Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Surreal House; Barbican Art Gallery

            Visited 8/9/2010.

All written quotes are referenced from the exhibition.
Curator: Jane Alison.

In the House of My Father; 1996-97. Donald Rodney (1961-1998)
Photograph on paper on Aluminium
Made from Rodney's own fragile skin taken from the artists body during the course of one of his many many operations, this delicate object measuring no more than a few centimeters in any direction and held together with a single pin, is a poignant example of the 'house as body'.

Diagnosed with Sickle-cell anemia at a young age, this work made from Rodney's hospital bed, has been interpreted by Eddie Chambers as symbolising 'the fragility and near futility of Donald having to live within a structure hopelessly unable to sustain itself.... and yet; concurrently, the house resonated with defiance, a curious strength, and comforting notion of 'home'.

My Mother, My Father, My Sister, My Brother; 1996-97  Donald Rodney
Human skin, pins, scotch tape.

A foam breast floats on a cloud of black velvet. This is fastened to a cardboard slip-cover of a catalogue, which was produced in an edition of 999 copies to accompany the Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme, held at Gallerie Maeght, Paris, in 1947. Conceived by Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp, it contains twenty-four illustrations, including eighteen lithographs, five etchings and two woodcuts by artist's including Max Ernst, Hans Belmer and Yves Tangy. On the back cover a blue bordered label reads 'please touch' - an instruction typical of Duchamp's battle against 'the retinal' in favour of the more sensual involvement with art. Parodying conventional museum rules, Duchamp invites the reader to an erotic encounter with the work.

'Priere de toucher' 1947 Marcel Duchamp
Rubber foam, velvet, glass.

Femme Maison series; begun 1940 Louise Bourgeois

'Femme Maison; 1983 Louise Bourgeois
White Marble
The Woman, as Bourgeois says, shows herself at the moment that she thinks she is hiding!

I Think of Death; 2009 Rachel Kneebone
Errupting with a bacchanal of deformed and hybrid bodies, distorted limbs, horses hoofs and slumped phallic tendrils that emerge from delicately sculpted porcelain works, Rachel Kneebones work draws on a multitude of sources. These range from Ovids Metamorphosis, where human figures merge in a myriad of forms and shapes, to the perverse sexual fantasies of George Batailles, Histoire de Oeul.

Still from Jan Svankmajers 'Jabberwocky' 1971

Space runs through the work of Czech surrealist film-maker, artist and writer Jan Svankmajer like an obsession. In Jabberwocky, 1971, Lewis Carrol's miniature nonsense epic, recited at the beginning of the film then immediately abandoned in letter if not in spirit, as a wicked comedy of playtime unfolds. Toys and games misrule the world, in which the child's sensibility- never far from Svankmajers sympathy- triumphs over the adult realm of order and propriety. Dollies tea parties turn into cannibalistic feasts, malevolent objects have their fun and to the rhythm of spanked bottoms and the stifling family home becomes a nest of follies.

In the childs den, no architecture can survive long. Wooden cities are built and collapse in an instant, while a of jigsaw is repeatedly broken down by the films 'live' star, a black cat.

Still from Jan Svankmajers 'Jabberwocky' 1971

Still from Jan Svankmajers 'Jabberwockey' 1971

Les Oiseaux Vous Poursuivent 1929-1930
Paul Nouge 

Paul Nouges's Theory of 'disturbing objects', By taking an ordinary object and changing it's function and meaning, conventional knowledge and reality could be subverted, and a new reality generated. Here Nouge defamiliarises reality by absenting objects from their usual context- for example, the pen missing from the hand of the automatic writer. In the most famous image, 'The Birth of an Object', five people stare earnestly at a blank wall, suggesting a reality that is visible to the mind rather than the eye.

Birth of an Object Paul Nouge

Le Bras Revelateur  Paul Nouge 1929- 1930

A New Way of Juggling Paul Nouge

....and finally... something that always cheers me up!

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