Monika Weiss' (b. 1964, Poland) work in video, film, performance, sound, drawing, sculpture and installation has been exhibited in over 20 solo exhibitions worldwide including a survey Five Rivers at Lehman College Art Gallery, CUNY (reviewed in The New York Times), a two-person exhibition with Carolee Schneemann at Remy Toledo Gallery, New York, and Sustenazo, commissioned by the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, Poland, and later shown at the Museum of Memory & Human Rights, Santiago, Chile, and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami. Guy Brett wrote that Weiss "provides an alternative experience of space and time, which is not end-driven but steady and enduring (...). The artist explores the prostrate body as a paradoxical sign of resistance to oppressive and militaristic cultures. Her work is a remarkable counterpoint between technological media and the ancient activity of drawing. Sound meticulously composed by the artist lifts the silent filmed actions into another emotional register." Originally trained as a classical musician, the artist composes music in her films and installations. Weiss lives and works in New York.
For the past twenty years Monika Weiss’ multidisciplinary practice continues to explore relationships between body, history and collective memory. Weiss' work has been exhibited in museums and institutions worldwide and published internationally. The artist investigates the nature of time and memory and evokes ancient rituals of lamentation in response to issues of recent social and cultural history. Artist, composer and filmmaker, Weiss was educated first as a classical pianist. While drawing has always been the touchstone of her practice, over the years her practice gradually expanded to include installation, performance, and large-scale video and film projection.
Monika Weiss creates site-specific public projects, films, installations and drawings to suggest alternative forms of knowledge, classification and perception. She composes music for her silent films from testimonies, recitations, operatic singing and musical instruments, including her own piano improvisations, merging diverse narratives into polyphonic scores. Employing her own body as a vehicle of expression she also invites others to participate in her work. British art critic Guy Brett wrote, "Weiss provides an alternative experience of space and time which is not end-driven but steady and enduring… The artist explores the prostrate body as a paradoxical sign of resistance to oppressive and militaristic cultures. Sound meticulously composed by the artist lifts the silent, filmed actions into another emotional register.”
Weiss’ solo museum exhibitions include the 2005 retrospective at the Lehman College Art Gallery (CUNY) Five Rivers , reviewed in The New York Times, as well as Sustenazo , commissioned by the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, Poland (2010), later shown at the Museum of Memory & Human Rights, Santiago, Chile (2012-2013) and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami (2014). In 2004 Remy Toledo Gallery, New York, in cooperation with Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montreal, organized a two-person exhibition of Carolee Schneemann and Monika Weiss. The artist's works have been shown alongside artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Mona Hatoum and Shirin Neshat, to name a few. Weiss’s work was featured in group exhibitions and related publications, including Fireflies in the Night Take a Wing at Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Athens, Greece (international video art survey directed by Robert Storr, 2016); Eyebeam, New York (with Alan Sondheim, 2012), Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation/CIFO, Miami (Forms of Classification: Alternative Knowledge and Contemporary Art, 2006; The Prisoner’s Dilemma, 2008), Drawing Now: Between The Lines of Contemporary Art, Loughborough University, UK, and was part of Prague’s Muzeum Montanelli (MuMo)’s inaugural show in 2010.
An important part of the artist works are public projects, which are ephemeral and site-specific environments. Commissioned by The Drawing Center, New York, her Drawing Lethe (2006) took place at the World Financial Center Winter Garden within sight of Ground Zero, where workers were still searching for remains. Passersby lay down and marked their presence onto the enormous canvas covering the floor, which gradually became a drawing-field. In Shrouds-Całuny (2012), Weiss filmed, from an airplane, local women performing silent gestures of lamentation on the abandoned, forgotten site of the former concentration camp Gruenberg, Germany, which is now Zielona Gora, Poland. Weiss’s exploration of public memory and cultural amnesia is underscored by her focus on the vulnerability of the female body in the context of the city, such as in her recent film Wrath (2015) and her series of short films, sound compositions, and drawings Two Laments (19 Cantos) (2015/2017) inspired by events in India and focusing on rape and colonial subjugation of cities.
Introducing Weiss's performance at Harvard University (2014),
Born in Warsaw, Poland, the artist arrived to NYC in 2001 as a long-term artist in residence at the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. She is currently part of Hyphen Hub, New York, a global community of artists and curators working at the intersection of art and technology. The artist has been awarded numerous grants and residency fellowships, including BRIC (2017), Harvestworks (2017), NYFA (2009) and YADDO (2005 and 2009), among others. Weiss’ works are represented by SILAS VON MORISSE gallery, New York and Samuel Lallouz Gallery, Montreal, and included in public and private collections worldwide, including Albertina Museum, Vienna; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation/CIFO, Miami; Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY; Museum of Women in the Arts, Bonn, Germany; CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw, Poland; and Dimas de Melo Pimenta’s collection, Locarno, Switzerland.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Athens, Greece:
"Monika Weiss’ vocal and piano compositions dramatize the visual and performative lamentation gestures through which she explores personal, gendered and collective trauma."
- Barbara London, Kalliopi Minioudaki, Francesca Pietropaolo, and Robert Storr
Fireflies in the Night Take Wing press release
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens, Greece, 2016
n.paradoxa Journal, London, UK:
"Within Two Laments (19 Cantos), instead of an object signifying loss, trauma is transformed into sound. One hears this sound in the first Cantos where Weiss’ poem This is My Ribbon appears in subtitles in the first cantos. This is My Ribbon is performed in spoken word in languages of Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, and Oriya. These languages are meant to represent minor tongues that resist an official colonial English. It is the second film (Canto 2), however, that loss is transformed into music. Weiss wrote a short melody for classical format, which an Indian Carnatic Singer then performed. Here, loss is imbued with living presence and transformed into elegy. This elegy, which is performed just with the human voice and no other instruments, resists set formats and stability."
- Vanessa Gravenor
Monika Weiss - Two Laments review
n.paradoxa Journal, Volume 37 "Sound/Voice/Noise!", edited by Katy Deepwell, KT Press, London, UK, 2016
Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago Chile:
The face again, but from the front now, hands covering it. The eyes, when they can be seen, are firmly shut. If there is a landscape, it is an inward one, in a private mental space, that of mourning. Yet there are many voices reverberating in this inward space, many, overlaying one another, even if they sometimes seem to be saying the same thing. They are texts of Goethe’s once again, read by several German voices and setting up a mutual interference until they become inarticulate, in the way a lament does.
- Adriana Valdes
Lamentation and the Locus of Memory in "Monika Weiss: Sustenazo (Lament II)" curated and edited by Julia P. Herzberg, Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago Chile, travelling solo exhibition catalogue, 2012
The New York Times:
"The exhibition's title "Five Rivers", refers to the five rivers in Greek mythology that are believed to separate the world of the living from Hades, the world of the dead (...) Ms. Weiss is clearly fascinated by this transition, and something of her fascination is evident in "White Chalice (Ennoia"" (2004) an installation consisting of a video image of her curled up body projected into a medieval baptismal font (sculpture) filled with water. It is as though she were back in the womb, about to be reborn, yet heavy with time."
An Artist Whose Performance Delivers, The New York Times, survey exhibition review, 2005
Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York:
"The linking of drawing with the editing of video is another particular characteristic of Monika Weiss' work. Both have a very personal touch and in both, the result is creating not so much a depiction as a presence. Drawing is the connecting thread between the technological and the corporeal aspects of her work, the theatrical and the plastic, the communal and the intensely solitary. Indeed her sensibility may be present in its purest and darkest form in the fleeting phantoms of her large0scale charcoal drawings"
- Guy Brett
Time Being, in "Monika Weiss: Fiver Rivers" curated and edited by Susan Hoetzel, Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York, survey exhibition catalogue, 2005