Dutch twins Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven are known collectively as L.A. Raeven. The sisters endure subversive performance rituals that show the tenuous line between the unhealthy pressure of the ideal form in the fashion world and the harsh reality of anorexia. For instance, they once tried to take out an ad in The Guardian calling for an "ideal individual" with a 17-inch waist to apply for a position in the "L.A. Raeven Army."
Provocative and disturbing, the sisters confront their viewers with the sickly, skeletal reality that they see the fashion world imposing on them, which they refer to it as "aesthetic terrorism." One of their performances, "Wild Zone," featured the gaunt twins crouching together on the floor surrounded by glasses; most were filled with wine, but some were filled with urine. The duo occasionally split a single cracker to munch on in front of a horrified audience. This discomfiting performance allows glimpses into a life haunted by Hollywood ideals, where women actively compare sizes and stare at the scales. We asked the sisters a few questions about their work, their life, and the overlap between the two.
HuffPost Arts: Liesbeth in an interview once said that when she was apart from Angelique she was healthy weight-wise but so unhappy. Is the general consensus for healthy always applicable, and are the ideals of the fashion world necessarily unhealthy?
L.A. Raeven: Being unhappy is not healthy, so you can live as healthy as possible but if you are unhappy there's no gain. And yes, we think that the ideals of the fashion world are unhealthy; we are bombarded with images of unrealistic perfect models in magazines and movies in such a constant and manipulating way that we start to confuse ideals with reality, but since nobody can reach this unrealistic ideal, it can only lead to frustration and obsession.
HuffPost Arts: Which came first: the ritual or the performance?
L.A. Raeven: The ritual. Our work is always inspired by our personal lives and what we see around us. Some performances are also inspired by the reactions we got to our work, so often it's a combination of the two.
HuffPost Arts: You both live a lifestyle which many see as extreme, dangerous and disturbing. Do you see yourselves as sacrificing yourself for your art work?
L.A. Raeven: We are not sacrifying ourselves for the Arts, and our work is not a therapy for us either. We see it more as a warning, or a way to show people that they are manipulated by the media. Our work is always a reaction on what happens around us, the things that irritate us. People are constantly pushed to perfection, to an ideal society, the perfect body, a Hollywood romantic lovelife. We like to turn that around: don't follow an ideal image that is promoted by the media, consider yourself as ideal.
We also have to say that our current lifestyle is not what people might expect after seeing, for instance, "Wild Zone." And as you might know (see the documentary Beyond The Image from Lisa Boerstra): we are not living together anymore for about six months now. One of the reasons is that our lifestyles, which could be called "symbiotic," are not quite the same anymore.
HuffPost Arts: Elements of your work are very childlike and innocent; you play games, perform make-believe rituals, and are both willowy figures. However, do you view yourselves as immature in any way?
L.A. Raeven: In a way, yes, we both feel a longing for our childhood days, back to when you had no responsibility and decisions were made for you. Our childhood was a life without worries, which is a big contrast to adult life, especially in our society where perfection seems to be the only standard. We are not perfect. So you could say [that] our way to be perfect is "to stay like a child" (the immaturity of children is kind of perfect) and to say/show in our work: why do you think your glossy image of perfection is any better than our image of perfection? They say: there's a fine line between genius and insanity. We say: there's a fine line between the current ideal of beauty and anorexia.
L.A. Raeven - Ideal Individuals will show at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain until April 22.
You can see a slideshow of the artist sisters below. Please let us know what you think of this pairing in the comments section.
L.A. Raeven, Mindless Living, 2011. Video still. Courtesy Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam
L.A. Raeven, Echoes of Despair, 2010. Exhibition view at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
L.A. Raeven, The Height of Vanity, 2008. Exhibition view at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
L.A. Raeven. Exhibition view at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
L.A. Raeven, Wild Zone I, 2001. Exhibition view at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
L.A. Raeven, The Height of Vanity, 2008. Photo.
L.A. Raeven, Love Knows Many Faces, 2005. Video still. Collection Nord Pas-de-calais, Prib^vate Collection Frans Oomen, Amsterdam, Collection G + W Netherlands
L.A. Raeven, Ideal Individuals. Exhibition view at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain
L.A. Raeven, Nature's Choice, 2002. Video still. Collection Ludwig Museum Budapest
L.A. Raeven, Wild Zone, 2001. Digital photo. Witte de With invitation card