Within research of female/sapphic collaborations of Modernity, a perpetual process of “erasure” or the “writing-out of art history” of female collaborators is exposed. One such example is evident through analysis of the 1939 Dutton publication Changing New York by photographer Berenice Abbott and writer Elizabeth McCausland. Little or nothing is known of the fact that all of the original McCausland captions for Changing New York were deemed not fit for publication by Dutton, and that the innovative spatial text-image design devised collaboratively by Abbott and McCausland was rejected. Instead, the publishers insisted on a very conservative approach to design, they implemented a savage editing process reducing McCausland’s texts to terse and bland captions that bear almost no resemblance to those that had been intended. The published Dutton captions, as they appear in Changing New York, close down the ways in which Abbott’s images are read so that they figure much like the illustrations for a guidebook to the city.
Stefanie Seibold and Alice Maude-Roxby found the complete set of original captions to the book written by Elizabeth McCausland, a communist and socially engaged journalist and long-time partner of Berenice Abbott, in the archive of the Museum of the City of New York. They had remained intact and pretty much untouched since 1939. These highly critical texts act to place the photographs directly into the larger political and social context of the 1930s Depression in USA. The original attempt and idea for the book by Abbott and McCausland was to acknowledge both formats, text and photography, as equal in terms of activating meaning production and/or as tools for critical reflection. The book was intended to comment on the harrowing social conditions and inequalities of New York City in the 1930s.
The 2018 Camera Austria publication Changing New York / Censored Realities brings these complete McCausland original texts back into circulation. A numbering system enables readers to realign each of the one-hundred originally intended texts to the corresponding photographs by Berenice Abbott, as they appear within the Dutton and subsequent Changing New York Dover publications. The book is complemented by an extensive text and original letters, giving astounding insights into the research process of the authors and the history of what they refer to as “Sapphic Modernity.”
Alice Maude-Roxby’s writing, curating, and photography develop out of “live” and “site specific” investigations of questions inherent in photographic or art history that involve interviewing and excavating archives. Publications include Anti-Academy (John Hansard Gallery) Marcia Farquhar’s 12 Shooters (Live Art Development Agency), Performing Memory (Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna), Live Art on Camera (John Hansard Gallery), On Record: art, advertising and the actions of Gina Pane (Artwords Press), and “The Delicate Art of Documenting Performance” in Art, Lies, and Videotapes: Exposing Performance (Tate Liverpool). She is collaborating with Stefanie Seibold on the exhibition “Sapphic Modernism/Transatlantic Crossings” that will take place at John Hansard Gallery in 2019. She is Head of Photography at Falmouth University.
Stefanie Seibold is an artist based in Vienna working with performance, installations, objects, archives, video, sound, and text including curatorial approaches/projects. She is the co-author of a comprehensive book on Performance in Vienna since the 1960s featuring influential works by women and queer positions. She is currently working on an exhibition with the title “Sapphic Modernism/Transatlantic Crossings” with Alice Maude-Roxby. Her work has been shown at the de Appel arts center, Amsterdam, 21er Haus, Vienna, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Camera Austria, Graz, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart etc. She currently teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in the Dept. of Performative Art and Sculpture.
Changing New York / Censored Realities. The complete reclaimed texts of art critic and political journalist Elizabeth McCausland intended for photographer Berenice Abbott’s 1930s seminal book Changing New York
Edition Camera Austria, Graz 2018. (eng.)
Authors: Alice Maude-Roxby, Stefanie Seibold
Editors: Joan Giroux, Sabine Weier
Designer: Richard Ferkl
Publisher: Edition Camera Austria, Lendkai 1, 8020 Graz, www.camera-austria.at
First edition, December 2018
With the kind the support of:
Federal Chancellery of Austria BKA
The City of Graz and the Styrian Government
Academy of Fine Arts Vienna