Whitehot Magazine

A Walk Through Kate Gorney’s Installation Once Broken

Installation view, "Once Broken" 2018, courtesy of the Artist.

By MARLEY SMIT, May, 2018

At the top of a three-story brownstone lies a meditative oasis from the bustling city streets below. Once Broken, the new installation by multi-disciplinary artist Kate Gorney, began as a series of poems and soon evolved into a multi-media installation which engulfed nearly every square inch of the West Village apartment it would come to inhabit.

Gorney’s objective with Once Broken was to liberate her poems from the confines of ink and paper and allow them to exist in the physical realm. As she describes it, she “put a firecracker inside the book and let it explode into the room”. Employing a vast collection of personal and found objects along with natural and handmade elements, Once Broken transports its viewer to the same space of contemplation as reading great poetry.  

Upon entering the threshold of the quaint apartment that houses Once Broken, scents and sounds welcome the viewer before the visual experience even begins. Gorney engages as many senses as possible to create a fully immersive environment for her audience to lose themselves in. The foyer features a small alcove covered in Polaroids with a short desk and chair for visitors to leave their impressions. The room to the left features a white chaise lounge at the center of the space with the book of poems that inspired the installation, hand-bound with golden thread. The book sits inside a plexiglass case with white gloves for visitors to use while handling the delicate, handmade book of poems, creating an air of reverence and delicacy surrounding both the physical and metaphysical manifestations of Gorney’s poetry.

Kate Gorney poses in one of the installation rooms in Greenwich Village. Image courtesy of the Artist.

The mantle above the fireplace is home to a mountain range of melted candle wax. The wall above is coated with black soot, as though the person lighting the candles were tempting fate, waiting to see if one of the flames might take flight and catch on somewhere else, setting the whole space aflame. Through the soot, Gorney’s poem Solstice can be read. Like the rest of the poems in Once Broken, it embodies themes of a passionate but perhaps fraught love affair.

A small dining room table is set with an array of vintage silverware and glass dome cloches. The kitchen features another poem scrawled above the sink in red lipstick and the refrigerator opens to reveal items varying from decaying fruit to Lush bath products. The three crisper drawers are filled with potpourri, empty prescription pill bottles, and vodka, respectively. The stove is covered in brightly wrapped candy, rendering it useless.

The master bedroom presents audiences with a four-poster bed tied down with cinderblocks, as though the massive piece of furniture might float away if left unsupervised. A poem entitled Its Late is embroidered on the top cover of the bed underneath a video projection of the artist sleeping. Huge reams of crumpled paper with more poetry typed out on them flow from the fireplace across the ceiling. Dead flowers sprout from the fireplace. Exploring the room feels like a lucid dream.

Installation view, "Once Broken" 2018, courtesy of the Artist.

Gorney’s intention with Once Broken was to explore the relationship between the eternal and the ephemeral, and this theme can be clearly felt throughout the work. Walking through Once Broken feels like exploring the estate sale of a recently deceased relative; someone you thought you knew but realize you are learning more about posthumously by entering their private space and engaging with the objects from their life that have outlived them.

Gorney’s installation is rife with objects that feel as though they have already lived several lives and are experiencing yet another reincarnation in the form of Once Broken. Vintage padlocks and skeleton keys, mason jars and cutlery are removed from their original uses and imbued with sentiment and wisdom when paired with Gorney’s emotive poetry.  

Looking forward, Kate Gorney wants to continue using poetry as the jumping off point for her artwork. She also hopes to include elements from her background in dance into future works. While Once Broken will soon be de-installed from its original home in the West Village, Gorney has plans in the works to reconstitute parts or all of the installation at a museum or gallery. WM


Marley C. Smit

Marley C. Smit is a New York City born and raised writer and curator. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Art History and has worked extensively in galleries and artists' studios across NYC. Her written work has been featured in D/Railed Magazine and her artwork has been exhibited at Superchief Gallery NY. 

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