an infinite loop of mutual invasion

After posting recently about ‘A Woman without Secrets‘ , the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art,  I returned yesterday to ‘I Give it All Away‘, the simultaneous, and therefore potentially the companion, exhibition of Bourgeois’ work at The Fruitmarket Gallery.  The accompanying book ‘Insomnia in the Work of Louise Bourgeois’ by Frances Morris and Philip Larrat-Smith has a quote from Bourgeois on the cover: ‘Has the day invaded the night or the night invaded the day?’ One of the essays in the book states:

‘Water is a metaphor for the passage of time and the confluence of past, present, and future in the incessant flow of her thoughts. It serves as a counterpoint to the recurring motif of the clock. These twin symbols of time function metaphorically to convey the disjuncture between rational time and lived time, between ‘objective’ time divided into days, hours, minutes, and seconds, and ‘subjective’ time where past, present and future merge in memories, veilles*, fears, and desires.

The first time I went to the exhibition, the biro drawings seemed like scribbles, but today they looked closer to finished pieces. Perhaps that’s because in the interim I saw ‘A Woman Without Secrets’, so that my understanding has been informed first by one exhibition then a second, and now by a second viewing of the first. Now I feel that the second exhibition invaded the first which in turn invaded the other, which takes us back to day invading night or vice versa, leading me to ‘see’ the following angular version of the Yin Yang symbol:


Which, although it’s not quite how I imagined it, still has its infinite loops, like the quote from Bourgeois at the start of this post,  is reminiscent of many of the drawings by M.C. Escher, such as Day and Night.

In a further looping connection, the music system in the gallery cafe was playing ‘Love Is the Drug’ by Roxy Music,  which in turn reminded me of Brian Eno, whom I also wrote about recently, although as far as I’m aware, he’d left the group by that stage. And all this reminds me of my current read: ‘Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid’ by Douglas R Hofstadter, with its recurring Strange Loops, and to quote Wikipedia, its ‘interweaving narratives about how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to acquire meaning despite being made of “meaningless” elements.’

And according to Hofstadter,

“The genius of Escher was that he could not only concoct, but actually portray, dozens of  half-real, half-mythical worlds,  worlds filled with Strange Loops, which he seems to be inviting his viewers to enter.”

To quote again from and to paraphrase from the exhibition book: “Water also represents the unimaginable experience of death that is experienced once only, and then alone.” “Insomnia while others sleep is like being in the world of the dead. Hell (pace Sartre) is the absence of others, especially the absence of the Other.” Bourgeois said: “I am ashamed / to be a lone wolf downstairs.” (I wonder what she thought of  ‘Steppenwolf’ by Herman Hesse, or even ‘Born to be Wild’ by Steppenwolf.)

All this material from and about Bourgeois conveys a nightmarish blur of loneliness, abandonment and tangled time. So lets finish by focussing instead on the joyfulness of Fergusson’s ‘Les Eus‘, currently at The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, with figures dancing round and round, like the workmen in the opening scene of A Dance to the Music of Time, who are, in turn, based on the figures in the painting of the same name by Poussin.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling dizzy!


* from the French veiller: which apparently means to stay up or sit up at night, to look after or watch over someone.


Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 art, Exhibitions No Comments