THE SPACES OF THE UNCONSCIOUS 2010
A multi-media installation at Freud Museum, London. Funding by Henry Moore Foundation and NUCA and curated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski
The exhibition centres in a collection of mounted boxes that use light, sound, movement and texture to introduce themes of eroticism and death that underpin the realm of the unconscious and question the ways in which the thresholds between the conscious and the unconscious are negotiated and how the viewer is impelled into spaces the are simultaneously real and imaginary. In so doing it invites reassessment of how Freud's theory has been utilised and developed within surrealism.
The contribution of Freud's ideas to the development of Surrealism is well known, and the Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 makes clear its debt to his discoveries. Surrealist works frequently test the spatial location of the psyche; Kathleen Fox, who expressly situates herself within this, can be seen as extending this investigation.
(from exhibition information by Michael Richardson and Krzysztof Fijalkowski)
THE EXHIBITION SPACE
The room that was Freud's bedroom is divided into two areas. From a lit conscious area with it's domestic furniture and personal belongings including an assembled portrait using both a formal photograph and an Xray of Freud's skull, the viewer passes into the darkened area of the unconscious. Here the imaginative spatial dimensions of three mounted boxes introduces themes of eroticism and death that underpin its realm.
The portrait is an overlay of a formal photograph on acetate and X-ray of his skull with the cancer.
The vitrine in the 'conscious 'area holds Freud's prostheses, the porcupine that normally resides on his desk in his consulting room, and his walking boots. The shadows cast by the objects on the top shelf are quite significant, as is the ghostly reflection of a figure.
View from the lit 'conscious' area to the darkened 'unconscious' area. Sound drifts from unconscious area. This sound is created by fingering the metal quills from Freud's porcupine, and has a fairground or marimba-like quality. To pass from one area to the other, the viewer needs to physically journey through a dividing membrane. The membrane itself was sourced from material used in the manufacture of female lingerie.
The three mounted boxes housing moving dreamlike scenarios as well as the objects that were my response to Freud's prostheses, were exhibited in this area.
The video is composed of 100 still images of a plastic shopping bag caught in a river current. The images were merged and set onto a continuous loop.
The soundscape was created by Gareth Fox using resonating wine glasses containing different amounts of water and a Zulu tribal anklet used for dance.
The mounted black perspex box that houses the video has a single aperture for viewing, ensuring that the viewers' experience is a private one.
The purpose of using a single aperture and the two lenses to gain visual access to the interior is, as in the unconscious, to limit and dislocate the viewers perception and understanding of this world. Each of the two lenses has a different property. A convex lens reduces the interior image, allowing the lit, wax impregnated walls to come into view. The second concave lens magnifies that very small image.
These images were taken looking through the two lenses into the fluid, dream-like interior.
The video Bag Angel can be viewed under 'Video' in the Menu.
Shards of Memory
The delicate images that resemble hieroglyphics were created by directing light through pinholes in a suspended piece of card onto water contained in a bowl lined with black plastic sheeting. These dancing images were then slowed down and layered with images of micro-organisms in river mud.The soundscape was created by Johannes Bergmark on an instrument he devised called The Whale-Fish.
The complete video can be viewed under 'Video' in the Menu.
Shards of Memory was housed in a box covered with rabbit fur, based on the early 20th Century 'Peep Show' apparatus found in amusement arcades and piers. The inner surface of the face-shaped viewing aperture is covered with a reflecting membrane. As the viewer moved in to watch the video, extraneous light is excluded, the reflected image of the viewer disappears and the moving imagery of the video becomes evident.
Photographs of a found negative were overlaid with a series of drawings I did of a dead baby bird. He's portrayed expressing various emotions: joy in flight and in antcipation of a glorious future, puzzlment and bewilderment at what life has to offer him, despair as reality kicks in and he falls to the ground. The Victorian gentleman on whose head his flight begins and ends remains passive throughout the bird's repeated endeavours.
The images revolve on a disk, side-lit and reflected upwards into a chromed funnel.
Accompanying sound was created from recordings made stroking the quills of the porcupine that normally resides on Freud's desk in his consulting room. The sound has a marimba-like quality.
I was particularly interested in the dichotomy between Freud's professional and assured public persona and his personal physical vulnerability. He'd suffered with cancer of the jaw for 15 years before his death and had undergone numerous surgical procedures over the years, 33 operations in all.
His prostheses are brutally terrifying, almost weapon like, and yet also very beautiful as objects. Made in unforgiving bakelite and relatively heavy to hold, the thought of accommodating them against delicate mouth parts is daunting.
My first object made in response to the prostheses incorporated fragments copied from Freud's writings on the balance between the life and death drive, and on his own cancer.
Other objects, mostly made from found material, became fetishistic as I worked more indirectly from Freud's monster (as he referred to his prostheses).