Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Behind Closed Doors-The Art of Hans Bellmer

I sort of have this odd fascination with old, cast-off abandoned things; like moldy dog-earred books, old photos and broken dolls. I have done quite a few works with bits and pieces of old busted dollies and have even taught an assemblage class about Creepy Doll shrines. 

There's a lot that could be said about Dolls and what they symbolize and in my class we touch a bit on some of those things specifically Freud's idea about the uncanny. But recently, Hans Bellmer, a German artist from the 1930s has been brought to my attention. To say Bellmer's work is disturbing, would be a bit of an understatement. (And if you are unfamiliar with his work, please keep this in mind if you look further into this artist.)  His work was and remains quite controversial. His doll's with their uncanny, fragmented and provocative poses are as extremely shocking now as they were in the 1930's. 

At the recommendation of my artist teacher, I have been reading Therese Lichtenstein's book Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer. I am focused specifically the chapter: Return to the Enchanted Garden, which has some incredibly powerful insights. Of which is this quote that I want to leave with you. In my mind it links back to some of the work that we were doing in the Creepy Doll Shrine class at Art-Is-You. Take from it what you will...

"At the same time that Walter Benjamin was writing about the loss of the aura and the rise of fascism, Hans Bellmer was engaged in creating and photographing his curious doll-like sculptures, which were designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia. But what kind of nostalgia? Bellmer's return to and obsession with adolescence may be in part understood as a necessary regression into the past, a working through of psychic processes in a dialectic of transformation. By depicting adolescence as ruined, the photographs acknowledge both the desire to return to the past and the impossibility of doing so. The desire to recapture letting go of that childhood. It is as though Bellmer, while searching for what he had lost, was also looking for a solution to the problem. Although his works are mediated by memories of childhood, they do not recapture an idealized past but one that exists as ruin. His doll photographs are not transcendent images. They do not represent childhood as an illusory paradise lost but as a paradise never obtained. They depict the ungratified longing of youth, denying utopian impulses usually associated with memories or thoughts of the period of like and revealing it instead as a time of sorrow and struggle. This Bellmer's images of abuse and deprivation shift between a desire to preserve the past and a desire to destroy it by representing ruin." (Lichtenstein, 152)

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