Nov. 29 to Jan. 17, 2014

«Ideal Individuals»

L.A. Raeven



Twin sisters Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven (born 1971 in Heerlen, Netherlands; live and work in Amsterdam) began their artistic collaboration under the generic name of L.A. Raeven in 1999. Their work rests on investigations surrounding the notion of «the ideal individual,» which they analyze through videos, drawings, installations and performances. L.A. Raeven study the status of the body and body image within western societies and the inherent social Western pressures. Adopting a critical attitude towards fashion and media dictates, they defy traditional representations of feminine beauty by integrating the codes of this same society to better lay them bare. Through doing this, a debate is set up vis-à-vis the questions related to ideal body image and its social construction, within various cultural and historical contexts.

            «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 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, qualifying their work as «aesthetic ­terrorism.»

            In 2001, for the first time, L.A. Raeven presented a video installation («Wild Zone 1») where they put themselves into the scene with a complex self-portrait inspired by the Deleuze notion of the «social outsider.» Having suffered from eating disorders since their youth, the twins ostentatiously show here their skeletal pale-hued bodies, evoking not only the image of themselves, but also that of today’s society. Extreme thinness, preached about by the fashion industry as the ideal and aspired to in particular by girls, can lead to health risks.

            L.A. Raeven have staged numerous performances in which they expose young people to the torments models go through during auditions for fashion shows or that dancers experience while auditioning for ballet schools. Time in the videos passes without plot, glamour or spectacle, and sometimes the young people are thoroughly measured and inspected by L.A. Raeven. 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.

            Still exploring autobiographies, L.A. Raeven also have «twinhood» as a theme and the symbiotic or fusional relationship uniting the two sisters. Somewhere between the love and dependency which links them, the search for individuation and differentiation can sometimes be painful. At the same time, their common artistic practice under the name of L.A. Raeven is an affirmed reaction against their identity as twin sisters as well as social stereotypes which identify them as a single being.



Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven, born 1971 in Heerlen (NL), live and work in Amsterdam. Exhibitions (selection): «Narcissistic Tendencies,» Nest, The Hague (2013); Casino Luxembourg, Luxemburg (2012); «Niet Normaal, Difference on Display,» Beurs van Berlage (NL) (2010); «Rebelle: Kunst en Feminisme 1969–2000,» MMK Arnhem; «All That Is Solid Melts Into Ai,r» MUHKA, Mechelen (BE) (2009); Frac Nord – Pas de Calais (FR); Haas & Fischer gallery, Zurich (2007); LMAK Gallery, New York (2006); «Critical Society,» Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2005); Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (2004), Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Corea (2002); Charim Gallery, Vienna (2001).