Elianna Renner

Artist and Fellow of the University of the arts Bremen

Born in Switzerland in 1977 and residing in Germany, conceptual artist Elianna Renner works at the intersections of biography, fiction and history. In her work she questions historical narratives and their inherent areas of omission – always striving to uncover the power structures behind these “untold” or “incommunicable” histories.

Following Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s concept of “unthinkable history”, Elianna Renner believes that we all need stories that fill in the gaps, that no book will ever teach us1. She approaches this central idea through multi media installations, in which photography, performance, video and audio-tracks intertwine, whilst enmeshing the audience in an intimate dialogue with the artist.

During an eight-month research trip with a grant from the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD), Elianna Renner developed the project “Tracking the traffic”, in which she follows the traces of Jewish pimp circle Zwi Migdal, that abducted Jewish girls from poorer eastern European communities between 1860 and 1930, and forced them into prostitution. The locations in which the circle was active included New York, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Saõ Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Shanghai, Johannesburg and Capetown. During her research, Elianna Renner visited these places, conducting interviews with historians, writers, musicians, and film makers, that had already been studying the topic. Simultaneously, she visited cemeteries and archives, searching for clues the women’s lives had left behind in tombstones, songs, theatre pieces, and literature.