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Modernist ObjectsLiterature, Art, Culture$
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Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979503

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979503.001.0001

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Louise Bourgeois’s Melancholy Objects to be Used

Louise Bourgeois’s Melancholy Objects to be Used

(p.147) Chapter Eight Louise Bourgeois’s Melancholy Objects to be Used
Modernist Objects
Lynn M. Somers
Liverpool University Press

Over a decade before the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois underwent psychoanalysis in New York (1952–1985), her work mined territories of psyche, body, home, and exile. Bourgeois’s papers from 1940 onward reveal that she shared Freud’s description of neurotics, hysterics, and artists as suffering from reminiscences. Scottish psychoanalyst W. R. D. Fairbairn identified the last of these in 1943 as “war neuroses,” just six years before Bourgeois debuted her first mature sculptures. These abstract “personages” served as melancholy surrogates for lost objects, the friends and family Bourgeois left in 1938 in Occupied France. In the 1960s, she further reduced the body to ambivalent amalgams of part-objects made from plaster and latex, suggesting swollen nodes, skin, and sex organs. Of particular interest are two papers published by Fairbairn in 1938 that extend the inner world of the individual to the field of object relations via the transposition of the symbolically “restored object.” Fairbairn conceived the radical notion of restitution, the mental process of repairing damage in the artist’s inner object world. These principles resonate with Bourgeois’s métier and a postwar sculptural aesthetic that probed the phenomenal experience of anxiety, exile, and psychoanalysis on the Self and others.

Keywords:   sculpture, Sigmund Freud, war neurosis, W.R.D. Fairbairn, the restored object, restitution, memory

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