What Is the Shape of this Problem?

    • Presentation speakers
      • Ana Lucia Beck, King’s College London, UK / Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil


    “What is the shape of this problem” is a verbal questioning present in the opening page of a series of 9 letterpress diptychs, which conjugate images and text, elaborated by Louise Bourgeois (France/EUA, 1911-2010). The question addresses two important issues regarding identity and identification within artistic production. On the one hand, it suggests a questioning about the identity of verbal and visual discourses in Art. But, on the other, it addresses Bourgeois’ reflection on her own creative process and its entanglement with her personal history. Like Brazilian artist Jose Leonilson (1957-1993), whose oeuvre also closely relates its contents and compositional efforts to personal and emotional history, Bourgeois’ questioning about the shape of her creative process recalls Webb’s perspective on W.B. Yeats’ poetry. According to Webb (2000), the poet’s oeuvre has to be considered taking into account the distinctive notions of “self-expression” and “poetic identity”. But, if self-expression and poetic identity are different matters, how do artists whose productions have close bonds with their own history, emotions and feelings proceed in order to reach poetic identity? Furthermore, taking into consideration Octavio Paz’s (2012) distinction between “poetic operation” and “technical manipulation”, how could these terms relate to Webb’s distinction and be taken into account comparatively in an analysis of Leonilson’s and Bourgeois’ production? Do these terms help or complicate the task of understanding these artists’ rhetoric in relation to their creative procedures? How do Leonilson and Bourgeois relate to stone, paper, words, colours, cloths of fabrics, drawing and stitching, taking actions that address their personal history and yet configure poetic operations and poetic identity? And is it possible to think that when an artist’s interrogation about the shape of such problems might also present us with something valuable for each one of us to ask ourselves about our own identities?