Alright, let’s go. I’m ready.
Right foot, left foot. Clap, clap, shake it off, shake it down. Alright, really I’m ready. Let’s do this. Now. Alright, go. Go!
In terms of feats of physical prowess, writing is about as lame and lazy as it gets. Though out of disability as opposed to laziness, Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (albeit only a short book) by blinking it out. Even now as I write this, I’m leaning back in a somewhat comfortable chair, left leg propped over an end table; I’m not even really lifting my hand off the keyboard. Lazy, really lazy. But, and some of you might actually agree with me, writing is actually a real tangible physical accomplishment; I don’t even get to kill trees with wasted typewriter pages anymore, this is all digital. It’s physical because it, like most other acts of bravery and accomplishment, it takes a physical psych out, a pumping up, a bravery to make it happen, despite probably well-founded doubt that not only is the whole enterprise stupid in the first place but that my place in it, my meager abilities don’t even really mount up; why bother? Why not just give up, I think there might be something on tv anyway? If I keep writing like that I’m going to have psych myself up again.
Alright, I’m back. All that said, I’m still not as tough as Kate Gilmore. Maybe Gilmore’s accomplishment’s in the suite of videos on view at Catherine Clark Gallery are less maybe about actual physical achievement, and more about simply achieving goals, psyching oneself out, making something that might be otherwise painful or difficult, possible; crawling out of a ditch, punching and kicking her way out of a walled mini-room, in another two men smash with sledgehammers a block platform as our artist tries to keep standing.
From professional sports to amateur marathoning, physical feats of course are pretty big money. And we’re Americans, talk of money pricks our ears. One might argue as well that us Americans love the rugged individualist, the independent, the free spirit, the maverick, that person who can’t just do it, but can do it alone. Feats of physical prowess are part and parcel of all that; remember Clinton jogging or Palin booting it through the Alaskan wilderness, political grandstanding both, both of which seem to have worked, or work enough. (Perhaps physical prowess is ancient and tribal, all nationalists think their nation-state is the biggest, strongest, toughest.) It’s less the pure physicality of it, though the dumbness of the purely physical can be understood by everyone, which is why it’s so popular/populist; it’s the bravery, it’s the psyching out, it’s the sheer will to do it. Just do it, right?
It’s that vaguely fascistic triumph of the will, it’s sheer determination, it’s bravery, however stupid, however ridiculous, and bravery, as a sort of general principle, is one of those qualities we all wished we had a little bit more of. Gilmore does all this and the feats look hard but simple, what they mean is weirder and more complex, even perhaps a little dark, but also sort of ridiculously human in the best kind of way.
Alright, whew. Alright, I did it. Done.
Kate Gilmore, By Any Means, 2009, single-channel video. Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery