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Public Places, Private Thoughts
Nicky Hamlyn
Public Places, Private Thoughts
Tina Keane's video Faded Wallpaper (1988) visualises the influential proto-feminist novella Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The heroine recounts her gradual descent into insanity as a result of her enforced confinement in her room for "bed rest", following the birth of her child. The story argues that hysteria was not a result of Victorian woman's frailty, but of their enforced idleness in an oppressively genteel culture where it was considered unseemly for women to be active other than as homemakers.

In contrast to Keiller's Norwood, character and setting are completely fused. This is achieved sometimes in literal fashion by matting together the maddening wallpaper with the protagonist's head, so that at one point she appears in profile with Anaglypta paper as hair. Wallpaper is layered upon itself and peeling paper is used as a matte within which more layers of paper appear. In this layering process, screen, space and the protagonist's identity merge together, subject and setting dissolve into each other, stuff and thought become one.

Anyone who has lain in bed with a fever and stared at the imperfections in the wall will identify with the heroine's tormented monologue. The wallpaper "creeps all over the house and gets into my hair...there are things in that paper that nobody knows but me or ever will". The sense of delirium is heightened by the deepening recession of paper matted on paper, pattern on pattern, in never ending vertiginous layers.

Still from Faded Wallpaper by Tina Keane, 1988
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