Rachel Garber Cole

The Boyfriend: 09 Safety in Numbers (2016)
HD video, color & sound 3m53s
$1,000 (3 editions)

I am an interdisciplinary artist who works largely in performance and video. I externalize the intimate, interior experiences of shame and anxiety, using humor and absurdity to make people feel comfortable confronting uncomfortable realities. Hopefully by airing out my own shameful anxieties, I make legible for others their own ‘intimate interiors.’ Within this context, my work is explicitly feminist in perspective and explores gender, bodies, climate change and language.

My submitted videos are part of a larger body of work I call “The Boyfriend.” It is a 12-video series based on the 1950s musical “The Boy Friend,” by Sandy Wilson. Set the 1920s, “The Boy Friend” follows a group of English girls who summer in the south of France and look for boyfriends. It is brazen and campy—so heterosexual it queers. The songs are strange—dark lyrics bely the upbeat tenor of the orchestration. I was in this play in 7th grade and haven’t been able to forget it.

In my own “The Boyfriend,” I’m appropriating and recontextualizing this musical – one video for each of its 12 songs. I shoot, perform a capella, and edit the videos – a closed-circuit system that feels almost too intimate. I play with the expansive language of theatre inside the limitations of digital video, creating theatrical, tactile, surreal and claustrophobic worlds.

I use the lyrics of the songs to tell deeply personal stories of loss, embodiment, love and gender in present-day America. It’s an explicitly feminist project – an exploration of the body, the affective experiences of womanhood, and the way external politics and power shape these intimate embodiments. Since beginning the project in 2016, the work has become an accidental emotional diary.

artist’s website

© Rachel Garber Cole