The Vanishing Woman / Escamotage d’une femme

Natascha Niederstrass’ photography and installations are steeped in the symbolic interrelationships she observes in visual culture and history. She constitutes narratives of phenomena marginalized by the dominant discourse, in the hopes of reclaiming a place for them in our perceptions of reality.

With The Vanishing Woman/Escamotage d’une femme, Niederstrass surveys the appearance of the female body in 19th century magic performances, casting a critical eye on this historical trope by drawing parallels with perceptions of women today. The once-frequent illusion, which featured magicians covering women with fabric or rugs to erase them from the stage, raises strong symbolic and even political considerations. For Niederstrass, the magic trick was a way to banish an unwelcome presence or make it invisible. The artist also draws an iconographic parallel with another Victorian phenomenon known as hidden mother photography, where women held their children in poses for the camera while hiding behind drapery, their silhouettes still partially discernable.

Niederstrass presents a new series created during her residency with VU. The artists allies photography and sculpture in a number of formal variations presented in a shadowy setting, alluding to the vanishing women scenarios so favoured by magicians. Fragmentary and enigmatic, the mysterious dark images suggest bodies lurking under folds of fabric. The variations on the motif invite viewers to reflect on the insidious violence inherent in mechanisms that render invisible or dehumanize the female body.

This body of work was presented in partnership with VU – Centre de diffusion et de production de la photographie, from February 19th to April 24th, 2022 as part of Manif d’art 10 : The Quebec City Biennial. Under the theme Illusions are Real, guest curator Steven Matijcio, director of the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston, Texas, questions the relationship between art and its mirages. Manif d’art 10 – The Quebec City Biennial is produced in collaboration with the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. It was then also shown from November 19, 2022 to February 4, 2023 at the Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Montreal.

Photo credit : Charles-Frédéric Ouellet, Vincent Drouin and Marc-Antoine Hallé

Untitled (Homage to Bautier de Kolta’s assistant)
Carpet, chair, veil, steel device, pedestal, 58″ W x 58.5″ H x 82″ D
Untitled (Concealed), Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 32″ x 43″ (2021)
Complete series : Untitled (Disappearance 1 to 7), Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 48″ x 36″ (2021)
Untitled (Levitation of a Lady), Hydrostone, transparent wire, playing card, black latex paint, 15″ W x 18″ H x 15″ D (2022)
Untitled (Reverse side of the pyramid), Inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 45″ x 34″ (2021)