opening: 13.01.2020, 17.00-21.00
Artists: Anna Bochkova, Valerie Habsburg, Lena Violetta Leitner, Anka Lesniak
Curated by: Anka Lesniak
The exhibition is the next chapter of a group artistic investigation of the live and damaged or lost artworks by Teresa Feodorowna Ries (1866-1956). This sculptor of Jewish-Russian origin was one of the prominent artists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a few times also exhibited in VBKÖ's exhibitions. In 1938, her studio was ‘Aryanized’ and taken over by Gustinius Ambrosi, while she had to flee to Switzerland forced to leave all her professional life and artworks behind. Among the numerous works left in her studio was a marble figure of the Witch during her toilette before the Witches Sabbath. The sculpture depicts a vigorous naked woman looking straight into a viewer's eyes and smiling maliciously while cutting her toenails with big scissors (1895).
Although witches were not a rare inspiration for artists at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ries's sculpture was an extraordinary example of an artwork challenging the old patriarchal order. Her Witch was a symbol of feminine power, the figure, full of vigour and eroticism, and at the same time a rebel who challenges the cliches of women representations in art and goes beyond stereotypes. Perhaps it was a reason for several acts of vandalism on this sculpture during the next decades, when it was left unattended in the outskirts of Vienna until the 1990s. Although the hand with scissors is still missing, the witch has been restored by the Wien Museum and is exhibited more and more frequently.
The Witch by Teresa Ries is a witness of history, of political and social changes. The damaged sculpture is an accusation against the HIStory, institutions, politics towards women (artists), antisemitism and xenophobia. However, it has an inspiring potential for political and social changes and the emancipation of minorities. The exhibition as a part of a research-based art project also poses the question, how it is possible to‘re-create’ the lost element of the Witch through contemporary cultural discourses and interpretations. Through the presentation of the works based on historical research and archives and the works using new media and new technologies the exhibition opens the portal between the past and contemporary women’s art practices.