A fall from grace, falling asleep, falling pregnant, falling in-line or falling apart: falling is an act both comic and tragic, full of loss and wilful abandon, an act repeated throughout our lives. Reflecting on personal situations of bereavement and new life, Gabby Laurent’s performed choreography of falling is a space for self-reflection, allowing her body to repeatedly give way to gravity and create a visual space to contemplate time, fate and circumstance.
What is it to fall? The idiomatic vocabulary Laurent draws on suggests a failure of some kind, a lack of control and composure, which we are led to believe is unwomanly and unbecoming. Drawing on the visual language of feminist and performative art practices, Falling explores an abandoning of self-control and embracing of fate. However, dig deeper and we discover there is a contradictory element to Laurent’s images; for if falling is essentially accidental, then Laurent’s subversive and intentional performances capture a moment of control, rather than the loss of it.
There is a striking sequence of photographs featuring the artist precariously rising from a set of starting blocks whilst heavily pregnant. There are the ubiquitous slipping socks on the stairs, and the dramatic fall from a bicycle. Other, smaller moments capture Laurent’s body in pure free-fall, suspended within a photographic web of grain and blur, liberated from the landscape. Different moments and gestures are reversed, intermeshed, repeated or contradicted within the staccato, broken sequences of the book, inviting us to consider our relationship to the different daily experiences that wash over us and elicit reactions – a flickering, Muybridge-esque procession of emotions and states of mind. Each gesture elicits the same viewer response – the sharp draw of breath when we witness a stranger fall in the street. But more than simply comical acts of failure, Laurent’s work equally represents a gesture of defiance, as the artist inevitably picks herself up and dusts herself off.