Mimosa House will present, for the first time in the UK, a group exhibition dedicated to
Dada artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874–1927). The Baroness
will feature von Freytag-Loringhoven’s rare original artworks and manuscript
reproductions of poems, alongside contributions by international contemporary artists
and poets including Nora Gomringer, Libby Heaney, Caspar Heinemann, Istanbul Queer
Art Collective, Zuzanna Janin, Reba Maybury, Sadie Murdoch, Nat Raha, Taqralik
Partridge, Liv Schulman and Astrid Seme.
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was “the first American Dada”, “New York’s first punk
persona”, “the great aunt of feminist performance art”, and a radical poet and
assemblage artist. Her assemblages and costumes included everyday objects:
teaspoons, stamps and tomato cans. Her poetry touched on the subjects of gender and
sexuality, religion and war, disrupting patriarchal and gender codes, and reclaiming
women’s right to pleasure and birth control.
Grotesque, provocative, non-acquiescent, eccentric, anarchic – von
Freytag-Loringhoven’s work shares the vocabulary of Dada itself. However by including
her own body and very personal motives in her poetical work, the Baroness creates a
very distinct interpretation of Dada and anticipates the post-modernist movement.
Born in Germany in 1874 as Else Plötz, the future Baroness Elsa von
Freytag-Loringhoven left home at age 18 to work as an erotic vaudeville artist and an
artist’s model in Berlin and Munich, before relocating to New York and Paris to pursue
her poetical and performative practice. She published her poems in the uncompromising
Little Review arts magazine, sparking outrage for their experimental form and
provocative subject matter, gaining recognition and admiration from leading figures of
high modernism such as Man Ray, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Peggy
Guggenheim, Berenice Abbott and Ernest Hemingway.
Despite its radicality and innovation, the Baroness’ work remains unfamiliar to the wider
public. The Baroness at Mimosa House will present her original works in the UK for the
first time, in dialogue with contemporary artists and poets, celebrating her revolutionary
vision of gender and feminism.
Libby Heaney’s two screen moving image artwork Euro(re)vision (2019), where
Libby performs as two topical EU government leaders from March 2019, Angela
Merkel and Theresa May reciting absurd machine generated songs. Inspired by
Dada poetry, such as Hugo Ball’s sound poem ‘o gadji beri bimba’, this piece
uses multiple cutting-edge machine learning/artificial intelligence techniques to
create new forms of algorithmic poetry and performance.
The Polish artist Zuzanna Janin’s sculptures-collages Femmage a Maria & Elsa,
(for....) (from 2018 - ongoing), are awarded to the laureats of the Maria Anto &
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Art Prize, established in Warsaw. Works from the
series of Home Transformed Into Geometric Solids (2018) use the waste from
Janin’s family house construction to connect with memories of Elsa von Freytag-
Loringhoven and her birth town of Swinemünde (Świnoujście) located in today’s
Reba Maybury’s video sculpture A-good-individual (2019) shows the backs of
five different body parts of five different submissive men reading poems in Reba’s
apartment at different times during August 2019. The poems each submissive
reads had been made for Reba on her demand, using the cut up technique, from
abuse she received during a right wing media storm about her work as a ‘political
In her work Pass-Way Into Where-To (2021), Sadie Murdoch immerses herself
in the photographs, poems and manifestoes of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.
The artist’s intent is to re-route and re-position the history of the New York and
Zurich Dada movement by cutting up and re-assembling poems and manifestos,
placing them alongside reconfigurations of photographic archives.
Inuk artist Taqalik Partridge’s Build My Own Home (2021) features amautiit
(women’s parkas) decorated with spoons collected on a visit to Scotland - where
her grandparents are from - as a nod to Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Dada
fashions created from everyday objects. Her use of teaspoons as decoration also
speaks to the history of colonial trade and intercultural exchange.
French-Argentine artist Liv Schulman’s six-episode fiction Le Goubernement
(2019) imagines the destiny and work of women, lesbian, queer, trans and
non-binary artists who lived in Paris from 1910 – 1980. Elsa von
Freytag-Loringhoven, who moved to Paris in 1926, is one of the artists that were
erased from the great Twentieth Century modernist narrative.
Austrian artist Astrid Seme’s works form an homage to Elsa von
Freytag-Loringhoven and her manic use of em dashes. In an enlarged form and
with a typesetter’s manner, Astrid hands her vinyl dashes Baroness Elsa’s em
dashes (2019) over to the curator to link, emphasize, intervene and interrupt the
different exhibited works. The purpose of the em (or en) dash is
wide-ranging —as an appropriation of silence, as acting dissonance, as
interruption, as occupying space.
The Baroness exhibition is curated by Daria Khan, with support from Carleton University
Art Gallery, Ottawa and Owens Art Gallery, Sackville.
For press enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
With generous support from Arts Council England, Austrian Cultural Forum London,
Fluxus Art Projects, Goethe-Institut London, Hallett Independent and High Commission
of Canada in the UK.
The Baroness press release