The Gifted Child: Leni Riefenstahl and the beyond
an exhibition by Inez de vega
Opening on Wed 14 September 2016, 6.30pm to 8pm, Free admission at Alliance Française Eildon Gallery
51 Grey St, ST KILDA
Exhibition dates: 14 September to 14 October 2016
Book for the talk The Artist and the Architect
Wednesday 28th September at 6.30pm, Free admission
A conversation between artist Inez de Vega and historian Helen Stitt about how history and Leni Riefenstahl became the ground for this body of work.
Inez de Vega’s solo exhibition The Gifted Child: Leni Riefenstahl and the beyond will take place across all three gallery spaces of the Alliance Francaise heritage-listed mansion in Saint Kilda. Inez will present 6 poster images, a video and a work of sound art. The exhibition is her response to the life and career of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.
As a person of Jewish heritage, the beauty of Riefenstahl’s art in contrast to her dark politics holds particular curiosity for me. Whilst I find that Leni’s genius with lighting, composition and her innovative use of camera angles sometimes takes my breath away, it causes me to wonder at what point is the artist’s politics so immoral that we are left with no choice but to dismiss her work as irreconcilably soiled? I become all tangled up inside my own logic trying to figure this out.
This exhibition grew out of the video (‘Olympia’, 2014) and the posters (‘On Leni Riefenstahl’ Nos. 1 to 6, 2014-2015) that I made ‘colonising’ Leni’s films. Projecting her film stills onto the wall of my apartment, I had myself photographed performing with her images. In so doing, I began to feel that Leni was both a perpetrator and a victim for her art. On the one hand, she perpetrated the lie of the supremacy of the Aryan race and demonstrated an indifference to those being exterminated by the Nazis. However, she was also a victim of Hitler’s maniacal ideas through the time and place of her birth. After all, at some level, she was just like me: an artist trying to make a living and have my work recognised. For Leni, clearly a gifted artist, the prospect of fame and an unlimited budget must have been dazzling.
In ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child’, author and therapist Alice Miller writes about Hitler’s childhood living with an abusive and authoritarian father. Hitler was violated and then he murdered the Jews. Violence is cyclical – victims become perpetrators – and it usually begins in the home. This domestication of political violence is an important part of my work. The six poster images in the ‘On Leni Riefenstahl’ series were photographed for me by Catherine Evans in my own home — my fridge is clearly visible creeping into the frame in one of them. Despotic politicians and dangerous criminals who wreak havoc out in the world have invariably been violated, bullied and shamed while they were growing up.
Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl both profiteered from the politics of fear. While it would be a foolhardy artist who compares our current political, social and economic climate to Nazi Germany, there seems little doubt our 24-hour newscasters – who spew forth recent disasters and impending doom until they are shrill – are feeding into the hands of egomaniacal politicians and the multi-billionaire scions of corporate industry. Fear invokes us to believe in charismatic ‘solutions’. It also makes us physically and psychologically ill. As an antidote to all this fearmongering, then, and simply because I needed it: my most recent work, ‘Fear_Freedom_Ant’, made in 2016 is a meditation on the transcendence of suffering.
This exhibition contains nudity and adult language and is not suitable for children.
Inez de Vega was awarded the 2014/2015 Georges Mora Fellowship in partnership with State Library of Victoria.
She has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas, including at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Art Gallery of Ballarat and The Ararat Regional Art Gallery. Internationally, her work has been shown in Paris, Berlin, Milan, Chicago and China.
Among her list of grants and awards, Inez is the recipient of two Paris residencies at the Cité Internationale des Arts (2015, 2013), an ArtStart grant from the Australia Council, the Moya Dyring Scholarship from the Art Gallery of NSW, the Orloff Family Scholarship, the Maude Glover Fleay Award and the Lionel Gell Scholarship. She has been a finalist in the Substation Contemporary Art Prize and has twice been shortlisted for the $25,000 Keith & Elisabeth Murdoch Travelling Scholarship.
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