From Stella Rosa McDonald…
If living with Christian Boltanski for more than thirty years doesn’t make you consider mortality on a daily, if not hourly, basis then I’m not sure what will. But for the French artist Annette Messager, who has done just that, being a woman has never been about not being a man. And so it is that her inimitable installations take on death, sex, identity and mythology with a childlike irreverence. This month a retrospective of Messager’s career, spanning over 40 years, opens at the MCA showing why she has long been one of France’s leading artists.
Messager’s kinetic installation Casino takes centre stage at the museum. Awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, it is inspired by the misadventures of Pinocchio, in his quest to become a boy. Casino comprises an immense spillage of red silk and rows of shadow puppets suspended from the gallery ceiling above, which rise and fall to the rhythms of disembodied breath. Pinocchio, like no other, is a story that encapsulates the inertia and passion that comes with the responsibility of being human. And in the hands of Messager, who is one part idealist, one part fatalist, all its morbid contradictions come to life.
However it is the smallest works that have the biggest bite. Since 1974 Messager has collected French proverbs that denigrate women. Embroidered onto cloth, the proverbs are spat back at the reader with a new message. Among them one stands out. “Femmes sont trop périlleuses et par nature, dangereuses.” Women are too perilous and by nature, dangerous.
Until October 26th
The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks
Pic credit: Annette Messager, Casino, 2005, red pongee silk, string, rubber, various elements, optical fibres, fluorescent tubes, fans, software. Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris and New York.