ELISABETH SMOLARZ

THREE GRACES–SALLY HEMINGS, WU ZETIAN, MELUSINA, 2011, 3 channel video, 3:45

 

THREE GRACES is a video triptych that focuses on the complexity of the perception of power and the role of women. Referencing historical figures, the videos expose structures that are still existing in our cultures today.

 

For the first video, I asked a young Romanian woman who recently emigrated to Luxembourg and is now working in the red light district of the city, to portray Melusina,  a figure of European mythology. Breaking his promises, Count Siegfried—the founder  of Luxembourg—secretly watches his wife as she is metamorphosing into a mermaid. As a consequence, Melusina forever disappears in the river Alzette.

 

The second video is a portrait of Wu Zetian, the only woman ever to have received the title of Empress Regnant in the history of China. After being a concubine at the imperial palace for several years, Wu Zetian was made Empress and gained increasing influence over the governance of the empire. She was overthrown in a coup by her son Emperor Zhongzong. Wu Zetian is portrayed by a young Chinese woman working as a hostess in one of Shanghai’s five-star hotels.

 

The third video, a portrait of Sally Hemings, is performed by an exotic dancer from Brooklyn. Sally Hemings, who was Thomas Jefferson’s housekeeper, had a chance to stay in Paris and become a free woman while she was taking care of his children. She decided however to come back to Monticello in exchange for her children to be freed.

Selected screenings and exhibitions:

 

Moved, Mutated and Disturbed Identities, Casino Luxembourg

Moved, Mutated and Disturbed Identities, ddmwarehouse, Shanghai

Kofu Art Festival, Kofu, Japan