Becoming Other

Becoming Other

Online talk Thu 23 Sep

A panel discussion with artists Rebecca Jagoe, Jade Montserrat and Marianna Simnett with co-curator of FIGURE/S: drawing after Bellmer Michael Newman.

This discussion explores how Hans Bellmer and contemporary artists use drawing and writing to explore ideas around the transformation of the human to the non-human – be that becoming object, plant or a non-human creature. The discussion will consider this transformation as both reductive and destructive of the human – the costs of fascism, slavery, colonialism, racism, rape culture and populism to the body – and as celebratory and redemptive – a different conception of our relationship with animals, the natural world and commodities that can positively transform the human.

About the speakers:

Rebecca Jagoe has made an illustrated manuscript titled Letters to Arm for the exhibition. The text in the piece is a narrative fiction, an epistolary romance from the point of view of a person falling in love with a metallic blue, plastic shop dummy arm: the violence of their desire, the overlaps between sex and eating, projection, misrecognition, and gendered notions of playing hard to get and its overlaps with rape culture.  Born 1988, Ireland, Rebecca Jagoe lives and works in Wales. Their practice encompasses performance, sculpture, textiles, writing, and drawing. Their work is a material memoir which examines how their own experiences of illness and gender, have been informed by specific Western cultural narratives. In particular, their work explores how within European culture, the Feminine is constructed at the meeting point of medical rhetoric and the aesthetics of mainstream fashion. Their writing has been published by Hotel magazine (forthcoming), the Happy Hypocrite (Issue 11), and Frieze magazine, among others. 

In a text written for the companion volume ON FIGURE/S Drawing after Bellmer, Jade Montserrat challenges an imperialist and racist shaping of body and of language as it plays out in domestic space. Torsion her title, is a mechanical term for a twisting of an object under force, and one that she applies to words and their meanings. In her hand’s words become flesh – 'lips folded over’, ‘abrasive cheek’, ‘mousy follicles’, ‘chubby vulvas’ – and she ends with a question: ‘Can’t the words just mean something else?’ Dancing her way through history and her story, marking the archive and letting it mark her, finding a voice within a chorus of opinions and reflecting projections of now and then, Montserrat’s work is a fracture in the linear narrative of consumption and a rigorous critique of the way cultural production scars bodies and constructs histories. Her work exposes the perceptions of the Other as weighted responsibility in need of retort, skirting social activism by gesturally and texturally ascertaining new ground for politicized territories manifest through performance, film, installation, sculpture, print & text. This process is focused on the interrogation of materials, rearticulating them to expose gaps in both visual and linguistic habits. 

Marianna Simnett’s new commission for the exhibition responds to the drawings of Hans Bellmer and Unica Zürn and explores Zoophilia, sexual fixation on non-human animals, and the relationship between species. Simnett’s bodies are fluid and entangled, the bleeding watercolour enacting a transformation of human, insect and bird form. Marianna Simnett lives and works between Berlin and London. Her interdisciplinary practice includes film, installation, performance, sculpture, music and drawing. Simnett uses vivid and visceral means to explore the body as a site of transformation. Working with animals, children, organs, and often performing herself, Simnett imagines radical new worlds filled with untamed thoughts, strange tales and desires.

Michael Newman is Professor of Art Writing, Goldsmiths, University of London. An art historian and critic, Newman has written extensively on contemporary art, and has a long-standing interest in drawing, with numerous publications, including 'The Traces and Marks of Drawing' in The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act (Tate Publishing and The Drawing Center, 2003). He has been researching Bellmer for six years and teaching his work in relation to contemporary art.

Marianna SimnettAnolingusCourtesy the artist 2021