Nick Hackworth

L.A. Raeven, ICA

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Anorexic and obnoxious, the identical, black-haired, female Dutch twins who make up L. A. Raeven have been causing a bit of a stink in the art world — a stink of pee, to be precise. In their quest to sub- vert society’s fascistic aesthetic norms, the twins have been holding up their extremely sleight body forms as ideals that people everywhere can aspire to. In the lower galleries of the ICA, two videos show the twins hanging around in an empty gallery space, being thin and not doing much apart from exhibiting obsessive-compulsive tendencies in eating identically small bits of food.

On two other screens, two young, scraggly male twins, made-up with dark rings under their eyes, imitate L. A. Raeven. Indeed, one is memorising a set of rules devised by L. A. Raeven to control eating and drinking habits. These two males are the first members of the “L. A. Army” that will consist of similarly perfect anorexics who will help spread the L. A. conception of the ideal human form.

Also — and this is the stinky bit — L. A. Raeven have decided to draw attention to the insidious use of “nice smells” by retail companies who, for example, pipe the smell of baking bread into their shops to subconsciously increase consumer spending. In their own version of this olfactory persuasion, the twins have, judging from the smell, decided to pee into wine glasses left on the gallery floor along with other debris designed to give the place a charming, outré feel.

Peeing aside, the twins’ championing of the aesthetics of anorexia has upset some liberal opinion — apparently, several broadsheets recently pulled planned features on this show, fearing accusations of corrupting fragile young, particularly female, psyches. As the twins point out, this is a little rich given the prevalence of images of sex and violence in our media and they succeed in highlighting the illiberal character of political correctness. Despite this, L. A. Raeven are offering us nothing new artistically, their work falling into the tradition of Sixties body art, where the body became the medium for the message. Nor is their brand of “aesthetic terrorism” particularly aesthetic or terrifying. But for the sheer crassness with which they pursue their ideas, they deserve our applause.

Until 10 March. Tel: 020 7930 3647. Showing alongside the work of L. A. Raeven is that of Swedish video artist Annika Larsson