I sometimes wish that before we were born, we'd be delivered a message from the universe. It would say: "Daughters, in your life you will struggle. There will be failure. And there will be success. But nothing will be without struggle." We would be prepared. And everlasting. This message would be part of a greater introduction. It would be an orientation, much like a company's orientation for new hires, but it would be to female existence. Kate Gilmore's work would be the video played at the orientation.
Exploring the themes of endurance and struggle, Gilmore exaggerates everyday female plights absurdly and comically. Women struggle amidst socially-constructed obstacles (beauty and celebrity, marriage, heels and fashion, etc.) but they do so as subversive clowns, with humor and rebellion.
In one video, Cake Walk, the artist plays on the clichéd idiom as the subject in this piece (always played by the artist) thrashes clumsily about in rollerskates as she tries to climb a wooden board. At the top, there is a garland of flowers arching over a hole where a fountain of rust-colored liquid spurts and oozes. The subject tries to catch her skate on smaller planks of wood as she tries to climb and reach for something at the top. Constantly falling, she is much like Arrlechino in commedia dell-arte, as her falls are slapstick and physically exaggerated. When she finally reaches the object at the top of the board, it turns out to be a cake, that she clutches and lets drop as she dribbled backs down the board and falls to the ground. But she has succeeded.
In another video, Before Going Under, a woman holds a bouquet and gets lassoed from an off-screen character. She struggles to the other side of the screen and disappears. We see the lasso slack and tighten. Eventually, the woman gets yanked back into the shot.
So what is failure? When we stop trying to fight? Or is it when we are defeated? These women all endure. Until finally: achievement. Never numbed by their obsessive repetition of action, the women are perpetually struggling, beyond tolerance. If we were to watch these videos in our orientation to womanhood, we'd know beforehand that the world was written in the male canon, and to be a female, we would have to write the footnotes our damn selves.
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