Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rita Ackermann, Expat But Not

Rita Ackermann, We Mastered the Art of Doing Nothing, 1994

From Gean Moreno on Rita Ackermann in the July / August 2012 issue of Art Papers, regarding nuanced variations on expat artists...

A few people who have written about Ackermann have pointed out, mostly in passing or in attempting a clever turn, that she is Hungarian and works in exile. I have never understood what they mean by this. When I read this, I imagine working in one place—although not being there at all—while thinking of another. It has to do with investing energy in territory one has been banished from. I think it was Mary McCarthy who proposed that exiles are people whose entire being is spent in waiting—waiting for something to change back home, for news from family and other dissidents, for attacks from hostile quarters, for opportunities to explain things to the world. I don't see this in Ackermann. I wouldn't even call her an expat. She embodies a different condition, something closer to being a runaway. It's a different kind of subjectivity, shaped by other investments and anxieties. It has little to do with being concerned with what is happening back home and much more to do with figuring out how to make one's inevitably accented work and foreign body whittle a slot—its own slot—in the homogenous field of local expression. A field that, by the very impulse to reproduce that underscores it, is inherently hostile to anything that comes in from the outside. Ackermann's work has to do with arriving. And it concerns itself with this because it's only after arriving, and right before adaptation or acclimation begin their stultifying processes, that one can take flight again, exercising continuous displacement as a way of developing a body of heterogenous but coherent work.

No comments: