For Lacan, the ravage originates from an endless request for love, which makes it impossible for the girl to detach herself from her mother and become a woman. In Paula Huven’s Ravage what we first see is an encounter between mother and daughter, but one that also involves a third component: photography. In her work, mother and daughter sit in front of a two-way mirror, through which they are photographed. The time that follows is meant to allow their gaze to constitute itself, while the artist, hidden by the mirror, searches for it, establishing a different kind of relationship with the scene, one of capture and silence. To actually look at someone – and, most importantly, to let yourself be looked at – is a disturbing exercise. If the mirror is itself the artifice that returns my own image to myself, then, what happens when I look in the mirror and what I find is not myself, but the image of the other? This inversion immediately destabilizes the relationship: our eyes and our images combine, we are strayed from our own body, our tissues belong to the body of the other. The mother’s face, the daughter’s face, instances of an overwhelming intimacy, also acquire the highest degree of foreignness. That face of the other, which belongs a little bit to me as well, since it resides in my own gaze, covers my own face with its traces. I lose myself in the other, I nest myself in what is inapprehensible about your image. If one day the mirror brought us confirmation of our differences, today it mends the tear, transforming part of one body into another. The look that once separated today brings a new encounter, so that maybe we can split again. But photography – this other – will allow the separation no longer: in it, forever, the invisible thread that binds us, that makes us one unique body in a web of sideway glances, of eyes closed, of combined flesh, of distant skin, of laughter and pain. The image will eternally be the double construction of bond and loss.
Publisher: artist' edition