Contemporary photographic family album
Open daily 10:00–5:00,
Thursdays until 8:00

"I mind my own business but always remember that it one thing the world hates is a woman who minds her own business.
They are telling awful things about me."
Calamity Jane's diary and letters to her daughter, around 1895

Mother & Daughter II

2014 - Series of 7 Ink-jet prints montages, diasec finish mounted on aluminium. various sizes

Photographic constellations

What are these bodies doing? What figures are they creating?

They are endlessly composing, decomposing and recomposing the bond which unites them. A continual exploration of connections – this is perhaps how we could begin to describe the art of Diane Ducruet. She explores what connects and disconnects, what unites and what divides. In the figures and forms that she (de)composes she questions several enigmas:

Family, origins, words, parts of the body, everything that devotes us to curiosity, exploration, representation and the secrets of desire.

If, in her compositions, the body is the central theme – the body in its infinite possibilities, the body and its endless metamorphoses – it is to better redefine its centre of gravity.  It is to better distance ourselves from the weight of gravity and to propose a lighter alternative, a more playful one among the endless possibilities of connections and disconnections in a tender, teasing game of two. And so these two bodies, side by side, play at constructing and deconstructing, making a puzzle, twisting and turning, heads down, feet up. They play on several dimensions, several levels. They bend, they interlock like acrobats, they walk a tightrope, they multiply before us, and then grow three heads. If the compositions of Diane Ducruet are in several parts, each element is alive. It is clear that the bodies are not (re)composed randomly, even if the aesthetic is one which surprises us. She makes a game of the montage, of the construction.   The question is one of displacement – strange bodies, loving, magnetic, a disturbed vision. It is through this experimentation that Diane Ducruet builds her images in the same way we dream. What we must retain above all is the temptation of the undecidable and the unpredictable. Man Ray said it in his famous anagram Image = magie (magic). And if magic is present here, it is because the artist/photographer succeeds in her double bet of making fun of gravity while reviving Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

This is where we arrive at a different perception of time and space. Body parts melt away or disappear, squeeze and deform. They are in constant permutations, the figures become confused as if subjected to the decomposition and recomposition of a surrealist dream. They almost create an enigmatic letter. A letter which is, like Pascal Quinard said, before all letters. It is the origin, the principal, the source, the matrix.

Is there a puzzle to be pieced together? Should we try to solve the rebus? How should it be read?  The bodies are covered in enigmas and secrets, which the viewer tries to decode. As if behind them lay the secret of an anamorphosis or an anagram. Diane Ducruet consecrates her new work to the insecure articulation between incomparable, asymmetrical and unopposable bodies. She replies in her own way to Aristotle’s essence of an enigma – trying to unite irreconcilable terms.

The images, as one might imagine, do not leave people indifferent. The fact that they depict two entwined bodies, albeit in a non-sexual encounter, does nothing to remove the fact that they bear the marks of taboo, of ambivalence. Because the union between these two bodies, a woman and a child, could be seen as incestuous, it has been read by some as strange, animalistic and unjustifiable.

This opens the door to discourses of condemnation, censorship and violence. But what the censors really want to censor is the representation of the sex drive of an intrusive phallic mother, surrounding, encircling and devouring a little girl. A mother who is therefore not protective, but erotic, absorbing, sexual, and who would go as far as to want to return the fruit of her loin to her belly. But is that all there is here? Diane Ducruet’s photographs are certainly transgressive. This is why they are so powerful. This is how we can quantify their impact. She crosses a line. She goes beyond the question of good and bad. But the images are more than erotic provocation. They do much more than challenge the idea of incest. By challenging the oldest taboo, Diane Ducruet has created a highly poetic series. What they question is the unimaginable.

The nudity of the bodies is perhaps what has offended some spectators, but primarily, and by definition, she has returned the body to a state of primary innocence. Something which the censors appear to have forgotten. Human contact is reduced to its simplest expression in its simplest state.  Love expressed through cuddles and hugs – an attempt to create a unity which will never exist. Moreover the distinction of the bodies is jumbled – yet the viewer is not completely in the dark – hand for a hand, head for a head, foot for a foot, the same skin tone. They are all pieces of a same whole. The depiction of the entangled bodies of this woman-child are assembled yet unassembled. They are a puzzle to be reassembled.

In today’s climate it is daring to depict nudity. Not genital, sexual nudity, but the bond of incorruptible unity – the bond with infancy, with the family or femininity and their different aspects. Diane Ducruet’s work has nothing to do with breaking religious taboo, playing with sin or guilt, or depicting eroticised images. It is about rediscovering an alliance which connects us all to infancy and the mother. Is it an embrace to reunite or clinging on so as not to lose? We should perhaps add that childhood is an essential aspect of our dreams and of artists’ creativity. If the family is a vital part in the imagination of the photographer, it is just as important as a camera for the creative process. Whatever feeds the physical or family life is what also feeds the artistic, creative life. We don’t need Freud to tell us that there is a living, dreaming and perhaps suffering child in us all. Diane Ducruet has taken this formula word for word and poetically incorporated this into her photography. This is her art. She uncovers what we have camouflaged, captures a myth, a legend. Her work opposes the harsh reality of separation, opens a door and exposes what we don’t want to see. From a dizzying height, she captures a second in eternity.

This is how Diane Ducruet invites us into the mouth of the lion. Literally. A powerful, terrifying image which makes the viewer shiver. The Lion – the lion who knows no fear, the lion of myth, the splendid elegant lion. And what of the child who puts her head into her mother’s mouth, what does she see? Is this not how the child might catch a glimpse of the bottom of her mother’s heart? She is taking a risk. And as Hélène Cixous would say, the risk is worth it. Diane Ducruet belongs to the family of artists who, to borrow Cixous’s phrase, creates images which roar. Images that call for the liberation of all the prisoners of clichés. That is all of us. What better medium than photography? Eye for an eye, cliché for a cliché. How can the viewer not take the bait?

I think of Diane Ducruet’s images when I read what Hans Bellmer wrote in L’Anatomie de l’image. ‘The body is like a sentence which asks to be broken down and recomposed, through an endless series of anagrams, in order for its true contents to be discovered.’ We must begin by playing the game rough and tumble in order to solve the riddle: My head is down in the morning, I have three heads at midday and walk horizontally in the evening. We look up, move our heads from left to right, and look in this muddle of bodies for what is played out and thwarted, said and unsaid. We seek what makes it twist and turn and arch to become a bow, a lion, a hydra, a centaur, Cerberus, a cloud or column. The figures, shining and airy, turn on themselves.  Suspended. They become fantastical like meteors, upside down. Jubilantly they traverse the devenir and life itself. There is air. By animating these figures in space Diane Ducruet turns them into constellations. It is not only with the titles which Diane Ducruet leads us to this magical space of a poetic work. We could let ourselves believe that with these titles that Diane Ducruet belongs to that poetic family of illusionists, those two have the gift of making stars appear then vanish. The Bow (of Sagittarius), Leo, Lernaean Hydra, Centaur, Cerberus, (Hercules’s) Column, and (Magellen’s) Cloud are all constellations in the Milky Way. Milky way, maternal way, feminine voice. Each photo is a constellation, which has a link, directly or indirectly with the others. And so the cartography unfolds before our eyes. One becomes many – multiple combinations of bodies and meanings and forms. Diane Ducruet has reinvented the stars.

By Stéphanie Boulard – Translated from French by Matthew Kay

Diane Ducruet’s work is characterized by her desire to query photography together with society. She has found her way of expressing herself with her unmistakable sense that allows us to see everyday life, especially the familiar atmosphere, in a new way. Since many of her images are remarkably suggestive even though they constantly shift conventional standards from the way they are set up, the observer follows the interlaced, occasionally absurd and deconstructed paths.
Nevertheless, the observer recognizes the central theme just by glancing at this patchwork of motherly love, physicality, extracts, montage, gestures and the playing with shapes and materials. And so it cannot be overlooked the image concepts of Ducruet’s self-portraits and the works of her “Family Album” are part of the intellectual effects and the expansion of themes circling around gender identity, on the one hand around the fragmentation of the I and, on the other hand, around the vision of a full life.
Ducruet shows us the cracks in the human mask we display. She plays a picturesque game with body axis and body centers, thereby driving decentralization, flexibility and fragmentation of the private as part of the public forward and vice-versa. References to body art as well as the perseverance of art history stabilize her portfolio of images in this connection. What is unusual about these images lies in the interlaced mixture of antagonistic and yet wisely balanced building blocks of her compositional approach.
Diane Ducruet’s images support themselves on meaningful indications in which everyone recognizes his or her own ghosts. Perhaps this is why the observer is spontaneously taken. In the images of the artist, we encounter the new, racing fragmentation of the world, which threatens to tear us into a labyrinth of chaos, which we face with desperate astonishment.

by Christoph Tannert
Artistic Director at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Berlin (Germany)

Books and postcards from the project available