Tell me a Story: Michele Beevors

Posted on July 12, 2011

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Image from Michele Beevors's invite.

I went to an exhibition opening last week, without knowing the name of either the show or the artist. I’d been intrigued by the image on the invite, a floppy, knitted skeleton splayed in disarray. And the work did not disappoint. Curious enough to wonder what the titles were, I asked the artist (Michele Beevors it turns out) if there was a room sheet (since not even those handy little numbers were on the wall). She replied, somewhat testily, “There is nothing here to tell you what to think.”

Now I could have taken offence. Anyone who knows me knows that I enthusiastically embrace that old po-mo maxim, “the death of the author” (thank you Roland Barthes) which gave us all permission to ignore the artist and make up our own minds. I try to avoid artist’s statements and often think that they do more harm than good. But Beevors doesn’t know me, we’d only just met, so I really didn’t mind.

Barthes’s use of the phrase author is spot on, we humans love to be told a story. Armed with no ‘factual’ clues at all, no titles, dates, lists of materials (at this point I still didn’t even have access to the name of the exhibition) my instinct was to create an elaborate narrative for the show based purely on what I was seeing.

I decided that Beevors’s sculptures were like 3D illustrations of a fairytale, one of the old-school ones full of bitterness, grief and injustice. There is a castle, a princess, a wicked witch and a knight in shining armour, but no happy ending.

Michele Beevors. Witch and castle? Photo W. Seeto.

In my story, the inverted tornado of crocheted blue rope is the witch caught mid transformation, whirling like a dervish while casting a spell. The princess, post incantation, has become a white poodle like creature with huge googly blue eyes. Also made of crocheted rope, she seems both hapless and helpless, cast in the clichéd feminine role of passive victim, waiting to be rescued by the prince. But waiting will do her no good, for it is her would be rescuer that lies splayed on the floor, his skeletal remains scattered next to his ossified, ghostly horse which remains standing, no doubt animated by dark forces.

Michele Beevors. Prince and trusty steed? Photo W. Seeto.

Is this tall tale what Beevors intended? Who knows. We are all free to make up our own minds. For as she said, “There is nothing here to tell you what to think.”

Tracey Clement

Michele Beevors: Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions is on at Articulate until July 24.

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Posted in: The Good