Suffragette Slasher

digital video, 3 minutes & 16 seconds, 2008

Mary Richardson was a suffragette who grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario in the small town of Belleville in the early twentieth century.  She is notable for one particular action that she carried out in London on March 10, 1914.  As a member of the militant British suffrage group, the Women’s Social and Political Union, she carried out an act of violence to protest public indifference to the imprisonment of one of her leaders, Eveline Pankhurst.  Richardson concealed an axe in her purse, entered the National Gallery, waited until the guards were not looking, and then slashed Velasquez’s Rockeby Venus several times before she was forcibly stopped.

I re-enacted Richardson’s protest action and documented it with video, slashing a large digital copy of the Venus that I had obtained online.  I then edited the footage with many tiny cuts, every five frames. For two minutes, viewers see a single shot, the sustained action of Richardson getting dressed as she prepares to carry out this act of violence.  Interrupting this activity however, every five frames, are shots of Richardson at the museum carrying out the slashing action. The effect is one of increasing tension; it seems as though a strobe light is spotlighting this activity and at times the images appear to overlap.

Funded by the New York State Council on the Arts & the Tonawandas Council on the Arts / Carnegie Art Center.

This video received Special Recognition from Juror Kelly Reichardt at the 35th Northwest Film & Video Festival at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon, November 2008.