“In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.” A beautiful, yet bewildering, section from T.S Eliot’s The Lovesong of Alfred J Prufrock may very well serve as a useful coda for Lise Sarfati’s very nice to look–at–book, SHE, published by Twin Palms, a complex series around a group of very similiar looking American women.
Sarfati’s has long been a self-conscious and stilled collaborative stage, relying upon moments of conceptual and psychological recognition. Clearly aware of the medium’s limitations, Sarfati reaches beyond the surface without too much regard to losing her audience within this melodrama of absence and stasis.
The transference of time and place in SHE, the confluence of characters and the suggestion of familial relationships to each other; their languid, Godot-esque plight and echoes of Cindy Sherman, Philip Lorca diCorcia, and Katy Grannan, drive an oblique, engaging performance of uncertainty and, significantly, suspicion, quite possibly of the photographer figure herself. The series is necessarily inconclusive and poignant, yet the over familiar photographic trope of the ‘passive girl’ sometimes obstructs Sarfati’s best intentions. This appears to be all too familiar of easy fashion imagery, where the gaze is never returned and the body inactive. As auteur, Sarfati knowingly plays this out and the endless avoidance within the collaboration is complicated by her own very significant presence in every photograph.
Looking at SHE, Alison Anders’ 1992 film, Gas, Food and Lodgings, a subtle treatise on economic and sexual exchange within the day-to-day transactions of a single mother and daughters in middle-America comes into view. Sarfati’s work fits a similiar bill. And whilst too obvious agendas are unnecessary and unwelcome, we are left with a feeling that SHE, could perhaps offer us something more radical and still retain a purposeful amount of aesthetic and ambivalent distance.♦
All images courtesy of Twin Palms. © Lise Sarfati