gold,” though still about a process, embraces the need to conquer and win. Gilmore engages in the seemingly impossible task of stacking random furniture outside in the Artpace courtyard, determined to build a path to the second-story window of the gallery where she will eventually walk in triumph down the blue-carpeted ramp she built in the space.
The videos featured in Girl Fight carry more than a simple feminist message of women’s plight in contemporary culture. Each limitation, wardrobe and environment, is self-imposed. She emphasizes this with the detailed and exaggerated nature of the challenges. Her work addresses the role of creativity as a tool to both overcome and construct obstacles. It offers an intelligent and humorous critique of contemporary feminism as well as the practice of making art. •
Through April 20
and by appointment
445 North Main Ave.