Off With Her Head

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Off With Her Head was a mini-exhibition part of the group show Trio at Plaything Gallery. Artists Henrietta Harris, Scrap Wall and myself were allocated sections of the gallery and allowed to stage a condensed, or capsule version of an exhibition of our work, without the pressure of putting on a solo exhibition that would occupy the entire space.

Curator Leah Forsyth was interested in the recurring themes and ideas that were present in all three of our practices and felt that it wasn’t important for the work to be placed together; but rather that each artist had their own space and for the works to be allowed the room to breathe and be viewed by the audience.

The work I exhibited a further extension of my practice and ideas, and I also incorporated some of the recent three dimensional objects that I had been working on.

This is what I wrote in response to my work about the exhibition:

Bruno Bettelheim has argued that the narratives we tell ourselves are constructed out of multiple smaller stories that are inherent in our vocabulary of experience.

We, as the storytellers, pull-apart, reconstruct, juggle, twist, condense, expand, chop into little pieces and mix up these stories to create our narratives.

These narratives come to mean something; a record of experience, a fiction of some kind, a way to communicate what can’t be communicated.

One of the most archetypal of these stories concerns adolescence and being lost. Little boys get lost in the forest…..and little girls wander around dark castles being lost as well. Being lost encapsulates a feeling of headlessness, of all logic being gone, and experiences going awry.

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Queen yells “Off with her head” more than once, often without neither reason nor provocation. The reader is never quite informed as to whether she actually gets her way, or if her request if fulfilled.

But this is beside the point; her request for decapitation is symptomatic of the general feeling of headlessness lies at the core of Charles Dodson’s (or Lewis Carrol’s) story. Alice is lost throughout, he misadventures governed by no sense of apparent logic and without any apparent direction.

This sense of being lost is what I’m interested in. In my own practice, I’ve always been interested in the gaps in narratives, or the little stories that don’t make sense and can’t be utilised in the articulation of a coherent narrative. They are like the acts of decapitation themselves; without sense or logic, or reason, and without any conclusion or resolution.

What does it mean to be ‘headless’ in contemporary society? Is it an expression of a loss of way, a comment on an individual’s refusal of a prevailing ideology? Does this loss of a head even matter?

The headless mannequins could symbolise the anonymity of the narrators who were primarily responsible for the piecing together the narratives we know and use to articulate our experiences, or they could be another hint at the era in which the story of Alice was conceived. The little boys could be stand-ins for little girls, a subliminal blip, or a comment that the boys don’t always have to be the protagonists who are lost in the forest……but they’re lost anyway. With heads and without. With accompanying accoutrements that don’t make sense or logic.

The drawings and accompanying ‘artefacts’ act like the signposts of stories that could potentially form the composition of a greater narrative. They offer something curious, or strange, or familiar. Or they offer all three at once. But the gaps that exist between them interest me, and what could be taken away within the scope of memory and articulate experience. There’s a sense of things not being quite right, of being pulled-apart, reconstructed, juggled, twisted, condensed, expanded, chopped into little pieces and mixed up. Like being lost and losing your head.

Melanie Roger wrote a good review of the exhibition (although not a great review of the state of the gallery itself). You ca find it on her blog Whiskers on Kittens.


All images Copyright 2017, Aleksandra Petrovic


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