Spider-Mother

Saturday 27th August, 2016

This morning I opened the backdoor to let in fresh morning air, to step out into the day. I smashed threads, got caught in a tangle of sticky resin, but the spiders just climbed elsewhere, un-phased. One steadfastly spread by the French doors like an orb of winds-eye, flapped back and forth, rocked immobile. How was it so keenly on its thread, utterly connected, like a master-plan, a broader mapping of its destiny, which it has written itself unalterably? Bracing against the ripping, the assault on its meticulous line, holding for the showers of gold that run all over its silvery-blood. It could’ve been asleep, but most likely it was awake. I felt it awake. Its sensory button always charged, always glowing red hot with the discharge of intuition. Its cultus-eye that speaks with a visceral tongue, as if Bourgeois herself has ordained that I live here amidst her spider minions this summer, never give up spinning starry webs.

Our little back garden is completely overrun with these benign little spiders who creep into the house, but despite this I keep opening the back doors to let in air.

I slept so well last night, probably because of all the riding around the park with the children. I woke early, but the children also woke early and so prevented me from writing at any great length. I need to carve out a morning ritual in stone for myself and preside over it like a sacred dais. I must go every morning with ascetic discipline to perform my writing ritual at my desk by the front window of our apartment. (The landlord has kindly lent me a small writing table and chair he had in storage inherited from his deceased parent’s).

Lately I’m thinking a lot about the French/American artist Louise Bourgeois, her persistence, her determination to keep working though not celebrated properly as an artist until later in life. Her work explores our maternal origins, especially her red gouache drawings. I love them. I finished reading her diary, Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews, 1923-1997 last night. She is my spider-mother. I saw her extraordinary bronze sculpture, Maman, at Heidi Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne several years ago. It was so impactful. Her other sculpture in polished gold, Arch of Hysteria, is exceptional too. It just blows my mind: a stark glistening thing of animal abjection. It captures the whole Freudian apparatus succinctly. Her works are confrontation pieces.

Bourgeois also loved to write and it was the basis of her artistic practice. Her diary is full of insights and observations. Journaling generates creative output. Bourgeois writes that her first philosophical influence was Euclidean geometry, which she explores in her sculpture in order to depict the rigidity of different angles, in an attempt to delineate the limitedness of a closed system. Her work seems to be about exploring the limits of desire.

She reports the destruction of her marriage 22nd February, 1949. Her marriage ultimately survived – it may have gone through metamorphosis. Is that what Jon and I are undergoing? Perhaps independently as well as together. It’s heartening to read of other artists undergoing abject moments in their marriage and overcoming them.

Bourgeois makes lists of stark truths about herself. She writes that she had difficulty regulating her emotions. I too struggle with this at times, likely because of my upbringing and the volatility of my father. But, it could also be occasional sleep deprivation. Bourgeois experienced depression on the one hand and rage on the other. She had periods of terrible sleep. It was probably brought about by periods of crushing self-doubt. She tells this story of seeing a Picasso exhibition and then not being able to create a single work of art for over a month. All she could do was go into her studio, clean her brushes and move things around – how humbling.

I like the way Bourgeois experimented with writing words in her journal on a left-hand side of the page in a column, as well as on the right-hand side of the page in a column. It might be a good journaling practice to regularly record on the left-hand side the praxis of things and on the right-hand side the catharsis: to perhaps look for a correlation between the practical lived experience and the process of emotional release. I’ll give it a go.

There are also several grant proposals included in her collected diaries and interviews. Proposal writing is necessary, a vital part of the writer and/or artists practice because it allows them to build a framework for exploring future projects, which will evolve no doubt, but which can be defined nevertheless, crystallised.

Ultimately, Bourgeois work is a searing critique of patriarchal power. She deals in the erotic and the abject. I’m thinking of her bronze sculpture Janus Fleuri, 1968, which depicts organic matter in the middle, like human waste, with a maternal looking phallic-end on either side. It’s disconcerting, but powerful.