Fort/Da, Jill Goldman’s first art installation, reprises characters that have long preoccupied her, and revisits places from her past, facilitating encounters with women who are escaping or transcending the commonplace through imaginary leaps. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway, Goldman seeks out the extraordinary, elevating the everyday to holiday, enabling women – through both the lens of her camera and the amplitude of her imagination – to be narratively construed.Having reached a time in life when her children are grown, Goldman experiences and expresses both the freedom of being unmoored, and the mourning that comes with no longer being anchored in the way she once was. The pieces are thus a commingling of mourning one’s past identity and the unmoored-ness of the vast expanses that lie ahead. Turning toward the lives of other women, Goldman takes liberties with their stories, whilst remaining faithful to the integrity of their singularity, feeding her viewer possibilities yet always respecting the mystery of the Other, that whom we do not and cannot know. The posed photographs of women on hotel bedspreads, the invented stories of the women in daugeratypes, and the images of the Dancing Fool represent an antidote to the often isolating and claustrophobic aspect of the lives of those who are homemakers, whether by necessity or election.
In this installation, we see Goldman retreading Clarissa Dalloway’s footsteps with maps that don’t make sense, inventing stories of women’s lives that are true because she has inhabited them. In so doing, she locates the lives of others in the fertile in-between-ness of reality and fantasy. Out on her own at last, Goldman links herself to other women. The resonance and relevance of the piece is in the very fact of her calling upon women, past and present, real and imagined, to guide and join her in creating an imaginary that holds the promise of possibility. In this way, she rejects and disavows nothing. Her project is inquiry, a feeling around that could only be done by her now, in this in-between stage of her life. The dance is the animating element, a loosening of life’s constrictions, opening into adventure, possibility. The radical truth of Goldman’s vision is precisely that while a woman is reveling in freedom, she is also feeling around for the borders.
Goldman is involved in an endeavor that concerns elevating and thus escaping from the predictability of daily life. This may be accomplished by hosting or attending a party, reclining on a hotel bedspread, taking a walk to buy flowers; even putting on make up can be transformative. Once, many years ago at Bennington, I lay on Jill’s white bed, watching her dress up. She was standing at the mirror putting on makeup. Startled by the transformation I witnessed, I asked, “do you think maybe you have too much make up on?” Undaunted, she put on red lipstick, smacked her lips, turned to me, smiled, and said, “no; I look great!” I have long remembered that moment because she seemed so assured, not trying to look natural, but at ease in festivity, and in expectation. She had a look of excitement entirely alien to me, as if she were on the brink of something. There is humility in Goldman’s grandiosity, an openness to the lived experience of every woman’s existence and the possibility of every woman’s holiday. No narrative lasts forever, no identity defies impermanence. We are not granted infinite possibilities for living, but the possibilities for that which we can fathom are endless. The thread that runs through Goldman’s work is that of imaginative hospitality: “What is your story?” she asks, again and again, of herself, and of us.
- Robin Flicker