Sunday 4 November 2007
II - A few words of admiration
Slightly disappointingly, my sleep was not disturbed, after seeing the Louise Bourgeois exhibition, by figures with vaginas where their heads should be. If the work does not disturb does this mean it's not as powerful as it thinks it is? No, it does disturb, but in a way I found profoundly positive. It felt like walking into an alternative world defined by women. Perhaps that means I'd like it whatever she did, out of the sheer relief of identification? In fact, though, the identification is general, but not specific. Her deepest preoccupations - the too-powerful, betraying father; the sheltering, industrious spider-mother; the crowded, incestuous siblings of 'Seven in a Bed' (see below): these are not my own primal scenario at all!
Like giant fungus growing in damp woods. My reaction to the work above, and other oozing, enclosing organic shapes, reminds me of how I relished Angela Carter's Heros and Villains for its powerful evocation of the simultaneously repellant and alluring filth of post-holocaust forest-dwelling 'barbarians'.
This early painting I felt I could be rocked in for ever - scared but lulled. The lines and colours of the figure like Picassos of the same period. The bed recalling Frido Kahlo. The whole like nothing but itself.
These are not my photos. Neither is the one in the previous post of the seven figures in bed. All these works were in the exhibition, but my fear of of attendants with wagging fingers, not to mention technical ineptitude, stopped me sneaking shots inside. Others were braver, and technically up to the challenge! No problem with Maman out on the riverside, of course - the whole world has been photographing her for years. This last picture - found afterwards on the web, like the others - shows a composition of the artist's old clothes similar to that inside one of the famous 'cells' exhibited here, but not the cell itself, of which I found no photo.
The 'cells' were my favourites: intricate, enclosing, troubling dolls' houses for grown-ups where I could have lingered, playing mind-games, for hours. Again, I asked myself: is this stuff too easy, too fun? Is the appeal of antique clothes and mirrors in amongst distorting modernism anything more than the charm of the lovely house of a friend of mine with its pleasing mixture of Victorian pieces and Scandinavian modern? They do have something of the same charm, I think. But here it serves to lure you into deeply troubling places.
Later: this short radio piece dates from Bourgeois's 'Stitch in Time' exhibition a few years ago in Edinburgh. I found it a bit reductive and literal minded, but it focuses interestingly on the 'old clothes' piece above and on 'Seven in a Bed', below, which were featured there, and also has some wonderful clips of LB from the 1994 documentary film on show at the Tate which I mentioned yesterday.