Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cattelan vs. Woodman

Looking for the above gorgeous image by Francesca Woodman, I came across Lucilees post where she asks the ever-recurring question about appropriation vs. plagiarism, in the context of the two works below:

Cattelan's installation, untitled, from 2007.

Woodman's photo, untitled, 1977.

The work seemed like a clear quote to me, but I searched a bit more.
Cattelan presented the installation in 2008 at his Bregenz Kunsthalle (the site seems to have almost no working pages) exhibition. It was on the highest floor of the building, and it looked like this:

Impressive. It's quite interesting, though, to see to what extent the presentation of a work can obscure/transform its dynamics. The first picture of Cattelan's piece without this second one creates a significantly different framework. (According to one commentator, this was the first time Cattelan used someone else's architecture to stage his piece.)
My Polish coleagues have linked Cattelan's work to feminism and eschatology. Crucifiction, yes, but what is beyond? Also, the white nightgown suggests a patient, eternal patient, hysteric person...
Although Iza Kowalczyk is right to point out that this work stresses the crucifiction more than the hanging in Woodman's version (where the chair in the front created a classic reference to this way of committing suicide), there is something in both these installations that I found crucial, and missing in the comments: the portrayed woman is not crucified. She is suspended by her own arms. It is a very uncomfortable position and requires significant effort.
There is a play going on here between victimization, self-victimization and empowerment. The subject self-objectifies thus getting higher.
One other thing, concerning a discussion on one of the sites, about eroticism. Is this too pure to be erotic? To me it seems to bring about the right amount of frustration by being so unbearably decent, and yet stretched to the limits . This is much more explicit in Cattelan's work - an installation, bringing about a specific, ambiguous visual perspective. This frustration of power, which plays namely on the the relation between the viewer and his subject, is a trademark of many of Cattelan's works. It's what often irritates me. And what makes me come back.