Janine Antoni



Josefina Ayerza
To resume again...

A Reading of the Seminar From an Other to the other

Towards a New Concept of Existence

35 Propositions from Logiques des mondes


The Element of Sacrifice in Romantic Love

Lacanian Psychoanalysis and Revolutionary Marxism

Materialism, or the Inexistence of the Big Other

Janine Antoni

Toril Goksøyr and Camilla Martens

Antoni image



Janine Antoni became indeed a fairy tale when she set foot in the Venice Biennale's Aperto, an exhibition committed to emerging juveniles, the year 1993, with her Lick and Lather made up of 14 portrait busts, cast of a model of herself and mounted on look-a-like ancient classical pedestals. Seven statues were cast in white soap, and the other seven in brown chocolate, and then reshaped by the rather subjective acts which engaged her tongue passing over, and the frothing up of bubbles, fizz, effervesce, foam-in one statue, the features were completely erased. In parallel rows, the sculpture made a strong impression, till you were confronted with another strong sensual verdict, or the distinctive, yet typically pleasant smells, of soap, of chocolate...

With Janine Antoni "we are at a time when all kinds of artistic languages are possible, and minimalism is one of the languages available. I've also used expressionism-in my performance in London, Loving Care, 1993-and even 19th century classicism, in Lick and Lather. I'm interested in everyday body rituals and converting the most basic sort of activities (eating, bathing, mopping) into sculptural processes. Even in doing this, I imitate fine art rituals such as chiseling (with my teeth), painting (with my hair and eyelashes), modeling and molding, (with my own body). In terms of materials, I use what is appropriate to the activity. Those materials, soap, lard, chocolate, and hair dye, all come in contact with the body and redefine or locate the body within our culture. These materials also have a specific relationship to women in our society. The gender of the viewer informs the reading of my work."

In Eureka, from 1993, based on Archimedes discoveries of displacement while bathing, Antoni had herself lowered into a bathtub full of lard, from which her body supplanted an amount equivalent to her person. She then used the lard to make a large cube of soap.

With 2038, from 2000, which Antoni creates seven years after Eureka, she is back in the tub. Yet a tub that looks like a vessel used as a trough for cows. She lies in it while the bovine creatures drink the water of her bath; is one of them feeding on her breast? Because it belongs in the place of dreams, the image is in turn an expression of the desire, thus it will unravel the kind of hidden complicity involved in the jouissance-joy of it.

Hathor was the goddess of the moon. She shaped into a cow to become the mother and the spouse of the sun.

The cow dips to drink, to nurse at her breast? Antoni's earring unravels an unperturbed, perhaps mythical picture of womanhood in sharp contrast to the cows whose ear tag, deplores the artist, "both names and reveals its identity as a biological machine."

"I work differently from a lot of conceptual artists who begin their process with an idea: I begin with the idea of an experience I want to give myself. The meaning reveals itself to me through the experience, through the process."

In Coddle, from 1998, the experience is to be the Mother. And this is how the artist offers herself in a Madonna gesture-she is the Mother, of herself, of her own leg, which she cradles. Antoni attains the Madonna and Child image; just that there isn't the Child. Yes there is the part body, which she contemplates in wonder, which she appears to love as much as she loves her child. A Catholic-inspired religious imagery, Antoni's composition is certainly highlighting the structure. And structures account for discourses. The selective character of the portrait opens the way to the certain dialectics through which the subversive subject-a third one in question-demands to be signified beyond the actual fascination of the image.

Caryatid, puts forth an astounding up side down photograph in which the artist, shot from the back, rests head down on a vase in a state of equilibrium. Aside, there is a broken vessel. Apart from the mysterious aim that may have driven Antoni to turn herself into an inverted Caryatid, the broken vessel somehow removed from the patent drama may well stand for separated pain. Like the pain professional moaners embody-hired mourners that "do the grieving" for the relative of the deceased. The purpose of this strange ritual was to externalize one's grief, delegate it onto a kind of exterior apparatus-another human being. Someone else does it for us. Research showed that although people watching comedy shows with canned laughter laughed less, the physiological effects were as if they had indeed laughed. Slavoj Zizek compares this logic to that of the Tibetan wheel: we insert a piece of paper with a prayer into a mechanical wheel, we turn the wheel and the prayer is relayed to the appropriate authority - the prayer wheel preys for us. Again, the logic of the Tibetan prayer wheel is increasingly that of post-modern culture as a whole-we delegate to the electronic apparatus what we previously did ourselves.

Art: Janine Antoni
2038 - C-print, 2000
Caryatid - C-print with broken vessel, 2003
Coddle - C-print and hand carved frame, 1999
courtesy Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York City.

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