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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > April 2019 > Adventures of spider-woman

Adventures of spider-woman

Only recognised late in life, Louise Bourgeois produced powerful, predatory art about the female experience, says Emma Crichton-Miller
Spider 1 (1995);

When Tate Modern opened on London’s South Bank in the year 2000, its visitors were confronted with what remains one of the most powerful works to appear in the Turbine Hall. Three mysterious metal towers accessed by spiral staircases rose 14m from the floor—one enclosed in a rusted steel skin, two others furnished with large mirrors, each platform with a sculpture of a mother and child inside a bell jar. On the mezzanine bridge stood a giant steel spider, poised and predatory.

The installation was like a living dream—or nightmare. Yet it had an overwhelming emotional impact. You could climb the staircases and watch yourself reflected in the unfolding psychodrama. The towers were named, with Beckettian simplicity, “I do, I redo, I undo,” with texts such as: “I am the good mother.” The spider itself was simply “Maman,” a highly-charged title for this viscerally imagined sculpture. It was an assertion of both the significance and distinctiveness of female experience.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Mark Damazer, the former controller of BBC Radio 4, tells the inside story of how the BBC has tried—and sometimes failed—to cover the political crisis that overshadows everything else. Elsewhere in the issue: Playwright and screenwriter James Graham profiles John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, as he takes centre-stage in the unfolding Brexit drama and Tom Clark examines the Independent Group and argues that they could well shake up the established political tribes. Also, Jennifer Williams highlights the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in Manchester—a city that is simultaneously experiencing a housing boom and a homelessness crisis.