Behind Closed Doors : Body Of Evidence

  • Natascha Niederstrass
January 20th to March 10 2018


Read the article entitled «De l’assassinat comme un des beaux-arts» by Nicolas Mavrikakis, Le Devoir. 

Watch the interview «Rencontre avec Natascha Niederstrass, une artiste qui place le spectateur au centre d’énigmes à résoudre» by Rats de ville .

L’immanence de la rupture (The Immanence of Rupture)

In Tergiverser vers le vide and Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence, Yannick De Serre and Natascha Niederstrass respectively highlight the notion of rupture, staging and questioning its most irrational, violent and moving ways. Of course, each artist gives this brutal act of separation their own narrative form. In broaching the unacceptable, Natascha Niederstrass slyly prompts discomfort with a surrealistic proposal that links the macabre facts of the Black Dahlia with Marcel Duchamp’s last work Étant donnés : 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage (1946-1966). As for Yannick De Serre, he captures the weight of absence and emptiness in a delicate and poetic manner, using the theme of departure as inspiration.


Although the notion of rupture is not, strictly speaking, the subject of the two exhibitions, it links them through the cutting nature of separation, which incidentally is the origin of the facts or related acts in the two projects. As an action, inducing a form of brutality or suddenness, the rupture necessarily implies an interruption in the course of things, whether it is expressed as a temporal discontinuity, marking before and after, or as a relational disjunction, forcing individuals to experience the discomfort of duality “presence-absence.”


What to say about Niederstrass’ ruptures, just as sharp, but bloody and life taking? In these macabre conditions, the causality of the act often has no explanation. Creating an enigma and scandal, the mystery thickens; suppositions multiply. For Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence, Natascha Niederstrass proposes a disturbing presentation, a fantasized meeting of two events. The first one, a crime, evokes the affair of the Black Dahlia, the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short in California at the beginning of 1947. And the second one concerns Marcel Duchamp’s artwork Étant donnés : 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage (1946-1966). Both events have shadowy areas, allowing for some doubt. The most destabilizing uncertainty lies in the possible link between the two, a connection which, even though it has never been shown, is unsettling enough to attract attention. One year before the young actress’ unresolved murder, Marcel Duchamp secretly began a 20-year-long process of creating Étant donnés : 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage, a work that was to be unveiled posthumously at the Philadelphia Museum, one year after the artist’s death. On the wooden door that leads to the work, there are two tiny holes through which the viewer-voyeur discovers the whitish naked body of a woman lying on a pile of branches. Her legs are spread apart and she holds a lamp in her right hand. In Duchamp’s staging, there are several similarities with the Black Dahlia crime scene, except that the body is not sliced in half. In Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence, Natascha Niederstrass fantasizes a relationship between the two events, superimposing here and there narrative elements from each one. This installation is surrealistic, not in relation to the artistic presentation, but in the project itself. From the outset, the words of warning in the user manual for reconstructing Duchamp’s installation punctuate a journey on the walls of CIRCA art actuel and are the basis of an intriguing staging at the back of the gallery. Here there is no need for a wooden door, nor is there any desire to distance the viewer. In Natascha Niederstrass’ installation, the viewer faces the scene. He/she is no longer a voyeur, but a witness to a scene and a surreal artistic proposal that simulates or fantasizes the artist’s studio. On the back wall, the infamous photographs of Elizabeth Short’s cut-in-half body put the creative space in context. Here and there, lamps illuminate fragments of objects. On the left, some hair and a piece of a leg are laid out on a workbench. On the right, a pile of bricks is placed on the ground. In the centre, the forearm of a body rests next to a pile of branches deposited on a table. The hand is closed and no longer holds anything.


In both exhibitions, there is no resilience! Yannick De Serre and Natascha Niederstrass show the rupture in an artistic form that invites the overcoming of loss.

– Émilie Granjon

Read the article «De l’assassinat comme un des beaux-arts» by Nicolas Mavrikakis for Le Devoir. 

Watch the interview  «Rencontre avec Natascha Niederstrass, une artiste qui place le spectateur au centre d’énigmes à résoudre» produced by Rats de ville .


Natascha Niederstrass has a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal and a MFA in visual arts from York University in Toronto. Her work has been presented in various solo and group exhibitions. In 2005, she was awarded the Bourse Plein sud, and in 2009 she took part in Confluences, presented jointly at Musée régional de Rimouski and Maison de la culture Frontenac in the context of De l’île à la mer, an event Bernard Lamarche curated. In 2010, she joined Accident, the Off Manif d’Art 5 in Quebec City. And in 2014, she presented her first solo show at Galerie Trois Points, and also contributed to the programming of Occurrence – Espace d’art et d’essaie contemporain. In the summer of 2015, Niederstrass exhibited a project at Gallery 101 in Ottawa that is linked to The Missing Week series shown at Galerie Trois Points in the fall of 2015: this will be presented at CIRCA Art Actuel in 2018. For the opening of the 2017 cultural season, she presented her most recent corpus of work at Galerie Trois Points as part of the satellite exhibitions of MOMENTA – Biennale de l’image.


Using video, photography and installation, and drawing inspiration from news items, crime scenes and horror movies, Natascha Niederstrass’ work highlights the ambiguity of cultural codes and signs in the face of a reality that too often slips from our grasp.