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Alma Matrix. Bracha L. Ettinger and Ria Verhaeghe

The exhibition Alma Matrix. Bracha L. Ettinger and Ria Verhaeghe shows how the forms of representation chosen by both artists generate a common space of concern for others, possible connections and shared realities. In their work, Ettinger (Tel Aviv, Israel, 1948) and Verhaeghe (Roeselare, Belgium, 1950) use images of anonymous persons found in newspapers and archival materials, which they articulate through methods of compilation and techniques of copying, deleting, tracing and painting. As an artist and a psychoanalyst, Ettinger integrates both practices in her work and has developed a peculiar approach to applied psychoanalysis, halfway between artistic and curative practice. Verhaeghe collects, combines and binds her images with the use of computers, or with the type of soft, protecting materials, such as latex or wadding, found in her sculptures.

As an artist and psychoanalyst, Ettinger (Israel, France) incorporates both these practices in her work in order to develop an innovative approach to applied psychoanalysis, half-way between the artistic and therapeutic practices. In her work on paper, Ettinger imprints marks linked to memory and trauma, exile and history, while reflecting on representation, the gaze and the trace. The exchange of experiences and the desire to express a common and shared unconscious manifest themselves in her drawings and paintings through the absence of fixation and a tendency to ambiguity, permutation and that which is compound, flexible and ephemeral. Through a near-endless succession of manipulated documents (family photographs, documents from the Holocaust, among others), blurred by the mechanical process of photocopying, with its residual vestiges of ink fused with newly-drawn lines, Ettinger recreates her series of drawings and paintings such as Matrix-Family Album, 1988–89, Woman-Other-Thing, 1990–93, or Eurydice series, 1994–96. In the same manner, Ettinger gathers her experiences as a psychoanalyst and artist in a series of notebooks, which she uses as a space for reflection during her sessions of therapeutic work, and on whose margins she doodles. In order to share these intimate annotations, the artist creates her ‘scannographs’, manipulated scans of the pages in her notebooks left open to different readings by the public (having previously deleted her patients’ confidential information).

In an attempt to show the anonymous, Ria Verhaeghe (Belgium) experiments with the infinity of images that are available nowadays, showing only that which disappears, or is rejected or lost. In her archive Provisoria, 1996–2009 – a space organised as a matrix –, the artist gathers images found in newspapers, which she then reconnects and repositions through a special treatment. Her visual superimpositions interweave and lead to new connections until they create a space of recognition and acceptance of the other. In her work, Verhaeghe unveils the reality that hides and fluctuates among press images, establishing associative correlations, which she then uses as material for her series of collages (Z.T., 1992, Glenden, 1994), paintings (Prentenkabinet, 1994, Vertical, 2004), and notebooks. These correlations, assembled together with sanitary materials, such as cotton wool and latex, that refer to her experiences as a nurse are also present in her sculptures (Knuffels, 1997–2008 and Pattern 3, 1996) and in her installation with piles of newspapers (Ingepakte kranten, 2002). Equally, in her video Connect, 2007–8, the artist relates these found newspaper images to coloured lines or cables coming out of canvasses, as in the series Commitments, 2008.

In their creative processes, both these artists refer to the ‘matrixial’ as a model for confluence, reconnection and reception of the common. The ‘matrix’ or ‘matrixial’ is a concept developed by Bracha Ettinger from the connection between her psychoanalytic and artistic practices. In the meeting of patient and therapist, it goes beyond the traditional concepts of relation between the two figures, and creates a space for empathy, both conscious and unconscious, that contains that which is common to both and which belongs to the collective memory. In the process of artistic creation, it implies the activation of this space for empathy, generated by the encounter with the collective memory, and the establishing of new meanings and connections. This ‘matrixial’ approach makes it possible to perceive and to theorise – from a feminist perspective – the ethical links that connect the artist and his/her work to the audience.

Coinciding with the exhibitions Eva Hesse. Studiowork and Alma Matrix. Bracha L. Ettinger and Ria Verhaeghe, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, in collaboration with the Càtedra d’Art i Cultura Contemporanis, Universitat de Girona, has organised a seminar about the role played, in art history, by the spaces generated in artistic production by processual or relational works, or works in transformation. It is a vision of art history that includes themes such as relation, absence, the ephemeral, grieving, prints or process, and that goes beyond the concept of art centred around the object.