Who Was that Woman?
Reckitt, Helena. 2009. Who Was that Woman? C Magazine, 104, pp. 88-103. [Article]
Abstract or Description
Focusing on the recent biographical turn in visual art, the essay considers works by Manon de Boer, Paulina Olowska, Pia Rönicke and Suzanne Winterling that highlight key, yet largely under-recognized, female modernists. The essay highlights strategies of remaking and restaging in works that focus on the art and the lives of figures including Danish lamp designer Le Klint, Polish artists Pauline Boty and Zofia Stryjenska, Irish architect Eileen Gray and French actress Sylvia Kristel, exploring the embodied nature of their acts of homage and archiving, empathy and identification. De Boer, Olowska, Rönicke and Winterling’s work is considered against an artistic backdrop that includes Neil Bartlett’e 1998 book Who Was That Man?, in which the search for traces of Oscar Wilde is presented as a libidinal exercise in which the Victorian writer ‘ghosts’ the contemporary author’s words. Just as Bartlett was inspired by Wilde’s example of flamboyant self-staging, the essay shows how Olowska and Winterling draw sustenance from the lives and images of glamorous artistic women – of what Maria Buszek has termed‘theatrical feminism’. Continuing its discussion of cross-generational influence and identification, the essay cites Josef Strau’s concept of “cross-fades of identity” to understand subjectivity as porous and non-linear. The essay cites Gary Saul Morson’s concept of literary “foreshadowing” to point to the unfulfilled and still potent promise of these female modernists.