With the work of artist Rosemarie Trockel, feminism will disclose on its own terms. Relative to women’s attributes, hotplates avouch for her breast, her face… household artifacts, the stoves, knives, bottles, bear testimony of her given place in the world. Not to mention domestic endeavors, like sweeping, cooking and animal petting… all that she’ll finally be ready to give up.
The woman subject isolates the function of the screen, and plays with it, maps herself in it. She wishes to be desired as well as loved for what she is not. But she finds the signifier of her own desire in the body of him to whom she addresses her demand for love. The organ that assumes this signifying function takes on the value of a fetish.
The phallus is not an object. Neither is it the organ it symbolizes. The phallus is a signifier, an empty signifier—void.
She sublimates in relation to the Thing—a void. Her art gets organized around the void. What is the void? It represents the Thing. What is the Thing – Das Ding?
With Trockell, woman’s apparel brings in the coolest of she-world things. For example, the 1987 sculpture “Ohne Titel,” the lower back half of a female body arrayed in spotted woolen tights. The artist will further give precedence to the event of knitting, which besides sweet matters displays the patterns and consumer structures that behold it.
The double sign of the all-object and the not-all-object already signing in, Trockell will elaborate on the matter throughout different perspectives. There is a huge separation as to the way the sculpture and Trockel’s work with slit screens presents itself. Sculpture being in direct relation to the object itself, the knitted picture a la manière de Lucio Fontana, or even Dürer, is instead completely removed from any semblance to an object in the world out there.
An altogether forced correspondence between the artist’s figures of transmutation and the work of sublimation in clinical structures, Trockel measures up the drama in the special looking glass. It is woman’s secret celebration — “Ohne Title,” 1995.
The mechanisms of hysteria relate to art.
Strangely enough it is in behalf of the void that the object rises to be art. Again the goal is not to find an object that corresponds to the subject’s representation at that moment, but to bring the subject to search for it. And this object will be there, even if what you search for cannot be found. The object that will never be found is the Thing – Das-Ding.
And this object slides between the images and the things, in the illusion that images correspond to things. An incessant illusion denied by the misunderstanding, the object is forever being re-born. Here the hole corresponds with what is empty – with what cannot be spoken – as Woman cannot be spoken – still she can be shown, represented.
Die Marquise Von O. (Video, 1993)
1799. Raped in her sleep by a Count, the Marquise of O finds out she is pregnant. Still she refuses to marry the Count and exiles herself in her estates. The Count joins her and, despite the dislike she feels for him, in the end she accepts to be his wife. Yet, in the aftermath—after a year of marriage—the Countess learns to love her husband.
Trockel’s Marquise d’O takes on an eggshell for her O.
You say, usurpation? Let’s say feminine imposture—a shell of desire. If she is dual, she is separated from the original tale for she is not the O word. The distance, which in the actual story divides her, is in fact only the mythical distance which divides the Marquise d’O from herself.
In the garden, close to the house a cord comes athwart trees—clothing drying in the sun, moving with the wind… Should they bethink a chain of signifiers, the connection is word by word. For goodness knows how long she’s been told a tale that she doesn’t understand.
The Marquise walks out of the door, phantoms passing through her—the prey of a lion, a bird escaping in distraught flight, deep holes, dense forests, caves—cling to her dress. A dark little dress, the hem slings against the knee, trims open where you can see the legs. Does she know what to make of the eruption of sexuality, eroticism, pornography, obscenity? Two streams of eggshells hang loose in the front and back of her skirt. Wanton, Lustful, Libidinous…Such words!
Does chastity have any meaning for her, in a heaven that deplores pleasure, in passive, solemn self-abnegation? In her heart of hearts she wishes to be a virgin-mother transported out of the world, or a prostitute turned bride?
In her hands a cup of tea, the Marquise strolls across the garden, some eggshells crush when she sits at the pavilion. She drinks her tea, crosses, uncrosses her legs—the stream of eggs going in between the legs… Cat approaches the pavilion. She looks at Cat. Cat hides. Cat comes back, looks back at her, moves its tail. Against the wall void plant pots piled up, she stands. They look at each other… Cat smells a piece of egg lying on the floor…
Marquise: Who are you? Cat: What is your name? Marquise: I heard a name, O, but I don’t know what it means. Cat: Bride of Fire. Marquise: I don’t understand. Cat: Fire; don’t you know what that is? Marquise: I’m frightened of it. Cat: Where did you see it? Marquise: When it fell from heaven with a dreadful noise amidst the rain, it burnt a tree in a flash. How would I be its bride? Cat: There is another fire, which hides you, O, it is in you. (He turns around her amorously). Marquise: How naked you are. Marquise: I could love you so wonderfully that you would die from it. I could… I could…
On the brink of death, O loses consciousness. Slowly and sadly she wakes. From the depths of her bruised body a new tremor arises everywhere in her and pervades her—penetrates the nerves, the plexus, the sacra, excites the retina and transmits impressions of light to the optical. One eggshell over her breast is broken. She looks around…she sees.
The Marquise walks back to the house; you watch the stream of eggshells hanging along her back move in compass with her steps…
Out of the Kitchen into the Fire, (Video, 1993)
A point in space dilates to exhibit the naked lower back half of a female body. Not a woman bird but a bird woman, she bends backwards, makes a moo sound, lays an egg. The egg drops to the floor, the sound of the egg against the floor is metallic. Black ink from the subsequent spill shapes up in the guise of a cross.
Where that the egg comes from? If she were a real bird she would have laid it through her only hole. But she’s not a real bird. She’s a woman-bird, or the most sophisticated creature on earth. Why so? Woman has three holes. And in this she goes further, man still and all comprising two primal functions through the same orifice.
Some day Zeus fell in love with Nemesis. She fled from him taking to the air as a wild goose. He became a swan, and trod her triumphantly to Rhamnus in Attica. Nemesis shook her feathers resignedly and came to Sparta. Leda, wife of King Tyndareus, presently found a hyacinth-coloured egg lying in a marsh. She brought it home, hid it in a chest: from it Helen of Troy was hatched.
Others say that the egg was thrown between Leda’s thighs as she sat on a stool with her legs apart: thus she gave birth to Helen.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A sudden shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
from The Tower, William B. Yeats
You wonder if Leda/Nemesis had any visionary glimpse of the result
of the rape before Zeus’ post-ejaculatory rejection.