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), SOHO Ottakring and Cyberlab (Sponsoring: prints of the texts, laminations).
Cuidarse es revolucionario / To Care is Revolutionary, 20 Inkjet Prints, 50 x 75 cm, Text, 2018
Cuidarse es Revolucionario / To Care is Revolutionary, 2018
Taking time, seeing, listening and engaging with the other are the starting points of this series in which Lena Rosa Händle invites women* of different generations and social classes with urban and rural backgrounds to her temporary residency studio in Cantabria, Spain, for a dialogic portrait. “To care” becomes the common focus of these lives. Underneath each portrait hangs a text – framed just like the picture itself – written by the protagonist*, commenting on her portrait. An additional text by Lena Rosa Händle narrates observations, feelings about and comments on the encounters. These two text levels expand our views, reveal levels of social inequality, and pose questions about the nature of the portrait.
Encounters and Biographies
1. Patricia Manrique
We quickly got into a long conversation about the political situation, feminism, racism and the lack of education about queer concepts in Cantabria. She says that there is a lot of social control in Santander and that many live without coming out of the closet. The title of my work comes from her article “Fürsorge ist revolutionär” . I am fascinated by her words, her clear thinking and her devotion to the community and social movements. We formed a strong connection during the conversations and the photo session.
Patricia Manrique (1974, Santander) is a philosopher, journalist and lover of community. In addition, she works as a tutor and gives orientation classes in philosophy.
2. Ester Aguado Izquierdo
Restrained, cautious and at the same time with a great sense of humour, I immediately feel that a nice and friendly connection is created between us. She comes to the photo session with a wonderful self-made ointment as a present. During the session she is quite tense and shy. I take pictures of her until it gets dark. She is lovely, cares about how I will get to my next appointment and drives me to the station. She lives in the neighbouring village and we become friends. She has a very independent relationship with her partner and they do not have children.
Later he invites me to Luz’s house, her mother-in-law. She spends a lot of time there taking care of this family and the garden, as well as of her own family in Valladolid.
Ester Aguado Izquierdo (1975, Valladolid) works as a nurse.
3. Amparo Echevarria
She quickly earned my affection with her kind and restrained way, and we quickly establish a warm connection. Actually, she had a different idea of what her life is going towill bewas going to be, but there isn’t much work in Spain, says Amparo. She has always tried to please others, first her parents and then she got married at a very young age. She separated from her husband when their children were still very young. She talks with great pride about her sons. Both of them are studying right now and she wishes a better future for them. She worries about one of them, because he is gay.
I take pictures of Amparo during her shift at her workplace and I hope that she feels comfortable with it. The next day Amparo is radiant. She tells me that I helped her out of a dark place by inviting her to participate in my project.
Amparo Echevarria (1958, Maliaño) has been working seventeen years as a housekeeper at the hotel “Los Nogales”, where the residency is located, in Barcenilla de Piélagos, Cantabria. Before her children were born, she sewed elaborate clothes.
4. Marta Peredo
Marta talks with plenty of love and bright eyes about her family and her four grown children. She has an incredible energy and an active life in which she feels needed. Her energy reminds me of my mother who is of the same age. She comes to the photo session with a gift for me, a fabric bag with a printed image of Rosa Luxemburg, after whom I’m named. I don’t understand some of the words she uses, they are from another time. However, our conversation gets very personal at the end. She tells me that her ex-husband cheated on her for a long time while she was taking care of her sick mother. I know it’s something that happens often. My mother went through the same thing.
Marta Peredo (1936, Santander) started working at a very young age in a pharmacy where she treated and advised her clients with love and joy until she got married. Later she worked part-time in a bookstore. She has been politically active from an early age, organized in feminist and social movements. She also fought against Franco, so she had to spend time in prison several times. She is still attending and organizing feminist plenary sessions and demonstrations.
5. Lena Rosa Händle
I take many pictures of myself with the self-timer on the balcony of my studio. I turn my gaze into nature and at the village of Barcenilla de Piélagos. This view gives me peace and tranquility. I pay all my attention to others—to people with a captivating personality, to feminists and those who do not call themselves that, and often receive little attention.
Lena Rosa Händle (1978, Berlin) is an artist, photographer and teacher. In her current projects she invites (queer) feminist artists to her temporary studios (New York, Cantabria). She will continue this project in London and Graz (Austria), where she has already been invited, as well as in other locations.
6. Tamara García
Tamara talks with enthusiasm and great detail about her many ideas, projects and interests. When I take pictures of her, she adopts a pose and I find it difficult to see what is behind it. She takes care of the social aspects of her projects with great dedication and enthusiasm, in the same way that she takes care of Luz’s garden, her feminist projects as an activist, her relationship, her friendships and her dogs.
Tamara García (1980, Santander) is a multidisciplinary artist, organizer, curator and restorer.
7. Paloma González García
I’m happy to help you with anything, says Paloma in our first meeting. When I contact her two weeks later, she keeps her word. I visit her early in the morning at her small hostel “Posada Las Puentes”. She took over the family business from her father and it allows her to spend more time with her four-year-old daughter. There she tells me the story of her life. The most important thing is her daughter, then her parents and then her husband. I see her image strong, earnest and focused.
Paloma González García (1983, Bron, France,) runs the “Posada Las Puentes” in Barcenilla de Piélagos. She works long and hard during the four months of pike season in summer. She takes care of all eleven rooms and makes breakfast for all guests every day. The rest of the year she has less work to do, but she can happily make a living out of it, even though without getting rich.
8. Luz Palacio
I immediately feel very comfortable in the large and cosy family house, where everyone is welcome. They all coexist peacefully in the spacious living room with open kitchen.
The connection takes some time, we are not alone at the big table. It seems natural for her to constantly take care of her big family and many other children and teenagers. Her three grown children still have their rooms at home, they are frequently there to help or still live there. Behind the house there are animals and also a large garden where vegetables are grown all year round.
Luz Palacio (1944, Solórzano), founded an alternative school called Altamira in the 1970s together with her husband and her brother-in-law. In the ’80s she founded a nursery in her own house that is still in running in the upper floor, which is now run by her daughter. In addition, they take care of schoolchildren in the afternoons. Luz manages and organizes the garden and has been cooking every day since the 1970s for all the people in the house, even for the nursery and schoolchildren.
9. Marta Mantecón
Marta shines with an extraordinary light and has a lot of interest and love for others. She asks me many questions and is very interested in my art, in which she always sees and discovers something new. She also enjoys learning and sharing what she has learned. We could grow and evolve together. She takes great care of the artists and their works in every exhibition she curates.
Marta Mantecón (1971, Santander) has studied Tourism and Art History. Now she is developing her art projects and cultural work as a curator and teacher.
10. Nieves Gutiérrez Ganza
Nieves enjoys talking a lot about her life, politics and feminism. It’s noticeable that she has considered herself a feminist and anarchist since she can remember. She talks loud and confident about her anger, her desires and the love she feels for her job. She has been a single mother since the very beginning, since she separated from her partner, a Roma, shortly after her daughter was born. She is cordial but hard at the same time due to the many battles she faces in her life. In spite of her warmth, I do not get close to her.
Nieves Gutiérrez Ganza (1957, Santander) works as a nurse and physiotherapist. When she works as a physiotherapist, she mostly looks after women whose bodies have suffered after years of working at home and taking care of their families. She tries to empower those women so they take care of themselves during the recovery process and give men responsibilities to do the home duties meanwhile. Mostly with little success.
Thank you Ursula Knoll (Editing), Kevin Gil Calero (Translations), Fatima Renane (Installation), das weisse haus/Orbital (Residency), MA7 and FOTO WIEN.
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 (MA57). The two-sided large format light box engaged in a dialog with the artwork Kubus EXPORT – der Transparente Raum and with public space.
Thank you Barbara Mahlknecht, Claudia Throm and MA57.
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.
Thank you Roswitha Baumeister, Mahide Lein, all other women of Pelze and the City of Vienna Women’s Department (MA57).
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 Barbara Mahlknecht and Elke Krasny. Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Xhibit, 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.