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Happenings: Women's Work

Today’s post comes from Anna Rogulina, Vassar College class of 2011 and Art Center student docent.

Photo documentation of Kate Gilmore’s recent performance, Walk the Walk, staged in New York City’s Bryant Park, sponsored by the Public Art Fund as part of its In the Public Realm program. Photo: Adi Shniderman, ©Kate Gilmore.

Art amateurs and aficionados alike often go great distances to see a work by a favorite artist, revisit a renowned permanent collection, rub shoulders with a “blockbuster” exhibition, or seek unique cultural and artistic experiences in more remote locations. It is not often that this process happens the other way around – that art works come to us and enter our space. On Thursday, October 7th such a reversal will take place here at Vassar. We are extremely lucky to be visited by Kate Gilmore and have our campus serve as a stage for one of her newest performance pieces – Tow the Line.

Kate Gilmore is an artist based in New York City and a palpable force in the contemporary art world. Gilmore has exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, J. Paul Getty Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and MoMA/PS1 and is a recipient of numerous awards and honors.
Kate Gilmore’s medium of choice is video, though her career has included live-performances as well. Time and time again, Gilmore places herself in uncomfortable situations and confining environments.  For instance, in My Love is an Anchor (2004) Gilmore hammers away at a bucket full of plaster in which her foot has been trapped.

A still from Gilmore’s My Love is an Anchor (2004).

“I think the misconception about my videos is that they’re masochistic, and they’re not,” she writes. “They’re about pushing my body to a limit and trying to achieve something, using the physical to express an inner conflict.” Her work addresses questions of struggle and survival; it’s about “making [it] through the day, through a specific incident, through something difficult.” Gilmore is also not shy about bringing a feminist element into the foreground of her work and cites an earlier generation of feminist artists such as Marina Abramovic, Valie Export, Hannah Wilke, Caroleee Schneemann, Louise Bourgeois, and Kiki Smith as important influences. “Inevitably, my work is about being a woman, because I am in my own work doing these physical tasks.”

Gilmore does not seem to strive for objectivity.  Instead, she directly examines the subjective experience of individuals, real and hypothetical, within a larger society.  Gilmore states, “Information needs to be digested, and it is the role of the artist to be the teeth who chew what society forces us to swallow.”

I have no doubt that Tow the Line will deliver a strong punch – visually, mentally, and emotionally. For a total of seven hours, two shifts of twelve female Vassar students will be put to test of endurance. A complete description of the public performance-installation can be found here. Please join us for this exciting event on October 7th, from 12PM-7PM in Noyes Circle. It is not an exaggeration when I say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this college and this community.

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