Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

Feb 11–Jun 3, 2012

Part ethnographic study, part personal narrative, Mary Kelly’s ambitious installation Interim examines historical constructions of femininity. One of four sections, Corpus (Latin for “body”) deals with the changes—both societal and psychological—experienced by women approaching middle age. Suspended in Plexiglas panels, photographs of small purses are paired with interviews Kelly conducted with middle-aged women. The word appel (French for “cry for help” or “appeal”), which labels each purse, was a term employed by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (French, 1825–93), who used photographs of female patients to diagnose hysteria. In Kelly’s installation, the small purses—stereotypically seen as an object of desire for women—are pulled and twisted, showing signs of the inevitable passage of time. The artist’s decision to couple these images with text panels culled from personal interviews demonstrates how our culture’s desire for newness and youth affects both people and things.