Lavinia Xausa

How I stopped biting my mother

My relationship with art starts with the marks of my bites on my mother’s arms. When I was three I couldn’t talk yet, therefore I would take those unspoken words out on her.

From my childhood and then in my adolescence my mother has been representing the main medium with which I would ever express myself. We would spend much time together, mostly in the car as she used to take me around. We would talk about this and that and, although I infinitely wanted to open up with her, I felt that my way of expressing myself and my choice of topics did not involve her that much.

Each one of my stories was an exercise in style scrutinized by her occupational hazard as a language teacher. There was a peaceful relationship between us, after all, provided that I would never raise my voice and I would always speak correctly. Whenever I was upset and I’d unleash my voice to a few decibels above the limit, she would refuse to listen to me.

She used to correct me as I spoke. Even when I was trying to express complex and deep feelings, she would intervene with some ridiculous grammatical correction, I’d get nervous, raise my voice, and she would leave. Consequently, the fear of making mistakes has meant that, over the years, my stories would lose more and more details, ending up talking to her less and less.

She has always been a titan of dialectics for me, and at one point I simply gave up the comparison with her. Thinking back, I do not even think I realized it, it just happened.

At the age of 19 I left home, tried all those experiences mentioned in the manual of “Kids out of Control” and continued my studies in art (also mentioned in the manual). I moved abroad and carried out all those part-time jobs that can be classified under the heading “It pays the bills”.

Although I had always studied art, the impulse to produce and confront with the public came much later. For years I was a student-researcher and only after moving to the Netherlands and studying photography I finally began my artistic career. The “art career” seems almost an oxymoron to talk about a career when there is no pay, but here I am.

For me, producing art means reopening that kind of relationship I used to have with my mother years ago. The one of the bites on the arms, the corrections, the challenge to emancipation. It is a challenge indeed, between me and the observer as much as between myself and my self-esteem. It is a journey made of stylistic and communicative choices aimed at the audience as well as professional decisions related to practice’s ethics.

There is not much personal history in my work; I don’t like talking about myself, I think there is no event in my past interesting enough to be examined. My production is based on the history and the facts of the contemporary age, about me, there is only the will to find connections and to express them as clearly as possible to the public.

My relationship with art stands precisely in communicating effectively a non-verbal message, where the image, the visual association, the sound, take the place of the word. My practice develops at these conditions and there, re-emerges the epiphany of all those moments of my past in which I was corrected, contradicted, and in which I had to commit myself and strive if I wanted to be heard and understood.

Producing art is difficult: it pushes the makers to confront with the history and its titans; it unleashes feelings in our hearts that we would like to keep secret, as in dreams, strips us naked, in front of the whole class, during the math test. Art forces me in the situation where I have to tell my mother something extremely complicated in a clear and correct way.

If on the one hand, the fear of not being understood and the borderline-plaque printed in my face will never abandon me along my artistic journey, on the other side, my mother will always be present among my audience. And despite the difficulties to be heard and understood, her face will be always the most familiar and loved one.

My relationship with art is as inseparable as that of a daughter with her mother.

Lavinia Xausa

Lavinia Xausa is an Italian visual artist based in Rotterdam, graduated from St. Joost Academy in Breda. In her research she employs new media to explore the relationship between modernity and the Western cultural background, cultural appropriation and the relationship between people and places. Her works result in a motley combination of sounds, pictures, moving images,texts, and graphics staging a personal universe where the present is continuously questioned and discussed.