Elective Affinities/The Truth of Masks & Tables of Affinities, 2002
Text and image occupy an equally important place in this installation, as elsewhere in Ana Torfs’ work. First of all there is a double series of portraits, black and white slides projected in pairs on two freestanding walls; a man and a woman, counterparts. They are clearly the same man and the same woman each time, but they are nevertheless different: a masquerade. As the clothes, hairstyles and accessories change, so too do the period and the social context you, the onlooker, ascribe to them, and so does their psychology: self-assured or timid, vulnerable or harsh, intelligent or narrow-minded, cheerful or sombre… Some characters you would like to get to know, others are repellent. You often think you recognize someone, but you are never quite sure. You also speculate about the couples: can she really be with him, could he possibly fall for her? Sometimes the affinity is obvious, sometimes it is inconceivable. But when it comes to love, you never know… Despite the pared down simplicity of the portraits and the sober black and white, there is also something light-hearted and sometimes even hilarious about the series as a whole, as with those cheap cardboard dolls children dress over and over again in a new paper outfit, managing to alter their appearance in a very simple and yet quite amazing way. Each model looks straight ahead, impassively: the mixed identities of one and the same anonymous person. At some stage you find yourself wanting to get to know the ‘true face’ of those two people. You try to do this by a process of reduction, but then so little is left: the dimple in his chin, the lines around her mouth, and of course the sex. But then: some characters are quite androgynous, and is that dimple, are those lines really so unique? No, the portraits tell us nothing about the model ‘behind’ them, there is no ‘behind’, only an empty projection screen. A series of variations without a theme.
Lying spread out on fourteen tables are the unfolded, printed sheets of a ‘book-in-the-making,’ a sort of reading diary in which the artist combines excerpts from various literary, (auto)biographical and historical works in a very free and associative manner. The slide series, a seemingly endless masquerade for two models who never show their ‘true face,’ can be linked at will with these texts, but can equally well be read as a light-hearted questioning of such concepts as truth and identity. In the light of the often radical ‘resistance’ of individuals to intolerance, alienation and extremism, a central theme in the miscellany presented here, these questions acquire a very different weight.
This ‘book-in-the-making’ has taken up 2 other “forms” as well. See also: here and here
(Catherine Robberechts in ‘ForwArt, a Choice,’ 2002)