︎︎︎ Van der Lubbes Head

26min two channel video installation (2018)

The video is part of the larger body of work titled Time Dead Time Alive. My Great Aunt Elfriede Mahler was taught by a dancer and choreographer named Edith Segal that created a dance company in the 1930s called the red dancers. It was the first communist dance company in America and had the goal of creating a new form of dance that could speak to the oppression of the working class by being presented in factories and encouraging people to join in the performance. Aesthetically it followed the Marxist conception of art as literal reality combining this with modernist ideas, which demanded the viewer’s participation in the creation of meaning.

The New Dance Group performs the collective choreography Van der Lubbe’s Head, 1934. Muriel Manings and William Korff Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (021.00.00). Alfredo Valente, photographer.
Members of the New Dance Group in Improvisation, 1932. New Dance Group Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (017.00.00)

Through this company a choreography was created called Van der Lubbes head which took up the topic of fascism in Europe presenting the beheading of Van der Lubbe after he was blamed for the reichstag fire which later was used to eliminate the communist party and for the Nazis to gain full power over the state. This choreography was set to a poem written by Alfred Hayes and was praised for transcending the typical agitprop that had characterized the red dancers and creating a truly unique and new form of artistic expression in political dance. This choreography also became important as a model for the work of Elfriede Mahler when she left the USA and founded a dance company in Guantanamo. This video work traces this choreography through an exploration of where it is housed in the New York Public Library.

Van der Lubbes Head, Video Stills, 2018.