Throughout history, it hasn’t been as easy for women to dedicate themselves professionally to art as men, since, due to a series of moral and gender prejudices, they have been reduced to conjugal, maternal and domestic life; Even so, there have been many women who, above all obstacles and conventions, both in the past and today, have dedicated to artistic activity, contributing works of the same quality and relevance as those conceived by male artists of the same era as they.
1. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Performance
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, artist and poet, whose birth name was Elsa Hildegard Plötz, was born in 1874 in the then German Empire. Her mother was a pianist and her father a severe Freemason, who exercised excessive authority and control over her, which is why, after her mother’s death, Elsa, while still a teenager, freed herself from her father’s yoke by fleeing from his house bound for Berlin. From that moment begins the interesting story of this woman, who broke down the existing borders between art and life to make her own body and her actions her visual poetics; that is, to make of herself the work of art itself.

After remaining anonymous, forgotten by the history of art after her tragic death in Paris in 1927, Elsa began to be referred to in 1982. Numerous articles, a novel, a film have been written about her, and the most complete and best-documented biographies have been published, written by Irene Gammel, Baroness Elsa: gender, Dada and everyday modernity; and Gloria Durán, Dandy baroness, Dada Queen, both researchers and writers on literature and art. It is thanks to these studies that we managed to find out who Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was. If an artist has shaken the society of the moment in which she has lived, with her work, way of being, acting and thinking, as is the case with Elsa, it is almost impossible to talk about her.

2. Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven. Performance
After running away from home, Elsa moved between Berlin, Munich and Dachau, cities where she worked in cabarets, posed for artists, frequented bohemian environments, and studied art. She then traveled through Italy, Switzerland, and France, and in 1912 she arrived in the United States with her second husband, the German poet Félix Paul Greve, from whom she separated shortly after. While in New York she met the so-called “Baron” Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven, whom she married in 1913; hence her title and surname, “the Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven”; but she also separated from him, and free of conjugal ties, she settled in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, recognized as the center of the cultural avant-garde at the beginning of the 20th century in New York. There she visits various artistic and intellectual circles, where she meets and befriends Duchamp, Man Ray, the writer Djuna Barnes, among other personalities from that cultural world. In that place, Elsa dedicated herself completely to art, an activity that she assumed as a way of life, making herself the great work of art.
Elsa was a woman ahead of her time. She declared herself against the conventions of society, the bourgeois way of life, and did things that were forbidden to women, provocative, transgressive actions that caused scandals; sexual performances considered immoral, obscene, for which she ended up in jail several times.
Due to her provocative gestures and manifestations, she has been cataloged as the pioneer of Dadaism in the United States ─a movement that emerged in Zurich in 1916─ of performance, ready-made and assemblage. Her street performances, disturbing for the society of that time, consisted of walks around the city or sudden visits to meetings of artists and writers, or of bourgeois society, where she appeared with extravagant clothes created with recycled objects, or garbage found in the street, outfits with which she ironized the usual feminine clothing. She puts on industrial paint, painted her lips black, used postage stamps on her face, shaved her head, painted it red, and walked half-naked through the streets with lights, two empty cans on her breasts, like bras, and coffee spoons, like earrings. On other occasions she simply exposed her completely naked body.

In addition to her performances, Elsa created objects assembled with found materials, with metal, wood, cardboard, household utensils, among many others, of which we are aware, such as her performances and ready-mades, thanks to the photographic records made by some of her colleagues. Her first ready-made was a heavily rusted metal ring, Enduring Ornament (1913), considered an artwork a year before Duchamp made his first ready-made, Bottle Rack (1914). Although one of her best-known ready-mades is God (1917) (3), built with twisted and rusty sanitary pipes, whose work came to be attributed to Morton Schambert, an American painter and photographer, who apparently was the one who made the photographic record.

3. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. God

Curiously, starting in 1982, a discussion has been generated in relation to the authorship of the Fountain (1917), a work that art history has attributed to Marcel Duchamp, and we have considered it that way until now, although in a letter that the artist sent his sister Suzanne, says: “One of my female friends, under the male pseudonym Richard Mutt, has sent a porcelain urinal to the exhibition as if it were a sculpture.” This confession, and another fact that confirms that Elsa, the Baroness Dada, also used the pseudonym of R. Mutt, has generated a controversy regarding who really is the author of the Fountain.

There are those who manage the hypothesis that Elsa was the one who conceived the idea of ​​the urinal and Duchamp executed it and signed it with her pseudonym, with her consent, which could then be considered as a work in which both are co-authors; however, the authorship is attributed to him and thus was recorded in the history of art. Now, the question is: Why did Elsa, Baroness Dada, never claim her authorship or co-authorship? Meanwhile, the discussion continues.
4. Linda Phillips. Selva


Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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