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This article is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

Cover Story
Francoise Lacroix, ‘Stairwell Paris’
Rod Mengham
BY FUNCTION AND DEFINITION, the stairwell is a transitional space, a between-places place, and especially in Paris – where the stairwells are generally too narrow to accommodate lifts – it encloses an in-between time. This domestic container for space-time hesitation has often been used in art and literature to signal dramatic change in a character’s life (Lucy Snowe seeing herself in a stairwell mirror as a ‘third person’, in Charlotte Bronte’s Villette; Michael Berg recognising the eponymous woman depicted in a painting, in Bernhard Schlink’s The Woman on the Stairs,). Woman’s place was traditionally thought to be in the home, but the stairs are all about coming and going, and in the modern era that is the setting for reorientation. Francoise Lacroix’s riveting ‘Stairwell Paris’ turns upside down a photograph of a woman who is already hanging upside down – making her hair appear to stand on end, Elsa Lanchester ‘Bride of Frankenstein’-style. It gives a touch of looming menace (reminiscent of the upside-down-on-the-stairs scene in The Exorcist) to a starkly beautiful image, turning one of our most familiar haptic means of reassurance (holding on to the banister) into its mirror-opposite, the vertigo of estrangement. 

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