For more than ten years, Natascha Niederstrass has been working critically on the presentation of the female body in contemporary and historical visual cultures and art history, cinema and news media. Through the gesture of self-representation as through the tropes of various documentary practices, she tackles the complex problems of the intersection of the violent image and the image of the body without compromise.
The missing week
Interested by issues of narration in photography, the artist explores the possibilities offered by reconstitution methods, specifically operating in the margins between notions of truth and fiction. Weaving referents from news media, art history and investigators’ notes, Niederstrass here focuses on the strongly connoted story of Elizabeth Short, also known as the “Black Dahlia”, who was found murdered in Los Angeles in 1947.
Using LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) archives and research published by Steve Hodel, a private detective, former police investigator and son of the alleged murderer of Elizabeth Short, the artist has produced a series of photographs offering a subjective look at the different locations where witnesses reported sightings of the young woman during the week she was missing prior to being found dead. Over sixty years later, not only does this visual and descriptive reconstitution retrace the victim’s path, it also reveals an anachronistic superimposition of these places at different times to produce a narrative tainted by history.
Niederstrass’ aim is twofold. Through this body of work, the artist questions the veracity of statements made in several newspaper articles at the time, suggesting that by attempting to manipulate information about the victim, many media sources indirectly legitimized the young woman’s murder, making it almost comprehensible to the public. Natascha Niederstrass uses forensic aesthetics that can be a surprisingly effective tool, for it serves both as an approachable way for the general public to pry open the often airtight shell of contemporary art, and as a viable critical model for understanding art that relies on clues, obscurities, and residue. The viewer finds himself involved in the reconstruction of a story or event excluded from “the visible”.
Curator : Art Souterrain