Eve Fowler: what a slight. what a sound. what a universal shudder
- David Pollock
- 18 July 2018
Landmark European show of Fowler's is a major coup for DCA
Across the breadth of American artist Eve Fowler's artistic practice, this first major European exhibition of her work – another coup for the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre – concentrates specifically on those works she has created in response to the early 20th century feminist and queer writings of Gertrude Stein. Originally a photographer, Fowler created edgy portraits of male hustlers in the 1990s, but these works are trickier to define; a fusion of sculpture, installation, design-based pieces and concrete poetry.
The first room presents a film piece entitled 'with it which it as it if it is to be', a monochrome document of female artist friends of Fowler's at work while a female voice intones the words of Stein's 1910 experimental prose piece 'Many Many Women' over their actions. This is a tender mantra which maintains a constant, flowing power through its repetition of the same words, words like 'one', 'thing', 'loving', doing'; so, for example, 'this one is one and she is that one. Each one is one. There are many. Each one is different from any other one.'
It's a mesmerising reflection on the use of language, although it's fair to say that the film's visuals divert reflection on the meaning of the words in a way which reading the text doesn't. Yet there's a sense of affection and solidarity in the way Fowler has presented the pieces, just as the second room presents a joyous visual feast even as the words used produce a kind of gentle mystification. Posters, neon lights, texts written upon the wall and floor, all present snippets of Stein's writing as reprocessed by Fowler, all offering either textual puzzles to be solved or simple enthusiasm for the use of language.
'Patriarchal poetry deny why', begins 'Patriarchal Poetry', a new piece created for this show. 'A difference of very little difference' and 'The difference is spreading' suggest two brightly-hued posters. 'Words doing as they want to do', declares one pre-printed greeting card, its partner piece chiming in 'And as they have to do'. Fowler's show is a mystery, but one which doesn't demand to be solved, only that you give it a try.
DCA, Dundee, until Sun 26 Aug.