Susan's work is an investigation of a tactile territory.
The main objective was to determine my position as the subject in the art-making process and, in doing so, to find a way in which to discuss my own work more readily. My underlying assumption was that identity is formed through a visual rather than a verbal process. I realised, however, that language played an important role, especially since the metonymic and metaphoric characteristics of my art flow from language.
Lacan’s theory on the mirror phase offered me the opportunity to investigate the inseparable relationship between subjectivity and visuality. His work on the intrinsic interaction between image and language, the conscious and the unconscious, being human as a “lack of being” and the endeavour towards completion in a broken world, culminates in the construction that language originates from the moment at which the conscious makes an appearance at the end of the mirror phase and that the unconscious is structured like a language.
For Lacan the subject is not mono-dimensional, but occupies two positions, one in the imaginary, known as moi, and the other in the symbolic, known as the je. Based on this view, Lacan demonstrates that the symbols artist use should not only be understood as icons but should be seen as signifiers in which the subject comes to the fore.
What I have drawn from the theoretical part of my research is the fact that the composition of factors that determine the meeting of subjects in the viewing process are extremely complex. The core of the gaze is however that the gazing subject always experience something of the gaze. This insight not only helped me describe my work and the work of artists better, but to identify myself in my work.
Steel Wool dresses:
In the context of the Anglo-Boer War, and with my art-making process I researched the ‘self’ as a subject in history, as well as the interactions between ‘self’ in memories. The artwork is a metaphor for memories. The physical matter presented is the artwork itself. Life-size baby clothes portraying a specific time of the baby’s life. The objects are woven as if from an earlier era in history, possibly found in a museum, each with a story of its own.
Baby garments in steel wool? It creates an immediate sense of doubt and recoil. Baby clothes are supposed to be soft and snug and should remind the viewer of motherhood; not scratchy hard matter, like something that is exhumed and now disintegrating. Some of the objects create doubt and may look like display objects fit for a display cabinet. This may take the viewer back in time but then, with closer observation, they discover them to be steel wool objects. The apparently inapplicable nearly industrial, matter which is characterised through hardness and crudeness, in contrast to the softness we perceive baby clothes to represent, shows an intrinsic value in conceptual conflict that indicates the contrasting concepts of use and misuse, protection and exposure; tactile and unassailable, power and powerless. The objects speak of the fragility and vulnerability of the human race. This strange gaze which develops between viewer and object re-occurs time after time.