Fear, Pain, Rage Oct 7, 2011

by Sara K


When I read the interview with Angelica Liddell, one of her remarks struck a chord with me. She describes how her life "blew up" at age 42: "the age in which I entered true adult life, alone, in which I couldn’t bear the idea of growing old, the idea of losing my youth, in which my body triumphed over my will, my body drew me away from love and pleasure, and towards a terrible anxiety, towards panic." In this fear she finds a foil in Jacqueline du Pre, the gifted cellist who died at 42 after a long decline caused by multiple sclerosis. Jacqueline was at the height of her artistic career much earlier, in her 20s before the disease denigrated her creativity, her skills and talent. Liddell shares a deeply personal fear that she is losing a battle to hold onto her own creative powers. I feel sympathy with this struggle. I am 41 years old. I worry too much about sustaining a creative practice in a field that values new and now. Am I just too old? Complacency threatens. I obsess over losing time and losing strength.

The intensity with which Liddell faces her despair astounded me. She curses. She screams hysterically. Stumbles drunk. Cuts herself with razor blades. These actions seem to me not so much about inflicting pain as they are about expressing rage. And she is utterly ruthless in expressing rage. How can I feel sympathy now with this raw being? In her presence, my gut drops at the genuine feelings searing through the theater. This is not theater, this is not acting. What is this? She is fucked up. What about me?

I think about different bodies - an erotic body that may be generative; an ailing body that may be fragile, vulnerable; a body tense with hate that appears rigid, irrational; a body that is utterly banal in its functions. At one moment or another in this performance, Liddell is each of these bodies. I usually don't like to think about my body because it overwhelms me. But this is what art can do to me: make me confront what I don't want to confront in myself and in others. It is not comfortable and it is not pleasurable and it is just what we need right now.

Sara Krajewski, Curator, Henry Art Gallery