Violent Tent, 2010
My work is based around an essay focusing on the subject of domestic violence by Helen Crabtree, a postgraduate student here at UCLAN, whose essay was included in UCLAN’s undergraduate research journal Diffusion (‘Love turned angry’: an exploration of domestic violence from an object relations perspective, Vol. 1, March 2009). In this essay, she discusses why women stay in abusive relationships, and the two egos that both people in a violent relationship possess. The Libidinal ego is the “hopeful” self, an ego that pursues exciting objects of desire; the opposite ego is the Anti-Libidinal ego, which is the “abused” self, and can either defend/attack/reform against a rejecting object. Both the abuser and the abused possess these egos, with one always suppressing the power with the opposite effects. The abuser is dominated by the Anti-Libidinal and suppresses their hopeful self by seeing his partner as the rejecting object; the abused is dominated by their Libidinal ego and sees their partner as an exciting object of their desire which suppresses their abused ego. This theory of possessing elements of one in the other makes a lot of sense to me as I believe no one person is truly good or evil, and it helps me to understand why this cycle is bound to repeat itself.
Using this theory of egos, I have used paper tents of my own design to show how these opposites combine in a single piece. I used tents as the chosen piece because tents are an object that protects a person from exterior elements, that acts as a place to keep something hidden, whilst at the same time being quite fragile and flimsy itself. It’s a vulnerable home that still maintains a clear inside, outside effect.
The paper element derived from the fact that it isn’t solid, like a tent shouldn’t be, but can be manipulated into a strong structure. Most importantly, it is diverse in its opportunities and potential to create new shapes.
After developing my ideas through different sizes, types of papers and cladding, I have devised these tents that now show the hopeful ego and the abused ego opposite one another in pairs, hanging by cotton thread. The hopeful ego is represented by bright colours, light and soft materials, and the abused ego is represented by dark colours and sharp, hazardous objects.
The artists I have focused on in my research are predominantly paper artists, such as Su Blackwell and Peter Callesen, because it’s such an important element of my piece. These artists use paper in such intricate and unusual ways that I’m impressed by the amount of detail they are able to employ, and this is useful in reminding me of the many opportunities that working with paper can provide. Collaborative artists Martin Postler and Ian Ferguson work with the same theme of paper and violence, making paper guns and grenades combining dangerous objects with the fragility of paper. Craig, however, suggested hanging my pieces to present them, but this idea was also influenced by the artist Paul Hayes, who displays his work by having hundreds of the same object suspended in the air.
The effect of opposites in the piece is clear to see, however, I feel this could be developed further by making it feel more violent, and the contrast between hope and violence could be enhanced. I also plan to experiment with size, with both large and small tents, to see how it affects the feel of the piece. I’m quite pleased with the success of hanging the tents, although sceptical of how this would be effective on a larger scale. It would be quite overwhelming in a space where people had to move amongst them, getting close to people without touching them.