Blind in New York
AIR Gallery, New York, 2005
An installation by Jane Gilmor in collaboration with
David Van Allen (The Architecture of Fatigue), Rick Edelman (Big Mother Blind), Mathew Butler (Blind and Zip video projections)
Gilmor has created a room-sized installation of fabric and fabricated metal sculptures who trace their ancestry to a peculiarly designed hunting blind. A five minute film of the original blind (with the artist inside) insinuating itself into highly charged sites in Portugal-Druidic stone circles, 5000 year-old dolmens and 15th century convents - is playing on a small flat screen monitor on one wall. Circulating helpfully around the room dispensing Kleenex, vacuuming up and even responding to remote control demands from visitors are three smaller motorized versions of the hunting blind. Shining through a slit in the large blind and projected on a nearby comer is a video loop of Gilmor's hand endlessly unzipping a zipper.
As she has over the past thirty years of work, Gilmor has plinked a number of nerves, some raw, some ticklish, and has gently woven our conflicted strands of amusement and discomfort into something strangely moving and profound. The literal meanings of the object begin to give way under the weight of the overburden of information Gilmor has built into the installation. We might notice, for example, that the original hunting blind has a distinctly phallic form, and the smaller mobile blinds somehow add poignancy to the absurdity of their determined putt putting about. The visual and verbal punning of the blind phalluses is characteristic of Gilmor's work, as is her restraint, if that is the right word, in exploiting the issue. Her observation that it is amusing when hunters disguise themselves as fabric phalluses to blast away at wildlife is offered to the viewer without an intervening and enervating polemic. The joke is implicit, latent and all the funnier for that.
Her restraint holds, even in regard to another surreal aspect of the blind's history: the duck blind is designed to be handicap accessible. This information, and the grotesque hilarity of building a contraption that allows the physically challenged to indulge in the maiming and crippling of the odd passing duck is once again acknowledged, but not commented upon. A political critique may be read into the military adventurism and the asymmetrical projection of power implied by these mobile bunkers. Gilmor refuses as always to be trapped by specificity, though, and the satire is entirely latent in its obviousness; present, but not accounted for. It is the viewers' privilege and responsibility to draw their own conclusions.
Gilmor in fact, has no interest in condemning the hunters at all or in encouraging us to laugh at them. She is far too sophisticated and generous a spirit for such smallness of vision and such strategic predictability. It must be said in fact that the whole scene is rather jaunty, and we cannot help but be swept up in the slapstick spirit of the thing, checked by the note of dread and caution supplied by the videotape of the hand in its endless Sisyphussian pursuit of a completed zip. That systemic failure of the hand to complete its journey condemns the entire endeavor to an endless limbo. Everything, and everyone (including, crucially, the artist herself) is caught in a permanent vicious cycle, a perverse closed loop of good will, bloodlust, vanity and pure brilliant stupidity that seems close to the core of Gilmor's take on the human condition".
(Excerpt from the Blind catalogue essay by Matt Freedman, 2005)
For the complete essay click here.
Matt Freedman is an artist and writer living in New York.
Thank you to the following individuals and organizations for their support and contributions to this project.
Matt Freedman, Crit Streed, Kathryn Hagy, Agneizska Ligendza, Linda Scarth, and Margery, Fred and Ann Gilmor, Barry Sigel, Dan Ellis, True Identity Design, Haleh Niazmand, and John Foster, Avatar Design,
Mount Mercy College Faculty Development Fund
Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Program
A.I.R. Gallery, New York
iRobot, manufacturer of Roomba vacuums
Coe College Art Department
True Identity Design
The printing the BLIND catalogue was supported in part by a 2005 Artist's Mini Grant from The Iowa Arts Council. A division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs