photo: SAIKI Taku

The Ring of the Bolster

ArtistAnnette MESSAGER
Material/ Techniquefabric, bolster, skin, motor, pulleys, rope
Size/ Durationdimensions variable
Copyright Notice© Annette MESSAGER
Year of acquisition/ donation2006
DescriptionBorn in Berck-sur-Mer, France in 1943. Lives and works in Malakoff.

Influenced by her father, an amateur artist, Annette Messager was attracted to Art Brut and votive offerings in churches. She also reevaluated and incorporated into her artworks handicrafts and other art forms that were regarded as marginal at the time. Using stuffed specimens and photographs, she boldly expresses the two-sidedness of phenomena such as life and death, and humor and cruelty, as well as deviations from the boundaries that separate them. As well, she uses familiar materials to create situations that can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on one’s personal values in a style that arouses emotions that lie dormant within us.

"Ensemble" features a dismembered stuffed toy, which is one of the hallmarks of Messager’s work. An object comprising a piece of fabric to which has been stitched a mounted fox that has been spread open in a symmetrical shape and an object made up of bits of a dismembered stuffed toy that have been joined together are attached to the wall in a scene reminiscent of a crucifixion. The result is a powerful piece that calls to mind life and death and cruelty, and fills the room with an air of unease while also incorporating touches of humor. This work, in which top and bottom, left and right, and inside and outside appear in equilibrium, is a representative work that embodies Messager’s expression since the 1990s. "The Ring of the Bolster" was the first of Messager’s works to incorporate mechanical devices. In the center sits a pile of stuffed toys that look like rats, while around this is arranged a ring. Moving around the rope that forms part of this ring is a bolster on which sleeps a cat. The coexistence of the contrasting images of the pile of rats in the center, which is suggestive of mass fatalities, and the sleeping cat hints at the cycles of sleep and fear, life and death while also alluding to the repression and violence that are the root of human existentiality. The awkward sound made by the bolster leads us further into the depths of our consciousness.