Opinion

Louise Bourgeois Peels a Tangerine

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After family dinners, Louise Bourgeois says of her childhood, everyone “was supposed to bring some kind of entertainment.” You were “supposed to sing,” “supposed to recite,” “supposed to be … entertaining.” Dinner entertainment clearly came with a sense of obligation. It wasn’t, exactly, fun.

In this video, a stern Bourgeois demonstrates how to peel a tangerine. This was her father’s “form of entertainment.” In reenacting the memory of her father peeling the tangerine, she grabs, to our surprise, a marker.

For “peeling” a tangerine isn’t the lesson at hand. “You have to understand that in a tangerine there are two important points,” she says. These points guide the human figure that she proceeds to draw on the tangerine, and that brings to mind some of her drawings of bald, large-breasted figures. Bourgeois, comical in her sense of purpose and curious in her word choices, builds her demo up to the “important point,” “the important thing” that “you have to understand.” She keeps us in suspense until she removes the peel, her story evolving, forcefully, into a feminist statement.

“Are you looking now?” she asks. “You see what is coming? You see this?”

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