Bernie McAdam

Bernie Mc Adam, referencing concepts of matrix and metramorphosis of the theorist, Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger,  with the identification of primary compassion that emerges from the close prenatal proximity of becoming infant and mother where we encounter traces of many Others, re- imagines the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in her work by engaging with themes of reminiscence, nostalgia,  lost love and intergenerational memory in a contemporary setting.  McAdam considers this cautionary tale of the danger of a misplaced gaze and lack of empathy in a contemporary setting where surveillance is all pervasive and relentless.

Ettinger’s theories on the process of subjectivity delve into the relationship ‘between aesthetics (how we are affected by an Other) and ethics (how we encounter and treat each other)’ 1 (1)  by challenging paternalistic notions of the role of the maternal-feminine in becoming human. They encompass themes of transformation, relationality, transmission and co-affectivity with subjectivity-as-encounter.  Ettinger’s matrixial gaze  ‘conducts imprints from events without witnesses and passes them to witnesses who were not there.’ 2 (2)  The effect on the viewer of art work is to grasp remnants of the event while altering them, creating metramorphic borderlinks to others, known and unknown, from the future and the past.  Mc Adam’s intuitive approach to her painting and drawing processes reflects this psychic interconnectivity.

Aligned with Ettinger’s theories of subjectivity is a consideration of  Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological theories on creativity which reveal a vista of understanding of the ongoing perception of participating  in an inexplicable realm of being.  It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into  painting –  a  ‘body which is an intertwining of vision and movement.’ 3 (3) Central to this realm of being is Gaston Bachelard’s  concept of the house image as having become  ‘the topography of our intimate being’ 4.(4)   It is our ‘corner of the world… our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word’  and ‘the first task of the phenomenologist is to find the original shell.’ 5 (5) 

‘The house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace… the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind..It is body and soul‘ 6 (6)

Bachelard incites Mc Adam, by positing that there is reason ‘for taking the house as a tool for analysis of the human soul’ 7 (7) and as our soul is ‘an abode. And by remembering houses and rooms we learn to abide within ourselves’ 8 (8)  into a renewed contemplation of this mystical realm of secret places – nests, drawers, chests, wardrobes where we explore, examine and reconcile our relationships between our inner selves and the outer world.  In this body of work, Mc Adam engages with Eurydice, as the mythical victim of a destructive gaze, on a journey of enquiry into the insidious incursion by ubiquitous surveillance technology into these oasis of calm and reflection.


  1. Ettinger, B. (2006). The Matrixial Borderspace.  Minnesota: The Regents of the University of Minnesota.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Mearleau-Ponty, M. (1993). Eye and Mind In: The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and    Painting.  Johnson, G.A. ed. Illinois: Northwestern University Press,  pp. 121-149.
  4. Bachelard, G. (1994). The Poetics of Space.  Boston: Beacon.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

Bernie at work in her studio


To get in contact, email or follow her on Instagram @bernie.mcadam. 

Bernie McAdam is a member of Creative Exchange Artists’ Studios in Belfast, more info at