“It’s in the spare room.” – among the clutter – drying washing, packaging and other paraphernalia that you chuck in the spare room – are two photographs. One is a double portrait of two women, the kind that should be on a mantelpiece. In the other portrait the women are separated and in disarray. A man’s voice can heard through a door. Each of his questions is greeted with silence. As the questions are repeated in different tones of voice, new questions are slipped in – but still no one answers him. After all, no one lives in the spare room. It’s a room where you put your mess and shut the door on it. Until you have time to sort it out. Until you have a visitor come and stay.
The portraits in Before/After are based on original portraits of the Papin Sisters, two sisters who had brutally murdered their female employer and her daughter after many years of service. The sisters would not, or could not explain their actions. Their silence was in sharp contrast to a plethora of intellectual and institutional voices, offering their own questions and interpretations. In the end whether the questioner was sympathetic or judgmental, a psychoanalyst or a journalist, the questions remained the same, and went unanswered. The photographs of the sisters became a major source of interest – as if the evidence of how two ‘ordinary’ sisters became sensational murderesses had somehow been captured by the photographs themselves.
Before/After began with the sisters’ story, by combining the two double portraits with a soundtrack of a man asking some questions. However, as the work has developed, and particularly with its installation into a domestic space, the voice alludes to other acts of transgression or experiences of trauma – but these belong to the viewer, their memories, and their experiences.