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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rock Drill

I think I have already mentioned the Royal Academy's Wild Thing; it was an exhibition which profoundly changed my perceptions and it continually creeps in to my thinking in intangible ways. Looming 7 feet above me, half-man, half-robot and straddling his drill, it is Epstein's Rock Drill which haunts me when I consider women and the machine-age at the turn of the century.

Surrounded by studies in the exhibition, it was impossible to escape the phallic implications of the drill. Plunging in to the ground with an excessive energetic enthusiasm I did not stand long in its shadow. What an aggressive attack on womanhood it seemed. When Jessie Dismorr describes her 'arrogant spiked tresses', 'the new machinery that wields the chains of muscles fitted beneath/ my close coat of skin.' I can't help feeling that she is considering herself in relation to this intimidating masculine machinery.

The Rock Drill returns us to primitivism, it is totemic and archetypal masculinity. Incorporating actual machinery Epstein's sculpture warns of the advent of a new age where even humanity and that most human of actions, sex, has become automatised. But for the man there is an exciting rush of power that comes with it. Whereas as a woman I retreat from the sculpture, to the back of the room where I can't hear the clamour of the drilling any longer.

In my research I am learning new things about Richard Cork, the curator of the exhibition who has also written about Vorticism, there is a glimmer of a suggestion of his misogyny, of his exclusion of Dismorr and Saunders from his discussions. It only sharpens the light thrown on Rock Drill; its use as the exhibition poster, book front and back cover, its centrality to the thinking and overall impression of the exhibition.

10 comments:

  1. it certainly makes me want to cross my legs.

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  2. This is a very interesting study. I would love to know the thought that went into it...
    There is definitely something 'phallic' about it. It's quite intimidating.

    I would love for Tracey Emin to produce a response to it!
    Following :)
    x

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    ReplyDelete
  4. interesting post. you may be correct on your assertion of misogyny. and you may not be.
    sometimes the appearance of it only exist out
    of an inability to be open to other points of veiw. conscious or not.it is true. sometimes we
    just have one track minds. :)

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  5. thank-you for the comment,
    ooh nice! hannah mc something isn't it? x

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  6. There is an strong undercurrent of fascism associated with Vorticism. It is attractive to see the boldness of the Vorticists as a "breath of fresh air" compared the overly precious arts of the time, but the fixations, taken to their logical limits, are problematic to say the least . . . and, while I can appreciate the swath the Vorticists cut across the art world, you have to remember that their obsessions with things like "discipline" led to more concrete fascist tendencies (Lewis's flirtation with Hitler, for instance). I have reprints of a couple Blasts, and I find the whole scene fascinating, but at the end of the day it feels dirtier than pornography.

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  7. It's true the Vorticists definitely are problematic in lots of ways, but I think that Jessie Dismorr and her marginalisation makes them worth the study. I will think carefully about the misogyny thing before I throw any labels around.

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  8. Yes, certainly worth the study . . .

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  9. sometimes the appearance of it only exist out
    of an inability to be open to other points of view..we
    just have one track minds

    ReplyDelete