The autobiographical project "Child Abuse" was published in ARTFORUM in December 1982. It is based on a slideshow-format film titled “Partial Recall" that was presented in the lobby of The Museum of Modern Art, New York in conjunction with the artist’s 1982–1983 retrospective there. Some of the images in that film appear in "Child Abuse," and much of the project's text comes from the film's voice-over narration by the artist.
Images include old family photographs of Bourgeois as a child with her mother, with her father, and in a boat with Sadie Gordon Richmond, the tutor who became her father's mistress.
"Child Abuse" was published in ARTFORUM vol. XXI, no. 4. It was printed at a commercial printshop. The cover of the issue is a detail of the 1970 sculpture, "Eye to Eye" seen in Related Works in the Catalogue below. "Child Abuse" is part of a project series for which artists contributed original spreads to the magazine. The series ran from 1981-2004; other participating artists include Jeff Koons and Adrian Piper.
In 1994, the artist published "Album," another autobiographical work based on "Partial Recall." It can be seen in Related Works in the Catalogue below.
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Armand P. Bartos (by exchange)
Bourgeois's entire text for this project appears on the pages cited below.
p. 43: Some of us are so obsessed with the past that we die of it. It is the attitude of the poet who never finds the lost heaven and it is really the situation of artists who work for a reason that nobody can quite grasp. They might want to reconstruct something of the past to exorcise it. It is that the past for certain people has such a hold and such a beauty....
Everything I do was inspired by my early life.
On the left, the woman in white is The Mistress. She was introduced into the family as a teacher but she slept with my father and she stayed for ten years.
p. 44: Now you will ask me, how is it that in a middle class family a mistress was a standard piece of furniture? Well, the reason is that my mother tolerated it and that is the mystery. Why did she?
So what role do I play in this game? I am a pawn. Sadie is supposed to be there as my teacher and actually you, mother, are using me to keep track of your husband. This is child abuse.
p. 45: Because Sadie, if you don't mind, was mine. She was engaged to teach me English. I thought she was going to like me. Instead of which she betrayed me. I was betrayed not only by my father, damn it, but by her too. It was a double betrayal. There are rules of the game. You cannot have people breaking them right and left. In a family a minimum of conformity is expected.
p. 47: I am sorry to get so excited but I still react to it.
Concerning Sadie, for too many years I had been frustrated in my terrific desire to twist the neck of this person.
Everyday you have to abandon your past or accept it and then if you cannot accept it you become a sculptor.
[At bottom of page: The current retrospective of the work of Louise Bourgeois will remain at the Museum of Modern Art in New York until February 8, 1983.]
If you are interested in reproducing images from The Museum of Modern Art web site, please visit the Image Permissions page (www.moma.org/permissions). For additional information about using content from MoMA.org, please visit About this Site (www.moma.org/site).