This event has a special introduction by celebrated Dada scholars Elizabeth Otto & Sarah Bay-Cheng, a live performance by experimental poet Mike Basinski, and post-screening filmmaker Skype w/ Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan.
The Filmballad of MAMADADA tells the story of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, unsung member of the New York Dada movement. A poet, artist, model, and public provocateur, the Baroness defied the social and artistic codes of her time. As with many of her female contemporaries, the Baroness’s cultural legacy has been obscured, and in some instances appropriated into the oeuvres of better known male peers. Accounts of her personal life are scarce and often conjectural.
According to recent scholarship, the Baroness was born Else Hildegard Plötz in 1874. At age 18, she ran away from her middle-class Prussian home and survived as a vaudeville performer in Berlin. After a series of bohemian lovers and three failed marriages, she found herself penniless in New York City, a widow with the impressive title of Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven. The Baroness was notorious for wearing outlandish costumes and cross-dressing in public, and her overtly sexual poetry caused such scandal that she was blacklisted from the most avant-garde publications. She pioneered an assemblage aesthetic, making sculptures and clothing from everyday objects. Many believe she gave Marcel Duchamp the porcelain urinal that later became Fountain. An important figurehead for the fledgling Dada movement in America, the Baroness was a close friend of avant-garde luminaries such as Djuna Barnes, Berenice Abbot, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound.
The Baroness died under mysterious circumstances in 1927. In 2012, Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan recruited a group of over fifty artists and filmmakers to produce a collective biopic about her life. Participants were invited to interpret specific biographical fragments and create filmic adaptations on their own terms. The results varied wildly in style and content: from a re-contextualized Jane Fonda interview, to an animation depicting the effects of syphilis, to a reconstruction of a lost 16mm film by Duchamp and Man Ray. Benson and Guan then assembled the vignettes into a feature-length film. Unfolding like an exquisite corpse, the final narrative reveals a gloriously conflicted historical portrait. A myriad of contemporary feminist voices confront the viewer with more questions than answers. Directed by Lily Benson and Cassandra Guan. (2013, runtime 109 minutes)
This event is part of the monthly SqueakEasy Film Series, featuring films that highlight outlaws of popular culture and encourages individuals to challenge the status quo.