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Zuzanna Janin at "The Baroness"

group show in Mimosa House, London

Mimosa House
May 27,2022 - September 17,2022

May 27, 2022 September 17, 2022

A group exhibition dedicated to Dada artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874–1927), alongside contributions by Nora Gomringer, Libby Heaney, Caspar Heinemann, Istanbul Queer Art Collective, Zuzanna Janin, Reba Maybury, Sadie Murdoch, Nat Raha, Taqralik Partridge, Liv Schulman, Astrid Seme, and Linda Stupart.

Mimosa House presents a group exhibition dedicated to Dada artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874–1927). The Baroness features von Freytag-Loringhoven’s rare original artworks and manuscript reproductions of poems, alongside contributions by international contemporary artists and poets: Nora Gomringer, Libby Heaney, Caspar Heinemann, Istanbul Queer Art Collective, Zuzanna Janin, Reba Maybury, Sadie Murdoch, Nat Raha, Taqralik Partridge, Liv Schulman, Astrid Seme and Linda Stupart.

The Baroness 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. 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. She then relocated to New York and Paris to pursue her poetical and performative practice, which she brought into everyday life.

Grotesque, provocative, non-compliant, eccentric, anarchic – the Baroness’ work shared the vocabulary of Dada, an art movement formed as a reaction to the First World War. However by including her own body and personal motives in her work, the Baroness created a distinct interpretation of Dada and produced some of the first readymade sculptures in 1913. Her sculptures and costumes included teaspoons, tin cans, an iron ring found on the street and a birdcage with a live canary. Her visual poetry touched on the subjects of gender and sexuality, religion and war, disrupting patriarchal and gender codes, and reclaiming women’s right to emancipation and pleasure.

Despite its radicality and innovation, the Baroness’ work remains unfamiliar to the wider public. In dialogue with contemporary artists and poets, this group exhibition presents her original works in the UK for the first time, celebrating her revolutionary vision and impact on our understanding of gender and feminism today.

Generously supported by Arts Council England, Austrian Cultural Forum London, Fluxus Art Projects, Goethe-Institut London, Hallett Independent and High Commission of Canada in the UK.

Featured artists also include:

  • 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 Poland.
  • 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 dominatrix’.
  • 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 Taqralik 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.
  • Linda Stupart’s new site-specific installation rhymes with the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Cathedral (1918), a readymade sculpture formed of a found wood fragment, also featured in the show. At Mimosa House, Linda will build a sister-cathedral constituted of rescued pieces of wood. In the artists’ own words, the piece was produced through: “walking the River Cole in Birmingham near my home since 2019; a public/private path encountered semi naked; clothing constituted from rags and found or stolen plants. Collecting skins; limbs; cathedral-fragments of the riverbank, which is threatening to burst; like I am, like we are”.

The Baroness exhibition is curated by Daria Khan, with support from Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa and Owens Art Gallery, Sackville. 


Photo: Installation view, ‘The Baroness’ exhibition, Mimosa House. Photo by Rob Harris.

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