The Sculpture Court
Artists Rooms / Tate / Edinburgh College of Art (April 2014)
Catalogue text written by Matthias Pfaller, Art Historian
The hexagonal cell is a veritable condensation of human emotion and complexity. The darkness provides enough room to immerse in the profundity of personal fates that the artist gathered anonymously over a period of time. Implemented in the wall, the confessions constitute the space and render the physical cell into a metaphorical (sub)consciousness. The spectator becomes a confidant and participant, thinking about what he might confess and if they may even match the ones on the screens. The concept relies on fairly recent artistic practices but also culturally evolved customs. Especially the Sacrament of Penance in Catholicism, attesting to the basic need of people to commit to others in search of relief. Nowadays, the media have become the venue for confessions of politicians and tabloid celebrities, exploiting the mass’s insatiable curiosity. In art, Frankie Burr refers to Tracy Emin, Douglas Gordon, Gillian Wearing and of course Louise Bourgeois who all deal with the confession as a very fundamental human practice which, at the same time, is highly individual / personal and needs to be shared. In creating this bond of cognisance, then, the question arises if people can be judged by other people at all, given the mutuality of confessing, the pervasiveness of failure, and particularly the diverging moral standards in different societies and the frequent incongruity of morals and feelings. Entering the “confessional” demands the willingness to open oneself to the lives of others and realise the attachment of our own lives to theirs. On exiting, we obtain absolution for ourselves and the confessors in recognising that absolution is not given but felt, not a trial but compassion.
The permeable cell made of wooden and metal struts partly wrapped in spun wool, invite the viewer to walk into the structure and to actively ‘perform’ the work by stepping onto the eggshells that lie within. Some of the blown eggs have words written on them, seemingly concretising (via contextualising) the act of breaking the shell and the word yet transferring the concrete to the realm of the symbolic, i.e. the linguistic. The work then becomes eerily unsteady in sustaining the structure of language, its truth-value and cultural evolution. The breaking of the eggshells incites and visually expresses the reflection about the utterance of a confession itself, the cracking of the façade previously held up and revealing the difficulty to put into words what refuses to be said in the first place. With the confession done and the shells broken, something inside the confessor breaks, too: inhibitions from keeping the secret, the frontiers to our fellow human beings, the personality one thought one would have liked or dreaded to have. The confession changes our mental location, almost becoming a new point of departure but to experience this, we must first dare to betake ourselves to the sensitive area where are certain to feel the rupture.
Copyright Frankie Burr 2014 © All Rights Reserved