Jewish German artist Charlotte Salomon created a vast project of visual narrativity, musicality and textuality in isolation between 1941 and 1942. At the time Salomon was seeking temporary refuge from Nazi Germany in France. When France fell, she was sent to a concentration camp where she died in 1943. Initially recognized as a work of modern art in its first exhibition in 1961 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Salomon’s artwork was rapidly misrepresented as a diary in pictures, as an autobiographical narrative, and as a Holocaust testimony. None of this is entirely inappropriate. While the artist was indeed persecuted and murdered under Nazism, such approaches have denied to the work recognition of its startling formal inventiveness and its complexity.
The work draws on an array of avant-garde resources as much as popular music and contemporary cinema as it moved from silent to talkie, from black and white to colour. Salomon’s formal and psychological processes of elaboration and transformation transgress the boundaries between public and private, between the book and the painting, between the visual and acoustic. Salomon’s work of inventing memories through painting spaces and places for them, opening thresholds between the living and the dead caught in a terrifying net of terror after 1940, address questions about life and death for three generations of women. It also asks profound questions of subjectivity and its historical and gendered conditions which provide the ground for elaborating one of the most remarkable art-texts that emerged out of the modernism and political turmoil of the 1930s.
In her lecture Professor Pollock offers a series of readings of Salomon’s work through encounters with the artists and intellectuals whose company Life? or Theatre? demands in order to find its place in history and render it legible to us now.
Griselda Pollock is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art and Director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History at the University of Leeds. She is a world-renowned scholar of post-colonial feminist studies in the visual arts, best known for her theoretical and methodological innovation, combined with deeply engaged readings of historical and contemporary art, film and cultural theory. Amongst her major publications are (with Roszika Parker) Old Mistresses; Women, Art and Ideology (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism, and Histories of Art (Routledge,1987), Avant-Garde Gambits: Gender and the Colour of Art History (Thames and Hudson, 1993) and Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive (Routledge, 2007). Important recent edited volumes include; with Antony Bryant Digital and Other Virtualities: Renegotiating the Image (I.B.Tauris, 2010), with Catherine de Zegher Bracha L. Ettinger:Art as Compassion (ASA Publishers, 2011) and with Max Silverman Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Resistance in Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (Berghahn Books, 2011).
Pollock is also an invited contributor to the Documenta 13 NotebookSeries with her Allo-thanatography or Allo-auto-biography: A few thoughts on one painting in Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? oder Theater? 1941-42.
Presented in association with the Centre for Curating the Archive, UCT.
Refreshments served from 5pm, lecture commences at 5.30pm