[RESEARCH] Mary Kelly – The Generali Foundation
01 August 2016
[U] Mary Kelly’s “Post-Partum Document” is a seminal work of the seventies in which the mother-child motif is addressed in a completely new way.
[U] Kelly’s innovative approach to the representation of feminine sexuality once again generates interest today.
[U] The work itself consists of a total of 139 individual parts and has been exhibited in edited versions on numerous occasions.
[U] The show at the Generali Foundation, however, was the first in the German speaking world.
[U] Since the various sections have been borrowed from six eminent collections on three different continents, the exhibition at the Generali Foundation provides the first opportunity in nearly twenty years to view “Post-Partum-Document” in its entirety.
[U] In “Post-Partum-Document,” Kelly uses the conceptualist process of documentation to introduce an interrogation of subject.
[U] The “Introduction” and the six following sections deal with the relationship of the working mother with her male child.
[U] Issues relating to the emergence of gender difference and the controversial topic of female fetishism are central to the work.
[U] Psychoanalysis, in particular its linguistic reformulation by Jacques Lacan, presents an important reference for this work.
[U] The discussion of these insights in consciousness raising groups as well as the collective activism of the women’s movement in London in the seventies forms the practical backdrop.
[U] In the “Introduction,” Kelly also presents the work’s main motif – intersubjectivity – which she has drawn on four baby vests, using one of Lacan’s early diagrams.
[U] The subsequent sections document the development of the child up to age five and analyze the reciprocity of the process of socialization of mother and child.
[U] The vests, dirty diapers, traces of markings and writing, hand imprints, and insect specimens stand for the mother’s memorabilia and how she makes sense of separation from the child.
[U] The artist has added diary-like notes and quasi-scientific data to these private objects so that subjective references are juxtaposed with the more distanced or theoretical approaches represented by the diagrams.
[U] In her critical engagement with psychoanalysis and feminism as well as her provocative stance vis-a-vis conceptualism, Mary Kelly has succeeded in creating a multi-faceted artwork documenting one of modernism’s central and most symptomatic blind spots: the woman as artist and mother.
[U] Her seven-year process of reflection and visualization has meanwhile assumed a unique place within art history.
[U] This exhibition was complemented by archival material that illustrates Mary Kelly’s role in the formation of a (feminist) art movement in the seventies and the creation and reception of “Post-Partum Document.”
[U] Further works that are closely related to the Document, such as the photo series “Primapara” (1974), the video “Antepartum” (1973), and the film “Nightcleaners” (1975) were also shown in the exhibition.
[U] Kelly (born 1941, U.S.A.) lived in London between 1968 and the early eighties, then in New York City until 1996, and is presently Professor and Chair of the Art Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.
[U] Kelly has always been active in several fields at the same time, as theoretician with a special interest in psychoanalysis and feminism, as an educator, curator, and artist.