Exhibition: L.A. Raeven: Ideal Individuals
"Society creates an ideal image to which everyone must conform. The media dictate that you must be attractive and successful, be a perfectionist, and have everything under control," explain the twins and artistic duo Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven. Since 2000, they have been staging situations which question Western ideals of male and female beauty and corresponding patterns of consumption. They go to extremes to do so.
Their videos, photographs, drawings, and collages mercilessly record the obsession with the perfect, fashionable body, as well as the way in which male and female ideals of beauty are used in the marketing strategies of consumer society.
L.A. Raeven have staged numerous performances and situations in which they expose young people to the torments models go through during auditions for fashion shows or dancers experience while auditioning for ballet schools. Time in the videos passes without plot, glamour, and spectacle, and sometimes the young people are thoroughly measured and inspected by L.A. Raeven. An advertisement for such a selection was rejected by the English newspaper The Guardian in 2001. Requirements to be met by those interested in being considered for L.A. Raeven's "Ideal Army" were listed under the heading "Ideal Individual" and included a bust measurement of 82 cm and waist of 43 cm, plus a number of psychological peculiarities like "unusual eating and drinking habits" and "at least one physical handicap." The measurements correspond to a tall and extremely thin person with an androgynous appearance. This figure is seen as the most attractive in the fashion world and is "reproduced" via advertisements, but in real life these dimensions are associated with illness and anorexic patients.
In the video Echoes of Despair, for instance, a young woman who forces herself to drink only water is portrayed; this practice is common amongst those with anorexia.
From 2007, another kind of "manipulability" was featured in L.A. Raeven's work. The video No Whites (2007) reveals a young white woman's search for the most ideal black sperm donor. The subject of The Height of Vanity (2008) is the influence Western European ideals of beauty have had in other parts of the world: L.A. Raeven follow Chinese friends Sun Mei and Lu Yang in their struggle for perfection. One of the friends has her legs surgically lengthened to comply with Western physical standards. L.A. Raeven: "People lose their identity and can no longer see their own beauty. They only emulate Western ideals."
From 26 September through 28 November, the MMKA will be presenting a selection of L.A Raeven's video installations, drawings, collages, and photos from 2000 to the present. The exhibition will travel a/o to Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade and Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'Art Contemporain.
L.A. Raeven: Analyse/Research, 2010
Concept/design: Mevis & Van Deursen
Distribution: Hatje Cantz