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  Swingeingcor London 1967 – close by is a form  of catharsis for her.

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“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.

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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 Post, 12/4/12

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