Self obsession is the mandate that we all seem to receive when connecting to the Internet or browsing in the market. Contemporary art, however, finds it difficult to reflect on this because it is mainly constructed either as entertainment (for the poor) or as a commodity (for the affluent).
Thus, when the Freud Museum invited artist Mark Wallinger to create two pieces for the 160th anniversary of Freud’s birth he came up with two ideas that belong more to realm of advertising than art. One is permanent: in the back garden of the Freud Museum is a large, black, steel letter ‘I’ on a plinth. The other is the temporary installation ‘Self Reflection’. Wallinger has put a mirror across the whole ceiling of Freud’s study and consulting room. It doubles the height of the room, and reflects back Freud’s ethnographic knick-knacks and his famous couch. But what about the self?
If the ‘I’ is reduced to a letter why not reflect on its sound which refers to another word as important or more from the point of view of art. Of course, I am taking about the word ‘eye’. The sculpture conceptually succeeds in its roundness and self containment. It is metaphorically and literally self centred but that’s it. Regarding the installation, if we are not able to lie in the coach, we cannot see our selves. Instead of encouraging further reflection on the idea of self, both works block it by using Freud’s house as an excuse and not as a theme. Last but not least, what about art and the self. Is a plinth enough as index of art? Why are contemporary art turning their back to the debates that made it relevant fifty years ago? Where is the place of the viewer/visitor in this next cultural context? How does our self obsession relate to Freud’s legacy? Nothing of this is explored by Wallinger. A real bore. J A T