American sculptor, painter and printmaker, born in Paris in 1911, Louise Bourgeois is an exceptional figure in the contemporary art world. Her career spans some seventy years and touches upon such key moments as Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and feminism. After a lifetime of little artistic recognition, Bourgeois now enjoys cult status.
Louise Bourgeois. Maman: From the outside in.
An article by Trisha McCrae. (PDF)
This article situates Maman (1999, Steel and Marble 9.2 × 8.91 × 10.23 m) (Fig 1) by Louise Bourgeois, in the context of an object-based installation-space. My argument is that Maman, both in its making and thinking, shifts terrain between being a theoretical installation, a work that promotes theory about installation-space; and Bourgeois’s personal transitional space, a space that helps Bourgeois come to terms with the complex relationship she has with her mother. Generally speaking, attempts to position Bourgeois’s work in art-historical order or in the context of art movements, such as Formalism, Expressionism or Surrealism, has proved notoriously difficult, or even ‘irrelevant’, according to Lucy Lippard (Lippard 1975 p.27). I agree with Adrian Rifkin and suggest her work embodies and points towards what could be called ‘modernism’s excess’ (Rifkin 1996 p.31). This means the narratives that lie outside canonical thinking and those spaces shaped outside conventional teleologies that ‘slip between’ the Modernist/Postmodernist discourse (Deepwell 1996 p.42). However, where most writers do converge is in the belief that her work relates in some way to the body, (Robinson 1996 p.21) either spatially, metaphorically or symbolically. Therefore, situated within a psychoanalytical framework, this paper argues that in Maman’s case, the body is both the viewer’s, in relation to the installation-space, and the architectural body of a gigantic spider acting as Bourgeois’s transitional space. Maman as an installation-space is doing two things; firstly, it asks the viewer to question their own visuality, how they look, see, or are blind to what is around them; and secondly, it acts as Bourgeois’s personal exploration of her relationship with her mother, with which the viewer may empathise. The theme that links these two ideas is the viewer’s physical and conceptual movement through the installation-space. Firstly, as a viewing subject, caught in a temporal, emotional and spatial encounter and secondly, the viewer’s movement conceptually inside, to Maman’s psychic space where speculative theories can occur as to why Bourgeois created such an arena. The arguments are made in direct response to my experience of the space at the inaugural exhibition of Tate Modern in 2000. As I entered the Turbine Hall, I became charged by a palpable energy that emanated from the gigantic spider and was immediately intrigued as to how and why Bourgeois had created such an electrical space that could effect on such a visceral level. From that point, I was willingly caught in her conceptual web… Read on here (PDF)
Trisha McCrae is an artist filmmaker born in Dublin and now based in Cambridge UK.