Monday, May 4, 2020

Virus Series: Lieselott Beschorner

Lieselott Beschorner. ‘Virus Series’. 2020 (1)

Berthold Ecker (Curator of Contemporary Art, Wien Museum ,Vienna): in Vienna, where a strict lockdown has been in place for the past weeks, artists are reacting to the unusual situation. Some of them are confined to their own home due to their old age, which can cause an even more intensely felt threat of the disease. A doyenne of the Viennese scene, Lieselott Beschorner makes use of the situation by circling the virus and including it in her art in near manic drawing sessions. The almost automatic and impulsive guidance of the line brings forward knots and compressions, which slowly cover the entire surface of the image. They overlay everything that has been before and create a structured, crystalline-like entities. The Virus eats everything previously created and forms new, frighteningly beautiful structures. 

Lieselott Beschorner. ‘Virus Series’. 2020 (2)
Mark Auslander:  What does our unconscious mind look like, under conditions of the Lockdown?

Given that the novel coronavirus now haunts our nightmares, it is fascinating that Lieselott Beschorner has turned to a kind of automatic drawing practice to chart the virus' uncanny presence in our psychic underlives.

As Berthold Ecker suggests, the artist's process in some regards emulates the proliferation of the virus itself, as densely applied line gradually covers the entire surface of the sheet.  The viral replication process in a curious way parallels the development of the human mind over time, taking into itself threatening alien impositions that may either overwhelm it or lead, ultimately, to a more coherent and strengthened overall system

A virus, as we know, is not precisely a living thing, lacking even the DNA double helix that is the foundation of all life,  yet the virus in a sense becomes us, transforming our invaded cells into hosts that serve its dark and frightening purposes. It does seem strangely appropriate that one of the great artists of Vienna,  the city where Sigmund Freud pioneered the scientific study of the Unconscious, should give us glimpses of the virus that seem to manifest the innermost domains of the human mind.

In this light I propose a tentative reading of this three part series, as a kind of epic descent into the darkness of our fears and an ascent back into the light.  (I have numbered the three pictures in what I hope is the correct sequence).

The first dense, entangled image seems to extend beyond the frame of the page; one senses  it is still actively growing and devouring all that it encounters, in biological and psychological senses, a dreaded sense of encompassment that is intensified by the enforced confinement of the Lockdown. 

The second image now has a more clearly defined border of negative space around it: we can now grasp it as a whole thing, as terrifying and disturbing as it is. Here we see echoes of the Grotesque imagery for which Beschorner is so well known.  In this second iteration, we discern the now frighteningly familiar protein spikes or 'crown' (corona) that give the corona virus its name and which enable its penetration of human cells,  hijacked to turn into deadly RNA-producing factories. Perhaps we behold a face like that of the mythological Medusa, transformed by the rage of the goddess Athena into writhing snakes, so terrifying that a glimpse would turn an onlooker into stone. There may be echos of Carl Jung's first remembered childhood dream of the man-eating 'faceless man,' which he later came to conceptualize as the terrifying Shadow that stalks us all, while, paradoxically signaling our inner potential for growth and transformation.

Lieselott Beschorner. ‘Virus Series’. 2020 (3)
Speculatively, perhaps that is where the third, much lighter and ephemeral image takes us. We no longer behold the impossible dense interior of the first two images of the series, which  nearly covered the entire surface. Instead four darker segments are connected by lighter, graceful lines, with even fainter lines in the background circling or radiating outwards.  The dense knots of the first two images are largely untied, suggesting perhaps a kind of solution to the earlier, nightmarish predicament. Perhaps we are in the presence of  a reborn self rising or floating upwards. Might we behold an awakening from our long confinement, in which we may integrate our darkest, and most feared Shadow back  into fuller selfhood, and rise up, renewed?  When the doors are once again opened and we walk out in the sunlight, might we, having faced the inner demons born of our long solitary confinement, join hands, as it were, and rise up with our better angels?

Robert Paul (Emory University):  These pictures seem to be an attempt to depict the malignant object as it metastasizes in the unconscious mind and moves from an inchoate mass to a more differentiated object capable of evil.  It’s a picture not only of the virus but of the combined malignant forces that seem these days to be crowding out all the others at so many different levels

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