Susan Hiller: After the Freud Museum 1994
Contemporary Art: Inside the Freud Museum
The Freud Museum has hosted a contemporary art programme for almost 25 years. Over 50 international artists have exhibited works in response to the museum and its collection of antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Rome and China, which fills the corners of this Hampstead house, once belonging to the legendary psychoanalyst. Among them are the grande-dame of 20th-century art Louise Bourgeois, conceptualist-provocateur Sophie Calle and artist-anthropologist Susan Hiller – who shared her insights alongside other artists and curators who have participated in the programme at a fascinating conference Contemporary Art: Inside the Freud Museum.
Curator of the latest exhibition Saying It, Joanne Morra introduced the day with her talk on the museum as a palimpsest with multiple layers of existence as a home, a consulting room, a study and a gallery. This unique space plays a vital role in preserving the legacy of psychoanalysis. Holding key importance to the visitor’s engagement with the space is the concept of listening to artworks, as seen in Patricio Forrester’s sound piece on the psychoanalytic encounter hmmm… (2000). As Morra said: “There is a reciprocity, a dialogue between artworks and visitors, which brings about a site-responsivity.”
Psychoanalyst and critic Darian Leader commented on Freud’s fascination with art, referencing his Leonardo da Vinci monograph and essay on Wilhelm Jensen’s Gothic novel Gradiva. He looked at Freud’s notion of dream theory, and the slippage between the conscious wish and the unconscious desire. Such gaps in interpretation resonated in the internationally renowned artist Susan Hiller’s talk about the creative process of piecing together the meaning of her installation From the Freud Museum (1994), now in the Tate Collection. “People act as psychoanalysts,” said Hiller.
London-based artist William Cobbing discussed his Gradiva Project (2007–08), and its depiction of the story of a young archaeologist who has a dream about a bas-relief coming to life inspired by an Italian phenomenon of landscape seen in the embossed man-hole cover in the museum’s garden. To laughter, Cobbing presented a video of himself apparently chiselling away at his concrete-encased head, which he had installed in Freud’s study. “It felt naughty putting this work in such a significant place,” he said.
The French-Algerian-British artist Alice Anderson recounted her first solo exhibition: Alice Anderson’s Childhood Rituals (2011). Binding the exterior of the red brick museum with rope in Housebound (2011) characterised her extraordinary use of weaving to create strange objects. Anderson spoke of her dialogue with the loom once belonging to Anna Freud, who lived and worked in the house as a child psychologist until 1982: “Weaving is used as a metaphor for how thought trains converge.”
James Putnam, Griselda Pollock and Predrag Pajdic shared their experiences of curating some of the most popular exhibitions held at the Freud Museum in recent years. Putnam recalled his collaboration with conceptual artist Sophie Calle in Appointment (1999) and Pollock spoke of her encounter with psychoanalyst and activist Bracha Ettinger in Resonance/Overlay/Interweave (2009). Pajdic probed the psychology of ‘Paranoia’ (2007), in which serious international artists considered the heightened state of cultural fear associated with such world events as 9/11 and the Iraq War. He explained how this touring exhibition communicated its ideas of psychology to a new audience at the Focal Point Gallery in South Essex: “We wanted to take the exhibition to a deprived part of Britain. We went to Southend-on-Sea. It was a great success.”
Finally, the artists behind Saying It, Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker and Renate Ferro reviewed planning an exhibition at the Freud Museum, thereby expanding upon the site-responsive approach introduced by curator Joanne Morra. They analysed a selection of Freud’s theories by using audio-visual storytelling to strong effect: Bal and Williams Gamaker continued his exploration of schizophrenia in their work derived from Françoise Davoine’s 1998 “theoretical fiction” Mère Folle and Ferro looked at his writings on the “pleasure principle” in the context of a technological age. However, on a concluding note, this exhibition was made possible through Arts Council funding – which suggests there is a vital need for public arts spending in order to sustain the kind of rich and varied contemporary art programme seen at the Freud Museum.
22 September 2012
9.30am - 5.00pm
CONTEMPORARY ART: INSIDE THE FREUD MUSEUM
Day Conference at the Anna Freud Centre
The contemporary art programme at the Freud Museum began almost 25 years ago and has featured over 50 international artists. Inspired by Freud’s own museological collection of art objects and antiquities, and his theories of free association and unconscious desire, artists have responded in many different ways to this unique setting. Art and analysis work with the same ‘stuff’ and the Freud Museum is saturated with memories, myth and fantasy. But the museum is also a challenge and provocation to the artist, with the figure of Freud himself looming significantly in the background.
In the opening week of a new exhibition, Saying It, this conference includes talks by international artists, curators, art historians and psychoanalysts who have participated in this important history. Speakers will reflect on exhibiting artworks within the Freud Museum and consider the rich relationship that can exist between contemporary art and historical sites, and the possibilities it creates for new interpretations and experiences.
Susan Hiller (artist After the Freud Museum 1994)
William Cobbing (artist The Gradiva Project 2008)
James Putnam (Curator of exhibitions by Sophie Calle, Sarah Lucas, Ellen Gallagher, Mat Collishaw, Noble and Webster, and Andreas Hofer)
Darian Leader (psychoanalyst, writer, and curator of In the Freud Museum 2002)
Griselda Pollock (art historian and cultural critic; curator of Resonance/ Overlay/ Interweave: In the Freudian Space of Memory and Migration 2009)
Joanne Morra (art historian)
Mieke Bal, Michelle Williams Gamaker, and Renate Ferro (artists Saying It 2012)
Alice Anderson (artist Alice Anderson's Childhood Rituals 2011)
Predrag Pajdic (curator Paranoia 2007)
To find out more about Freud Museum exhibitions please click here
Darian Leader is a psychoanalyst working in London. He writes regularly about contemporary art, and his books include: 'Introducing Lacan'; 'Why do women write more letters than they post?'; 'Freud's Footnotes'; 'Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing'; 'Why do people get ill?' (with David Corfield) Penguin, 2007 and 'The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression', Hamish Hamilton, 2008 and 'What is Madness?' in 2011.
Joanne Morra is Reader in Art History and Theory at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, and is Founding Principal Editor of Journal of Visual Culture. She has published on modern and contemporary art, in, for instance, New Formations, Art History, What is Research in the Visual Arts: Obsession, Archive, Encounter? (eds. Holly and Smith), and Journal of Modern Art; and has edited many collections, including The Limits of Death (MUP 2000), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future (MIT 2006), Visual Culture: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, 4 volumes (Routledge 2006); Acts of Translation with Bal (Sage 2007). She is presently writing a book on contemporary art and the Freud Museums (London and Vienna) entitled Inside the Freud Museums: Art, Curating and Site-Responsivity for I.B. Tauris, 2014.
Susan Hiller is an internationally renowned artist living and working in the UK. She was born and raised in the United States, attending Smith College in Massachusetts and receiving a B.A. in 1961. After spending a year in New York studying photography, film, drawing and linguistics, Hiller went on to pursue a post-graduate degree in Anthropology, doing fieldwork in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize with a grant from the Middle American Research Institute, from 1962-5. She completed her PhD in 1965. Hiller became critical of academic anthropology, not wanting to be part of the “objectification of the contrariness of lived events...”, and it was during a slide lecture on African art that she decided to become an artist.
In a distinguished art career of more than 40 years, Susan Hiller has drawn upon sources as diverse as dreams, postcards, Punch & Judy shows, horror movies, UFO sightings and narratives of 'near death experiences' to make innovative and seductive works from ephemeral, sometimes seemingly unimportant items, works that involve the audience as witness to the lacunae and contradictions in our collective cultural life. In (1994) she created an installation From the Freud Museum for the vitrine in Sigmund Freud’s former bedroom, This work was subsequently expanded, widely exhibited and entered into the Tate collection. Susan Hiller will talk about this work and her book based on it, entitled After the Freud Museum.
William Cobbing is an artist living and working in London. He studied BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design from 1994-97, MA Fine Art at De Ateliers in Amsterdam from 1998-2000, and a PhD Fine Art by Practice at Middlesex University, completed in 2010.
Since 2000 he has exhibited internationally, in group shows including ‘Body-Con’ at Arts Initiative Tokyo (2004), ‘A Secret History of Clay’ Tate Liverpool (2004), ‘Room with a View’ Gemeente Museum, The Hague (2006), ‘Drifting Clouds’ Image Furini Arte Contemporanea, Italy (2007), and solo exhibitions at Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam (2002) and Netwerk Centre for Contemporary Art, Belgium (2007).
He was awarded the Arts Council England Helen Chadwick Fellowship in 2005/6 at Ruskin School and the British School at Rome. The resulting works were exhibited as ‘Gradiva Project’ at the Freud Museum and Camden Arts Centre, with the embossed manhole covers produced for these venues remaining as permanent public artworks. Cobbing’s work has been reviewed and featured in publications including Frieze, The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, and several international magazines including Art Forum, Metropolis M and Flash Art. The ‘Gradiva Project’ book was shortlisted for The Art Book book of the year award 2008.
In 2009 and 2010 Cobbing had residencies at Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul, Afghanistan, the artworks from which were exhibited in his solo exhibition 'Man in the Planet' at Viafarini DOCVA, Milan in 2010. In 2011 Cobbing exhibited in the group exhibition ‘Body Gestures’ Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel, the ‘Soup and Tart’ performance event at the Barbican Theatre in London, and forthcoming in Revolver at Matt’s Gallery in October/November 2012.
Alice Anderson is a British-French artist now living in the UK and achieving worldwide recognition for her distinctive and compeling installations, films and sculpture. During the past two years, Alice Anderson has focused on binding various locations and objects using copper thread and non-traditional material as her mythical red fibre, from small personal items (like her laptop or gun) to the Freud Museum in London or the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.
Anderson has now gone on to bind the entire contents of her studio with copper thread in her series of sculptures entitled 'Binding The Studio' to be presented at the Whitechapel Gallery in September and at Riflemaker in October.
These wound objects resemble ‘curiosities’ which appear to be mummified according to the ancient Egyptian’s embalming process in order to achieve immortality. Like a time capsule they are preserved and made safe, representing a fixed moment suspended in eternity. These repetitive actions invoke shamanic dances while creating new forms from already existing forms. By doing these gestures Anderson feels she is ‘preserving the objects and locations’.
Text extract from James Putnam on Alice Anderson "From Dance to Sculpture"
James Putnam is an independent curator and writer. He founded and was curator of the British Museum’s Contemporary Arts and Cultures Programme from 1999 to 2003. He was also a former curator of the British Museum’s Department of Egyptian Antiquities. He has organized critically acclaimed exhibitions for major museums juxtaposing the work of contemporary artists with their collections, and curated projects for art biennials in Europe and the Far East. His ongoing series of artists’ projects at the Freud Museum have included Sophie Calle, Sarah Lucas, Noble & Webster and Mat Collishaw. He has contributed to numerous artists’ publications and his book ‘Art and Artifact – The Museum as Medium’ (Thames & Hudson 2010), surveys the interaction between contemporary artists and the museum. He was Visiting Scholar in Museum Studies at New York University and is currently Senior Research Fellow, Exhibitions, at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London.
Griselda Pollock is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art at the University of Leeds and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (Centre CATH). She is one of the most influential scholars on visual culture in the world, with numerous publications to her name. Her forthcoming books include After-affect/After-Image: Trauma and Aesthetic Transformation in the Virtual Feminist Museum (Manchester University Press, 2013) and Visual Politics and Psychoanalyses: Art & the Image in Post-traumatic Cultures (I B Tauris, 2013).
Inspired by the roster of exhibitions of contemporary art at the Freud Museum that became highly significant in the studies of the artists who exhibited, I proposed an exhibition of painter Bracha Ettinger for the Freud Museum in 2009. I want to talk about the process of conceptualising the relation between the artist and the space and the effect of what the artist did - which was not to supply works for an exhibition but to create a work in the space, which inspired/required me then to write a book to discover what had happened when Freud and Ettinger conversed in the spaces of memory and migration.
Predrag Pajdic is a London based artist, curator and writer on contemporary art and culture. He holds an MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a BA in Fashion Design from Central St Martins, London. In 2010 and 2011 Pajdic was the Artistic Director of the International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women (www.cityofwomen.org/en) that takes place every October in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Pajdic regularly contributes to many international publications, the most recently including Yatzer, Client, Husk, Out There, Tush, and Novembre. A selection of his curatorial projects include: 'The Oracle' thepandorian.com/2011/10/the-oracle/ , WE*DO Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand, 2012; 'Spellbound', SKUC Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2011; 'Lingering Whispers', Crypt of St Pancras Church, London, 2010; 'One Step Forward Two Steps Back', SKUC Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2010; 'Dogma' http://www.hdlu.hr/eng/2009/10/dogma/ , HDLU, Zagreb, Croatia, 2009; 'Unbound', Contemporary Art Platform, London, 2007; 'Crimes & Splendours', Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam, 2007; 'Recognise', Contemporary Art Platform, London, 2007; 'This Day' Tate Modern, London, 2007; 'Undo' http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/1418/1/undo-at-the-dazed-gallery, Dazed Gallery, London, 2007; and 'Paranoia', Freud Museum, London, and Leeds City Art Gallery, 2006/07. His work has been written about in many major international magazines and publications, such as Artforum, Art Monthly, Harpers Bazaar, Domus, Time Out, The Guardian, The Independent and Museums Journal.
Pajdic’s artworks have been shown in more than 200 international exhibitions amongst others including Victoria & Albert Museum London, The National Academy of Sciences Washington DC, Exit Art New York, Selfridges London, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Boimans Van Beuningen Museum Rotterdam, Wellcome Trust London. His work is in the collections of The British Museum London, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Musee De La Mode Paris, Victoria & Albert Museum London and numerous private collections.
His book Beneath The Shadows The Soul Walks, in collaboration with the writer JL Nash comes out on the 1st of October 2012.
Michelle Williams Gamaker,
Artists for our forthcoming exhibition Saying It - Biographies Here