Elianna Renner’s work Solomon & Co (2011) takes a closer look at the transfer of memory and biographical knowledge in matrilinear family structures. Through association games surprising similarities of thinking are unravelled between a mother and her daughter.

The title Solomon & Co originates from the family name of Judith E. Renner-Wassermann’s grandmother. It accentuates the matrilineal nature of a family in which history is passed on orally. This transference of knowledge highlights how words can create an identity transcending generations.

At the beginning of the performance the audience gathers in front of a stage with two podiums. Stewards give directions and snipers can be seen in the second floor of an adjoining building, keeping watch over the proceedings. The stewards present each member of the audience with a balloon. Simultaneously, the audience is ushered back by the stewards to a safe distance from the stage. The stewards encourage the audience to applaud as Elianna Renner and her mother, Judith E. Renner-Wassermann, alias ‘Solomon & Co’, mount the stage. The set up mimicks the staging of a generic contemporary political event with a mass audience.

Once on stage, the ensuing alphabetical word exchange that is read by Elianna Renner and her mother is amplified by an old-conical factory PA speakers, which gives the voices a metallic clank, reminiscent of historical speeches in early TV recordings. The word pattern, which is recited in a calm and earnest manner, lists several seemingly unrelated words that are all starting with the same letter. After listening for some time, however, the power of the individual words, combined with the random and subjective chains of association of two individuals, forms an intentional poetry. The designated space of audience and stage is declared to be a free space for association, in which cycles of recollections are being produced that transcend political, historical and generational confines.

After the last word has been spoken Elianna Renner and Judith E. Renner-Wassermann leave the stage. In this moment, the stewards theatrically release the balloons, which leads the audience to imitate this action, and the snipers that had been standing guard up in the windows, signal with their fake rifles as if firing into the air in a salutary manner.

After the performance has ended, podiums, banners, stage and balloons are left to decompose. The words of the finished performance keep hanging in the air, as a recording of the performance is played in a loop, beginning immediately when the performance has ended.

As visitors enter the lobby of the exhibition, a video projection on the floor evoking film credits shows all the words said in the performance. They can be read on the floor as they silently pass, while the audio recording of the recently ended performance can be heard from afar.

Solomon & Co was inaugurating the Gedok-Performance Festival which took place during the 8th Bremen Kunstfrühling.

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All photos on this page and in the slide show: Manja Hermann