Friday, March 11, 2011

Reflections on Francoise Bosteels’ Dolls

Francoise Bosteel’s dolls are, at first glance, faceless. They are various and multiple, each having a distinct tone of skin, texture of hair and stature and styles of dressing that tell of their social histories. Despite being without eyes, nose or lips, they look back at us with a sharp internal gaze. They are gentle yet fierce. They cry but there are no tears. They laugh but silently. They lament but silently. Their muffled selves which are silent by choice, speak stronger than the voices of the vocal. You can hear crystal clear that the subaltern speaks in these dolls. The direct naivety of expression, the challenge of the violence shown unapologetically to the viewer, resonate with spaces within us that are beyond the divides of rational, irrational, said and the unsaid; breaking language with playfulness.

The dolls speak in the register of a ‘minor literature’, a concept spoken of by the French philosopher Deleuze in his essay Language: Major and Minor where he argues that the ‘minor’ language (for instance a dialect) has the potential to subvert, create and mobilise with much more power than the majoritarian language (for instance the lingua franca) – thus being minor enables many becomings. He says, “Minor languages are characterized not by overload and poverty in relation to a standard or major language, but by a sobriety and variation that are like a minor treatment of the standard language, a becoming-minor […]Minor languages do not exist in themselves; they exist only in relation to a major language […]Use the minor language to send the major language racing[…] There is a universal figure of minoritarian consciousness as the becoming of everybody , and that becoming is creation.”

Francoise Bosteels’ dolls embody this spirit of the dialect, the minor language, the language that is a form of ‘becoming’ and a medium that can deterritorialise the discourse of trauma, labour and pain from the clinical register to the affective register. They shift the discussion from the purely rational intellect to a more experiential and emotional intellect; where being doll that is strongly linked to the act of playing and being condensed visions of personal histories, many often of personal trauma become symbols of resisting determination, power, and easy empathy. These dolls are not easily inhabitable, in that they cannot be easily empathized with and consequently outgrown. They stay, they haunt and come back again and again with a new tale to tell, a new episode to stir the inertness of our minds. By twinning with the self of the viewer, they make the everyday quotidian transcend to a metaphysical view, giving a dignified and nourishing voice to deeply painful and dark tales of humankind.

~ Srajana Kaikini
Srajana Kaikini is a writer, curator, researcher keen on mapping intersections of cross-cultural knowledge pools. She is currently exploring the spillovers between the spoken and written word, ways of reading and its implication in present day cultural practices.

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