The Missing Week

Interested by issues of narrativity in photography, the artist explores the possibilities offered by reconstitution methods, specifically operating in the margins between notions of truth and fiction Weaving referents from various faits divers, art history and investigations notes, Niederstrass here focuses on the strongly connoted story of Elizabeth Short, also known as the ‘’Black Dahlia’’, who was found murdered in Los Angeles in 1947.

Using archival records of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) and research published by Steve Hodel, a private detective, former police investigator and son of the alleged murderer of Elizabeth Short, Natascha Niederstrass has produced a series of photographs offering a subjective look at the different locations where witnesses reported sightings of the young woman during the week she went missing prior to being found dead. Over sixty years later, not only this visual and descriptive reconstitution traces back the victim’s path, it also reveals an anachronistic superimposition of these places at different times to produce a narrative tainted by history.

Niederstrass’ aim is twofold. Through this body of work, the artist questions the veracity of the statements made in several newspaper articles of the time, suggesting that by attempting to manipulate the information regarding the victim, many media sources have indirectly legitimized the young woman’s murder, making it almost comprehensible to the public. Natascha Niederstrass uses forensic aesthetics that can be a surprisingly effective tool, for it serves both as an approachable way for the general public to pry open the often hermetic shell of contemporary art, and as a viable critical model for understanding art that relies on clues, obscurities, and residue. It enables the viewer to be involved in the reconstruction of a history, a scene, a speculative action or event which is excluded from “the visible”.

This body of work was initially presented in 2015 at Galerie Trois Points in Montreal and subsequently shown in 2019 in the 11th edition of the Art Souterrain Festival titled « TRUE OR FALSE ».

Photo credit : Guy L’Heureux

Monday, January 13th, 1947, Digital print, 20.5” x 27.5”  (2015)
Tuesday January 14th, 1947, Digital print, 20.5” x 27.5”  (2015)
Witness Sightings, Digital print, 27” x 40” (2015)
FBI Archive Records, Digital print, 60” x 96”  (2015)