Welcome to the dolls’ hair house

5 Jun

The former London home of Sigmund and Anna Freud, now the Freud Museum, is enveloped in a cats cradle of rope made of dolls’ hair. Standing as it does on a prosperous suburban street of imposing redbrick villas, the bound house looks like a scene from a dream itself, a dream of home denied. Such dreams are typically untangled on a therapeutic descendant of the very couch that sits inside the museum; the fairytale Rapunzel tress-ropes also suggest the kind of psychological decoding of myth and culture that Freud indulged in.

Alice Anderson’s ‘Childhood Rituals’ invades the inside of Freud’s home too. Balls of doll’s hair, looms and figurines invade the rooms of artefacts; in Freud’s study itself the hair is spun into a web through which visitors are forced to regard the domestic interior. Anderson’s work refers to childhood trauma, re-enacting the neurotic pulling of dolls; hair that she would perform as a child when left alone by her mother.

Anderson studied with Christian Boltanski, an artist whose work frequently references the structure and display of museums and archives, who appears in both Kynaston McShine’s Museum as Muse and James Putnam’s Art and Artifact. However, as an intervention in a museum space, Anderson’s work seems to have moved on from the practices of institutional critique where the work’s critical relationship is to the gallery or museum that frames it. Anderson’s work instead relates directly to the subject matter of the museum (that is, the psychoanalytic interpretation of everyday life).

The Freud Museum is modestly sized as a museum, yet has an established track record of artistic exhibitions and intervention that supplement the object displays. This actually isn’t all that atypical for object-based museums these days. While the orthodox view of museum collections continues to be that ‘objects tell stories’ (a curious misascription of agency: it’s rather that we tell stories about objects) many object-based museums (that is, not art galleries) are increasingly looking to contemporary artists to do something for them. What is that something that they are doing?

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One Response to “Welcome to the dolls’ hair house”

  1. astrid July 1, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    hi danny!

    It’s interesting how an entire exhibition can transform and be experienced in a whole new way through one persons art-work derived from subjective associations. She hasn’t changed anything in the exhibition, just put the doll-hair-ropes around like a giant meta-comment. (I took the liberty of citing this post on biomedicineondisplay)

    all the best!
    -astrid

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