Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger

Galerie Claude Samuel

For more than a decade, Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger has borne witness to the most overwhelming event of our century—the Holocaust. Born in Israel and a resident of France since 1982, Lichtenberg-Ettinger has modestly, and little by little, managed to express the inexpressible. Her series “Eurydice,” 1992–96, consisting of mixed media pieces on canvas and paper and shown here along with other works, rescues from oblivion images that have been hidden in the shadows—just as Eurydice herself was in the myth of Orpheus, after she was sentenced to death by her lover’s impatience. Lichtenberg-Ettinger finally lets Eurydice speak, through enigmatic, almost indecipherable images. That is, she lets a certain other, feminine gaze speak—with infinite delicacy and tenderness—of unbearable tragedy. Her aesthetic process is enriched by her work as a psychoanalyst and numerous writings in which she has theorized the subjectivization process of the multiple and divided feminine.

Lichtenberg-Ettinger offers intimate, small-scale images, made with photographs from the ’30s and ’40s taken from newspapers or family albums: photos of children and a doll; naked women in the camps; and aerial and topographical views of Palestine. These images have been completely transformed and manipulated by being passed through a photocopier. The sources of the photocopied images have been fragmented and intermingled to such an extent that one can only see traces of largely evaporated figures, woven into the paper, applied to the canvas and, in certain places, covered with oil paint. The paint—violet, lilac, blue, and blood red—endows the grain of the paper with a velvety texture and blends with the pieces’ gray frames. Color plays an anamnestic role here, causing feelings linked to memory to surge and reemerge. Jean-Francois Lyotard has written apropos this kind of painting: “Writing causes anamnesia through words, its medium; painting, through colors. It works out a ‘language,’ that is, everything that has been received through words or colors, the immense and potential fabric of signifiers.”

Eurydice no. 2, 1992–93, shows a recurring motif in Lichtenberg-Ettinger’s work (she often returns to a particular repetoire of images): a woman with her back to the viewer, seemingly forgotten, her gaze piercing in its absence. This faceless figure incites us to see in the depth of the painting the loss of her ability to speak and her ineffable destiny. Meanwhile, in Eurydice no. 10, 1994–95, though her eyes have been half-erased, a woman’s face offers itself fully to our view, like a memory that should be protected at any cost.

Anne Dagbert

Translated from the French by Jeanine Herman.