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O Magazine


This series expects to create a new dialogue with the life and work of great artists from the past. We want to update them and their imaginary through the re-creation of made up profiles in different social networks. For this reason, we use a direct language style and the many instances of micro-stories that have arisen in the context of the web 2.0. This section also tries to reflect on the way in which their works relate to current times and also the way in which users play with them and attach new meanings to them.

Francesca Woodman:

disorderly interior geometries

by Déborah García



I finally managed to try to do away with myself, as neatly and concisely as possible…. I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, some work, my friendship with you, and some other artifacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all of these delicate things.

A destroyed body appeared at the New York morgue on the 19th of January 1981. The body belonged to an unidentified young woman. According to witnesses, she had jumped from a building that morning and due to the impact when hitting the ground her face had been destroyed. The body lying on the morgue with the shattered face was Francesca Woodman’s; after several depressive episodes she had decided to jump, like Yves Klein did, and also like Helena Almeida did too when she wanted to fly, but without the tricks, without the performance element.

It’s quite ironic and tragic that one of the female photographers who exposed herself the most to the camera during the 20th century was always a bit suspicious about doing so. In the documentary The Woodmans, by Scott Willis, several people talk about her desire to not show her face. I remember that in her series of photographs and in many of her self-portraits, dozens, she appears hiding her face. I wonder, Francesca, if hiding your face from death, not giving it to her, was another veil in your life and your work? She undressed in front of the camera and exposed herself in any possible way, but always kept a halo of mystery that seemed to protect her.

I decided to use Tumblr with Francesca’s work because of its quality as virtual museum, its power of projection as a display for visual artists and for its undeniable exhibitionist tone. All these questions fitted in perfectly with superficial spirit; and with superficial I mean “what is perceived at first sight” in Woodman’s work. In this sense and after my experiences with previous guests to the artists in the web 2.0 section, she’s the one who’s worked the best before publishing the articles. Francesca Woodman and her photographs, but also the mythical legend created around her life, are very valued by Tumblr people. I’ve been reblogged a great deal, and the account I created before the summer to circulate her work has lots of followers. I decided to talk to a girl who gave me feedback each time I updated a photograph. She didn’t know who Francesca was but loved her images: “The sexual tone and how liberated she seems. Exposing yourself like that is scary.” This girl didn’t know the time these photographs were taken or the fact that their author had committed suicide in the eighties; she thought they were by a contemporary artist. At first I thought she lacked the sensibility to appreciate the snaps, but then I realised I was despising her point of view, probably purer and less biased than mine by all those unnecessary details you can disregard in order to just look.

Her work and the debate it can generate are thus timely. This is what I sensed by talking to some unknown people: almost all of them insisted in the strength and power of the gesture of her action, her images, for the feminist movement. Many have written about the importance of Francesca Woodman’s work for feminism. Her [the] body takes a central place in her works, as subject and object, a question that helps her work to be nurtured by the discourses around these questions, with the consequent updating and revisitation of her ideology. I thought about Francesca using Tumblr as any artist from our times who finds in the Internet an infinite space in which to place each one of her photographs. The artist’s character, her necessity to “act,” without acting meaning to necessarily hide behind a mask, but to reveal herself, to show herself naked, turned her into an almost obvious decision. This, linked to her death, her letters and diaries, made me think she should be exploited in Tumblr, because she would have exploited Tumblr.

THIS ACTION THAT I FORESEE has nothing to do with melodrama. It is that life as lived by me now is a series of exceptions… I was (am?) not unique but special. This is why I was an artist…

I’ve been selecting her images, and the quotes from her diary, to give it all an everyday life tone. In the design chosen for the Tumblr account I wanted to respect the photographs, placing them in a grid for each of them to be able to breathe and to be complemented by the previous and/or the next ones. I absolutely venerate her black and white. Sprinkling Tumblr with her own thoughts, anguish and eagerness made me feel that Francesca was my second skin for a few hours.

Am I in the picture? Am I getting in or out of it? I could be a ghost, an animal or a dead body, not just this girl standing on the corner…?

Many have defined Francesca as an actress. I prefer to think of her as another shape, as an empty body. As a geometry that interacted with landscape, no matter which one it was. As a dialoguing shape. As a shape that destroys. As a shape that sometimes emerges above other objects. All this makes me think of her incredible instinct in the act of revealing her body by dressing and undressing it, by damaging it and making it escape. A fact that turns her and her work into something alive able to generate the same debates than any visual artist still alive. But the importance of Francesca’s work doesn’t only come from this fact. The spectator, whoever s/he is, is faced by the work of an artist who presented herself as object but also as subject. Much has been talked about in this sense of the premonitory character of Francesca’s snaps, of that supposed desire to escape life, the body, image, but what photograph isn’t trying to do that? I don’t see it that way, or at least I can’t interpret it from that point of view only. In the work of Francesca Woodman there’s a very intelligent mise-en-scène, an almost obsessive care for lines, for mathematics, architecture and, above all, for proportion. That’s why anyone uploading her work on Tumblr isn’t Francesca Woodman.

These things arrived from my grandmother’s they make me think about where I fit in this odd geometry of time. This mirror is a sort of rectangle although they say mirrors are just water specified

Finally, I would like to focus on the one that’s without a doubt my favourite photograph, Untitled, because it expresses what I like the most about Francesca. It reminds me of the crucifixion by Van Der Weyden but it’s very different in substance. As if with her photograph, Francesca had desecrated something sacred, not the crucifixion that she elevates by placing it in everyday life, inside a home. What she desecrates is art itself, taking crucifixion as a chroma, as a topos from which to build. And hence the importance of what I mentioned earlier, the body as another object, the body in this case as a secondary thing, in this image, where the relationship between each element of the image and the geometric relationships established between them are what create harmony. If we look at the image in detail, we can see how it can be decomposed in rectangles. It’s strange and harmonious. Everything in Francesca’s work seems to have a second skin. In almost all representations of the crucifixion, at the feet of the cross we have the Marys or Joseph of Arimathea, all witnesses. Here the only witnesses are objects: chair, door, sheet. The mute object, witness turned subject, there’s something of a mundane hierophany in all her works, in that desire of exposing herself to the walls and the floors and in wanting to fuse with them and becoming their equal. Francesca also deletes the skulls and death, since all in her work is a memento mori.