Peep, Totter, Fly

Film / Video / Installation

2011, single-channel, mixed media video installation

PEEP TOTTER FLY is an interactive video installation and performance by Cheri Gaulke that revisits the artist’s 1970-80s critique of high heels. The installation presents gallery visitors with a wall of red high heels, available for wearing while viewing the rest of the exhibition. With sizes large enough for most men and women, viewers gain an experiential challenge to their ideas about high heels. Centered on the wall is an evocative video that depicts high heels traversing natural environments, relating the objects present in the room to live and recorded performance.

To create the video, Gaulke and her team traveled to a variety of Los Angeles locations, braved 115-degree temperatures in Death Valley, and strutted through the stark volcanic landscape of Iceland. At the exhibition opening, a group of performers activated the installation with a performance that ventured into the streets of Hollywood and back again.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gaulke worked with various devices – live performance, audio, props and objects, video, and interactivity with an audience – to explore the image of women’s feet and shoes as a metaphor for mobility in society and as a critique of power relationships based on class and gender. With this new work she again works across media to challenge viewers to reconsider this odd custom of balancing atop a tiny spike as a signifier of eroticism.

Gaulke’s previous explorations of these themes have included Eclipse in the Western Palace (1976), a video in which a female body part appears to devour an army of high heels; The Red Shoes (CLOSE Radio, 1977), dancing in high heels while reading a children’s story until collapsing from exhaustion; Wu is Me (Great American Foot Show, 1978), performing with a Chinese doppelganger with feet made of raw flesh and bound cow’s hooves; and Broken Shoes (Public Spirit, 1980), removing audience members’ shoes and manipulating them like marionettes.

To create this new work, Gaulke put together a team of young artists many drawn from her association with Harvard-Westlake School. Nick Lieberman, assistant director, is a gifted writer, actor and filmmaker whose work has been featured in numerous plays and film festivals. Lieberman is headed for Columbia University after taking a gap year to immerse himself in Pacific Standard Time events and other creative projects. Editor Gabe Benjamin is a talented filmmaker and computer programmer who’s off to Swarthmore College. Sound designer Wiley Webb (senior at Harvard-Westlake) is a composer and musician whose work can be found at For Peep Totter Fly, Webb is creating various natural environments and using the program Max to lightly randomize their presentation and also to create a tonal backing musical track. Gaulke found cinematographer Johnny Chang through the Harvard-Westlake Film Festival and he will be attending Pierce College in the fall. The performers for the video and performance have been gathered from an extended group of artists and will be acknowledged in the installation at LACE.

Los Angeles Goes Live: Performance Art in Southern California 1970-1983
September 27, 2011 – January 29, 2012, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Los Angeles Goes Live is part of Pacific Standard Time. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene.