subota, 25. kolovoza 2012.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002) - Egzorcizam puškom

Film Still

Poznata po skulpturama golemih žena (boginja - Nanas), slikama koje je radila ispaljivanjem boje iz puške i tarot-vrtu (žensko-poganskoj verziji Gaudija), također je koautor (s Peterom Whiteheadom) nadrealno-gotičkog filma Daddy. Riječ je o fantaziji žene koja želi egzorcirati utjecaj svojeg seksualno nasrtljivog oca. Pucanje u tatu, u muškarce, u svijet.


Daddy (1973)

DADDY 1973 Niki De Saint Phalle GERMAN POSTER

Despite my general disdain of virtually any and everything relating to feminism, sexual ‘liberation’, and gender politics, every once in a while I find myself exceedingly – if mostly unintentionally – amused by pretentious works of art of this thoroughly deplorable persuasion. Most recently, I had the distinct (dis)pleasure of viewing the man-hating quasi-Freudian film Daddy (1973) directed by Franco-American feminist sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle and British documentarian Peter Whitehead (Charlie is My Darling, Benefit of the Doubt); a work of degenerate-art-gone-awry yet somehow done somewhat accidentally right, but for all the wrong reasons. Although co-directed by Whitehead – a filmmaker best known for documenting the London and NYC counterculture scenes of the late 1960 and creating proto-music-videos for groups like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones – Daddy is essentially an embarrassingly intimate and incestuous, as well as contemptuous and sadomasochistic (un)love letter to Saint Phalle’s unfortunate father. Whitehead originally intended to create a documentary about Phalle and her artistic works, but this idea later dissolved into what is one of the most glaringly grandiloquent and inadvertently ludicrous films ever made. Best known for her mostly aesthetically displeasing sculptures (including a horrid blob-like Golem statue located in Kiryat Hayovel, Israel) and paintings, Daddy features many of Niki de Saint Phalle’s childlike artistic creations in various forms, which do a splendid job accentuating the would-be-audacious auteur essence of her discombobulated mind and schizophrenic Electra complex. From the very beginning of Daddy, it is most apparent that Saint Phalle both adores and abhors her dear dad and his pesky philandering phallus. As a daughter of a French banker, Saint Phalle created a rare work that expresses the downright petty personal problems of a spoiled bourgeois debutante whose starvation for attention is played out in such an absurdly hyperbolic and hysterical manner that one would think assume she survived a famine; or at least an overextended third world mass gang raping. In short, Daddy is a patently pathetic and erratic exposition of what it means to have never struggled in one’s life and the rare neurosis such a lavish yet unnatural la-di-da upbringing sows. 

 Featuring giant cocks in coffins, buckets of blood and naked voluptuous beauties on altars, and elderly pseudo-aristocrats in pancake makeup and drag, Daddy is a decadent daydream for the more debauched members of the blasé bourgeois. Of course, if one can look past the putrid pettiness of Saint Phalle’s next-to-nonexistent personal problems, Daddy makes for an engaging and curiously worthwhile cinematic effort. Divided into chapters by Phalle’s toddler-esque color drawings, Daddy feels like a Victorian Gothic kitsch piece directed by posh preschoolers, except ridden with mostly distasteful fetishistic sex scenarios that would probably only interest demoralized bluebloods and novice swingers.  In fact, I would argue that Daddy is like an Alberto Cavallone (Zelda, Blow Job) film had the Italian director taken himself too seriously, and lost his technique and sense of humor, but I guess that is what one would should expect from an ostensibly discordant collaboration between a feminist erotomaniac and an uninspired hippie documentary filmmaker. Lacking any true daughterly affections for her cold, collected, and cunning father, Saint Phalle channeled these eternally desired but never consummated suppressed emotions into an unhealthy and pathological sexual form, thus enabling her to identify with the unloving fornicator and misogynist whose semen she was spawned from on some level; no matter how utterly base, socially taboo, and exceedingly revolting. To appease the bestial appetite of the man whose attention she hopelessly sought, the woman even offers her dandy-like daddy a virginal vixen in between sexually degrading him in a variety of perversely infantile and unequivocally vulgar ways. Needless to say, Daddy is the sort film Sigmund Freud would have lauded as it plays out like one of his fantasy-inspired theories; or would have at least provided him with a masturbation aid. Narrated in an incautiously contrived and ridiculously wooden manner and performed by a cast of incompetent non-actors, Daddy is a work that even Camille Paglia couldn’t have sit through without smirking snidely, yet these flagrant flaws also act as some of the film's greatest and most idiosyncratic attributes. 

 Although Saint Phalle attempted to reject the conservative values of her family, even causing her kinfolk to decry and shun her art in the process, she inevitably ended up marrying and becoming a mother at a relatively young age, thus turning into her own worst enemy and eventually suffering from a nervous breakdown of sorts. After watching Daddy, I was not the least bit surprised to learn of Saint Phalle’s seemingly hypocritical destiny as her love-hate relationship with her family – most specifically her father – seems so deeply enrooted in her being and artistic creations as expressed so vividly in Daddy that deracinating herself from it could have only resulted in a much more extreme and detrimental psychological break. Whatever I may think of the quality and beauty (or lack thereof) of her art, I do believe that Daddy is a true and genuine artistic expression of the artiste, even if created by a somewhat soulless woman (or an emotional retard if you will) who was probably given more pet ponies than hugs as a child. If there is a film that boldly yet disastrously expresses the stereotype that feminists are often inspired to adopt their ideology due to having weak and decidedly detached fathers, it is incontestably Daddy. -

 Niki de Saint Phalle has always struck me as a sort of thinking French person's Beryl Cook, with her big, bulbous, brightly painted women - figures she called Nanas. Or perhaps it's just that my image of her has been shaped by visits to the Pompidou Centre, which not only houses the jolly Stravinsky Fountain she created with her husband Jean Tinguely, but a shop full of inflatable Nanas. And now the shop at Tate Liverpool, which this week opens a De Saint Phalle retrospective, is full of them, too. Her accessibility seemed to have removed her from the world of serious art by the time of her death, at 71, in 2002 - without making her famous at all outside France. That was what I thought - but I'd forgotten about Daddy.

I'd even forgotten the letter she once sent me, declaring that this 1973 film was her attempt to deal with her memories of an abusive father, and not, as some have claimed, the creepy fantasy of her collaborator, director Peter Whitehead. In Daddy, a bizarre pastiche of late Visconti, a badly made-up aristocrat plays "games" with his daughter, "Niki"; the camera broods on the fine house and landscape, and the little girl's stripy stockings. Even in the context of avant-garde film making, it contains some extremely disturbing scenes.
De Saint Phalle, as this film reveals, came from an aristocratic French background, although she grew up in New York. She started making art after a nervous breakdown in her early 20s, and throughout her long career was always in some sense an "outsider artist", bringing a naive, spiky sensibility into a sophisticated art world.
Daddy starts to explain the broken toys and bridal dresses that haunt her rich, baroque art. It doesn't leave you with any illusion that she is a cosy artist. Throughout the show, danger looms. "Grotesque vitality" was the phrase I found myself mumbling.
It begins, this terrible energy, after some dull early works, when she starts throwing darts at a portrait of her lover to create her work Saint Sebastian. Then she buys a gun. In the early 1960s, she began loading boards of wood with plastic bags full of paint. She put on her special shooting suit and blasted away at them, inviting friends such as Robert Rauschenberg to take potshots.
She called the works made with a gun "Target" paintings, drawing an explicit parallel with her friend Jasper Johns' Targets. The thing is, the paintings that resulted from what sound like hugely enjoyable happenings endure as works of art long after the creative fun has ended. You intuit something of the casualness, energy and pleasure. And among the pockets of exploded paint, De Saint Phalle's demons start to materialise, demons that loom larger and larger in the show, climaxing with a statue of the devil himself.
It's tempting to say that, after the Target paintings, De Saint Phalle never did anything first-rate again. The reason may have been French nationalism. Early on, she was quite transatlantic. One of the paintings here was shot at, for example, by a hired marksman during a famous performance at the American embassy in Paris, when she shared the stage with Rauschenberg and Johns. Yet this very event led to her being asked to join the New Realists, an aggressively French alternative to American Pop. It was, frankly, the wrong time to choose to be a French artist, in the dying days of the modern world's first avant garde. Her late work has something of the end of surrealism, of Left Bank occultist byways. Even her Nanas are not just excessive women, but are literally meant as "goddesses".
And this is where my scepticism stops. Yes, New Realism is a poor cousin of Pop, and French art by 1970 was not what it had been in 1907. But what a character this artist is - how wayward and engaging. In the end, even the Nanas seem not cosy, but immense and formidable. You see how serious she was about the goddess-power of these colossal women, born of Picasso's Bathers and Rubens' goddesses, whose most spectacular version she created at Stockholm's Moderna Museet in 1966, on a scale that filled the museum. It would work in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, though it has a detail unlike anything there to date - a door between her legs.
This exhibition reveals Niki de Saint Phalle to be one of the most provocative and - I've chosen the word carefully - demonic European artists of the past 50 years. It turns out, too, that she was creative to the end.
In the 1970s, after seeing Gaudí's Park Güell in Barcelona, she dreamed up a sculpture garden based on the tarot pack. An Italian patron offered her land, and she completed her Tarot Garden in Garavicchio, Tuscany, four years before her death. The drawings for it at Tate Liverpool made me want to see this weird place, to sit at the table that represents the card called The Empress, to stand at the foot of her tottering Tower.
The garden works because the tarot pack is one of Europe's most seductive arcana. The oldest surviving tarot cards were made for the 15th-century Dukes of Milan: they are hand-painted Renaissance masterpieces. Yet De Saint Phalle based her garden on the coarser, more popular French deck: unlike the medieval packs, which had their most ill-omened images superstitiously removed, it features the ultimate arcanum, the wildest card of all: Le Diable.
De Saint Phalle's Devil stands in Tate Liverpool in lurid triumph, nude and winged and nearly lifesize (in the Tarot Garden itself he is colossal). He is flanked by two servile demons, in a sculpture that precisely re-creates the design of the Devil card from the 18th-century Marseilles pack.
I'm surprised no one has yet published a thriller called The Saint Phalle Code: unlike the art of Da Vinci, whose occult references exist only in the minds of beholders, her Tarot Garden is laden with occult significance.
Most strikingly, the tarot features powerful images of women: the Popess, the Empress, Temperance. There's a sculpture of Temperance in this show, joyously bulbous; the medieval symbol of moderation has become a Nana.
It can still be efficacious, her half-forgotten black magic - dredged as it is from the ashes of surrealism. What makes European art European is its heritage of myth. On this continent, everything's an old story. European art comes back always to the ancient gods and devils - the bulls of Lascaux haunt Picasso's Minotaur, and Stonehenge shadows Josef Beuys' Tramstop. With her ghostly white brides, one of whom rides a phantom horse made of bric- a-brac like something out of a scary rustic festival, De Saint Phalle kept delving deep into the European psyche. What makes her art live is the darkness she found there: The Hanged Man, the Devil - and Daddy. - Jonathan Jones
Niki de Saint Phalle during her first shooting action in the United States

The Spice Girls may have coined the term "girl power", but Franco-American painter-sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle was practising it long before they were born.
Saint Phalle's version, "Nana Power", takes its name from the French word nana, meaning "chick". It's the title of a show-stopping image of the artist in which she points a gun at the camera, playing to the public's perception of her as a woman who muscled her way into a male-dominated art world.
Nana Power (1970) kicks off a major retrospective of Saint Phalle's work at Tate Liverpool. The first UK exhibition of the artist's work since her death in 2002, it is a glorious revelation. Saint Phalle is often dismissed as "playful", despite her collaborations with many of the art world's leading figures such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg and a vast legacy of works exhibited in some of the world's most high-profile institutions.
Yet, as the vibrant examples selected from each of the different phases of her career attest, Saint Phalle could also be boldly provocative.
Like the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Saint Phalle was self-taught. This is apparent from the childlike quality of her early works - the free-flowing lines of the chaotically colourful La Fête (c1953-55) and the freedom from concern for perspective or proportional relationships.
Also in common with Kahlo, Saint Phalle poured a rage against injustice into her work. How could anyone not feel the anger of La Mort du patriarche (1962/72), the accusatory collage of tanks, toy soldiers and planes that the artist began during the last year of Algeria's desperate fight for independence against the occupying French?
It has been argued that part of what makes the work of Kahlo and Tracey Emin so intriguing is that it is shockingly autobiographical. Saint Phalle also endured her fair share of traumas, which she exorcised through her work. Abused by her aristocratic French father, she suffered a nervous breakdown in 1953, which she attempted to alleviate by making art.
Her work begins innocently enough with pieces such as the aforementioned La Fête, but it develops into stomach-turning collages of dolls' limbs, glass eyes and razor blades in the appropriately named Paysage de la mort (1960). Later in life, Saint Phalle tackled the abuse she suffered head-on in the disturbing film Daddy (1973). But the exuberant nature of many of the works on display in this exhibition suggests that the lows of the artist's life were balanced by wonderful highs.
Saint Phalle exploded onto the international art scene in 1961 with her Tirs (Shooting Paintings). The artist secreted plastic bags filled with paint behind paintings, and sculptures; the bags burst when the works were shot by a gun held by Saint Phalle or other participants. The first "shooting" took place in the artist's studio in Paris. Among others watching the event was Pierre Restany, founder of the Nouveaux Réalistes. On the strength of the four works created, Restany invited Saint Phalle to join them.
The most interesting Tir on display is Hommage to Bob Rauschenberg (Shot by Rauschenberg, 1961). An assemblage was created by Saint Phalle to resemble a Rauschenberg piece, then the artist himself was invited to "destroy" his "own" work and "begin" another by shooting it, causing the pockets of dark paint to explode.
The Tirs caused a sensation and established Saint Phalle as part of the avant-garde. The artist whose beautiful face had graced the covers of Vogue and Life magazine in her former career as a model, revelled in her new-found success. She had a white jumpsuit made for her performances, which she wore paired with trademark black boots.
As the 1960s progressed, Saint Phalle's attention became increasingly focused on the female figure. A room is devoted to the archetypal stereotype of the woman as bride, which Saint Phalle explored time and again, and to her Nanas - the giant, sometimes tumbling, figurative sculptures which are perhaps her best-loved works. Inspired by the pregnancy of Saint Phalle's friend Clarice Rivers, the voluptuous creations have become synonymous with fertility and maternity.
The most intriguing Nana is Venus (1964). It's not as large or as bold as others, but its "wormy" face, made of coiled wool, and the motifs of grapes, roses and horses which the artist has woven into its wire-mesh body (themes repeated throughout Saint Phalle's work), are strangely compelling.
Some of Saint Phalle's late works feel purely decorative, lacking the disquieting power of her earlier paintings and sculptures - but to write off the artist as simply "playful" is unfair. It's about time Saint Phalle was given her due by art history and recognised as the daring groundbreaker she was. - Jane Neal

The Political Universe in the Art of Niki de Saint Phalle

by Ulrich Kempel

War Without Victims: The Shooting Paintings

"In 1961 I shot at. daddy, all men, small men, large men, important men, fat men, men, my brother, society, the Church, the convent, the school, my family, my mother, all men, daddy, myself, men. I shot because it was fun and gave me a great feeling. I shot because I was fascinated to see the painting bleed and die. I shot for the sake ot this magical moment. It was a moment of scorpion-like truth. White purity. Victim. Ready! Take aim! Fire! Red, yellow, blue, the painting weeps, the painting is dead. I have killed the painting. It has been reborn. War without victims." (NdSP, in. Munich 1987, p. 52)
The early 1960s were years of upheaval, a breakaway into a wild utopia full of hope, with the possibility of a completely different and full life. In order to be able to find the new, the young art and the young generation generally had to free itself from a certain pressure of the old. The last great war was still not really history, wars in Asia and Africa were already distorting the field of view of the new generation. In art, the terror of the atom bomb and the knowledge of Auschwitz had been followed by the path into introspection. At the beginning of the decade, the domination of the abstract was still unbroken; beautiful, groomed and cultural peinture was the mark of the successful artistic world. This world of paintings contrasted the pure, the contemplative and cultivated introspection against the age, against the memory of mass destruction. Art withdrew from the world, from politics, from daily external reality. It was against this that young art rebelled.
Alongside all the personal and biographical reasons for the outbreak of artistic aggression in the young painter, it was also the mood of the age the political narrow-mindedness of America, the end of the colonial age in Europe, the wave of refusal of the old introspection in art and literature - that contributed to determining Niki de Saint Phalle's new voice and presence. France was still at war in Algeria when the first shooting pictures - the TIRS - were created in the Impasse Ronsin in Paris. Here, pictures were shot at publicly, in the heart of Paris. With such actions in public, with the presentation of - symbolic - violence, the general taboo of silence surrounding violence was broken. Precisely because she exercised violence publicly, turning violence against people and art into the topic of her art, the artist rapidly rocketed to fame thanks to the excessive reactions of the press and the media, and became known amongst the general public for her activities.
Much may have contributed to this: the striking eroticism of the slender female figure, the self-assuredness of the poses, the calculated aggression of the shooting process, the playing with a very different and new female role. At last a woman was visibly resisting everything that formed part of the male dominance and aggression, of male authority and exclusion of women, that had given the century two world wars. And this artist combined her offensive feminist presence with a clear insistence on her femininity. Niki de Saint Phalle's presence mixed relaxation and brutal rejection, echoes of the traditional role of the beautiful and available woman and her refusal, but with a weapon in her hand. At this time, the artist embodied in graphic art what was being symbolised in literature or in film by figures such as Emma Peel, Modesty Blaise or Bonny and Clyde: the equality women had already achieved in the modern fairy tale of the detective story or the foreign agent.
The sacrificial deaths of the paintings was perfected in the course of time. The shots at the very first tirs were shots at ironic variants of conventional paintings, at bags of paint, rice and spaghetti under white plaster, where the focus was on the paintings being maimed and injured.
This did not go far: What was the purpose of sacrificing the paintings if not to create a new frightful and beautiful painting? Significant objects and painting strategies made their way into the tirs. The "Shooting picture of Robert Rauschenberg" (1961) was not only "shot", and as such initiated by the latter. in addition Niki de Saint Phalle applied elements of Rauschenberg's combine painting pictorial composition in the creation of the work. Similarly, the "Shooting picture of Jasper Johns" (1961), shot by Jasper Johns, quoted elements from this artist's pictorial world. Alongside such personal dedications, there were also ironic and autobiographical assemblages ("My shoes" dated 1962). However, all of this was merely a preliminary stage, ultimately not the final statements of her view of the age, the statements for which the artist was fighting.
Thus as a next stage, wild, large, specifically planned undertakings were created in paintings, executions of the images of the guilty and the responsible.. of the patriarch, "The death of the patriarch, 1962", the politician, "The altar of the politician, 1962", the Church, "Altar of the dead cat, 1962",the monsters, "Tirdragon, 1962",women, "Thetornup woman, 1963 ". The artist appeared in a white trouser suit, carrying a revolver and a rifle. In vengeance for all the many injuries to herself, she stood before the artistically constructed altars and paintings, killing in effigy those who for her represented evil.
For the public, the form of the shooting perfomances, or the way the paintings were made, appeared to be less important than the fact that the artist shot at images of celebrities and politicians. Niki de Saint Phalle responded intensely and swiftly to contemporary events, expressing them in new artistic ways (often derived form artistic traditions) that were at odds with the establishment. In "Khrushchev-Kennedy" dated 1962, the artist bundled together a series of historical events. The downing of the U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1960 (the first serious confrontation between the two super-powers) was followed by the unsuccessful invasion of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Only two months later, in June, the two reprensentatives of the super-powers met for discussions in the US Embassy in Vienna. It was the photograph of the historic handshake between the two politicians, their hands touching in a warm arch ' that Saint Phalle used as the starting point for her shooting picture. It shows the faces of the two politicians, represented by carnival masks with life-sized portraits, integrated into a single head and a single body. Each head has its own hair and yet together they become a Janus-head of contrasts. The antithetical systems the two men represent are fused in a single form. Appearing as one body, the conflicts for which the politicians stand - capitalism vs. socialism, good vs. evil - are united. The antinomy of the heads is a threat to the whole body, which might stand for the entire world. The aggression, the military weapons forming the joint torso in which one weapon-bearing arm is directed against the other, become erotically grotesque in the light of the female lower body with its naked hairy vulva, G-string, torn stockings and boots. The artist here had recourse to the allegorical representation of war in the past and to the pictorial world of rationalist graphic art and political caricature since the 18th century. Her pictorial language is clear and unambiguous.. The male elements fighting against each other put the survival of the body as a whole - mother earth if you will - in danger. They risk destroying each other; and in the process all women and the rest of humankind. The artist opposes this life-threatening event, shooting from outside the picture at the politicians' masks, symbolically preventing the destruction of the world by one of its own arms and heads.
As early as 1968, Pierre Restany in his text " 'Nana' de Saint Phalle " spoke of the artist's glorification of contrasts in the light of her being characterised by "apparent paradoxes in her surroundings ... In Niki de Saint Phalle, Jeanne d'Arc and Mane Antoinette were given shape simultaneously. " (in: Catalogue Düsseldorf, Hanover, 1969, no page numbers). It is indeed the figure of the untainted rescuer, wearing the white of the virgin and of innocence, who in the actions of the shooting pictures contrasts antithetically with the maiming and destruction of the torn white surfaces, a mystical and innocent perpetrator who acts as if for her there was no problem of guilt. As in fairy tales, the artist appears as a representative of the good, like the heroines and heroes of childhood, encountering evil in all its manifestations in order to overcome it and to keep the images of these victories for all times.
As in the fairy tales, the multiple meanings of many of the paintings are not difficult to identify. From some of the destroyed surfaces, the defeated art of the age looks out at us, abstract expressionism overloaded with sentiment, or action painting. The entirely vertical courses of colour created by the dripping paint released onto these pictures can be explained by the action of shooting and by the resulting "liberty" of the course of the paint in a type of mechanised dripping that is due to the attraction of the earth. This was thus not only an Amazon's battle against men in their traditional sexual roles but also "an additional testimony to the death of art" (loc. cit.). The execution of New York academy painting was a parody on the "American style", without limits and pushed to the very edges of tastelessness. a powerful punch in the face of bourgeois taste. This was symbolised by the common nature of the materials used in these pictures, originating from society's waste heaps or from the depths of everyday tastelessness. The fineness of painting in the 1950s was contrasted in the painter's pictorial battles with the combination of objects in the form of toy soldiers, racing cars, masks of politicians, tanks and aircraft. And it was against the sensitivity of the pictorial surfaces of the Ecole de Paris that she set her lacerated painting skins.

Niki De Saint Phalle - Ange luminaire

 artwork: Niki de Saint Phalle - Family Portrait, 1954-55, Niki de Saint Phalle at Tate Liverpool © 2007, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION

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