Esther Windsor


Dave Beech, Cornford and Cross, Liz Eversole, Margarita Gluzberg, Runa Islam, Matt Mitchell, Momus, Other Lover,
Typical Girls ed by Susan Corrigan, Milly Thompson

The Waiting Room
School of Art and Design
University of Wolverhampton
Molineaux Street
WV1 15B

Curated by Esther Windsor


Love has to be remade like life. It is and longs to be always kept as marvellous.
Andre Breton : Mad love : 1937

Beloved speaks of the desire for purity and truth in the impossible ideal of romantic love, situating its discourse within a social and sexual history mediated by Christianity and industrialised social relationships.

Beloved embraces what pricks and spills over from the narrative ideology of romantic love flirting with the passion of it's sign. Eccentricity, anger, excess, same sex seduction, the maternal body, holy desire and strange love all arouse anxiety at the intersection with love.

Valentines day is the stage for this exhibition, a calendar moment which concentrates and confounds expectations of love. The sticky conflation of anxiety, wantings and waitings, where the beloved is both adored and ridiculed in grand gestures and crude cards.

Courtly love still determines the elementary matrix and-libidinous economy of love. The emergence of the motif of the lad/ in the last century, transposes raw sensual loving to elevated spiritual loving, with the loss of concrete features into an abstracted ideal of dass'rficatory and contractual exchanges. Beloved returns to the tradition of courtly love engaging the unstable equilibrium of serious games with calculated risks between the vertiginous fall and sadistic complicity of love.

Beloved disrupts the lovers discourse, and presents the (irrationality and economics of desire, with amorous utterances, automatic writings, scandal, secrets, salacious gossip, an archaeology of lost loves, anonymous sex and misfits fantasies.

Cornford and Cross: Cosmopolitan 1997
Video of marriage agency interviews with Russian women.
text from ISEA 1998, curated by Charles Esche Liverpool, England

Cosmopolitan used videotapes bought from marriage agencies which presented interviews with women from the former Soviet Union seeking potential husbands in the West.

One after another, the women presented themselves to the camera with gestures, clothing and hairstyles which signified ‘femininity in the codes of Western visual culture of the recent past. Off screen, a North American male questioned each woman with a degree of repetition and at a pace which by turns suggested interview, audition and interrogation. The videos were sold with lists detailing each woman’s name, age, height, weight, marital status, occupation, and a summary of her personal aspirations.

However, many of the women’s responses suggest that they were not simply being exploited as commodities, but were choosing to enter a more complex transaction driven by economics, framed by sociopolitical change and facilitated by technology. If video contributed to the erosion of communism by spreading Western images of property and consumption, then perhaps marriage agencies trade on the resulting desire to live out fantasies of globalised media imagery. Cosmopolitan highlighted the bonds between individual freedom and particular social, economic and political conditions, to unsettle the adage that ‘the personal is political’.

Whatever opportunities awaited these women, they were taken at a cost of leaving friends, family and home, to begin new lives with almost total strangers. The exodus of so many healthy, intelligent and skilled women of child bearing age may have indicated a widespread disaffection with their prospects in the former Soviet Union. Yet if
this threatened ‘a crisis of Russian masculinity’, it could equally be argued that the marriage agency process was symptomatic of dysfunction among men in the West. Despite its allusions to material and emotional fulfillment, Cosmopolitan delivered only emptiness, masked by a vision of desire.