An Internal Difficulty

– by Alfindy Agyputri

An Internal Difficulty did give me an internal difficulty – in a good way, of course. Aside from the dark-themed artworks – at least, that’s how I saw them – the background story of the exhibition gave a different perspective about it. In 2013, seven Western Australian artists got a chance to visit a townhouse at the Freud Museum London that houses the late psychoanalyst’s extraordinary collections of antiquities, textiles, prints, furniture, and his library. It was where Sigmund Freud and his family settled after fleeing the NAZI occupation of Austria. The artists were allowed to view and handle the numerous objects in his preserved study.

An Internal Difficulty is drawn from his introductory comments to his lecture, Femininity (1933) in which he admits that he never understood women at all. Freud’s study is such a ‘difficult’ internal space: an incongruous, exotic world, secreted within a sedate London townhouse. Then there was his cancer that became the greatest and final ‘internal difficulty’ he faced.

There are works from Andrew Nicholls, who is also the curator, whose practices engage with the sentimental, camp and other historically-marginalised aesthetics, while tracing the historical recurrence of particular aesthetic tropes in Western visual culture; Thea Costantino, whose artwork investigates cultural memory, the remembrance of the past and how it can be re-envisioned with reference to marginalised aspects of the historical record; Susan Flavell who explores animal and human forms, the real, the hybrid, the fantastic, the monstrous and the mythical; Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont, who have been widely recognised for their engaging theatrical, performed, musical, photographic and filmic works that explore the dynamics of spectacle and nationalism.

There is also Travis Kelleher whose work investigates ideas of nationalism, identity, and the psychological triggers of nostalgia through the use of parable and highly theatrical and cinematic methods, and last but not least, Nalda Searles, who is internationally renowned as a visionary in the field of Australian fibre art. The seven of them drew upon Freud’s life by reconsidering his figure in relation to his domestic context, including his final months.

An Internal Difficulty1

One of the unforgettable artworks I saw in the exhibition was a sculpture that was put at the corner of the room, alone. It created such a creepy environment to its surrounding, especially with the dim lights in the exhibition. I even got the man who was standing by around the exhibition to check it out with me. From behind, it looked like some little doll was sitting on a chair. I didn’t know what I was to expect to see in front. It was apparently just a wax sculpture of a wrinkled old man, nude. So realistic and detailed, it didn’t look like a sculpture at all. It wasn’t creepy anymore, even though it looked like a real old man sitting there, but so little in size, unlike humans.

There are also other works like realistic photography, some in Freud’s study. They have red curtains in the exhibition, similar to the one Freud has in his study. They put a photo of his study in a projector and projected it to a wall. And with the dim lights, I think they try to bring the feel of Freud’s study into the exhibition.

OPENING TIMES: 19 February – 15 April 2015, Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
LOCATION: Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth Cultural Centre, 51 James Street, Northbridge

Photo Credit: Alfindy Agyputri

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