Gatekeeper (Exhibition and book)
Lene Marie Fossen
Shoot Gallery, Oslo
The photographer undresses in front of her own camera until there are only bones left. The skinny body's helplessness is heartbreaking. Despite a lifetime of anorexia, the poses Lene Marie Fossen (1986–2019) takes on are both graceful and timeless. The colour, the room, and the staging are like the old masters.
Lene Marie Fossen managed to give a face to the disease of anorexia and found a haven from the diagnosis through photography. The raw and exceptional power of her images placed her among today's few international photographic geniuses.
Her images touch on a disturbing point of contact where the fear of life crosses the line of mortality.
The film has the ability to take me into her bitter existential struggle. From time to time I sense something bigger, a sacred feeling. Lene admits that she wanted to stop time, that she just wanted everything to be as it was. Gradually, she stopped eating, she says, but admits she was trapped in the disease's jail and did not achieve what she had envisioned.
Lene's open, vulnerable gaze has etched into my retina. It was good to spend time with her through the film and see joy in her face for recognition and her own photography. With her picturesque self-portraits, she not only gives a face to the refusal to eat, but also the slow, strong human suffering we can recognize.
It is important for recognition and empathy that her appearance is similar to ours. That she has been – and is – one of us. In the film, she crosses an unspoken border by documenting her own bodily decay. The power of her action break with the ideas and ideas we quickly form of this disease: Lene is a strong anorectic, but equally a fully active performer. She cares for refugee children and photographs them, and also older Greek widows. She occasionally escapes her own diagnosis and the awful repetitive forced treatment. The last has been her nightmare, with almost all treatment programs through her 22 years left her body without the necessary nutrition.
With that, it is not that she and her struggling, loving family did not receive the necessary support. It is Lene herself and the unlived life she longed for. It is that she, as a human being with thoughts, needs and dreams, is not hidden in the the third of all deaths among adolescents caused by anorexia.
Although Lene is just skin and bone, she laughingly relies that she might find herself a husband in Greece, where her photography really took off. Hunger artist is the unspoken word in space, for her sincere, artistic exploration is at its best when it is linked to her own troubled body and the disease that wears the life out of her. The many pictures, for me, are filled with a soundtrack to Lene's pain, but also her calmness over having found a method of expressing herself in the middle of it all. The disease is constantly threatening to take over her identity, she says.
The film becomes a biting commentary on how quickly we forget those behind the diagnosis, as in the scene where a greasy American photojournalist wants to hug Lene. He confesses that he was not allowed to embrace the victims of the famine disaster in Somalia. A seemingly experienced reporter's clumsy attempt at proximity to a human disaster is appalling. Lene keeps up. She takes ownership of the production of herself, but she doesn't stop there.
Hunger artist is the unspoken word in space, for her artistic exploration is
as best as it is related to her own troubled body and the disease that devastates her life
out of her.
She wraps herself and her tragedy like a religious icon, but exposes it as mercilessly as the disease it is. Her images touch on a disturbing point of view where the anxiety of life crosses the threshold of mortality.
A soft voice from Toten takes me back to the here and now. It is Lene who says that anorexia is a heinous disease she would never have chosen for herself, but that she has not mastered anything other than to stop eating. Why didn't she get help to love food again? Her words hit me in the stomach. No matter how widespread anorexia is, it is impossible to understand, but in meeting Lene and her photographs I still manage to feel something – only I let my gaze follow her.
Film self Portrait and the photo exhibition Gatekeeper premieres January 17, 2020. See among other things Gjøvik Cultural Center January 17 at. 18-21: Film screening and photo exhibition [Facebook] and Shoot Gallery, Oslo.
Help with eating disorders
For those of you who need to talk to someone about eating disorders:
Eating Disorders Association, Information and Support Phone: 22 94 00 10
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