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>> Interview: Louise Bourgeois
>> Career Women and Material Girls
>> The Legend's Burden: Eva Hesse
>> Close Up: Katharina Sieverding

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Louise Bourgeois, Cell XXV
(The View of the World of the jealous WIFE), 2001
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Christopher Burke

CK: I first saw your Cells in the Venice Biennale in 1993 and then in Oxford at the Museum of Modern Art. They made me think of Ezra Pound detained in an open cage for 25 days having been accused of treason at the end of WWII. In your work, a highly internal moment is exposed publicly and then kept private. How did your Cells transform from the earlier ones in the 80s to the later ones, especially in relation to issues of public and private observation?

LB: My use of the word 'cell' has to do with the fact that I am a prisoner of my memories. The original suite of the Cells had to do with the five senses and memory and had nothing to do with the issues of humiliation and internment. The sense of containment in the Cells has also to do with the idea of isolating problems in order to solve them. I also like to know my limits and that's why I prefer claustrophobic spaces. The Cells also express the notion that people are isolated from one another and unable to communicate. This is the human condition.

I needed to create architecture to house and protect and set the scale for these objects. The objects in the Cells are fragile. The fact that you cannot enter them in most cases had to do with the fragility of the interior. This is a problem when they are shown publicly. I would like people to enter the Cells.

Louise Bourgeois, Cell (Choisy Two), 1995
Collection Anthony T. Podesta, Washington DC,
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Peter Bellamy

CK: In Cell Choisy, the guillotine and the marble house – a replica of your family’s house – are in a stand-off. The guillotine is about to come down over the whole house, but is never actually released. You’ve said: "The guillotine is also at work within families." In your installation, we see the outside of the house. A private execution threatens to become a public act. In the marble sculpture, She-Fox, the animal has been decapitated; there’s a big slit in its throat. You’ve said that the She-Fox is your mother and the supplicant is you. "I cut her head off. I slit her throat. Still I expect her to like me. (…) Women are losers. They are beggars, in spite of women’s lib." In what way does Cell Choisy epitomize a prisoner’s dilemma where all the members of the household are in a perpetual stalemate? Is the whole house victim or only certain members?

Louise Bourgeois Cell (Choisy), 1990-93
Collection Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto,
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo: Peter Bellamy

LB: The guillotine, like all my images, is not realistic. It is a metaphor for how the present kills the past. In the Cell Choisy, I recreated the house where I had lived because it no longer existed. There is no real victim in this work because we have to accept the fact that the present destroys the past and there is nothing we can do.

CK: Femmes Maison, is both a series of drawings and sculptures that literally refer to a "wife-house". In Cells, the architecture is transparent, while Femmes Maison is about hiding.

LB: As a sculptor, I am interested in space – whether it is real or imagined. Sometimes I want to hide, and sometimes I want to go out and seduce.

Louise Bourgeois, Femme Maison, 1981
Courtesy Louise Bourgeois and Cheim & Read, New York
Photo © by Peter Moore

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