Liquid Crystal


214 × 128 cm

zur  Biographie

The spectacular video installation Les Larmes d´Acier, which was Marie-Jo Lafontaine’s contribution to documenta 8, brought the Belgian woman to the forefront of contemporary art. As part of the Frankfurt Skyarena for the 2006 soccer world cup Lafontaine produced the artistic part: the video installation I love the World, which involved projecting enormous images onto high-rise facades. Lafontaine’s works are highly complex, and her choice of media is highly varied. In addition to video installation and sculptures she also creates photographic works.

Liquid Crystal is the title Marie-Jo Lafontaine gives her series of black-and-white portraits of young adolescents. Liquid crystals unite the typical characteristics of a liquid, such as flow properties with those of solids such as direction dependence. Both qualities are demonstrated for instance in the phenomenon of magnetism. This chemical-physical phenomenon could not be more metaphorical for puberty – that time when children search for their own identity as ults. During this phase the individual recognizes itself as a social and sexual being and looks for a position in society. This journey can be said to literally offer fluid – or expressed differently – open options and simultaneously firm structures that provide guidance. The youngsters Lafontaine portrays are shown head on and the entire upper torso is depicted. Some of the poses appear defiant, some conforming, some forced, cool and others skeptical. In producing photos that are larger than life the artist lends them a dignity, which attests to her acceptance of and respect for the upcoming generation. Unlike Wolfgang Tillmans, who produces his youth culture studies en situ, immerses himself in the scene and photographs his subjects in their accustomed environment, Lafontaine brings the models to her studio and insists on them posing in front of a white background. The subjects seek direct eye contact with the observer. Color was added retrospectively to the pupils. By doing this the artist emphasizes the pact of the gaze, which can assume a wide variety of expressions and is open to very many interpretations. The gaze reveals a person’s soul, their personality, indeed their attitude to the world and society. However, ultimately how a gaze is interpreted depends on the individual observer and their own projections.

Janina Vitale
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