Autumn Art Lecture 2018: Monsters
When the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was finally 'discovered' in the 1970s, her art was framed within a universalizing feminist discourse that lamented a woman's plight in generic terms. This talk proposes that Bourgeois later regained specificity and control around her art's reception by narrating her autobiography as a classic Gothic tale (a young female innocent, trapped in an ancient family home, haunted by a cruel and monstrous patriarch), a literary genre, then being re-appraised as an early instance of feminist resistance.
Dr Gilda Williams is Senior Lecturer on the MFA Curating programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of The Gothic (MIT, Whitechapel). She is a London correspondent for Artforum and author of How to Write about Contemporary Art (Thames&Hudson).
Inspired by the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, this year’s Autumn Art Lectures explore the ubiquity of monsters in culture as a prevalent part of our self-consciousness and social identity.
Opening with a reassessment of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson (whose acclaimed biography In Search of Mary Shelley was published earlier this year) we revisit Shelley’s archetype in relation to other monsters from various periods and contexts, asking why Frankenstein’s monster has both fascinated and repelled us since the first publication of Frankenstein, the modern Prometheus in 1818.
The series then moves to a medieval context with Alixe Bovey attributing the origins of modern Britain to savage giants - myths that have not wholly disappeared from our culture. An international approach will be taken by Ronald Hutton, whose discussion of dragons will demonstrate their moral, as well as geographic, diversity. Whilst Gilda Williams takes us into the 21st century, addressing issues of gender and the modern Gothic through the art of Louise Bourgeois. Finally, we complete the series with Xavier Bray examining the supernatural and eerie in the art of Goya (including the so-called Black Paintings) demonstrating the potentially beneficial function of the monstrous.