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Elisabeth von Samsonow
Procession of Mary Magdalene
in Bonn on September 21, 2013 (autumnal equinox)
as part of the exhibition “EVO – Frauen in den Weltreligionen,”
Women’s Museum Bonn, curated by Marianne Pitzen

On a small cart, the statue of Mary Madalene is wheeled through the old city, escorted by those who want to pay their respects to the historical and symbolical Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was frequently denounced as a whore, and what she had to say was made light of. In the procession, selected passages from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene will be recited by Elisabeth von Samsonow. Throughout the procession, people will engage in improvised simple and wild chants. The statue of Mary Magdalene has a demo banner in her hand with a quotation from her Gospel written on it, “There is no sin.” The procession, like a demonstration parade, marches the streets of the old
town of Bonn to the Minster, subverting public space in a gesture that is as
carnivalesque as it is playful, like a protofeminist provocation.


The Jerusalem Show 1.0 curated by Jack Persekian
Elisabeth von Samsonow undertakes an artistic research of female self-will, of the crisis of female identity and the question of female heroism. Affirming and yet ironizing the position of 1980s feminism, which declared the vagina the site of symbolic and political female self-representation, as seen in Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, Elisabeth von Samsonow sets out to deconstruct step by step superficial ascriptions to the female gender, also taking on the myth of the Holy Grail, topical again in the wake of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, or the pop-icon status of spiritual leaders. The specific spatial quality assigned to femininity appears in a number of sculptural and autobiographic-documentary translations as sculpture, video, performance, and photograph. The research follows the thread of memory that is punctuated with knots, the labyrinthine Ariadne thread. Elisabeth von Samsonow’s large limewood statue of Mary Magdalene holds an arabesque-like brightly colored plastic carpet beater in each hand, her endless hair arranged in arabesque knots as well. Formally, the colorful statue is reminiscent of a contemporary fantasy heroine (maybe from the Chronicles of Narnia). The knots in her hair and of the carpet beaters signify the non-public and domestic, the sphere of which they have left behind to appear in the public realm. The knot represents, in Jacques Lacan’s words, the “hole in the hole,” a three-dimensional or sculptural set of openings and edges that symbolizes “the female.” Countering the rash reduction of the female to having a “birth organ”, the shift from intimacy to “extimacy,” from real to symbolic, that the female undergoes here is understood as an (art) game that realizes the gain of successful identification even in enigmatic and effigies. How this may happen can be seen for example in the video of carpet-beater procession enacted Elisabeth von Samsonow and artist friends from Israel and Austria along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

(Translation: Michael Hall)

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installation view
Austrian Hospice Jerusalem, 2008
performance procession Jerusalem 2008