“Only in Your Way,” is a new collaborative piece between New York artists Heather Rowe and Kate Gilmore, an ongoing exhibition at DiverseWorks. The performance segment of the exhibition showcases different woman carrying an object as they walk a designated path within the gallery repeatedly for four hours. Local performance artists Evan McCarley and Brittani Broussard weigh in on their experiences as performers in the endurance project:
Heather Rowe often re-imagines space to account for dysfunction. Her piece, Entrance (2007), featured a series of plywood obstacles embedded with large mirror fragments. Gilmore similarly brings up themes of dysfunction in her work, in how she choreographs women in disjointed moments of sound, movement, and stillness. What do these thematics of feminine dysfunctionality mean to you in the context of your performance?
Evan McCarley: I think the dysfunctionality manifests in the idea of women doing seemingly meaningless work without recognition. I see my presence in the space while performing as somewhat a decoration, or a novelty to some viewers. When I am walking, I am performing a task that is meaningful. I have only performed once, but those four hours have changed how I view my own body, art practice, and thought about labor. It requires my full attention and awareness while performing the act. It meant so much to me, but I doubt the passive audience could understand that without talking to me (which I can’t do while performing!). Wow, I could really go on about this. Great question.
Brittani Broussard: To me it means finding control and stability in a repetitive and tiring environment. I was proud of myself when the gallery attendant informed me that I completed the first hour. I thought to myself, I don’t need a break, keep going. I walked for mostly 4 hours, but periodically sat down, stretched, and had water towards the end of my time. I felt empowered once my performance was completed. This performance really does trickle over into real life. I feel like I’m a strong woman, and that I can fight for myself, the people I care about, and the issues I strongly stand for. This performance teaches me how to navigate in my dysfunctional surroundings and get the best that I can out of it.
The rise of Trumpism, the American political movement preoccupied with white nationalism and erecting borders, offers insight on the politics of the body. Whose bodies are allowed to occupy which spaces, and why? How is space altered to interrupt the movement of the body? Do you think Rowe and Gilmore’s work solicit these kinds of questions from their audience? Why or why not?
Evan McCarley: Yes, this collaborative work totally raises these questions. “I will only be in your way” seems like such a passive statement, but after hearing it for several hours, it empowered me. I WILL be in your way. You WILL respect my space. I WILL resist you. You WILL respect me and my space. Although there was a male gallery attendant there to intervene if need be (love you Reyes), after a while I felt that I could have held my own in the space. Between one to three thirty, I felt invincible. The last 30 mins wore me down; the physicality of the work got to me, but it also fueled me to hold my own.
Brittani Broussard: I cannot make any eye contact or interactions with anyone. I purposely placed my hat low so I could only see the bottom half of people. I felt vulnerable at times like I was on display for people to stare at. The fact that there were rules for the public made me feel safe. I came across a control issue with one man. Everyone in the space stood on the side of me. When I started to walk towards them on the path, they moved so they wouldn’t be standing right in front of me, which could seem confrontational. But there was one man who made sure that every time I reached a certain point in the path, that he was there, right in front. Every time that passed him I could see that he was looking. He wanted to make sure he looked, and that I knew he looked. Eventually he left, and I was relieved, and didn’t feel this way about anyone else who entered the gallery before or after him. Rowe and Gilmore’s work definitely solicits these questions from their audience. I think one of the main reasons why they [the audience] stare is to see if our bodies will change somehow, almost as if they’re waiting for a surprise.
What was your rehearsal practicum? Any lessons you took away from this experience you’d like to share?
Evan McCarley: Performance practicum: 9 hours sleep. No alcohol 24hrs before. I was sick, so Advil Cold + Sinus 45 mins before. Afrin to control my sniffles. A light meal an hour before + 30 oz. of water. 2 Lonestar tallboys after.
Brittani Broussard: In the beginning, I was going strong. After about an hour and a half I walked into the back room, took a sip of water without sitting, checked the time quickly and went right back onto the path. I chose not to take a break to sit or stretch. I wanted to keep pushing my body. After about 2 hours when the sun started to set I started to feel my achy feet, my right knee popping occasionally and the strong need to stretch. Despite the warnings of my body, I forgot all pain and discomfort once the large crowds started to gaze at me through the windows and inside the gallery space. I wanted to give the viewers a great performance. I made sure that I had good posture, changed the position of the sculpture that I was holding when I was out of their view and varied that pace of my walking from slow to fast to keep them intrigued. I felt that it was some sort of façade that I was giving. I was so tired but I didn’t want to show it. As soon as the crowd left, I went into the corner and rubbed my feet.
Why are you excited about this performance?
Evan McCarley: I am excited to perform again so that I can see what else “floats to the surface.” I thought a lot about my life and all the things going on right now. I am doing so much growing right now, and I am truly happy that I can do what I love, continue to learn more about these practices, as well as learning more about myself in the process. What can I say, I’m a lucky gal.
Brittani Broussard: I’m excited to challenge myself and push my limits. With this 4 hour (with breaks in between) endurance piece, I was nervous but also curious to see how my body would react to walking on the same path for that amount of time and what type of things I would make myself think of to keep myself occupied or where my mind would wonder to. I feel that this performance will make me stronger mentally and physically.
Interview conducted by Celestina Billington.