Eileen Myles on Francesca Woodman
“Francesca Woodman marginalises her flesh in the modelled interior wall of an old building.”
“The mirror is white as the skin of the woman. To take off your clothes is to be like paper.” In this short video, the iconic American poet Eileen Myles reflects on works by American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), who here is “merging with all the female bodies in art history.” “You want to throw yourself against it as soft as you can,” Myles says.
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“Francesca Woodman marginalises her flesh in the modelled interior wall of an old building,” Myles begins. She is talking about how Woodman in the picture ‘Self-deceit’#3, Rome, Italy 1978’ – one of a series of five pictures called ‘Self-deceit’ – is one with the wall, with the mirror, her camera being the mirror and the mirror being the lens. The room inside the camera, Myles feels, holds the Woodman in eternity “like she’s already gone, but she’s permanently present in her repeated loss. In her making of herself into art, texture, no one, all composition, then pure blur.” Myles argues that these photos could not be taken by a young man: “I don’t think there has ever been a young man who could take his own photograph and be naked like that and sit in the history of art on a day in its tiny selfish room and make something move because you saw yourself like that…”
Eileen Myles (b. 1949) is an American poet, novelist, performer and art journalist, who has produced several volumes of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, libretti, plays and performance pieces over the last three decades. Her publications include ‘Afterglow’ (a dog memoir) (2017), ‘Inferno: A Poet’s Novel’ (2010), ’Skies’ (2001), ’Cool for You’ (2000) and ‘Chelsea Girls’ (1994, 2015). In 2015 ‘I Must Be Living Twice. New and Selected Poems 1975-2014’ was published. Myles has received a wide range of awards and fellowships such as four Lambda Book Awards, the Shelley Award (Poetry Society of America) (2010), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2012) and The Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing (2015). In 1977 Myles co-edited the feminist anthology ‘Ladies Museum’, and in 1979 she was a founding member of the Los Texans Collective. From 1984-1986 Myles was the artistic director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project. Myles has toured all over the world since the early 1980s. She lives in Marfa, Texas and New York City. For more see: http://www.eileenmyles.com/
Francesca Woodman (b.1958-d.1981) is an American photographer particularly known for her black and white pictures featuring either herself or female models, naked or clothed, blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), merging with their surroundings or with faces obscured. Major solo exhibitions (posthumously) include SFMoMA in San Francisco, The Photographer’s Gallery in London, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
In the video, Eileen Myles reads a text about Francesca Woodman. The text is called ‘The Room Inside’ and the Woodman works in focus for the text are ‘Self-deceit #1’, 1978, and ‘Self-deceit #6’, 1978. The piece is written for the anthology ‘Looking Writing Reading Looking – Writers on Art from the Louisiana Collection’ (2019). More information here: https://www.artbook.com/9788793659216.html
Edited and produced by Kasper Bech Dyg
Sound recordings by Pejk Malinovski
Cover photo: Detail from ‘Self-deceit’#3, Rome, Italy 1978’ by Francesca Woodman. Courtesy of the artist
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by Nordea-fonden