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Supergirl! all-girl videos at Nexus


At this moment when video has become an enormous presence in Philadelphia, one of the smartest and up-to-date video group shows around is at Philadelphia’s vintage collective, Nexus.  Supergirl!, an exhibit of work by nine women, is provocative–both for its post-feminist content and its art historical chops.

from Cintra Wilson's camp video Las Apassionaras, three of the team of terrorists for art.
from Cintra Wilson’s camp video Las Apassionadas, three of the team of terrorists for art.

The show has a number of highlights, from West Coaster Cintra Wilson’s camp Los Apassionadas (1993) to Saya Woolfalk’s solemn, candy-colored creation myth Ethnography of No Place (2008), a 30-minute saga of ritual searching and faux archeology.

Wilson, who writes a fashion column for the New York Times, out-camps Franco Vezzoli, with a multi-culti team of terrorists hellbent on rescuing art from pop culture. The group uses guns and explosives to rescue Michelangelo’s David from being appropriated for an advertising campaign (the offense is David decked out in surfer jams). The terrorists, pre 9/11, borrow exotic settings, spy-movie conventions and cartoon dialog. The characters are led by a super-heroine whose sharp-edged blunt cut could slice your neck open with a twist of her head. The attack against bad taste is nothing but bad taste, and I lapped it up.

from Saya Woolfalk's Ethnography of No Place
from Saya Woolfalk’s Ethnography of No Place

On the other end of the serious scale, Woolfalk’s mix of drawings, costume, performance and sculpture sets tell an amorphous tale of a journey through a future world that encompasses birth goddesses, storybook mythology and politico-cultural criticism. The pace is a bit slow and the narration borders on ponderous, but the visual are sumptuous and ultra-beautiful. I was reminded of the creation myths of Trenton Doyle Hancock and the cosmos inventions of Matthew Ritchie. The multi-ethnic artist, who was in the Whitney Independent Study Program and has an MFA from the Chicago Art Institute, adds a quest for healing a broken heart as a motive for her cinematic journey into unfamiliar worlds.  That personal touch plus a birthing ritual and a focus on women are part of what makes this cosmic adventure so female.

Kate Gilmore breaks through in Star Bright, Star Might, 2007, 7:37
Kate Gilmore breaks through in Star Bright, Star Might, 2007, 7:37

Kate Gilmore’s struggles with a cranky physical world are metaphoric and anti-heroic. In Anything (2006) the artist builds a random, tottering tower of chairs, that she tries to secure with a female web of ribbon. Her wobbly ascent to an invisible goal suggests there’s more than one way to solve a problem. In Star Bright, Star Might her anti-heroine breaks through plywood with her face until finally she stands triumphant, in a taffeta gown, belting out her victory tune (a theatrical Susan Boyle approach for the finale). It’s Marina Abramovic with an existential sense of humor and an embrace of the physical world.

Jenny Drumgoole as her nasty-girl alterego, Husky, in her video Husky, 2006, 20:02
Jenny Drumgoole as her nasty-girl alterego, Husky, in her video Husky, 2006, 20:02

Intercutting borrowed tv video clips with her own footage, Philadelphia artist Jenny Drumgoole takes on her evil twin in Husky. The filmmaker plays both characters. Along the way she takes stabs at male self-indulgence, the joys of womanhood (menstruation and internal gyn exams), fraternity gang bangs and so much more. In her other video here, Wingbowl, she explores eating excess, sports and the cultural abuse of women. These videos, in which Drumgoole is the superhero, are both entertaining and chock full of glancing digs at societal expectations.

from Jody Wood's video Passive/Aggressive, 2009, 3:49
from Jody Wood’s video Passive/Aggressive, 2009, 3:49

In a set of DIY domestic glory, Shana Moulton’s Whispering Pines uncovers domestic terrors. The colors here too are noteworthy for their exuberant, Crayola approach. And Liz Nofzinger’s TV Dinner shows a male leering at a cheesy, sexed-up exercise video and at McDonald’s advertising. Pretty funny, too. Others in the exhibit are Miranda July, Rebecca Parker, both a bit predictable, and Jody Wood, the last of whom shows women wrestling in public spaces like bathrooms and bookstores, following brief conversations–not predictable at all.
The exhibit, which started as a gleam in Nexus Exec Director Nick Cassway’s eye more than a year ago, was curated by Jennie Thwing, Blaine Siegel, Jody Sweitzer & Kate Borbas (intern). In conjunction with the exhibit, which was supported by several grants, including one from the city’s Cultural Fund, the  also includes a 48-hour video competition and a panel discussion. Info here on these events and more at the bottom of the page. If you go, be sure to pick up the discussion guide and a newsprint one-page catalog and poster.
The show runs to Feb 5.