Revolutionary Women: Ella
Three-channel video installation, color, stereo, 28 min.
130 drawings, A4 and A3.
Getting familiar with the unexplored life stories of a woman who was born in the second year of World War II, the video installation Revolutionary Women: Ella raises questions about the legacy of the following generations. The ambiguities of ‘Ella’s’ stories (her birth name was Ala) reveal the complexity of the following generations’ connection to and disconnect from a woman who at first sight is not a hero, but at second sight in fact is. In a multi-layered zone between identification, imagination and atmosphere, five women get closer to her story to retell it.
‘Ella’s’ life is deeply linked to the history of the twentieth century: She is the child of Lithuanian forced laborers of German origin who were compelled to work for the ‘Home to the Reich’ Nazi program until 1945. In 1959, aged 19, she returns to Germany after an odyssey through many refugee camps, where she in the 1970s and ’80s, an era typified by the economic miracle, continues to live in isolation as a housewife and mother in the West German Rhineland. I understand ‘Ella’s’ experiences of war, fleeing, and migration, followed by strongly gendered life conditions as a mother and housewife, as significant and as an example for the life of women – and migrant women – in post-war West Germany. Given the dominant female roles of her time, due to the boundaries of class society as well as the structural exclusion of migrants, her experiences have not been discussed in public.
Reading ‘Ella’s’ stories from a transgenerational perspective and confronting her stories and experiences with the next two generations implies modes of transcriptions, translations, and transformations – especially through the tactical and material medium of drawing and performative reenactment. From this evolves the fabulation of and with the four fictitious granddaughters: The four women in their 20s and early 30s are staged as atmospheric or surreal figures within ‘Ella’s’ stories. In conversation and rehearsal with the performers Erica Cosi, Monica Hirano, Adelaide Mancuso, and Lucrezia Palandri, I developed images and scenes relating to ‘Ella’s’ stories. I was interested in atmospheres, in non-linguistic memories which are not embedded into a linear narrative – in memories which might be kept in the body or in specific images. Within their interactions with the past, they suggest future scenarios. In that sense, the expressions, gestures and actions of the fictitious daughters and granddaughters have been created in the presence of ‘Ella’s’ unacknowledged, difficult, and traumatic memories. I believe that the transformative potential of lived experiences and inherited atmospheres can be activated through this dialogical, imaginative and tactile way of retelling these (her)stories.
Ala/Ella: Ella G.
Archiva, Ella’s Daughter: Liudmyla Vasylieva
Ella’s Granddaughters: Erica Cosi, Monica Hirano, Adelaide Mancuso and Lucrezia Palandri
Director of Photography, Hamburg: Ute Freund
Director of Photography, Florence: Giulia Lenzi
Set Design: Karolina Kaiser
Production Assistant: Siine Behrens, Karola Pfaffinger
Research: Elena Malzew
Costumes and Make-up: Clarissa Freiberg, Aurelia Stegmaier, Lene Markusen
Graphics: Veronica de Haas
Sound Design: Nika Son
Thanks to: Daria Filardo, Ulrike Gerhardt, Lucia Gnani, Francisca de Haan, Alexandra Köhring, Anna Mariotti, Annika Nebe, Eva Sauer, Meta Maria Valiusaitte
Special Thanks to: Claudia Fromm, Davood Madadpoor, Angelika Stepken and at the Villa Romana in Florence
Written, directed, edited, produced and drawings made by Lene Markusen
With the financial support of Behörde für Kultur und Medien Hamburg