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Summer at Grazer Kunstverein

Elisabeth von Samsonow
The Elder Poem
25 June – 12 September 2021


Image courtesy of the artist


What if the alphabet was invented by the trees?
In her project The Elder Poem Elisabeth von Samsonow explores and stages convergencies between art and ecology, namely poetry and botanical systems. Starting from the Old Irish Alphabet of Trees Beth-Luis-Nion as explored by Robert von Ranke-Graves in his voluminous book ”The White Goddess“ Samsonow maps the Land of the Goddesses, which she co-founded with a group of artists and supporters (among them the Grazer Kunstverein) in 2020 in Lower Austria. This land is a highly diverse territory with wine, wood, field and bushland. Using a system of association between letter, tree, place, quality, historical and mythical narratives (which is also the case in the Alphabet of Trees), von Samsonow reads the landscape of this biodiverse habitat, and in doing so creates a journey into the core of  imagination, a poem written by the land itself.

Von Samsonow‘s project aims at giving space to gestures of attention and mutual recognition, expanding the zone of transhuman communication. The project seeks to offer new dimensions to ”thinking Gaias“ or ”reading Gaia“, the autopoetic planetary force, and to support the creation of ”trigger points“ which serve as nodes for building a complex architecture of coexistence.

The Elder, giving name to the project, is a bush or tree that features frequently in fairy tales, folk medicine and mythology, as a healing plant offering flower, berry and bark for therapeutical use. Technically it is a pioneering plant able to grow even under difficult conditions. The Goddesses‘ Land is located in the region of Hollabrunn referring to the connection between the Elder and the ”fountain of Holla“ which is the Goddess, more precisely: the White Goddess or her Winter aspect. The project engages with local village residents, hunters and farmers in order to retrace the manifold imaginaire of Elder in the region.

Ringel, Ringel, Reihe,

sind der Kinder dreie,

wir sitzen unterm Hollerbusch,


Elisabeth von Samsonow (born 1956) is a German-Austrian artist, activist and philosopher who is a professor of philosophic and historical anthropology at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. She is a founding member of the Dissident Godesses’ Network, an association of researchers and artists that finds new approaches to Paleolithic and Neolithic female figurines from Lower Austria, further she is a founding part of THE LAND OF THE GODDESSES, a project on 4 hectare of land dedicated to matriarchy, art and the development of ecological awareness.


In her practice as an artist and curator she focuses on the systemic and symbolic place of sculpture and plastic art. Her artistic practice includes sculpture, performance, painting, video and installation. Her research delves into the history of philosophy and religion, a theory of a collective consciousness, the history of the relationship between art/ technique, religion and psychoanalysis, the history of the perception of women and female identification (Young Girl Studies), the dissolution of the self in modernity and feminist ecology.


Recent publications include Anti Electra. The Radical Totem of the Girl (Minnesota University Press Minnesota 2019), The Goddesses Books (4 vols., as an editor, Verlag für Bildende Kunst Wien 2019–2020), Epidemic Subjects – Radical Ontology (Diaphanes, Zürich/Berlin, 2017) and Egon Schiele as Collector (Bibliothek der Provinz, 2016). She has shown her works and projects in solo exhibitions at the Natural History Museum, Vienna (2020), Dominican church, Krems (2016), and MuseumsQuartier, Vienna (2015). She has performed, among others, at the Venice Biennale (2019), the Solyanka State Gallery Moscow (2017), the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (2016) and the Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna (2016). Von Samsonow has participated in numerous group shows, most recently at the Kunstverein Carinthia (2020), Leopold Museum, Vienna (2018) and Kunsthalle Tirol (2018). Her work is included in the collections of the Belvedere Museum, Vienna, the Federal Chancellery of Austria, the city of Vienna and the federal state of Lower Austria.


As part of her exhibition The Elder Poem a recent collaborative film by von Samsonow and others will be screened. Titled A Visit, A Ceremony, A Gift this film was commissioned by TULCA Festival of Visual Arts as part of the Unselfing Programme for Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 with support from French Embassy in Ireland.