5 September 2010
This was a piece playing with notions of masculinity and femininity by creating something masculine (beards) out of something feminine (embroidery). I also had an idea of making them all look like Freud or archetypal psychoanalysts, in the back of my mind.
Here I liked the play between the stitching looking like lipstick and sealing the mouths shut. I was referring to womens' historical lack of voice (politically and socially) and aphonia (loss of speech) due to hysteria, as described in Freud's case of 'Dora'. I was also reading about the psychological states of mind of women conforming to social demands (here illustrated by wearing lipstick) and how the apparent conformist act of embroidery helped them find ways to rebel.
I took the idea of embroidery being something traditionally constructive becoming destructive on the surface of old photographs. I also began thinking of a seepage; of abnormal psychologies and them literally spilling out of the mind, and looking at early 20th Century images of female mediums and ectoplasm during séances.
This becomes a reference to Freudian repression, but also to 'women's work' -unseen and forgotten. It's an instruction, something to carry about on a handkerchief, but it doesn't say what it is you shouldn't forget. It also reminds you of tying a knot in a handkerchief corner in order to remember and it is reminiscent of 19th Century entreaties not to forget someone after their death.
This was inspired by the Yeats poem of the same name. I read that his mother suffered from depression and he thought he'd inherited a similar condition from her. I also wanted to remember the original function of a handkerchief being to wipe away tears.
The title is a reference to Freud's patient Bertha Pappenheim's description of her hysterical episodes as "clouds". I like to think of the pieces in the same way as you look for shapes in clouds in the sky (which also references searching for meaning in ink blot shapes with Rorschach's test). I also wanted to explore women's experience of psychoanalysis and their relationship with the analyst.
This was inspired by a recent family discovery of an aunt who died in infancy. I became interested in an idea of the similar dual states of infancy and old age; she died as an infant, but I'd know her know as an old woman. An alphabet of illnesses seemed an unsuitable thing to learn as a child and reminds us of alphabets learnt as a child. I also like the way some of them sound like girls' names. With thanks to Andy Ho.