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The Five Figurescapes.

Maria Speyer: The Five Figurescapes.   

The five, tall charcoal drawings in the exhibition explore five situations of aging, and how personhood and a sense of self in each case rely on intimate others.

The drawings all focus on the figure, but the figure here isn’t depicted as the physical body, and old age is not represented as the body in decline. Rather, the drawings are figurescapes, in which I imagine aging as the lived experience of situations, where the fragility of existence makes the connection to others essential for a sense of self.

Each drawing is addressed to a particular person or situation from the fieldwork of the anthropologists. Specifically, the figurescapes respond to a set of conference papers, whose common theme is ‘troubling intimate others and the good old life’. These academic papers overflow with a poetic tenderness and speak poignantly about struggles for recognition and an insistence on being more than a burden, a past or a frail body.

In response, I have distilled the papers into a kind of imagistic poetry, which accompany the drawings in the exhibition. From the poems, I imagine the five situations as interpersonal and spatial tensions (e.g. as heaviness, or attachment, as a reaching for or a holding on), and through these tensions I explore each situation as a demand for response and recognition. How might a sense of self be expressed, fought for or acted out in response and in relation to the intimate other? And how might the figure in aging be considered as relational presence rather than a body defined by its proximity to finality?