James Lasdun*1 “The Lonely City by Olivia Laing review – Warhol, Hopper, Garbo and the art of loneliness” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/19/the-lonely-city-the-art-of-being-alone-olivia-laing-review
The setting is (mostly) New York, where Laing recently experienced a spell of acute loneliness after the relationship that had brought her there from Britain abruptly ended. In her involuntary solitude she became “possessed with a desire to find correlates, physical evidence that other people had inhabited my state”, and began immersing herself in artists whose work seemed “troubled by loneliness”. The two sides of the resulting book – the curatorial and the curative – drive each other with neat economy, loneliness propelling Laing out into the archives and galleries of her chosen artists, whose work in turn informs (and transforms) her sense of her own isolation. Structurally speaking, it is an especially elegant demonstration of the advantages of this hybrid form.
The main figures are Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz (the artist/activist of Aids-ravaged 1980s New York) and the Chicago janitor and “outsider” artist Henry Darger, whose strange writings and even stranger paintings (multitudes of young girls with penises) came to light a few months before his death in 1973.
A chapter on each establishes the four principal coordinates in what Laing calls her “map of loneliness”. Hopper’s paintings, filtered through Laing’s own experience of the peculiar ennui of New York apartment living, give us the spatial dynamics of loneliness (a fine scrutiny of Nighthawks*7, with its figures trapped in their “iceberg” of greenish glass, puts paid to any fear that there might not be much left to say about some of these artefacts).
Warhol, whose cultivation of a machine-like aesthetic in which sameness supersedes originality and technology (notably his beloved tape recorder) mediates intimacy, offers a case study in the social strategies of loneliness, or at least the kind of loneliness that arises from an overdeveloped sense of one’s own unlovable strangeness.
Wojnarowicz’s harrowing existence on the social and sexual margins of the city, along with the art he made out of it, provides a defiantly celebratory politics of loneliness, while Darger, whose extremity of isolation is matched only by the disturbing expressiveness of his work, draws Laing enthrallingly into the deep psychology of the condition.
Around each of these artists, Laing marshals a host of subsidiary figures, who in turn widen and deepen the scope of inquiry. Hopper’s architecture of simultaneous entrapment and exposure takes on new meanings in the context of his tyrannical treatment of his artist wife, Jo, while consideration of his work in the light of Hitchcock’s Rear Window*8 brings out the uncomfortable tensions between voyeurism and vulnerability in his vision of alienated city dwellers. Warhol’s management of his conflicting needs for intimacy and distance acquires unexpected moral implications with the appearance of Valerie Solanas*9 , author of the Scum Manifesto*10, who intrigued him until she didn’t, and then shot him. Without diminishing the awfulness of the act, Laing extends her sympathetic interest into Solanas’s own sad life and horrifying death, which haunt the book – its one, chilling, instance of what can happen when art fails and isolation unequivocally triumphs.
さて、 Olivia Laingさんは２月に”How art helped me see the beauty in loneliness”というエッセイを寄稿しているのだった*12。
But the real heart of the book isn’t, after all, in this somewhat tentative personal narrative; it is in the wonderfully freewheeling elucidation of the artists themselves, and, above all, in the constantly surprising connections Laing discovers between them as she adjusts and readjusts her angle of approach, bringing in new characters and rearranging ones we have already met. There is an inspired excursion into the imagery of stitching, for instance, that brings together Zoë Leonard*11’s sutured fruit-skin project Strange Fruit, the Billie Holiday song that gave the project its name, Wojnarowicz’s famous self-portrait from the Aids crisis with his lips stitched shut, the corset that held Warhol’s bullet-punctured torso together, and the little pieces of twine that Darger spent long hours unravelling and retying in what appears to have been an elaborately ritualised managing of his tempestuous inner life (“Had trouble again with twine,” he wrote with a fantastical disproportionality suggestive of both Edward and King Lear. “Mad enough to wish I was a bad tornado. Swore at God.”). It is in these passages, where Laing’s relaxed but deeply informed connections and associations rise to a kind of private vision of community, that her book transcends the loneliness it so vividly anatomises.
*3:Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100519/1274245412
*4:Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090824/1251084176 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120114/1326508747 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080514/1210778369 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100530/1275205297 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130524/1369367223 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130529/1369787443
*8:See Killian Fox “My favourite Hitchcock: Rear Window” http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/25/my-favourite-hitchcock-rear-window Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061212/1165946447 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20101209/1291923858
*9:See eg. “Valerie Jean Solanas (1936-88)” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/mar/08/news4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie_Solanas Freddie Baer “About Valerie Solanas” http://www.womynkind.org/valbio.htm “Valerie Solanas” http://www.warholstars.org/valerie_solanas_17.html