We invite Arthur Seefahrt poet, writer and member of the IMMAs Visitor Engagement Team, to reflect on the fascinating ecology that underline Wright’s curatorial configurations of Freud, and inclusion of the envelope poems by Emily Dickinson
By Arthur Seefahrt
I am walking across my friend Susan’s porch. It is a balmy summer night in Pennsylvania. Susan’s house is nested in a densely wooded area and the nightsounds of the living forest are as thick as the air. I am thinking about Lucian Freud and Emily Dickinson; about Daphne Wright, Timothy Morton, Derrida, Heidegger, Ottoline Leyser and Johnny Cash; about how these various artists and thinkers are linked; trying to gather them into an explainable bundle, grasping across hundreds of years, thousands of miles, and a dozen different disciplines. Then it happens. I stride face first through the invisible gossamer strands of a spider’s web. I have it. “The Ethics of Scrutiny” is a web in four dimensions. A hyper-web.
Just as Morton explains the concept of a hyperobject, or Carl Sagan explains the idea of a tesseract, Daphne Wright’s curation of IMMA’s Freud Project, “The Ethics of Scrutiny”, has transcended our ability to perceive its limits. We move within the show in both time and place, and it all begins with Dickinson’s “envelope poems”.
These arcane scraps of paper ensconced between poetry, sculpture, and diary, which challenge our understanding of Dickinson and the myth culture has built of her biography, are the totems of Daphne Wright’s curatorial sensibilities employed to arrange “Ethics”. The objects themselves embody what Martin Heidegger terms the “always–already”, and Wright has deftly positioned them in the opening room of the gallery, juxtaposing them with images of plant cells and neural networks drafted by Sigmund Freud, Lucian’s grandfather.
This is the node, the centre of the invisible web which connects all the pieces in this show. Wright is hinting at us; suggesting a language that reaches across time and discipline to equip us with new tools we as viewers can employ to scrutinise the canvasses of Lucian Freud. And though the strands connecting Ottoline Leyser’s interview about plant epigenetics to John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” do not announce themselves, they ensnare us in a web of meanings, and as you walk through the gallery you can feel these links like unanticipated spider silk across the face. They are the spokes of a web leading from Dickinson’s “Gorgeous Nothings” along new avenues of meaning to the manifold ways we can see into the canvasses of Lucian Freud.
As Dickinson herself writes in poem 1383, whose UMass Amherst archival envelope facsimile is on display in the vitrine in room one of “Ethics”: “Long years apart – make no/ Breach a second cannot fill -/ The absence of the Witch does not/ Invalidate the spell-//”. And indeed, Daphne Wright has curatorially performed a strange magic, illuminating new meanings of Freud through skilful and deliberate juxtapositions against a cadre of contemporary artists and an array of thinkers throughout time and place. The show lives in time like a forest, continually in a state of contextual flux. Leaving “The Ethics of Scrutiny” you almost have to wipe the threads of these subtle connections off your face like spider silk in order to re-enter normal time.
As we reach the final days of this remarkable exhibition I have had the pleasure to spend many hours in. I would strongly recommend you come spend some time herein this place before it changes over again. I leave with you with following quote to take into the galleries before the show closes on Sunday 2 September 2018: “Place doesn’t stay still, but bends and twists: place is a twist you can’t iron out of the fabric of things.” ¾ Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology.
Further References and Resources
This blog draws on content researched and developed for the recent Gallery Talk / Emily Dickinson’s Poetry & Ecology of the Gallery by Seefahrt. For further reference you can listen back here to this tour on the IMMA Sound Cloud where you can also find a dedicated playlist on talks related to the IMMA Collection Lucian Freud Project.
Arthur Seefahrt is a poet, writer of fiction, & maker. His work has appeared in floorplan journal, Bodega, Strangeways, and in translation in Fettliebe and Word for Word. He has taught at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he received an MFA, and at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, as well as through the Brooklyn Poets NPO. He performed a multimedia reading, Bugertown USA, at Webster Hall in New York, built a boat from scratch, and restores antique books. He recently completed an M.Phil at Trinity College. Decay Studies is a multimedia installation which was hosted by the Ranelagh Arts Centre, Dublin, earlier this year.
Freud Project, The Ethics of Scrutiny, curated by Daphne Wright closes on Sunday 2 September 2018