louise bourgeois & tracey emin: do not abandon me

“Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin both blur the boundary between art and life is by pouring the turbulent history of an individual’s psyche into the work. The difference between them is that, for Bourgeois, life seeps into art, whereas for Emin, life collides with art. Do Not Abandon Me brings together these two approaches to also blur the boundary between two individuals’ life histories in a moving, sometimes upsetting and admirable collection of work.

Bourgeois began the project by painting male and female torsos on paper; the gouache pigments are combined with water to give fluidity to the mixtures of red, blue and black. All the bodies are depicted in profile, in various positions, presenting delicate silhouettes that form the basis of the final works. These were then passed to Emin for embellishment, who reportedly cradled them like porcelain babies for months on end, until she finally saw beneath the surfaces of the mute bodies. Emin’s contribution consists of smaller figures drawn in pencil and the addition of occasionally coherent, hurriedly scratched out words. The idea is that Emin’s additions tease out the emotions, anxieties, ideas and histories that already lay dormant in Bourgeois’ paintings.

The works are elegant in form and colour; they are simple but playful, and tinged with a wry seriousness. The elegance derives from the delicate hues and the way they are loosely contained within soft lines, which accentuates the simplicity of bodies represented only in outline. The playfulness is in Emin’s characteristically childish scrawl, which sometimes seems unsure of how to respond to nudity so opts to make a joke of it. Come unto Me depicts a man lying on his back, with two miniature women kneeling at the base of his penis on which a third woman hangs on a cross. The serious message that women are subjugated to male sexuality is obscured by the humorous conception of the erect penis as a purely structural accessory to an ancient form of execution.

The forgoing theme is clearly a feminist agenda, and the result of both artists’ preoccupations. The relation between man and woman is characterised as one where the woman is locked in service to the man who rejects her pleas for love, thus having to accept the potency of his sexuality as a form of affection. And So I Kissed You offers a heartbreaking image of male sexual obsession while Just Hanging predicts emotional and physical death as a result of this servitude.

In other works, the female relation to child-bearing is explored as an experience of pain, personal loss and lingering failure. I Wanted to Love You More shows a female figure embedded within the pregnant bulge of a woman, expressing perhaps the desire of an embittered mother to get closer to her unwanted child. Reaching for You shows a woman who has burrowed into her own womb in order to retrieve a lost, perhaps aborted, child.

These are serious, and sometimes harrowing, themes. You get the feeling, however, that Bourgeois meant them to retain the autobiographical subtlety and integrity of artistic form that her meditations on her mother – the huge spider sculptures, titled Maman – possessed. As a child of surrealism, Bourgeois excelled in burying her neurosis under layers of symbolism and maintaining a visceral glee in the materiality of her art. But with Emin, there is no such thing: like in her neon pleas for love that shout desperation through the night sky or her bed that celebrates her frantic degeneracy, her contributions to these works drags the emotions to the surface and screams a blood-curdling cry. At this point of contrast between the two artists’ approaches, Emin begins to look tired, as if repeating her story in the same language of vulgarity is the only way she knows how, having never learned Bourgeois’ subtlety. It looks, then, as if Bourgeois’ invitation to collaboration is also an attempt at tutelage.

Nonetheless, the work derives its brilliance from the contrast between the collaborators, where Emin has mapped her own ideas on to Bourgeois’. If you couldn’t tell where Bourgeois ends and Emin begins, you would lose the sense that two individuals are trying to tell their own stories together precisely because their stories are so remarkably similar. In the end, Bourgeois is responsible for the aesthetic brilliance of these works, while Emin brings the emotions in. Combined, these two elements make a provocative show in which Bourgeois, at the end of her illustrious career, hands her mantel to Emin, securing both of their places in art history as experts in autobiographical art.”

Text By Daniel Barnes blogged from here

i love therefore i exist


They are two people by mistake. The night corrects that.-Eduardo Galeano

The purpose of the reflection that follows is simple. Starting with what has been considered, it is a matter of noting the unsettled relationship with one’s own body and with other bodies (particularly with those that are objects of desire) imposed by the passing of time, a perspective that for reasons indicated in the chapter, our protagonists didn’t even have the possibility of considering.

In an initial very general overview of the subject, one thing that would immediately be noticed by someone who was questioning the place and the importance of the body in our lives is the fact that over the years the body loses its role of opportunity for pleasure, an attribute that it possesses almost spontaneously during one’s youth, and, in its place, it increasingly and unstoppably acquires the role of obstacle to the peaceable development of one’s very existence. With the passing of time, the body in effect turns precisely into that which resists us, which agitates us and reminds us of its existence through symptoms such as pain, discomfort or, of course, illness. In his book The Arc of Words, Andrés Trapiello has expressed this thought with a brilliant aphorism: “The body is like style: the less noticed it is, the healthier it is”.

In other terms, if we agree to call age that specific time that speaks through the body, one could affirm that the greatest characteristic of youth with regards to the relationship that it maintains with corporal physicality is precisely its fluidity, its immediacy, its transience. In this sense, a young person is someone who can call on his or her body with the knowledge that the body will rapidly return the call. On the other hand in a mature age everything is slow as Coetzee has pointed out, sometimes even extremely slow. So much so that even words end up acquiring this calm and slow rhythm and they take time to reach our lips. As I understand it, it was what an old friend of his commented to the great Fernando Fernán-Gómez, remembering the old times nostalgically: “Do you remember when we spoke rapidly?”.

Nevertheless, if it were only that, one could reassuringly maintain that in the last resort living is finding an accommodation —even if paradoxically it is an uncomfortable accommodation— in one’s own body. The problem, at least with respect to one of the subjects that our society thinks about with greatest difficulty (in this regard I could give as an example any of the novels of Michel Houellebecq), lies in the fact that in addition to that intra-subjective dimension to which I have just referred and which each one of us has to take on, there also exists a specific and particular material inter-subjectivity one of whose most prominent expressions is shown through desire.

I note that the most forceful commentaries these days tend to judge with an attitude that to my taste is frankly hypocritical —somewhere between indifference and paternalism— specifically the older the bodies involved are. It looks as if the maximum threshold which those of us who have definitely left behind the condition of glorious bodies find correct to accept, is that of tenderness barely covered by a gentle pastel color of residual passion. But maybe the body responds to a logic that is totally missed by those commentaries. Maybe just like the word remembers the soul, desire preserves the memory of the body.

Or maybe it is that the body has its own memory and is capable of seeing in the body that lies next to it what it was, even though now it may no longer be; it rescues from obscurity the shine of the past and it brings it with loving delicacy to the present, redeeming it from the ravages of time, the unmerciful punishment of evolution. Those who believe that bodies accept, are resigned, agree with what is handed to them are wrong. No. The body remembers the fulfillment that the other, with whom it is now melding with, had. The body preserves the memory —its own memory— of what it knew, of what once was its own. I am not referring to a dreamlike state or a fantasy. All those who do not know this experience: the feel of the violent stab of lust on recognizing in this body that has changed so radically, that almost in no way resembles that of the past, its contours lost, the fresh scent that identified it gone, the now faded smoothness of the skin, all of them should avoid smiling disdainfully, plentiful in their ignorance. Only from that memory of body which I have been referring to can such a revealing experience be understood. Those who do know it will not only know with perfect exactitude —with total precision— what I have been talking about. They will also enjoy an additional privilege: they will understand the deep significance of what is happening to them and, to a similar extent, maybe they will be able to reconcile with it, discarding in one fell swoop the sense of shame and blame that this society insists on placing on their consciences for committing the crime of desiring freely.

To summarize, I have never been able to understand why people limit themselves to swear eternal love to each other (though they do so less and less; that I do know). They ought to have the courage in certain circumstances to swear eternal desire. With luck and sensibility they might even be able to keep their promise. Certainly the mystics believed that. And, much closer to us, André Gorz expressed it at the beginning of a long letter that he wrote to his wife soon after finding out that she was ill, with some moving words embedded with sensitivity and tenderness:

You have just had your 82nd birthday. You have shrunk 6 cm, you don’t weigh more than 45 kg and you continue to be beautiful, elegant and desirable. We have lived together for 58 years and I love you more than ever. Once again I feel in my breast a consuming emptiness that is only eased by the warmth of your body next to mine.”

From I love, therefore I exist.
Love and the philosophers.

by Manuel Cruz
Translated by Gabriel Baum

the romance of winds

There is a whirlwind in southern Morocco, the aajej, against which the fellahin defend themselves with knives. There is the africo, which has at times reached into the city of Rome. The alm, a fall wind out of Yugoslavia. The arifi, also christened aref or rifi, which scorches with numerous tongues. These are permanent winds that live in the present tense.

There are other, less constant winds that change direction, that can knock down horse and rider and realign themselves anticlockwise. The bist roz leaps into Afghanistan for 170 days, burying villages. There is the hot, dry ghibli from Tunis, which rolls and rolls and produces a nervous condition. The haboob — a Sudan dust storm that dresses in bright yellow walls a thousand metres high and is followed by rain. The harmattan, which blows and eventually drowns itself into the Atlantic. Imbat, a sea breeze in North Africa. Some winds that just sigh towards the sky. Night dust storms that come with the cold. The khamsin, a dust in Egypt from March to May, named after the Arabic word for ‘fifty,’ blooming for fifty days–the ninth plague of Egypt. The datoo out of Gibraltar, which carries fragrance.

Illustration by Willy Pogany (Hungary, 1882-1955)

There is also the ——, the secret wind of the desert, whose name was erased by a king after his son died within it. And the nafhat — a blast out of Arabia. The mezzar-ifoullousen — a violent and cold southwesterly known to Berbers as ‘that which plucks the fowls.’ The beshabar, a black and dry northeasterly out of the Caucasus, ‘black wind.’ The samiel from Turkey, ‘poison and wind,’ used often in battle. As well as the other ‘poison winds,’ the simoom, of North Africa, and the solano, whose dust plucks off rare petals, causing giddiness.

Other, private winds.

Travelling along the ground like a flood. Blasting off paint, throwing down telephone poles, transporting stones and statue heads. The harmattan blows across the Sahara filled with red dust, dust as fire, as flour, entering and coagulating in the locks of rifles. Mariners called this red wind the ‘sea of darkness.’ Red sand fogs out of the Sahara were deposited as far north as Cornwall and Devon, producing showers of mud so great this was also mistaken for blood. ‘Blood rains were widely reported in Portugal and Spain in 1901.’

There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth and more living flesh in the soil (worms, beetles, underground creatures) than there is grazing and existing on it. Herodotus records the death of various armies engulfed in the simoom who were never seen again. One nation was ‘so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.

— Michael Ondaatje, from The English Patient.