Daniel Tovar on “I Am My Own Keeper” by Gertie Garbage

The viewer is immediately struck by the the brilliantly colored surfaces in Gertie Garbage's "I Am My Own Keeper." Multicolored flowers crown an attractive, sultry, bejeweled face, though it is her tears that prove to be the most brilliantly decorous part of the composition: painted, so to speak, with video. The sequence proceeds in a single shot with a single, repeated action: a woman slowly biting petals off a red rose. At first, the sensuality of the action only lends to the overall visual pleasure of the scene. But as time goes on, her biting falters. Her teeth do not immediately tear the individual petals, and we see the effort that must be put into the action. In her struggle, she forgets to keep up the sultry appearance. Remembering between petal picks, she makes a point of looking toward us, putting on her best face. This appearance of effort grates against the visually stunning surfaces. In contrast to the non-functional decoration, her mouth is by nature a tool, functional, suitable for breaking down material. As the action continues, and the rose gets barer, we are reminded that these appearances cannot be kept up. They will eventually break down, and what will be revealed is the functional organism that lies behind.

Originally published in Video! Video! Zine