The voices of forgotten women echo through the Whitechapel Gallery. British artist Helen Cammock’s commission, made in a residency in Italy, is a mournful look at historical female pain.
The main work is a three-channel film featuring interviews with activists, musicians, historians and artists from Cammock’s time in Italy, spliced with shots of the artist singing a seventeenth-century lament (the ‘Che si può fare’ of the title, written by that rarest of things in Baroque music: a woman) or washing crystals in a sink. The women speak of struggle and endurance. A handful of line drawings dot the walls alongside a long screen-printed frieze filled with images of women and Italian architecture. And that’s it.
You get the sense that the film and images here aren’t the real ‘work’. It’s Cammock’s research into the history of these lost, hidden voices – the act of exploring and uncovering – that’s the art. Everything here is just a sort of by-product.
The result is, unfortunately, a fairly bland film that manages to be totally unmoving despite its subject matter. It’s too slight and too long. And it’s not all that engaging or interesting, either. Which is a shame, because it really could have been.