Painting or Film? Audiovisual methods for reconstructing the biography of the Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon

Southern France 1940. A young woman sits by the sea, she paints. She sings softly to herself. She paints, writes and sings obsessively, and within two years in exile creates her life's work: "LIFE? OR THEATER?" Stefanie Trambow explores audiovisual methods for reconstructing the biography of the Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon as a stage work.

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In almost 800 gouaches, Charlotte Salomon (1917- 1943) "tells" her life story and the story of her family in fictionalized form. In doing so, the artist interweaves history, trauma, and fantasy as well as painting, texts, and music into a multi-layered, intertextual, and hybrid body of work. Here she documents the social and political life of Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s and lets us participate in the growing up of a Jewish girl with all its ups and downs: the death of her mother, the devoted love for her stepmother - a famous singer. In the same way, the formative and disturbing encounters with the stepmother's singing teacher find an artistic form as well as the increasing constriction of life up to persecution by the Nazis. The work is in many ways a unique artifact and its significance and contradictory nature is still not sufficiently recognized and researched.

Stefanie Trambow, working in a team with others, examined the work she left behind and experimented with methods in the context of artistic research to reconstruct her biography and the context of her time and to make it possible to experience it: How to translate her touching images into moving images, how to contextualize them for a young audience, what role does editing play in the reconstruction of her biography, how do techniques of stage dramaturgy and editing intertwine? How does one assemble the various artifacts of drawing, painting, photography, lyrics and contemporary historical documents into a narration? Where are the boundaries between documentary and fiction? What is film about it, what role does it play in the documentary process, and by what means and for what purpose does one stage it for a stage work?

In the medium of a multi-faceted video projection and installation, Stefanie Trambow searched for artistic methods that do justice to the biography, the work and the contemporary historical context of Charlotte Salomon today. She wanted to make it possible to experience it as an audiovisual stage work. The sound was created in cooperation with the Girls' Choir of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin. On the artist's 100th birthday, the choir developed a "Singspiel" based on Charlotte Salomon's "LIFE? OR THEATER," which was performed at the Jewish Museum at the end of November 2017. A first attempt of Stefanie Trambow's work was also presented there. Another version was created for the 3rd Biennale of the Moving Image in Frankfurt (Main) at the end of November 2017.

Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, event

Project lead: Stefanie Trambow

Website: Stefanie Trambow