‘Fountain’, a urinal that Marcel Duchamp declared in 1917 to be a work of art, is perhaps one of the best-known conceptual art pieces of our time. Rumours have long circulated that it was not he who masteminded this work but rather the artist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874 Swinemünde – 1927 Paris). The flamboyant but now forgotten radical poet was herself a living work of art, literally embodying the ideals of Dada.
Dutch artist Barbara Visser (b. 1966 Haarlem) pursues and questions this legend in her new film. Zurich, where Dada began, is the perfect place to show the results of that pursuit. In her work, Visser consistently explores the borders between the real and the fake, and between authenticity, authorship and value. Her filmic installation is an alternative whodunnit in which all the protagonists are trying to figure out what their own role is. Visser uses original images from historical archives, footage from social media, VR chatrooms and new technologies such as motion capture and meta-human modelling to bring a dead artist and her practice back to life. Can the once controversial performer Elsa von Freytag be reanimated as a virtual character with a soul? How ethical – or unethical – is it to resuscitate historical figures and give them a voice? It is an undertaking that was doomed from the start; but the Baroness would have loved it, and we hope you do as well!
Ill.: Barbara Visser, Alreadymade, 2023 © Barbara Visser / Tomtit Film