Steven Cohen Boudoir[Visual arts]
If, up until now, the performances of the South African artist have consisted of exposing himself onstage or in public spaces, in his latest piece Steven Cohen plays host to audiences from within the confines of an intimate, private space, the boudoir. The latter, a chapel or refuge, becomes a place in which he gathers up his memories of his past - as well as those of the last century, gruesome though they may be.
The boudoir was traditionally a room reserved for feminine conversations, between the living room and bedroom – the inverted double of the predominantly masculine sphere of public and social spaces. It was Sade who reminded us to what extent the body, and intimacy, become infinitely political within the freedom of space offered by the boudoir. In this particular boudoir, Steven Cohen, or the strange, fairy-like figure that he becomes in public, is surrounded by diverse objects such as pieces of furniture, pictures, mirrors and animal statuaries. Each item bears witness to a collective past life – bourgeois sociabilities, contraptions and uniforms, religion, relics of war or trophies celebrating man’s domination of nature, of animals and far-off cultures… Rearranged and then confronted with video recordings of actions effectuated outside in symbolic and memorial places, they generate hybrid and metamorphic forms. Together, they shed light upon the historic and cultural fabric – with all its violence, and darkness - which so haunts the culture from which they are derived. This boudoir is an intimate even mental space, but above all is a place of elegance which invites us to introspection and perhaps appeasement, offered up to the imagination of each visitor.