Making work occasionally involves repetitive actions requiring little more than muscle memory. This allows the mind to wander and thoughts to shuffle around. Today’s shuffling thoughts have revolved around presentation of work and in particular to suspending work. This method of presentation was much used by both Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder.
Calder’s mobiles rely on careful weighting to ensure the perfect equilibrium of thmany e elements. The hanging mechanisms tend towards the decorative and are integral to the whole. The often intricate composition of his hanging pieces attest to Calder’s background training as a mechanical engineer.
The origins of Louise Bourgeois’ hanging pieces is quite different. Bourgeois herself refers to her father’s collection of fine furniture as the origin of her suspended works.
He hung a selection of armchairs in the attic. You would look up and see these armchairs hanging in very good order. The floor was bare. It was very impressive. This is the origin of a lot of hanging pieces
(Label, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2019)
In 1996 Bourgeois wrote in her diary
I am hanging on to my mother
You are hanging on the ceiling
She is hanging on
(quoted Pincus-Witten : 2014)
Bourgeois’ habit of hanging work from a single point brings to mind a spider’s dragline silk. There is something uncomfortable about interacting with a sculpture held aloft and perhaps viewers are unconsciously reminded of suicides and murders by hanging.
Displaying work by hanging enables the viewer to experience the pieces in the round. Commenting on Louise Bourgeois’ suspended works, Pincus-Witten writes of the ‘guileless unapologetic simplicity of their presentation’. The simple presentation does not come between the viewer and the works, nor does it signal importance or separateness in the way that plinths or frames do.
Pincus-Witten R (2014) Louise Bourgeois Suspension Skira : Milan