Sexual taboos, myth and montage: Linder’s provocative collages

Sexual taboos, myth and montage: Linder’s provocative collages

In Stockholm, British artist Linder is destabilising normative ideas of sexuality in a new series of photomontages

Since emerging from Manchester’s punk scene in the 1970s, Linder Sterling has been dragging the underbellies of consumerism into plain sight. Using the visual language of pornography fused with images of banal domestic interiors in neo-Richard Hamilton twists, she has deployed unflinchingly feminist celebrations of sexuality and questioned society’s deeply-rooted perceptions of it. 

From Orgasm Addict – her big-break cover for Buzzcocks’ first single in 1977 – to her first major retrospective at Kettle’s Yard last year, Linder has subverted the very mechanics of popular culture, destabilised conventional ideas of sexuality, and brought the inner workings of the mass media into question. 

Linder, Fragrant sap, 2021 Photomontage
Fragrant sap, 2021 Photomontage. Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris

As with her best-known work, Linder’s new show ‘Someone Like You’ at Andréhn-Schiptjenko gallery in Stockholm sees fragments of printed media from 1910 onwards fused into elegant photomontages. Disparate clippings rub up against each other in an orgy of desire in its many guises. 

In this latest body of finely scalpelled works, Linder discusses the almost-undiscussable. She delves into the triad myth of Pygmalion, Myrrha and Adonis – this is Greco-Roman mythology, but possibly not as you know it.

Transient time slips by, 2021 Photomontage. Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris

Over the last five years, Linder has deep-dived into the Myrrha myth, consulting with classicists for opinion, inserting the story into contemporary studies on the queer body and heteronormativity, and researching the biases within classics and ancient texts. 

To synopsise, the myth in question, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Book X, emerges out of the warped sexuality of Myrrha’s great-grandfather, Pygmalion, who, in a moment of autoeroticism, falls in love with a statue of an idealised female that he’s carved from ivory. 

Linder, Galatea, 2021 Photomontage
Galatea, 2021 Photomontage. Courtesy the artist and Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Paris

There’s no skirting around it, the Myrrha myth explores female incest, in contrast to the more widely-known myth of Oedipus, synonymous with male incest. As punishment for her incestual sins, Myrrha is transformed into a tree, giving birth to Adonis from her trunk nine months later. As she weeps in remorse, her tears transform into the aromatic resin, myrrh.

There’s a lot to digest between the creases of these low-tech photomontages. But perhaps the overriding myth here is not that of taboo Greco-Roman exploits, but a myth of heteronormativity. §

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