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Vera Frenkel

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Video still from <b>This Is Your Messiah Speaking</b> by Vera Frenkel

Vera Frenkel, This Is Your Messiah Speaking, (1991), 4:47 min. excerpt from the 9:50 min. original

Video still from <b>Body Missing</b> by Vera Frenkel

Vera Frenkel, Body Missing, (1995), 5:54 min. excerpt from the 36:00 min. original

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About these works

This Is Your Messiah Speaking (1991)
Distributed by Vtape.

Frenkel performs her own text here, interwoven with the same message presented by a woman using American Sign Language. The words are spoken, signed, hand-written in chalk and paint, sometimes subtitled, and repeated with subtle changes and at varying speeds. The words are both poetic and ironic, mesmerizing, intended "to trace and disclose the bond between messianism and consumerism, our two most prevalent romances of rescue, next to Romance itself" (Frenkel, Vtape online catalogue). Or, as enjoined by the speaker in the tape, "This is your Messiah speaking, instructing you to shop." In 1990 an animated version of Messiah Speaking was created for display on the Spectacolor Board, an illuminated signboard primarily used for advertising and public information, at busy Piccadilly Circus in London.

Body Missing (1995)
Distributed by Vtape.

Body Missing is a complex work existing in several forms: videotape, installation, and multi-layered Website. The segment here is the first of six six-minute videotapes brought together to play simultaneously on six monitors.

Body Missing is also a thirty-six-minute video work with accompanying photo-transparencies that builds on an earlier installation, ...from the Transit Bar (1992), first shown at documenta IX in Kassel, Germany. Body Missing is based on casual conversation overheard in a bar, a classic place for transitional moments and for sharing stories. Prepared as a site-specific installation at the Offenes Kulturhaus in Linz, Austria, Body Missing exists in a space between historical document and fictional construction, indicting the Third Reich's practice of confiscating art from public museums and private homes. Remarkably, the Offenes Kulturhaus building, now an important contemporary exhibition space, was originally an Ursuline convent, used during the Second World War as a Wehrmacht prison. Memories linger. We know that thousands of artworks were taken from museums and private collections and transported to Linz, Adolf Hitler's boyhood home, where he planned a monumental museum to display the masterpieces. Meanwhile, they were cached in the nearby salt mine of Altaussee.

Body Missing begins with a German children's song, a familiar tune: "Ladybird, ladybird, fly away. Your father is in the War, your mother is in Pomerania. Pomerania is burnt down. Ladybird, fly." We see feet standing on a mosaic floor that has curious and evocative designs. And we hear numbers, long lists of many numbers spoken in German, and begin to feel anxious. Other lists are mentioned, of works "collected, shipped, stored, but somehow gone; endless identification numbers; transcripts of interrogations from Spandau prison; Canadian and Austrian radio news reports; recent footage of art crates in the basement of the Akademie in Vienna; and as a metaphorical thread, the monument to the Plague (Pestsaüle) in the main square of Linz, site of Hitler's first public speech to the citizens of his hometown after the Anschluss. From the many conversations the barkeeper overhears in the Transit Bar, two contradictory narratives persist: indications of growing neo-Nazi activity in town, and a quiet plan by certain artists who have each chosen from the list of missing artworks one in particular to reconstruct, as an homage or Trauerarbeit and labour of love" (Vtape 1996 Video Reference Guide 66).

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