Fragonard’s swing (Miss La La; hung out to dry)

Lisa Birke

2012, 05:30 minutes, colour, location sound

TAPECODE 1051.08

In "Fragonard's swing” a female figure hangs upside-down off a trapeze from the nooks of her knees. Her white dress has fallen inside-out and is hanging down over the top half of her body, covering her head. Bright white underpants, bare legs and black rubber boots are fully exposed. With the figure seemingly lifeless, the trapeze appears to be moving on its own accord: it picks up velocity and the figure does a series of slow turning pirouettes before coming to rest again.

"Fragonard’s swing" makes reference to several well-known paintings that feature a woman on a swing or trapeze: Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s
Happy hazards of the swing, Edgar Degas’s Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando and Édouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (the trapeze artist’s legs are barely visible in the top left-hand corner of Manet’s painting). All of these paintings feature a highly symbolic and sexualized female figure performing for a male gaze. The romantic image of youthful sexuality played out on a swing becomes warped in “Fragonard’s swing” by a more contemporary association: an ominous murder of a young woman in the woods so familiar in prime time television crime series. "Fragonard’s swing" is a derisory play on the stereotype of the show girl. The woman on the trapeze only partially offers herself up to be viewed: she is an inverted and a somewhat unnerving spectacle.

*Part of the 6 channel installation
Pictures in an Exhibition (1051.13).

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