Sustenazo-Lament, Sustenazo-Stretcher | Collection Co–selection

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Monika Weiss

Sustenazo-Lament, Sustenazo-Stretcher

video, 23’30’’

Sustenazo-Lament and Sustenazo-Stretcher are parts of a large installation presented at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in 2010. The work referred to the history of the Ujazdowski Castle, now the seat of the Centre for Contemporary Art, which served as the main building of the Ujazdowski Hospital until the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising. In 1944, a few days after the uprising broke out, the German army forced more than 1800 hospital patients and all its staff to evacuate immediately, on foot, to Milanówek. The artist combined original documents and materials about the evacuation with other images and motifs. She created a work combining the memory of a specific dramatic event with timeless issues, reaching for a form referring to the ancient sustenazo ritual, meaning in Greek a common (also silent) lament, usually performed by women.

Sustenazo-Lament is a film showing the actress in two different, overlapping perspectives, tearing off her black robes. The figure of a weeping woman is historically preserved as complementing the heroics of men taking part in the war. The film is accompanied by a soundtrack featuring is a combination of a singing composition inspired by the urlar motif a slow piece of music with recordings of the voices of the survivors of the hospital exodus who still remember only small fragments, and the voices of Germans reading Goethes stanzas.

The Sustenazo-Stretcher is another element of the installation that refers to the memory of participants of the 1944 event. Many were unable to walk from Jazdów to Milanówek, where they were supposed to seek medical help. The healthier patients carried them on stretchers. Weisss Stretchers are charcoal and graphite drawings, the outlines of the artists body on rice paper resembling a stretcher. Thanks to this technique, Weiss managed to achieve a shroud-like effect that allows one to recall a trace of what had happened. The pieces do not reconstruct the events of the past, but are an examination of the relationship between memory and history. The artist subtly combined modern technologies with traditional disciplines of art.

Monika Weiss is an artist of Polish origin working in New York. She is the author of installations, videos, drawings, sculptures and musical compositions. As a child, she learned to play the piano and composition. In 1989, she graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She continued her education at universities in Poland, Europe, and the USA. As of 2011, she divides her time between New York and St. Louis, where he holds the position of associate professor at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts Washington University.