Void Manufacturing

“Turning and turning in a cell, like a fly that doesn’t know where to die.”

Louise Bourgeois Interview

Posted by voidmanufacturing on December 13, 2008

 ‘My art is a form of restoration’

In a rare interview with one of the world’s greatest living artists, Rachel Cooke asks Louise Bourgeois to reflect on her extraordinary career 


RC: You moved to New York early in your career. What effect did this have?

LB: I was a ‘runaway girl’ from France who married an American and moved to New York City. I’m not sure I would have continued as an artist had I remained in Paris because of the family setup. In coming to New York, I was suddenly independent from them. I did feel the affects of being French. There was both isolation and stimulation. Homesickness was the theme of the early sculptures.

RC: Do you think women artists have an easier time of it today, particularly in terms of the market?

LB: To survive as an artist is difficult. The market is only one issue, and it follows its own logic. Even though what I do does enter the market, it doesn’t interest me. I am exclusively concerned with the formal qualities of my work. It is about the need and the right to self-expression. There are plenty of good artists that don’t have a market at all. In terms of the market, things have improved for women, but there is still a big disparity.

RC: The main focus of your work, according to some, is the relationship between an entity and its surroundings. But you have also been influenced by human relationships. Can you explain more about this aspect of your work?

LB: My works are portraits of a relationship, and the most important one was my mother. Now, how these feelings for her are brought into my interaction with other people, and how these feelings for her feed into my work is both complex and mysterious. I’m still trying to understand the mechanism.

RC: In the Fifties and Sixties, the art market ignored you a little. Was this frustrating? Was it connected to your sex? How and why did things change?

LB: The Fifties were definitely macho and the Sixties less so. The fact that the market was not interested in my work because I was a woman was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to work totally undisturbed. Don’t forget that there were plenty of women in a position of power in the art world: women were trustees of museums, the owners of galleries, and many were critics. Surely, the Women’s Movement affected the role of women in the art world. The art world is simply a microcosm of the larger world where men and women compete.

RC: Today, your most famous works might be your ‘spider’ structures. Is this pleasing? Can you talk a little about how they came about?

LB: The spiders were an ode to my mother. She was a tapestry woman, and like a spider, was a weaver. She protected me and was my best friend.


RC: Your parents worked with tapestry, and you initially studied mathematics. Some critics have traced both these influences in your work. How separate is the mathematician in you, from the artist, or are the two intimately connected?

LB: My love of geometry is expressed by the formal aspect of my work. From the tapestries, I got this large sense of scale. I learned their stories, the use of symbolism and art history. The restoration of the tapestries functioned on a psychological level as well. By this I mean that things that have broken down or have been ripped apart can be joined and mended. My art is a form of restoration in terms of my feelings to myself and to others.

RC: You work on a grand scale. Why?

LB: I want to create my own architecture so that the relationships of my forms and objects are fixed. Sometimes I need the large scale so that the person can literally move in relationship to the form. The difference between the real space and the psychological space interests me and I want to explore both. For example, the spiders, which are portraits of my mother, are large because she was a monument to me. I want to walk around and be underneath her and feel her protection.

RC: How do you feel now about Robert Mapplethorpe’s famous photograph of you?

LB: I am still fond of Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait. People seem to like it very much because they thought Robert and I were both ‘naughty’.

RC: Can you tell us a little of how you have worked over the years? Do you work only when inspiration strikes?

LB: I only work when I feel the need to express something. I may not be sure of exactly what it is, but I know that something is cooking and when I am on the right track. The need is very strong. To express your emotions, you have to be very loose and receptive. The unconscious will come to you, if you have that gift that artists have. I only know if I’m inspired by the results.

RC: A retrospective at the Tate. This isn’t the first, but how does it make you feel? Have you ended up making any reassessments of your career?

LB: When I see all the work that I have produced, I realised how consistent and persistent I have been. But I’m much more interested in what I’m working on now.




23 Responses to “Louise Bourgeois Interview”

  1. The photo of Maman you have used is mine.

    You have not provided any credit.

    You have not paid for it.

    I don’t recall giving you permission to appropriate it.

    Please remove it forthwith.

  2. Anonymous said

    We won’t remove it. We have every right to use it. It’s called open source. If you would like to take legal action go ahead and try us. You’ll never get that far.

  3. Open Source? You really don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you even understand the underpinnings of the GPL or Creative Commons licences?

    The original was published on Flickr with an ‘All Rights Reserved’ licence. If I had wanted to allow you to use it without prior permission, I would have published it under one of the relevant Creative Commons Licences.

    Final warning to the clueless…

    I should remind you of your Terms of Service agreement.


    Responsibility of Contributors. If you operate a blog, comment on a blog, post material to the Website, post links on the Website, or otherwise make (or allow any third party to make) material available by means of the Website (any such material, “Content”), You are entirely responsible for the content of, and any harm resulting from, that Content. That is the case regardless of whether the Content in question constitutes text, graphics, an audio file, or computer software. By making Content available, you represent and warrant that:
    the downloading, copying and use of the Content will not infringe the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret rights, of any third party;

  4. Geoff said

    What a lazy scumbag of a copyright thief you are. Open source my arse

  5. Andrew said

    Why didn’t you just credit the guy instead of using it without permission? I’ts really not asking much to do the right thing, is it?

  6. boskysquelch said

    ripping turds

  7. fM said

    “It’s called open source” lol.

    You clueless muppet.

  8. paulie t said

    open source…what about credit where credit is due then?

  9. Tanya said

    “Open Source” look it up. Oh and stop theiving.

  10. Refused said

    lol “open source” dickheads.

  11. Johanna Lundqvist said

    “It’s called open source” What a complete rudeness and disrespect for another persons work! I have a feeling Louise Bourgeois would HATE this… Shame on you! Really!

  12. Project Blue said


  13. janeb said

    Seriously, just credit the photograph and show a bit of respect for someone else’s work – and read up on copyright law whilst you’re at it

  14. Mindyerownbusiness said

    Open source copyright law only applies to a collective/community who allow each other free use, normally of software in return for debugging/re-coding/support.

    By using
    1. A Keen photographer’s work without written permission, you are A. Breaking the law, B. Undermining your own credibility and de-valuing the skill of the photographer.

    2. By using Robert Mapplethorpes work without permission from the Mapplethorpe foundation you are in direct contravention of copyright law, please remember Mapplethorpe is a very well known photographer, with books published and prints sold. In using an image of his you are opening yourself up wide to copyright claims from someone who can afford much better lawyers than you.

    You are also breaking the terms and conditions of wordpress..

    I would seriously consider removing the images.

  15. Rachel Cooke said

    Who is this snivelling fuck Rob Telford? Presses a button on a camera and thinks he’s created original art? Pshaw.

  16. June Gloom said

    The real skill is in asking an interesting and intelligent interviewee questions so dull and mediocre that you have to steal someone else’s work to provide something worth following the link for.

  17. Funky_Sessions said

    1. you steal an image you aren’t entitled to, then
    2. you don’t remove it when asked politely…
    3. you spout something you know obviously know nothing about as a defence, and then you have the gall to call the Photographer a “snivelling fuck” !?

    that’s just unprofessional. you stole his image, therefore you fucked up. It would’ve been simple enough to rectify without resorting to petty name calling.

    back to the playground with you.. image thief. (not name calling, that’s just a fact)

  18. voidmanufacturing said

    When I leave comments they appear like this. This is the first comment I have left on this thread, those other comments are not mine. They were left up because I don’t care to police comments. I don’t know how putting an image on a wordpress blog is “stealing” in that I am not taking anything from the image’s producer (as far as lessening what they have, or unjustly financially profiting from their labor). I found that image by doing a google image search using the terms “Louise Bourgeoise” and then grabbing the images that appealed to me by right clicking on them. I had no idea who made them, and I was certainly not trying to injure anyone by displaying them. I put the images up because I liked them. While I am an advocate of copyleft and despise strict intellectual property laws, I certainly don’t think of my re-presenting these images as some “open source” political action. So, I have replaced the contentious images with another that I like. I hope that this image’s producer is not infuriated. I found this new image by putting the term “penis” into the search engine this time. Enjoy!

  19. Refused said

    The image you’ve replaced it with mentions the original website clearly in the bottom right hand corner. So, you’re cool on this one. That’ll be £200 for that advice, cheers.

  20. Paul said

    Louise Bourgeois just died, and surfing around to find more information on her amazing life, I land at your blog, where because of your petty response to a legitimate concern about Creative Commons licensing I see a dickhead. An apt image for this site. Grow the fuck up.

  21. aqua said

    Utterly agree with you Paul. And what an uninteresting interview, a waste of Louise’s time.

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