Marianne Faithfull: These are the pictures that are part of me
Marianne Faithfull is Tate Liverpool’s latest guest curator. She tells Laura Davis about her very personal exhibition
ON THE sitting room wall of Marianne Faithfull’s Paris apartment is a montage of newspaper cuttings about the famous drug raid of Rolling Stone Keith Richards’ Sussex country home in 1967. “Story of a girl in a fur-skin rug,” screams one headline, describing the then 20-year-old blonde, who was one of the guests at the party.
“Meal in a cell for Mick Jagger,” shouts another, while the caption on a photograph of a sobbing teenage girl states: “The agony of seeing your heroes jailed”.
It was great British outrage at its most ardent – striking out at the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle with ferocious severity and Faithfull was caught in the storm. Having the montage – an work created by British artist Richard Hamilton called Swingeing London 1967 – close by is a form of catharsis for her.
“I live with it all the time. I love it,” she says. “It helps me to turn it into an art piece. It distances me from the experience.
“My memory of all that is really negative, it was a horrible experience. The law was wrong and the attack and hostility was much too vehement. It was appalling.
“The establishment did not want this freedom to happen – for women, for music, for art. They were very, very repressive and that’s where they made a big mistake. They went over the top.
“It was persecution and harassment. They were trying to hold back time and they couldn’t.”
The Tate Collection also owns one of Hamilton’s posters and it is this one that the singer and actor is including in her exhibition for Tate Liverpool, where she will be the latest in a line of celebrity guest curators that have included poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, fashion designer Wayne Hemingway and celebrity milliner Philip Treacy.
It’s hard to imagine Hamilton’s work not being included in the exhibition given that Faithfull describes the show as a visualisation of the inside of her head – “These are the pictures and the sculptures that are part of me. It’s people who have inspired me and kept me alive all these years and people I’ve inspired such as the Derek Jarman film (Broken English) and the wonderful Robert Mapplethorpe photograph (Marianne Faithfull, 1976).”
Throughout Innocence and Experience are other traces of the 1960s. Peter Gidal’s film Heads (1969), which shows the faces of cultural
personalities including The Who’s Pete Townshend, American actor/director Rufus Collins and painters David Hockney and Francis Bacon as well as Faithfull’s own. There is also Nan Goldin’s photograph Greer and Robert on the Bed (1982), which depicts two drug addicts – “It’s all part of the story, isn’t it”.
There are also many references to music, including Jim Lambie’s Ska’s Not Dead (a mixed media piece based on a turntable), Ian Hamilton Finley’s bronze Drum and Man Ray’s Indestructable Object – a metronome embellished with a photograph of an eye belonging to the artist’s long-term muse Lee Miller, which disconcertingly meets your gaze. Ironically, considering its name, the work has had to be repaired by Tate to make it suitable for display.
A pair of William Blakes provide a nod to Faithfull’s interest in the poet since girlhood, sparked when she received a gift of the Romantic poet’s collection Songs of Innocence and Experience from her father. She named her 2007 tour after the book.
“I think I just loved the pictures at first and then I learned to read very young,” she says. “They are kind of perfect for a child. As you grow older it goes much deeper and I still love it. His poetry has been a wonderful thing in my life.”
Blake’s sumptuous painting Pity (c.1795) and Newton 1795 (c. 1805), depicting the physicist as a muscular nude engrossed in his calculations,
are included in the exhibition.
The show will give Faithfull, 65, the opportunity to reacquaint herself with Liverpool, the city she remembers well from her childhood
when she spent a few years from the age of two living in Ormskirk while her father studied for a doctorate at the University of Liverpool.
Many years later she would pass the few spare hours in her touring schedule at the Walker Art Gallery, but it was the Tate gallery in London that first inspired her passion for art. She would visit with her parents and vividly remembers a Surrealist retrospective in the early-60s that brought her great pleasure.
“I was much more aware of art than of the music at the time,” reveals Faithfull. “I slowly got interested in the music too but it didn’t seem
to me to be the same.”
It was her ex-husband John Dunbar, co-founder of the Indica Gallery in London, site of the famous meeting between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who taught her more about the subject. He has assisted her on curating Innocence and Experience.
“John has been a great help in making it stronger,” she says. “If it had just been me on my own it might have been a little bit too airy-fairy.”
Faithfull hopes, she says, that visitors will leave the exhibition with some idea of what it was like to experience – and survive – the height of the 60s cultural revolution.
“In many ways it was a very hard time for me personally,” she says. “My marriage broke up, I fell in love with Mick (Jagger). I was reviled and hated. And drugs didn’t help at all. “But it’s all past and everything worked out. I got off drugs with everything intact, my brain still working and I was able to make another career. I’m really proud to have survived it.”
Liverpool Daily Post, April 12, 2012