The Freud Museum presents les paris sont ouverts, a group exhibition which brings together eight international artists, some of whom are showing for the first time in the UK. All the artists explore sexuality and desire, inclusion and exclusion, repression and trauma in a way that challenges normative thinking and proposes alternative modes of thinking about the self and ‘the other’. The title can be literally translated as ‘the bets are open’, while a looser translation suggests that ‘everything is possible, anything can happen’. The exhibition addresses the idea of openness and possibility in gender and sexuality.
A tribute to the oeuvre of Claude Cahun, the title of the show comes from an essay by Claude Cahun published in 1934. Throughout her life and practice, Claude Cahun (1894-1954), an artist, poet and activist has challenged established notions of sexuality and gender. Well ahead of her time, her androgynous self-portraits contest to a radical way of thinking about sexuality and gender as well as the understanding of photography as a documentation of reality. It is in this light that Linder’s work is included in the exhibition: an artist who has subverted social expectations of femininity and gender specificity for more than three decades through her active involvement in the punk movement and through her reactionary gestures and performances. Linder’s playful collages have often appropriated pornographic imagery questioning the expansive commodification of the female body. Paul P. paints men as heightened objects of desire; his source of inspiration includes gay pornography, which through his eyes is a vehicle for gay desire. More confrontational, the portraits of women Eve Fowler photographs have a startling directness. The photographs of her own community, the queer community in LA, are unapologetic portraits of a diverse and underrepresented group that reclaims public space for visibility.
Sharon Kivland’s installation and Maria Finn’s photographs explore the crucial role family plays in shaping notions of sexual orientation. It underlines the complexity of family relations and the duality of trauma, burden and release at the same time.
Dimitris Dokatzis’s work offers a fragmented portrait of self. His sculpture and photographs convey the fracturing of self with an air of mourning and loss.
Jeff Ono’s fluid abstract sculpture of low-tech materials reinstates the faith in the shape of things to come.