‘Water - Instance No. 4’
Text for the solo show ‘Water’ (Curator: Jo-ey Tang)
Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design Columbus, Ohio, USA, 10 Oct 2019 - 15 Mar 2020
Paris-based artist Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann developed a dialog with curator and writer Julia Trotta, to present an installation of video vignettes of ‘Forget to be afraid: A Portrait of Linda Nochlin’, a film on her late grandmother, the pioneering art historian, known for her 1971 article “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”.
How deep is the water now, and where is it flowing?
What is the meaning of its dripping and pooling?
How long until the water overspills this threshold?
How long until we are immersed up to our eyelids?
Water is taking the form of sand.
Water is taking the form of light, pooling across the floor, and condensing upon the ceiling.
Water is slowly redistributing the pieces of an IKEA kitchen, stacking shelves and easing cabinets into place. Deforming the techno-kitchen of modernity, water returns the site of cooking to its status as convivial potlatch—as circle of sisterhood; as gathering ground.
Water is forming a matrilineage—a river of friendships.
Water has taken the art historian Linda Nochlin (1931-2017).
How deep is this water?
In the year 1970, at the urging of a friend, Nochlin becomes immersed in the literature of the women’s liberation movement, including the newspaper Off Our Backs, and other “crude broadsheets of the early feminist movement.” Later that year, an offhand remark by gallery owner Richard Feigen inspired her now-famous essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, in which Nochlin elucidates the history of greatness in art—pointing to women’s exclusion from the artistic profession and attacking the notion of the “great artist” as a flimsy myth.
Many decades later, Julia Trotta, artist, curator, writer, filmmaker, and Nochlin’s granddaughter, sets out to make a documentary film about her grandmother’s life but, ultimately, decides the project can’t be completed and elects to show only isolated vignettes in place of a feature-length film. In one of these vignettes Trotta asks what makes a great work of art, eliciting Nochlin’s reply, “I’m more interested in why this is an interesting piece of art ... or why this works in the way it does.”
What is greatness’s cure? Water, water, water.
In another video vignette Nochlin reads from one of her recent poems—an ode to her own body:
It’s not 16 / it’s big and mean / it’s none too clean / it’s sort of obscene / it’s my body baby / it’s obsolescent / it ain’t adolescent / it’s post-pre-pubescent / not iridescent / not illuminescent / not quite putrescent / it’s my body baby / it’s obsolescent / what’s soft and baggy / what’s bent and saggy / what’s crooked and raggy / what’s definitely absolutely positively haggy / that’s my body baby / it’s obsolescent
How deep is this water, how dark and how lovely?