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Love's Labyrinths

Cuarto 105

Kant as a Theoretician of Vampirism


The Not-All

In Quest of the Oulipo



Wet Fear

Characterhysterics II

Le Conte du Livre


Maureen Connor

Wolfgang Staehle


Interview with Maureen Connor


Josefina Ayerza

Hera, jealous wife of Zeus, had condemned Echo to only and always speak when spoken to, and to repeat only the last words of the voice that struck her. Deceived because of her utterly obsessive love for Narcissus, Echo feels disavowed, scorned, renounced. Weakened and fading she finds refuge in the forest, in the caves, till she coalesces with the rocks which reflect all sounds. Still she finds a way to talk to her lover:

"I love you," says Narcissus, talking to himself.

"Love you," says Echo.

The artist talks from the center of her own aberration: the rocks take the shape of a lamb's lung...Hollow, transparent at times, they display and skewer themselves in a woman's iron hoop skirt. Echo fades to a stick clothed in a nightie, weighed down by one testicle.

Anorexia-bulimia and language tie up with food, lipstick and anesthesia.

Maureen Connor's work... Maureen Connor's speech. We bathe in the waters of feminine property.

Abstracts of a conversation with the artist

J - Although your work thoroughly evokes the body, the body's very image is never there...

Connor image M - Don't we bypass the whole body...? It is always either the mediator between the body and culture which is clothing, or the part which is repressed, inside, the interior of the body. It is a whole other world inside the body, this is how I think of it.

J - The inside of the body you see in an x-ray, or the one you imagine?

M - You mean our interior life? Clothing is a function of the interior life in ways beyond what art is.

J - There is a Spanish saying, "clothing makes the monk..."

M - You mean "clothing makes the man?"

J - No, I mean "clothing makes the monk."

M - What I really think is that there is a kind of fascism of fashion, a conspiracy too.

J - You see fashion as fascist, or fascism as fashion'?

M - Fascism is, has been, fashionable. However, fashion imposes entire worlds on people's bodies. Only a certain look may make them desirable.

J - In your installation "Ensemble for Three Female Voices," how do the woman's larynx and tongue cast in rouge engage with the voices coming from behind the curtains?

M - Behind the curtains there are speakers. Perceived as if they were directly behind the larynxes, the sound is in fact as coming from three larynxes: three voices, three ages: an 18 months child, my own voice, and the voice of an 82 year old woman.

J - What are the voices conveying?

M - They laugh, they cry... sometimes it was one isolated voice, sometimes they were together, sometimes it was a kind of dialogue.

J - Did you use the same larynx for the three sculptures?

M - Yes, it was the same one. I do not know whose it was though. I ordered it from a biological supply house, it came to me preserved in a jar in formaldehyde. I made a rubber mold of the tongue and larynx, and poured the lipstick in. Then I put the whole thing in the freezer. Only when it is frozen solid can you take it out of the mold.

Connor image

J - How do you associate the larynx, the tongue and the lipstick?

M - The larynx and the tongue are both organs of speech. In fact the larynx is not really an organ, a larynx is but a space, a negative space; the skin vibrates within and around, and that is what creates the sounds we make. What I used is all the fleshy stuff that is around it. Lipstick represents the female mouth as opposed to the male mouth. All of these elements of feminine speech being conflated, I still conflated the mouth with the tongue.

J - Are there any words in this kind of speech?

M - There are no words. The laughing and crying standing for the woman's speech, I wanted the response to be a visceral one.

J - Why?

M - Words belong to the man. And that's why I focused on the female voice and how it sounds. One responds very differently to it depending on the way it sounds.

J - Thinner than You, and Wishing Well, have massive elements at their base. What do they stand for, big feet by chance?

M - Yes, or a testicle... the bottom of the dress contains pennies.

J - Why do you call it a testicle, isn't this a female dress?

M - Well, it is about a woman as depository, as container. Men ejaculate inside of the women. This is clothing, so it could represent her interior as much as a pocket.

J - Her interior a testicle close to the floor...?

M - Right, weighing her down, evoking anorexia. What anorexics do when they go to doctors is try to deceive them into thinking they have not lost weight. So they will put things in their pockets, wear heavy sweaters, as for the doctor not to put them into the hospital.

J - Why does the anorexic go to the doctor at all?

M - Probably someone forces her.

J - Would she rather die?

M - Oh, she would keep on doing what she is doing. Anorexics go in and out of it for most of their life, but do not go over the edge so easily. People who are anorexics never have enough. Like starving people, once they let go, they will gorge themselves. It is a kind of response to a continuous deprivation.

J - Do you say this deprivation is real, or does it relate to an insatiable desire?

M - It relates to people who have weight problems, to their relationship to food. Wanting more is somehow subverted, they are not allowed to want more, they were never given more. You feed children on a schedule, and then they will be compliant; not even compliant. It ultimately comes down to a kind of moral thing ...this is the way you raise outstanding citizens, you start them on the first day they are born scheduling their feeding.

J - In rejecting food the way an anorexic does, she rejects what?

Connor image

M - Well, I think she is rejecting that kind of control. More in terms of a cultural expectation than a physical necessity, her rejection should be seen from the point of view of the senses been socialized. We learn to see and or smell. In Anesthesia I explored one of my strongest memories: at nine or ten I had ear infections. Operations followed on for several years in a row; I was put to sleep with ether. Going into my body through my nose, as opposed to something that I swallowed, it seemed such a loss of control of me. You could not choose; when something is in the air you have to take it in. The body cannot think.

J - How does anorexia relate to art?

M - Anorexics represent a culturally imposed ideal of the body. There are examples of how oppressive it is to have a single model of desirability for women. Artists also are at work to destroy cultural ideas and myths.


Maureen Connor:
Wishing Well, stretch net, rubber, body suit, 138"x14"x14", 1990
Lung Rack#2, glass, steel, wax, 51"x29"x18", 1988
Ensemble for Three Female Voices, lipstick casts of the human tongue and larynx, mixed media, variable dimensions, 1990-1991
•Video Still from "The Sixth Sense: Thoughts of Food", 1992-1993

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