Witta Tjan: Louise Bourgeois: Tactics of an Immigrant/ Kiki Smith: Being (at) Home

Mentor: Alena Alexandrova

Independent reviewer: Ansuya Blom

Arnhem, June 2011


This thesis researches the installation “Passage Dangereux” by Louise Bourgeois and “Homespun Tales” by Kiki Smith on the concept of “home”. Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith held very different views on the subject of “home”. For Bourgeois the notion of home was connected with trauma, for Smith it forms a place of possibilities for women. Three narrative strands run through this thesis. One strand is to view the two installations against the backdrop of the waning influence of psychoanalysis in the past century, and the changes within feminism concerning the domestic scene. The second strand investigates the problems in the relationship between the work of Bourgeois and psychoanalysis, namely that the work of Bourgeois is not a faithful illustration of the psychoanalytic belief system, that trying to write on Bourgeois’ work from a psychoanalytic view the writer risk just reiterating the text of the artist, and sticking to psychoanalytic belief might have prevented Bourgeois from attaining some of the happiness in her private life and the ability to root in her new country the U.S.A., she had so longed for. Kiki Smith, not bothered by psychoanalytic doctrine and its focus on trauma, went on to develop an art with a focus on its healing potential. The third strand is the author’s own journey of wanting to leave behind the reductive thinking of psychoanalytic doctrine, and trying to see how she could gradually develop new ways of looking at the human being, which she would feel more at home with.