joanne lee


permission to speak

A text to accompany Anne Lydiat’s exhibition ‘Permission to Speak’ at the Freud Museum 8 October - 3 November 2002.

For this exhibition Anne Lydiat brings the images of many swallows drawn directly onto the white surface of blank jigsaw puzzles into Freud’s former home.

In much British folklore, having live birds or even their representation within the home is considered to bring ill luck. Elsewhere in Europe however, it is the custom that swallows entering the house are caught and smeared with oil so that their subsequent release will remove bad luck afflicting the house and its occupants. Maybe the hoped for outcome of such a ritual is really not so different from the release we desire form analysis.

The title of the work evokes a time when children were to be seen and not heard and required to speak only when spoken to. It also suggests the space opened up by the so-called talking cure of psychoanalysis where one might finally articulate the things that had so long gone unsaid. Yet it is curious that this work itself remains determinedly soundless. Consider though that it is now October and the swallows are long gone and the skies are full of their absence.

That these images are on jigsaw puzzles is surely significant. Jigsaws demand completion: the point is to make all the pieces fit. Whether in jigsaws, art or analysis we seem to want things to come together wholly and meaningfully with no awkward missing pieces. Such completeness is denied here. The jigsaw pieces forming the birds have been removed, separated form their blank grounds. It is questionable whether they are set free or lost. Anne Lydiat has long specialised in this territory of uncertainty and ambiguity. The work refuses conclusion. rather it lodges a poetic splinter in the imagination that is difficult to remove.