Janis Rafa: Lacerate
Turku Art Museum, Darkroom 15 September – 12 November 2023
Join us for the press preview on Thursday, 14 September 2023 at 11 am at Turku Art Museum. The artist will attend the occasion via Zoom.
Opening on Thursday, 14 September at 5-7 pm. Welcome!
Lacerate (2020) is a vanitas painting come to life, staged in the decaying rooms of a luxurious house, depicting a stagnant moment after dramatic events. The camera wanders slowly around the house, followed by a pack of restlessly behaving hunting dogs. On the floor lies a man bleeding out from his neck and the dogs sniff and prod him like any remnant of meat. Something irrational, animalistic and unconscious has been unleashed.
The film is inspired by the iconography of Flemish still life paintings and mythological and biblical art, but its main reference is the famous work Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1620) by the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. The painting, interpreted as a pre-feminist revenge tale, has often been read as an allegory of self-defense against gendered violence. Janis Rafa’s film was made during the pandemic as part of a project devoted to the domestic and gender-based violence towards women. Rafa’s aim was to make a film about gender and violence without presenting the female subject as a victim waiting to be rescued. In Lacerate, the woman becomes a self-defending executioner, avenging the injustice in a home that is violated and lacerated like a body undergone violence.
Rafa mirrors the concept of violence in Western art history as well as our patriarchal and human-centered history. Dogs are the real protagonists of the film and the driving forces of the narrative. They are not only symbols of animality and instinct, but also elements of protection and liberation. For Rafa, they represent an alternative way of talking about violence, whether it is directed at women, animals or our surroundings, emphasizing on the notion of inherited violence.
Janis Rafa (b. 1984 in Athens) works primarily with moving image, using the language of cinema. Her works, which are often permeated by elements of realism and fiction, explore the symbolic potential of the relations between humans and other species, touching on universal themes such as mortality, coexistence and environmental awareness.
The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Heritage Agency. Courtesy of the artist and Fondazione In Between Art Film. Commissioned and produced by Fondazione In Between Art Film for the project Mascarilla 19 – Codes of Domestic Violence.