Jeff Koons and Kim Noble have a few things in common. Both have k and o in their names. Both are known to create art and both have a team of people working to create the art that goes in their name. The difference is that Koon’s team doesn’t live inside him and who knows whether he knows all their names. Kim Noble has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID); she knows each one of her 20 alternative personalities and she loses time each one of them takes over. Noble never studied art and was introduced to painting by a therapist a few years ago. Not one of her personalities’ art resembles Koon’s artworks but hey, if you can’t bounce around disconnected topics while talking DID, when can you?
In 1986, Koons gave an interview to the Journal of Contemporary Art. He hadn’t started referring to himself in the third person (whaddyaknow… the shared points between Noble and Koons abound, it seems). What’s interesting is the reply he gave when the interviewer asked him what the theme of his new works was. “The basic story line is about art leaving the realm of the artist, when the artist loses control of the work,” he had said. “It’s defined basically by two ends. One would be Louis XIV — that if you put art in the hands of an aristocracy or monarch, art will become reflective of ego and decorative — and on the other end of the scale would be Bob Hope — that if you give art to the masses, art will become reflective of mass ego and also decorative.” Some would argue that, for better or for worse, Koons’ work, though certainly not just decorative, has ended up to be a reflection of mass ego as kitsch emerges as the pronounced aesthetic trend of contemporary art. I wonder whether Koons had imagined during his interview that eighteen years later, his shiny sculptures would be displayed in Louis XIV’s Versailles.
(pictures swiped from the Indpendent.)
I’m not really a fan of Koons’ stuff but I do think the Hanging Heart looks pretty spectacular. A lot of France is not in agreement with me, however. I don’t really see why the French conservatives are getting their knickers in a twist though. The Baroque of Versailles is about as unrestrained and over-the-top as Koon’s kitsch. In a weird and photogenic way, I think the Rabbit has found its home.
It’s a curious thing, this notion of a comfort zone. The twenty people that take over Kim Noble from time to time have found their comfort zone inside her head; so much so that Noble doesn’t want to lose them and become one person. She’s happy to be a “house” for these very different characters. If there was any doubt about how different the alters are, you just need to click on this gallery. You may or may not like her art. Noble is certainly no Picasso but there’s something intensely unnerving about having visual proof that one person really can shatter into so many. If you’re in a country like mine where art is being valued for the cheques it allows the artist to cash, it’s a potent reminder of what makes art more important than investment banking – it’s capacity to turn the ugliest, cruellest, most boring clichés of reality into something worth cherishing.
Quite obviously Noble’s art is therapeutic. The house that is Noble has in it different personalities to protect herself against the trauma she’s forgotten and doesn’t want to remember. Her alters – each has a name and there’s at least two who are male – haven’t forgotten, however, and the paintings contain intriguing hints. Images of loss, abandonment and neglect abound in the paintings as though she’s an angsty adolescent and I’m prickling with curiosity about what Salome, who wants her works to remain private, paints. Twelve of Kim Noble‘s twenty personalities have taken to art. My personal favourite is Anon whose work I like as much as his/her handle. Probably because it’s as stark and obviously tortured as my teenage poetry used to be.
Like lots of angsty children, I had my imaginary friends as a kid. It was a proper gang – sporty, chatty, brooding, giggly…. They’re sounding like Spice Girls, I know, but trust me, they were über cool. Not much point having uncool imaginary friends when the whole point of creating them was to elevate me out of my geekiness. One of my favourite dreams had me walking, nay striding, into school with the gang and the jaws of my real classmates dropping because they wanted to be friends with people as awesome as my posse. It was a great dream and one that made waking up in the morning deeply disappointing. My imaginary friends kept me going when I had no friends in a new school, when I stood out in my ridiculous frilly dresses, when I stood in corners feeling uglier than the seeping wall I was leaning against. We sang A-ha, Guns ‘n Roses and Simon & Garfunkel songs together. They made faces at people who were mean to me and abused my mum when I didn’t dare to. They stayed with me, like stray dogs do in Mumbai when you make your way home in the dead of the night – silent but for the ticking of the clawed paws on potholed roads. I can’t remember when but somewhere along the way, they disappeared. I’d like to think it was because I didn’t need them anymore but as I consider how I babble inanely at social dos to mop up silences or find myself unable to string a sentence together in other occasions, it’s patently obvious to me that the idea of one, rock solid, un-shape shifting personality is rather delusional. Reading about Kim Noble feels like touching static as I realise my closest childhood friends were all phantoms. And suddenly I miss them.