Walk the Walk review

by Claudine Aime

Within the hustle and bustle, nestled in Midtown Manhattan's highly corporate district, it would be easy to miss any form of artistic expression, but New Yorkers are no stranger to the eclectic collage of art, music, and pop culture that their city has to offer. Deep in Bryant Park, hidden among the trees, a large yellow cubic platform stands. There are women dressed in summer dresses, on top of it moving erratically. It may at first seem confusing, but that is exactly artist Kate Gilmore's intentions, in her pedestrious and colorful art spectacle. Cleverly named "Walk the Walk”, was more than just women walking idly, it was her expression of the everyday movements and actions shared by many of the surrounding office employees. It embodies mobility and progression in a fast paced workforce.

As many artists have learned before, igniting interest with public art is no easy task, but Kate Gilmore, along side with Public Art Fund, have managed to spark cognition in the minds of many of the observers. From May 3, 2010 to May 7th in Bryant Park from 8:30 to 6:30, 7 women shuffled along in the 100 square feet cubicle 8 feet off the ground wearing bright canary yellow dresses and beige shoes in a pattern that resembles systematic chaos. Perplexed by the sight, a 29-year-old Met Life employee went during his lunch break to investigate the display; only after reading the synopsis did he fully understand what was behind the artist’s vision. When asked his opinion he stated “the exhibit is a good and clear representation of the daily grind.”

Just a glance alone wouldn’t suffice: to get the clear picture, a full experience of the piece and its many dimensions, one would have to examine not only the exterior but the interior of the structure as well. Following the yellow theme, on each side of the brightly colored cubicle there are entranceways allowing on-lookers to enter in from four directions. When walking into the cubicle you are bombarded with the cacophony of the footsteps above, mimicking the sounds you are likely to hear in office and apartment buildings. The footsteps became more than just the sounds of a group of people pacing, but an intricate dance-like pattern that the women navigated effortlessly. In an interview with one of the performers, Sophia Stoll explains that one of their tasks was to convey personality and emotion without the exchange of words. “We communicate with each other by stomping our feet.” Since they were not allowed to speak to each other, stomping became their own intimate form of non-verbal communication. Walking about in a 100 square feet area for 5 hours a day was a difficult task for them to do without speaking, so physical expression became useful as a social outlet.

Aside from the visual enjoyment of watching these young women perform on this vibrant cube in a shady setting in the park, is there more to “Walk the Walk” than just a simulation of the work force or a pessimistic depiction of the monotony behind it? Is it just “our life as we know it”, worker drones confined to stifled expression, or is the message deeper? Kate Gilmore said it best during our impromptu interview, stating “even though they’re in this one little space and not much is happening they are actually really navigating each other in a goal base way. If it wasn’t goal-based then they would just be going around in circles, but they’re not, so while they’re still confined to this space, they’re still having to maintain their own identity and space in this very generic environment.”