When your energies are strictly rationed (I’ve got M.E.) you constantly have to prioritise and, instead of focusing on all that you can’t do, make the most of what you can (there’s a Crosby Stills Nash & Young song in here!). I have been on four cultural outings this year, all exhibitions: Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern (where I celebrated my birthday), Collectible at Zeitgeist Art Projects (to which I had contributed a piece), Ori Gersht at the Imperial War Museum (an exhibition that moved me immensely and I still think of every day), and, last Thursday, against all the odds a brief and intense visit of the Louise Bourgeois-exhibition at the Freud Museum.
Best conditions: because of a (thankfully punctual and to the point) medical appointment (even Dr. B. wanted me to go!) we were already nearby; London was gleaming in the hot sun; our bags were laden with sandwiches from the tiny coffee-shop opposite hospital; wheelchair in the boot; and most importantly: my friend M. was ready to pull out all the stops to get me there.
I hadn’t been to the Freud Museum before (the shame!), and it would have been a thrill just to be in the house where he and his closest family lived after they’d managed to escape from fascism in 1938. Freud’s study cum treatment room is still as it was when he died in 1939, somewhat sombre with curtains drawn, his glasses on the desk, leather-bound tomes in the shelves, and anthropological objects proliferating on all surfaces. The famous couch is there, of course, with the chair behind, and it might all get a bit too reverential if it weren’t for the (temporary, alas) installation of LB’s Janus fleuri, which hangs heavily happily from the ceiling above the couch. Perfectly, ideally placed, in view of both analyst and analysand. Imagine the conversations!
As my energy was trickling away fast I could read little of the psychoanalytical writing displayed (notes, diary entries) but focused on her sculptural work and drawings. There was much I hadn’t seen before, and it looked fresh and disturbingly at home in this intimate, half domestic, half professional setting. The boldness of LB’s art continues to surprise me. She consistently and relentlessly circled her themes (female desire, aggression, guilt, fear, love and its pitfalls, pain, conflict, compulsion – the stuff of (psychic) life and death), round and round, like those tapering spirals she made part of her vocabulary, getting closer but never quite to that elusive point of resolution. Nor meaning to. Her work can be rude, tender, brutal, explicit, soft, tough, secretive… Often disturbing, but funny too: we laughed a lot, out loud at her daring, but also her light touch: the breast shapes on one of her torsos turned out to be made from berets! I kept exclaiming to M. ‘this she did when she was 92”, ‘here she was 90”…
When I got to tired (much too fast, I only had bit-glances of each work) we repaired to the garden, and consumed our sandwiches (corned beef, sauerkraut, gherkins, swiss cheese and mustard – oh my!) in the shade, next to the spider on my trusted light-weight blanket that accompanies me everywhere so I can lie down at the drop of a hat. Then a stopover at the shop where I stocked up on cards, books and a Freud finger-puppet.
By the time we got home my body felt like a bell’s clapper after vigorous ringing, and the next day I had virtually no speech, found the back-garden moved beyond reach, and my arms turned into tree-trunks again, but: I was there, touched base.
The figure on the right is my Hunchbacked girl (2003)
Materials: newsprint and tissue paper/chair
Dimensions: 32 cm x 25 cm x 61 cm