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Psychologizing portraiture:


The self stands at a distance from the subject.

You only present yourself as evidence in the mirror.

Evidence of what?

There is a limitation to pictorial portraiture.

It assumes confrontation is frontal. But this does not ever occur.

What is it to confront the diffuse?

(Is this the challenge of politics?) 

But of course you can confront someone from the side, behind, or beneath, separate the angles like a 3D scanner, and simply stitch them back to whole.


“Autobiography” was a group show at Index Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm in March, 2016. The exhibition drew inspiration from Judith Butler’s essay, “Giving an Account of Oneself” (2001) in which she analyzes the relationship between recognition of external aspects and self-formation. “Suspending the demand for self-identity or, more particularly, for complete coherence, seems to me to counter a certain ethical violence that demands that we manifest and maintain self-identity at all times and require that others do the same.” (J.B., “Giving an Account of Oneself”, in: Diacritics, Vol. 31, No. 4., Winter 2001, p. 22-40). Given the roster, Loretta Fahrenholz, Frances Stark, Chris Kraus on Kathy Acker, Martine Syms, this seemed like a fruitful playground to pursue my social/psychology contest. Upon visiting the show I was struck by the resonance of two works in particular, by a Dutch artist named Reit Wijnen. 



For me this [wall text by Reit Wijnen --->right] is the ‘index’ (forgive the pun) for the show. However, I needed to pick up her book before realizing this. The book titled Marlow Moss is a biography of Marlow Moss consisting solely of facts. As I flipped the pages I noticed on every page lay a list with a heading so dry and objective I imagined a computer software program conjured it up. But my attention focused on a striking parallel. This comprehensive set of lists was describing something, or everything, ‘other than’ Marlow Moss. This is tricky, even just then I have muddled it up. I do not mean that there is something in Marlow Moss’s biography that is ‘something other than’ Marlow Moss, and to imply that is to get the work all wrong. In fact, it is precisely on that crux that the work rests. It seems to me (and I only know what I see here and what I saw last night when I looked up her Registry of Pseudonyms website) that Wijnen is much more interested in knowing Marlow Moss according to everything that is ‘not her’, than considering her as a unique individual (placed on earth by God to fulfill her special, unprecedented role). As I spent more time with the book I wondered why Wijnen selected Marlow Moss to biograph. Then it became obvious; it is indicated right there on the fifteenth line of the wall text. “Moss is often seen as an imitator of Mondrian.” I Googled Moss and indeed I would have mistaken (I am no Mondrian specialist) all of the paintings found on the image search to be Mondrian ‘Compositions’ if I hadn’t know better. Clearly, it is the instance of construction made so obvious by the revelation of ‘the imitator’ that interests Wijnen. The imitator, the fake, the impersonator, the mimic, the copycat, the follower; these instances tend to burst our bubble of belief in the unique individual, or even the unique subjectivity. This is why there is a problem with me presenting those categories differentiating between what is ‘her’ and what is ‘not her.’ There is no such boundary. Moss is these dry lists of facts indexing where she has been, what she has done and who she has met. The decisions she makes and the stances she takes are a result of a system of constructed beliefs that she adheres to, and they are beliefs constructed by the social. We can take her decision to go to Slade as a simple example, or her obsession with the biggest name in Continental painting in the 1920s. These are social constructs of belief and there is nothing personal about them.



<Excerpt from ‘Thoughts on Biography,’ 2016>

(IMG_elmyr de hory as picasso, “la toilette de lamere” 1932) ---->



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