Director: Kate Blackmore
Cinematographer: Bonnie Elliott
Editor: Kate Blackmore
Sound Design: Fred Rodrigues
Featuring: Vea McBride; Jessica Burns; Brittany Tutton; and Taylor Dern
Dual Screen Video Installation
High Definition Video, 16:9, PAL, Sound
Duration: 21 mins 15 secs
Commissioned by Campbelltown Art Centre as part of ‘The List’, an exhibition curated by Megan Monte.
‘Girls’ is a dual screen video installation which centres on four fourteen year old girls growing up in Claymore, a public housing estate in Sydney’s South West. In a research paper published by Griffith University in 2008, Claymore is described as “the most disadvantaged community in Australia” due to its high rates of crime, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and intergenerational welfare dependency. Through interviews and observation, Blackmore exposes the specific attitudes and behaviours the girls have developed as a way of surviving within their stigmatised community. Rather than presenting them as victims of the welfare state, Blackmore attempts to capture the significance of this moment in their young lives in which they hold the power to break the cycle or continue it.
Review: Pedro de Almeida, CACSA Broadsheet, 43(4)
Bullying, violence, suicide, sexism, the demoralising expediency of authority figures, who serve their own interests with little care or concern for young people: just some of the subjects broached by fourteen-year olds Brittany, Jessica, Vea and Taylor in Kate Blackmore’s peerless video work, ‘Girls’ (2014). Opening with a shopping trolley sitting idly in a field of grass, ‘Girls’ began its dual monologue confessions with the wistful preamble; “When I was young…”, which more than anything signals the sobering realities of growing up fast in Claymore. As a suburb with a decades-old reputation for severe disadvantage in all of the social and economic measures that matter, in purely demographic terms Claymore is more than anything a community of young people.
The fact that children in this patch of Sydney’s suburban fringe continue to be marginalised is no unforseen misfortune of class struggle. Nor is it an unfounded corollary of the endemic failures of a built environment designed as landscaping solution to ideological renovations of the social contract. Seemingly trapped in a demonstrably deteriorated public housing estate that is a monument to nothing more than the scandalous reverberation of almost four decades of State government neglect—that’s changing, but not nearly fast enough—the girls in ‘Girls’ understand the all too human motivations that inculcate this state of affairs: “No offence, but it’s kinda selfish”, they say of teachers whom they accuse of neglecting the welfare of students.
That Blackmore’s art beautifully intimated the presence of mutual recognition and trust between artist and subjects, as to what might be achieved by such an enterprise, was nowhere more evident than in the naturalism of the girls’ presentation to camera. This quality was elevated further by the sensitive handling of the more formal concerns of light and shade, figure and ground, time and sound, which resonated in every dual-channel sequence of ‘Girls’, especially in the closing scene of a violet gloaming, the girls atop a highway overpass trying to attract a horn-blow reaction from the speeding drivers below as they disappear into the horizon on their way to somewhere else before darkness falls.