An Idle Brain Is Satan's Shoppe
Liane Lang: An Idle Brain Is Satan’s Shoppe
17th March – 17th June 2014
at House of St Barnabas, London
curated by Marcelle Joseph Projects
This solo exhibition in the Bazalgette Room of the House of St Barnabas features a new series of images by London-based artist Liane Lang created at Casa Guidi in Florence, the erstwhile home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, two of England's most prominent Victorian poets. In these rooms, the Brownings wrote some of their finest poetry, and "Casa Guidi" was the name given to the apartment by Elizabeth. The apartment is now a museum and attempts to recreate as closely as possible the living quarters, furniture and artwork as they were when the Brownings lived there from 1847 until 1861. The museological semblance in these photographic images creates an uncanny atmosphere, presence and absence filling the rooms in equal measure. Lang has created a doll, using her life-cast sculptural techniques, dressed up as Elizabeth, which she poses in the rooms like a ghostly visitation from the past.
Although Elizabeth is pictured alone in each of Lang’s works in the exhibition, it is important to note another absent soul in these Florentine rooms, that of Robert Browning, the person who gave Elizabeth - a sickly invalid whose father refused to let her travel south for health reasons or marry - Italy, travel, experience and unconditional love. Their courtship and marriage is considered one of the greatest love stories in English history. At thirty-eight years old, Elizabeth received an audacious letter from Robert Browning admiring her poetry. This fabled letter-writing courtship continued until they married in England and moved to Italy in the dead of night. So the figure in these images becomes an apparition pining for the love of her life or one last interchange. The titles of the works in this series as well as the exhibition title are taken from Elizabeth's poems.