Waiting for my man who lost the war

Ria Pacquée


Photography, 106.5 x 150 cm.
Materials: colour photograph

Collection: Collectie M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK005760_001).

This photograph is an image of a performance in which the artist reveals fragments from the life of ‘Madame’. ‘Madame’ is a character brought to life by Ria Pacquée in 1981, and played by herself. Photographs are made of her comings and goings, and then printed on canvas. In her first apparitions, ‘Madame’ cut a rather pathetic figure; a housebound woman addicted to television, sherry and valium. The photograph of ‘Madame’ in a dilapidated interior strewn with empty beer bottles is typical of this period.

As the years go by, however, ‘Madame’ grows into a lonely ‘folk-woman’ with gray hair and thick spectacles. From here on, she becomes active outside the house, and takes part in all sorts of activities. She is in constant search of something, something that may in one way or another complete her – a sweetheart, a husband or just company. She tries to become part of a crowd, but doing so she is only further confronted with her loneliness. So, for example, she sells ‘souvenirs of the man I’ve loved’ at some little market stall, or plays the toilet attendant in a public institution, or has herself photographed in a tasteless interior decorated with canine portraits.

The photographs of ‘Madame’ offer us a glimpse into the world of a woman of few means and bereft of social contacts. Pacquée combines tragedy with a certain sense of humor, but without ever being hurtful. And although humor plays its part, the photographs speak to us of the endless loneliness of individuals who do their best to make it through their daily lives in a somewhat satisfying way.

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