Elisabeth Schimana and the IMA*fiction* series
In Search of Female Forebears
After a decade of work in the electronic music/art field, I began to inquire into another story. In all the years of education and work in this male-dominated genre (with respect to both its teachers and practitioners), almost nothing had been imparted to me about women in the history of electronic music/art. And so I got started weaving new threads into the narratives.
I began with Italian Futurism, which was founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The noisy music favored by the Futurists, the music of machines, can possibly be considered the starting point of experimental electronic music. Luigi Russolo wrote about this in a manifesto dated March 11, 1913, The Art of Noises. In search of the female Futurist, I discovered ideological principles in Italian Futurism, especially with respect to women, that made it seem highly improbable to come upon a fragment of female Futurism: “9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”1 But in an out-of-print book, Geschichte des Futurismus by Christa Baumgarth, I nevertheless found what I was looking for.
Futurist painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo and Gino Severini staged their first exhibition in Paris in 1912. Their sojourn there provided the painters with an opportunity to get acquainted with artists of the Parisian avant-garde. Valentine de Saint-Point, the niece of Alphonse de Lamartines and an artist in this scene, hosted an evening of music and literature, after which she joined the Futurists and authored the Manifesto of Futurist Woman.
“The women: the Erinyes, the Amazons; the SEMIRAMIS, JEANNE D’ARC, JEANNE HACHETTE; JUDITH and CHARLOTTE CORDAY; (…) May the next wars bring forth heroines like CATERINA SFORZA. During the siege of her father-city, she looked out from the ramparts and saw how the enemy threatened her son to force her to surrender. But she revealed her gender in heroic fashion and cried out: ‘Kill him; I’m fertile enough to give birth to others!’”
This research manifested itself artistically in a performance entitled Portrait 01 – Die Futuristin. I interwove my voice and face with those of Andrea Sodomka (fellow-traveler right from the start), Rebekah Wilson (aka Netochka Nezvanova / with NATO.0+55 software) and Tatjana Komarova (director of the electronic studio at the Yekaterinburg Conservatory) to form a fictional portrait.
This was the year in which Andrea Sodomka and I jointly established the IMA Institute of Media Archeology. For IMA, technology and art by women has a clearly positive interrelationship. Whether this art is now produced by means of processing via devices or programming computers is beside the point. The primary consideration is an active process of coming to terms with technological developments. IMAfiction is the Institute’s portrait series dedicated to women doing electronic art with a focus on sound.
What have appeared are video portraits of Liesl Ujvary (AT), Rebekah Wilson aka Netotschka Nezvanova (NZ), Heidi Grundmann (AT), Eliane Radigue (FR), Andrea Sodomka (AT), Maryanne Amacher (US), Anne La Berge (NL), Electric Indigo (AT) and Beatriz Ferreyra (AR, FR); the tenth portrait, my own, brings this series of five Austrian and five international artists to a preliminary close. Most of the artists made their own choice as to whom they wanted to be portrayed by. The results are homages that are aesthetically diverse, intimate, and not in enforced conformity with any conventional film format.
What has changed since 1998? The intensive encounter with the world of ideas, the working methods and the music/art of female contemporaries and forerunners has enriched me and supplemented the overall account. Much still lies fallow—and thus a call goes out to musicologists and curators to cultivate this unworked soil. It’s the purposely focused gaze that brings different things to light.
In the exhibition entitled Hidden Alliances, 10 female artists, pioneers of their time, tell rather a different story and together weave a fascinating network of interrelationships.