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Lost Element. Re-construction of the Witch

Bildende Kunst
Online Via Zoom and VBKÖ, Maysedergasse 2/28 (4. Stock, Lift), 1010 Wien

Presentation by Anka Leśniak organized by the Studio for Post-conceptual Art Practices /PCAP/ prof. Grzinic, IBK, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien.


Meeting ID 921 5224 1629

The exhibition, which will open on 13.01.2022 at  VBKÖ / Austrian Association of Women Artists in Vienna, is an artistic and curatorial project by Anka Leśniak. Other women artists participating in the exhibition are Anna Bochkova, Valerie Habsburg and Violetta Leitner.

The exhibition is the next chapter in a joint artistic investigation of Teresa Feodorowna Ries (1866–1956). The sculptor of Jewish-Russian origin was one of the most prominent artists of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and exhibited several times also in VBKÖ.

In 1938 Teresa Feodorowna Ries had to flee to Switzerland, leaving behind her entire professional life and her works of art. Among the many works she had to leave  in her studio was a marble figure of the Witch, before the Witches' Sabbath (1895). The sculpture depicts a powerful nude woman looking directly into the viewer's eyes and smiling wickedly as she trims her toenails with a large pair of scissors. The Witch was later damaged a few times under unexplained circumstances. It has been restored, but the hand with the scissors is still missing.

The Witch by Teresa Ries is a witness of history, political and social changes. The damaged sculpture is an indictment of history, institutions, policies towards women (artists), antisemitism and xenophobia. As part of a research-based art project, the exhibition also raises the question of how the lost element of the witch can be symbolically reconstructed through contemporary interpretations of this work and its history. Through the presentation of works based on historical research and archives, and the use of new media art, the exhibition opens the portal between the past and contemporary women's art practices.

Anka Leśniak is an artist and researcher working in genres such as installation art, video art, performance art, photo collages and site-specific works. She is interested in feminism, issues related to gender, body, ethnic identity, history, language and memory. She is the author of the book Women disconnected from history. Site-specific artworks on abandoned buildings (2017). In 2019 she received the OeAD grant for the project on Teresa Feodorowna Ries (1866-1956), and was based in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (Studio for Post-conceptual Art). She currently heads the Intermedia Studio II at the Faculty of Sculpture and Intermedia of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, Poland.