Articles / Reviews

She, Her and Me

The only parallel images that come to mind are Gary Boas pictures of off-duty gay male porn stars of the 1970s in his book New York Sex, or publicity photographs of Vaslav Nijinsky in the Ballet Russes 1912 production of Afternoon of a Fawn ...

After reading Elfriede Jelinek's devastating novel Women as Lovers about the constricted lives of two friends in a remote Alpine village, Klein began a series where she places the doll in remote rural landscapes. In Railroad 1-3 (2001/2005), the mannequin sits between the stripped branches of a dead fallen tree beside a train track. The landscape appears disused and abandoned, a natural world that is no longer sovereign but simply awaiting future development. Born in the small town of Knittelfeld, Austria, it's a landscape Klein is familiar with. "I was interested in the kind of lives people might have in these poverty-stricken landscapes, embedded in rural areas," she told me.

The emptiness in these pictures and in the companion sequences Resort 1-4, Boat 1-5, Baum 1-4 (2002/2005) is not expectant, but simply desolate. It is the kind of introspection Klein replicates during long periods spent in the dark room, producing her prints. It took two weeks to print the tree (in the Baum series) because the light was so different. The process is nice for two or three days you're all by yourself, its very meditative but after a few days you need to get out, it becomes claustrophobic.

Klein's work is often viewed through discourses about femininity, and I'd like to think that it's her willingness to experience multiplicity, and not gender itself, that provokes this. (Asked recently to talk about whether or not there's such a thing as feminine writing, I find myself saying Yes) Klein's pictures enact Surrealism's sense of disused, abandoned time those long afternoons that we knew so well how to waste," as Andre Breton wrote in Nadja) but her use of the body is happily free of Surrealism's debt to psychoanalysis.

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