TBA:11/ Kate Gilmore, ‘Sudden as a Massacre’: Ready for love


Sometimes this is what I think: I am ready to love you. I have loved what you have done (“Blood from a stone”!), the way you think.


Kate Gilmore, the idea of women as wrecking balls not consensus builders and make-it-all-right-ers appeals to me more than you know at the moment. Struggle in art with a possibility of failure seems like a worthwhile enterprise. And ladies tearing down a giant monolith of clay with their barehands in your video performance as part of the installation “Sudden as a Massacre” for PICA’s TBA:11 Festival at Washington High School…I was ready to love you. In their matching, ruffle-edged sea-foam floral dresses and sandals, the women lit into that clay block, pulling away handfuls, scraping and pushing great chunks with clawed fingers and flat palms. They were  breathing hard and sometimes I could hear muffled sounds of exertion. The clay became a sculpture changing continually before our eyes with channels, gouges, and concave marks in this video of a performance that had happened in this yellow room behind us, the yellow pedestal empty but stained with earthy marks.

But the ladies didn’t just toss those handfuls of clay aside or let them fall to the floor. They winged them at the walls, at the floor. Pitched them with what I’ll call an anger that not only wasn’t warranted, it wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the straightforward, if difficult, task of dismantling this clay cube with their bare hands. It distracted me from what must have been real exhaustion, real annoyance, real pain after some time with clay digging under one’s nails and leaching palms crackling dry.

That play-acting rang hollow. And I understood the clay marks on the wall not as evidence but as painting. With a cadre of throwing muses, this great tension between lovely women in lovely dresses as forces of destruction was diffused into choreographed tantrum as action painting. And a switch inside me was flipped, “Sudden as a Massacre.”

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