Mireille Astore

Louise Bourgeois

Psychoanalysis, the Maternal abject and the works of
Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois deals with the abject through body parts according to the Kleinian
model. Rosalind Krauss explains Bourgeois’ works through the fantasies
initiated by involuntary bodily drives on body parts, this way:

“The part-object, speaks to the imperiousness of the drives, to the rapacity
of their demands, to the way the body can, in the grip of fantasy, be riven."1

This aggression on body parts is a system, which I use in my work, however rather
than isolating the parts I fuse them in the one image in a dislocatory manner
in order to render them grotesque and to highlight the monstrous. The bassinet
on the other hand, like Bourgeois’s spider, is my way of projecting aggression
onto a destructive external object. Bourgeois explains her need to harmonise
her maternal abject through this analysis of her own state of mind:

“At that point, I had my subject. I was going to express what I felt towards
her….First of all I cut her head, and slit her throat….And after weeks
of work, I thought, if this is the way I saw my mother, then she did not like
me….What you do to a person has nothing to do with what you expect the
person to feel toward you…. Now at the end I became very depressed, terribly,
terribly depressed.”2

Clearly, in this instance Bourgeois felt unable to come to terms with this abject
experience, a graphic illustration of her need to kill her mother, which led
her to experience anxiety about aggression and its destructive effect. This
is abjection and is what keeps driving Bourgeois to search for harmony in the
aesthetic process.

©2001 Mireille Eid


1. Ronald Jones , Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, & Franz Xavier Messerschmidt.
(sculpture, Lombroso Museum, Turin, Italy, and the Ethnological Museum at the
Trocadero). In Artforum International April 1999 Vol. 37 . no. 8

2.Bourgeois, Louise. Beds. In October, Vol 71, Winter 1995.

Back to Dissertation