Object a

Object a
1993
self-titled
handbags, metallic and gloss enamel paint on MDF
450 x 380 x 80mms


Object a contains 16 sculptural wall pieces recalling Magritte's The Key of Dreams, in which the relationships between image, referent, and language are cryptic and revelatory. Discarded handbags and their captions allude to abstract qualities which are commonly applied to the category Woman: memory, love, anatomy, voice, hysteric, nature, work, shadow, poetry, mother, silence, wallflower, language, absolute, habit, and pleasure.

* * *
'In her recent series of works Object a, 1993, Fereday continues to use the readymade to elaborate a psychological pun composed of fetish and states of being. Consisting of old, used, discarded and found women's handbags with the painted captions: anatomy, theft, love, hysteric and pleasure, Fereday's Object a are indeed a complex of the various strategies for production adopted by the early Dada and Surrealists: shopping, collecting, the readymade, the body, and language adopted form psychoanalysis with a particular interest in the subliminally erotic. Fereday's little licking tongue bag pleasure and its counterparts insert a particular femininity within the pantheon of surreal objects.'

Juliana Engberg, curator The Aberrant Object: Women Dada and Surrealism, exhibition catalogue, 1993

* * *
'In Susan Fereday's Object a installation the handbag or purse, which the woman sports as part of her identity, and which signifies her femininity, is a satire on this notion of woman as phallic lack, which plays on ambiguity. As Jeffrey Fereday stated, in his catalogue essay,
The handbag is a fetish object to women, and is also a fetish object of the category 'woman'. Its position ads external, as accessory, itself carries implications of design which assert the unconscious contingency which is the place of the female to the opposition (having or not having the phallus) in the ordering of sexuality, here revealed as fetish upon the cost of that order. Thus the purse, which is physically beyond herself, is held as that which remains, the deposition, the proof of castration, that which has been castrated. Or so the story goes.

(Jeffrey Fereday, catalogue essay, Object a, 1993: 3)

Fereday's wonderfully vulvic, disused purses have been removed from the body and (almost) stripped of their former value, as fashion items and as frequently fondled containers of money and cosmetics. Sanitised, sealed and renovated by a coat of turquoise green paint, they are presented as a series of smart new commodities, or precise signs in the company of equally precise words that are related according to some association game. Each word is a noun connoting themes relating to the body, femininity, psychoanalysis and money: 'anatomy', 'theft', 'love', 'hysteric', 'pleasure'. Part of the joke is that, since ambiguity prevails, it is the very precision of these categories that is illusory. Having turned that ambiguity around through her witty interventions, however, Fereday points it towards a positive conceptualisation of the female body.'

Helen McDonald, Erotic Ambiguities: The Female Nude in Art, Routledge, London, 2001, p.178-178