I (We) Feel Seen, 9-C Prints, 11 Inkjet Prints, 65 x 70 cm, Text, 2018
I (We) Feel Seen, 2018
In the current political climate in which cis-male camaraderie is gaining power, this installation explores the in/visibility and diversity of queer-feminist artists. The analog portrait photographs are testimonies of dialog-based encounters at Lena Rosa Händle’s Residency Studio in New York. How do the encounters and connections between Lena Rosa Händle and the protagonists become visible?
Taking time, seeing, listening and engaging with are the starting points of this series, which subsequently produces connection, a process of learning, appreciation and (temporary) community.
A text by the protagonist about their picture hangs, equally framed under each portrait. An additional text by Lena Rosa Händle shares observations, feelings and comments on the encounters.
Through these two layers of text, views are expanded, levels of social inequality made visible, as well as questions asked about the portrait itself.
Encounters and Biographies
1. Fem Appeal
As Fem Appeal overcomes her fear of heights and steps onto the balcony, she suddenly transforms into the proud, serious and dignified Abraham Lincoln, whom I’ve met on stage in Coney Island. I immediately feel comfortable in her warm presence and enjoy listening to her. Her height and her age surprise and impress me, queer people do not seem to age.
Fem Appeal (*1967 Brooklyn, New York) is a burlesque performer and founder/host of the burlesque show Kitty Nights NYC (2006-2014). During the day she works with teenagers with disabilities in the health education sector. It is important to her to separate her identities, in order to keep her job. Burlesque performers still have a bad reputation.
2. Eva Kollisch und Naomi Replansky
The reading by the two Jewish Poets moves me profoundly. Eva survived the Holocaust by emigrating with a Kindertransport from Baden near Vienna. The vast dimension of this experience is felt in her essays. I am the only German in the room. I approach them after the reading. Their openness towards me and their enthusiasm for talking German eases me. We become friends, go for dinner while discussing politics and thinking about translating between languages. When Naomi and Eva first met, they were in their sixties. They’ve been a couple for thirty years and live together in two separate apartments in a building on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
Eva Kollisch (*1925 Baden near Vienna) is a writer and literary and German scholar. She was a Professor at the Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.
Naomi Replansky (*1918 Bronx, New York) is a writer and was a translator of among others texts by Bertold Brecht. Additionally, she worked as a programmer for many years.
3. Linda LaBeija
As she enters my studio, Linda LaBeija is in the middle of a telephone conference. She takes a seat on the Sofa and puts herself in order. With headphones in her ears, she whispers: „You can now start taking pictures.“
Linda La Beija (*1991 Bronx, New York) is a Vogue dancer (HOUSE OF LABEIJA), Spoken Word performer and trans activist. She combines music with Spoken Word. During the day she works with homeless LGBTQ youth.
4. L. J. Roberts
L.J. Roberts enters my studio with Sparky and Ziggy, her mixed-breed Chihuahuas and immediately starts talking a lot. She tells me about her Polish/Russian background and about her Grandmother who inspired her to produce her works with textiles. Sparky and Ziggy are meanwhile taking over the studio, stretching out on the couch and it is clear that they are an important part of her family.
L.J. Roberts (*1980 Detroit, Michigan) is an artist and teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York.
5. Su Friedrich
By communicating through the camera with Su Friedrich, I feel complicity while at the same time a strong professional observation. She looks at me with a mixture of curiosity, skepticism but also affinity and goodwill. Is it because I’ve known her work since my studies and she is a professor?
Su Friedrich (*1954 New Haven, Connecticut) is a filmmaker and professor at Princeton University.
6. Lena Rosa Händle
This self-portrait was taken with a self-timer during the early days of my residency in New York. I turn my gaze towards the city, I feel lofty and free yet at the same time a responsibility for this scholarship.
Lena Rosa Händle (*1978 Berlin) is an artist, photographer and teacher. Alongside her artistic practice, she has worked at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna for the past four years.
7. Brittnay Maldonado
Brittnay´´s Präsenz auf der Bühne erlebe ich als stark, und gleichzeitig ist viel Traurigkeit spürbar. Es ist schwierig hinter ihre Posen zu blicken. I experience Brittany’s stage presence as powerful yet sad. It is difficult to look behind her poses.
Brittany Maldonado (*1987 Bronx) is a Spoken Word performer and artist. She has just given up her office job for the first time in her life. She wants to be true to herself and live her dream.
8. Ness und Nia
Nia & Ness enter my studio and give me a warm hug. Their great love is constantly present. In front of the camera, they melt with each other and seem to have forgotten me completely. I say „It feels like a mirror of my own relationship“ and just at that moment, I receive a message from my partner. As a white couple, we always feel safer. I can tell by looking at Nia that constant awareness and defensiveness are tiring.
Ness White (*1987 California) and Nia Shand (*1993 New Jersey) are a couple since 2013. In 2016 they founded the company Nia & Ness and since perform together as a poetry-performance-dance duo. They process their daily experiences as a black, lesbian couple with dance performances by Nia and with spoken word poetry by Ness. During the day, Ness works as an educator and Nia at a primary school.
9. Ulrike Müller
Ulrike Müller has the idea, to try a painter portrait with dog referring to Joan Mitchell with George the poodle, but then it does not fit with her evening plans to bring the dog. When she enters my studio, she says, „It’s hard to take a picture of me.“
Ulrike Müller (*1971 Brixlegg, Tyrol) is an artist living in New York since 2002. She was part of the queer-feminist artist collective LTTR. For a few years now, she has been able to live from her art.
10. Louise Fishman
Louise Fishman arrives with her wife and manager Ingrid Nyeboe (* 1956). Both have academic and artistic backgrounds and tell legendary stories about the gay and lesbian liberation movement in New York in the 1970s, which they were involved with.
Louise Fishman (*1939 Philadelphia) is a painter, she is able to live from her art.
Thank you Ursula Knoll, Georgia Holz, Katharina Aigner and Marina Lewandowska as well as the Federal Chancellary of Austria (Residency, New York City) and
Cyberlab (Sponsoring: prints of the texts, laminations).
Reclaiming Gestures 2, carbon prints, lightboxes, 60 x 90 cm, 2017
Reclaiming Gestures 2, 2017
Lena Rosa Händle’s five light boxes are part of her series Reclaiming Gestures 2, where she negotiates depictions of the female body. The five photographs show the artist in different poses with props that cannot be clearly identified. The titles are Grosse Fotografen und Olympus (Great Photographers and Olympus), Verführerisch, unser neuer Bodenbelag…Das sinnliche Erlebnis auf Parkett (Seductive, our new flooring…the sensual experience on parquet), Filter Rillos (Filter Rillos), Macht Spass im Mund! (Fun in your mouth!), and Jungs kommt Grillen! (Boys come to grill!). The high-quality carbon prints in light boxes can be interpreted as advertisements. The composition and slogan-like titles draw on advertising images, although they contradict the usual advertising aesthetic. A break occurs between the written message and the image. The artist occupies the picture in a self-determined pose. Instead of advertised products, improvised seating made of metal frames and wooden palettes, a hasty drawing on paper, and the studio space become props in the picture. (…)
fraction of the exhibition text by Juliane Bischoff: Lena Rosa Händle & Katharina Aigner, T/abor, Vienna, 2017
Reclaiming Gestures 1, lightbox, 2074 x 1074 cm, 2015
Reclaiming Gestures 1, 2015
In Reclaiming Gestures 1 Lena Rosa Händle works with gestures and poses from sexist advertising. The images include staged performances and artist portraits, depicting queer-feminist appropriations in the studio. The individual images refer to specific historical and current advertisements whose iconographic poses the artist appropriates, reinterprets, and presents as light boxes. The self-portrait photographs suggest references to female artists of the feminist avant-garde.
Two photographs from this work were shown in the solo show Reclaiming Gestures, 2015, supported by the City of Vienna Women’s Department. The two-sided large format light box engaged in a dialog with the artwork Kubus EXPORT – der Transparente Raum and with public space.
Pelze (Furs), neon light, aluminium grid, 150×50 cm, 2015
Pelze (Furs), 2015
The central objective of the work is a queer-feminist knowledge production, the (ambivilant) visability of (historical) places, and strategies of the empowerment of queer spaces.
Pelze refers to a space for women and lesbians ‚PELZE-multimedia‘, which existed in a self-organized house project and former fur shop in Berlin from 1980 to 1994 as an international avant-garde meeting place for artists and activists. Everybody was welcome and a mixture of all kinds of ages, different class and social backgrounds, international visitors, as well as sexworkers from the neighborhood occured.
The translation of the original typography of the word Pelze by hand into installative neon writing is both a citation of the logo that ‚PELZE- multimedia‘ appropriated from the vacant fur shop and a hommage to the
project ‚PELZE-multimedia‘. Therefore it can be read as a further re-writing of the appropriation of the logo of the shop as well as a significance displacement from a comercial context to a subcultural scene.
Mädchen unter Bäumen (Girls under trees), digital print on acrylic, embroidery, 220 x 126 cm, 2016
Mädchen unter Bäumen (Girls under Trees), 2016
At the Master School for Art Education, it was compulsory for female students to take 22 hours per week per semester needlework in the 5th and 6th semesters. In the course of establishing this Master School in 1941, the first female instructors at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna were appointed as teachers of needlework. Mädchen unter Bäumen uses the tapestry of the same name from 1941, which students in Wuppertal embroidered in a laborious collaboration with their art teacher and needlework teacher. This ornamental wall decoration for the classroom shows a self-portrait of the girls in nature, which is framed by this saying: “Ye people, learn but from the meadow flower, how ye can please God and be beautiful as well.”
The artistic work inserts two embroidered personal ads from the Wochenschau newsreel that appeared in Vienna in 1942 into Mädchen unter Bäumen: “Girl seeks correspondence with girlfriend under modern” and “Lady wants girlfriend for cinema and theater.”
Such displays are the only publicly visible words, and are among the few supporting documents, on lesbian life during the Nazi regime in Vienna.
“Girl” and “lady” had been codes in lesbian subculture since the first women’s movement. The colors lila and violet and the specifying of a girlfriend were other indicators of homosexuality in the 1920s. In her 1999 book Verbotene Verhältnisse (“Forbidden Relationships”), historian Claudia Schoppmann has worked on the history associated with the 1942 ads based on Viennese court records. The ad placed by the youth educator Lisbeth L. resulted in several exchanges of letters and at least one brief relationship. The Gestapo opened one of the letters and the women were brought to trial and sentenced to prison for “fornication abhorrent to nature.”
Uncanny Materials Founding Moments of Art Education. A curatorial exhibition, research and education project curated by Elke Krasny and Barbara Mahlknecht. Acadamy of Fine Arts Vienna, Exhibit, 2016
Laughing Inverts, c-prints, framed, various sizes, 2006-10
Laughing Inverts, Artist Book, Hard Cover, 16,4 x 24 cm, 200 pages, 82 color- and 44 b/w Images, Kehrer Publisher, 2015
Laughing Inverts, 2015
The phenomenon of laughter, like this artist’s book, is characterized by variety. The diversity of photographic approaches manifested in the dialog between these images reveals different facets of identity, relationships, and social movements. Momentary scenes arise in the mix of imagery, forming idiosyncratic orders. Found signs and traces are articulated in movement, masquerade, and glamour. Visual shifts, reversals, and reinterpretations invert societal norms and conventions. Browsing through these pages, a flow of images emerges that follows its own inner rhythm, united by the expressiveness of laughter as communication, gesture, grimace, or threat.
Of Other Spaces, c-prints, 60 x 80 cm, 2013
Of Other Spaces, 2013
The work is based on effective counter spaces. Strange other spaces, which lie beyond all places and can be understood as realized utopias of our society. In these spaces prescribed standards are ephemeral, not fully implemented, or operated by their own maxims.
The dark and poetic images act as mental spaces in which classifications and inscriptions, openings and closings of fictitious, symbolic, personal and public levels can be considered. On a symbolic level, an analysis of the concept of utopia takes place. Here, the real residues that are visible on the photographs refer to an ambivalence that oscillates between spaces that are defined within socio-political and imaginary spaces, which open up in the world of imagination.
Monsters, collages in lightboxes, 12 x 15cm – 22 x 25 cm, 2013
In these newspaper collages, Lena Rosa Händle analyzes pictorial spaces found in the Viennese tabloids. The material undergoes a process of intense dismantling (mixed, torn, layered, reassembled) and finally is examined over the ambient glow from light boxes. Different layers are visible depending on the lighting of the space, which creates different images. In this work we encounter monstrous and injured subjects, which can be understood as queer dystopias.
Between Places, Paper fragments on glas, 2013-14
Between Places, 2013
The installation addresses the aesthetics of places in between and the absence of bodies. The expression of vacancy, the state of transition, the overlapping of remnants and dissolution in public space are present in the work.
In A box of Space of Other Spaces, the artist addresses the shifting and connection of real and fictional urban space by décollaging the glass of a display window.
She decontextualizes the aesthetics of the décollage and calls for images, societal spaces and the corresponding classifications and evaluations.
Places of Passing, c-prints 90 x 120 cm, 2013
Places of Passing, 2013
The human body exists as an imaginary space, is the starting point for the world, and the place where paths and spaces intersect. It is the basis for all kinds of constructed, real and utopian places. The space produces the human body.
It tells of personal spaces and inscriptions on the body. This human body is in the process of passing to an undefined place of passage and cannot be easily classified.
The subjects are turned away from the camera, eluding a clear definition and classification of their identity.
The title Places of Passing and the androgynous bodies refer to a transgender context. The ambiguity of gender relating to visibility and invisibility is a key queer issue.
Laughing Inverts, (limited edition), artist book, 2011
Il popolo delle libertá, projection, video, digital Print, glas, 2010
Il popolo delle libertá, cooperation with Sarah Feulner, 2010
The installation Il Popolo delle Libertà (The People of Freedom) consists of a projection, a video, and a photograph laminated on particleboard behind glass, which is set on a block of stone. The work focuses on the appropriation of media under the government of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.
The artists show their reactions to radical right-wing graffiti in the public space of Tivoli near Rome. The video documents the artists taping and spraying over slogans/swastikas that are left by the Forza Nuova (New Force – a far right political party in Italy); the new images that overlay the old subvert the right wing content. The presentation of the work on a small monitor brings to mind the aesthetics of surveillance. In addition, a large-format projection shows manipulated newspaper cuttings, which pick up images of the collective pictorial memory.
What can images achieve? The artists Lena Rosa Händle and Sarah Feulner problematize media images, their ubiquity, and their influence in terms of presenting truth and political events.