Monika Weiss’Sustenazo (Greek: “to lament together inaudibly”) is a travelling solo exhibition commissioned originally by the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 2010, where it was curated by Milada Ślizińska. The exhibition was later shown at Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chilé (2012) and Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, USA (2014) where it was curated by Julia P. Herzberg, PhD. Additional exhibition venues included Intergalerie, Potsdam, Germany (2010); Goethe Institute New Delhi (2015); and Gallery 1x1, Dubai, among others. Sustenazo series of public performances with participation of volunteers and with music by the artist, have been also shown as part of Sensory Media series at Harvard University, Boston in 2014 and at Whitney Harris International Law Institute, Washintgon University in St. Louis in 2012.
The artist developed her project around the notion of Lament as a form of expression outside language. In her Sustenazo she juxtaposes the timeless expression of Lament against the archive of a specific historical event—the forced overnight evacuation of Ujazdowski Hospital on the sixth day of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The project includes three video projections and sound compositions (Lament I, Lament II, Lament III), an installation of medical and literary German books published before 1945 and a series of drawings and photography.
“Sustenazo (Lament II) begins with Chorus Mysticus, a passage from the end of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, part II. Sustenazo evokes complex relationship between two seemingly irreconcilable phenomena—high culture and genocide. The work is a reflection on the complexity of European heritage and its connections with other regions and histories around the world. While enacting ancient gestures of lamentation, Sustenazo considers also the current and contemporary contexts of apathy, indifference, invisibility, and historical amnesia within the public sphere. Ultimately, as Judith Butler wrote, “grief furnishes a sense of political community of a complex order, and it does this first of all by bringing to the fore the relational ties that have implications for theorizing fundamental dependency and ethical responsibility.” Empathy and collective mourning, including mourning the loss of others who are supposed to be our enemies, can become a powerful political tool, in opposition to heroic, masculine fantasies of conquest and power.”
-- Goethe Institut New Delhi, 2015
“In the oldest archaic examples of Lament, the encounter between the world of the living and the world of the dead is performed as a dialogue either between two beings, one present and one absent, or between two antiphonal groups of mourners. In the traditions of lament, the address (an opening) would be followed by an appeal (intervening narrative/recollection of past events) and finally the reiteration of the initial address. This form is employed in Sustenazo (Lament II). (Monika Weiss)
Weiss recalls the horror of the event resorting to literary texts, direct testimonies of survivors, and images of the time. She does so using a cinematographic language and fragmented and suggestive elements which do not pretend to evoke a historical event but an emotion, a feeling. A feeling that is logically not experienced in the same way in different countries. An image which is as clear as it is necessary. All the more so at present, when history is a murmur.”
Juan José Santos, Sustenazo (Lament II) - Monika Weiss, Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Chile,
Arte al Dia International, Miami, FL, May 16, 2013
“… we hear a recitation. “It’s Paul Celan,” reveals the artist. The first video portrays a lamenting woman; nearby we see hands turning pages of faded type, pages from German medical books and poetry. Accompanying these videos are mixed sounds—overlapping voices in Polish and in German. “Lament,” says Weiss, “is outside of language; it denies the heroism of a narrative.” ... I think about the fact that Monika Weiss titled her installation “Sustenazo,” a Greek word that means “lamenting together, in silence.” I find it important that there is someone who doesn’t try to teach us anything, but simply tells us about the helplessness of human language.”
Michał Wicha, History for Internal Use,
Tygodnik Powszechny, Krakow, Poland, Apr. 14, 2010