published by: Void
text by: Matteo Cremonesi

After her grandmother’s farewell, artist Elena Helfrecht ventured on a journey of exploration into the family mansion, immersing herself deeply into its atmosphere steeped in Bavarian history. By wandering through the rooms housing memories steeped in meaning, Helfrecht set out to shape a visual narrative, aiming to dissect the intricacies of inherited trauma and post-memory.

For the author, the black-and-white photographic images act as wide-open windows onto an allegorical world, an image-world elaborated from the frame constituted by the interiors of the family home. Seemingly ordinary, the shots conceal a disturbing atmosphere beyond the surface. Deposit-like stalactites unravel along the walls, dark chasms open up under the floor, a snake silently envelops a dollhouse, while chairs hang mysteriously from the rafters. The named, watched, and recorded elements come to life, becoming the protagonists of a visual narrative that unfolds inexorably. An opening to the fantastic in which each thing is a portal suspended between memory and the present, in which each thing is an element of a dense weave in which recurring motifs such as eggs, birds and fleshy excrescences emerge, weaving themselves into a complex web of symbolism. The title itself, “Plexus”, evokes the image of an intricate network of nerves or vessels, underlining the complexity of connections between the subjects depicted, suggesting an intertwining of symbols, people, enigmatic places, and stories.

In the attempt to reconstruct the fragmented history of the women in my family, the concept of “re-memorizing” takes on a surprising concreteness. Through narrative, emptiness is filled with dreamlike visions, connections and imagined scenarios, creating a narrative that transcends personal and national boundaries. Everything, objects as well as the architecture of the home become powerful metaphors, places through which a breach between the past and the present is opened.

The book also features a short story by Camilla Grudova, a recognized figure on the prestigious Granta Best of Young British Novelists 2023 list. Grudova’s short story, titled The House Surgeon, offers a literary elaboration of a similar theme: an unsettling growth that quietly unfolds beneath the floorboards of a family home. Here, prose merges with Helfrecht’s images, helping to highlight the deep connections and links between the past, the present and future generations, reflecting on the complex interwoven threads of inherited trauma.

Elena Helfrecht (*1992) is a visual artist based in Bavaria. Her practice revolves around the inner space and the phenomena of consciousness, emerging from an autobiographical context and opening up to the surreal and fantastic, at times grotesque. Interweaving memories, experiences, and imagination, she creates inextricable narratives with multiple layers of meaning, characterized by a visceral iconography. Within her work, photography serves as a direct connection between the internal and the external realms. Through this process, she relates individual experiences to a collective history and turns personal involvement into a shared understanding. She is influenced by the folklore and landscapes of her home and her passion for Art History and Psychology.

Elena’s work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions internationally, at institutions and festivals such as South London Gallery (UK), Galleria Civica Cavour (IT), The Benaki Museum (GR), Villa Kebbel (DE), Photo Vogue Festival (IT), Encontros da Imagem (PT), FORMAT Festival Derby (UK), and Palácio das Artes (BR).

She is a recipient of the British Journal of Photography International Photo Award, as well as the Sony World Photo Award, the Camera Work Award and the AOP Student Award. Among others, she was also selected as one of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries and nominated for the FOAM Paul Huf Award. Recently, she has been selected as one of the Futures Photography Talents by VOID. Her images have been featured and reviewed in numerous publications such as The New Yorker, ZEIT Magazin, Financial Times Weekend, The Guardian, British Journal of Photography, Der Greif, and Source Magazine.

She has given lectures and talks at institutions such as the London College of Communication, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, the University of Brighton, Arts University Bournemouth, and the University of Europe. She is a member of the German Photographic Academy and VG Bildkunst. Elena’s work is held in private and public collections.

Copyright © Elena Helfrecht, Void, all rights reserved

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