She is walking about…

Elles sont passées par ici (2005)

Elles sont passées par ici (2005)

The site as a place of imagination was something I had theorised but not fully engaged with until I wrote this piece. The time-frame offered by Elles sont passées par ici, a group show due to take place in Loguivy de la Mer, in Brittany, France, made it impossible for me to visit the site or to view the works – at the moment of writing the art works were not yet in existence. I was sent a map and photographs of the small fishing village in which the work was to be installed as well as statements written by the artists and visual images of their previous works. My encounter was with the sites of these representations. I used them to create a fictional piece, ‘She is walking about in a town which she does not know’, structured as a walk through the town visiting places in which the artists intended to position their projects. I combined my own words with those of the artists (in italics) and those from the map and photographs of the site (in bold).

The title of this piece references an essay and an art work by Sharon Kivland and an essay by Steve Pile. Kivland’s works explore Sigmund Freud’s discussion of Dora’s second dream. See Sharon Kivland ‘She is walking about in a town which she does not know’, Sharon Kivland, A Case of Hysteria (London, Book Works 1999), pp. 177-186 and She is walking about in a town which she does not know, (1997). The art work consists of two c-type photographs, from an archive image of Anna Freud and Marie Bonaparte, glass panel engraved and silver-mirrored with a street map of Marienbad, reproduced in Fascinum, artists’ book, (London, 1998), and in La Valeur d’Echange, exhibition catalogue, text by Jean-Marc Huitorel, (Rueil-Malmaison, Centre d’Art Contemporain, 1999).

See also ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’, (1905 [1901]), trans. Alix and James Strachey, James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, v. 7, (London, 1953), pp. 1-122, referred to by Kivland. Pile’s essay investigates Freud’s notion of the uncanny. See Steve Pile, ‘The Un(known) City  . . . or, an Urban Geography of What Lies Buried below the Surface’, in Iain Borden, Jane Rendell, Joe Kerr with Alicia Pivaro (eds.), The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Social Space (Cambridge, Mass., The MIT  Press, 2001), pp. 263-79. See also Sigmund Freud, ‘The “Uncanny”‘, (1919), Albert Dickson (ed.), The Penguin Freud Library, v. 14, (translated under the editorship of James Strachey), (London, Penguin Books, 1985), pp. 335-76, referred to by Pile.

Drawing upon the uncanny, upon Freud’s walk through Genoa and Dora’s second dream, I invented a subject who explores an unknown town thinking that the places she passes feel strangely familiar. The coastal location provided an opportunity to consider threshold figures, and for a show of women artists, and decided to reverse the call of the siren – a mermaid is seduced by a male voice crying out from the beach. In writing the essay I asked myself:

What does it mean to write a site that one has not visited, that can only be imagined, to know a place not with your feet, but with your eyes tracing lines on a map, dots on a screen?

What does it mean to write of art that is not yet in existence, that at the time of writing is only imagined, and to know of its possibilities through the words of seven artists, eight women, maybe nine?

What does it mean to meet them in a place that they once passed through?

The essay was published as  ‘She is walking about in a town she doesn’t know’, catalogue essay for Elles sont passées par ici, Brittany (Loquivy de la Mer), France, (2005).

This essay was written for Elles sont passées par ici, a group show of eight British artists, Debby Akam, Brook & Black, Jenny Dunsheath, Aude Hérail Jäger, Johanna Love, Karine Pradier, Barbara Rauch, curated by Karine Pradier in Loquivy de la Mer, Brittany, France, (2005). For a copy of the catalogue contact Artevisa, 43 Netherford Road, London SW4 6AF.

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