The Art Works
Title: Cell (Eyes and Mirrors)
Artist: Louise Bourgeois
Medium: Marble, mirrors, steel and glass
Inside a cell made out of wire and glass, a cross between a cage and a greenhouse, is a marble object like a strange creature with two round eyes looking out at us. It is surrounded by mirrors, giving the impression that it is examining itself from all sides, and allowing us to do the same. The mirrors also allow us to look at ourselves and the other people in the museum.
Louise Bourgeois (born 1911) has often said that her work is based on her own experiences and insecurities, and there is definitely a feeling that this creature is trapped within the cell, forced to look at itself and to be examined by the onlookers. But as we look at the work we can see our own reflection, and we, together with the other gallery visitors, effectively become part of the work. The act of looking and judging what we see becomes part of what the work is about: through using her own experience Bourgeois asks us to reflect upon our own.
Title: The Pikes
Artist: Annette Messager
Medium: Steel, fabric, glass, paper and mixed media
The pikes of the title are a collection of metal poles leaning against the gallery wall supporting a number of unusual objects. Some of these resemble children’s toys, ripped apart, mutilated, and stabbed with coloured pencils. Children often damage their own toys, playing cruel games, and this may seem like fun at the time. The pencils have also been used creatively: some of the pikes support delicate, framed drawings. However this delicacy is deceptive, as the drawings show scenes of war, torture and other destructive acts.
Annette Messager (born 1943) took her inspiration from the French Revolution when the heads chopped off by the guillotine were often exhibited to the bloodthirsty crowds on the end of pikes. Everyone is capable of behaving brutally, she suggests, and this can start in childhood. The playful violence of childhood games may not seem serious but in adults the same destructive impulse becomes inhuman.