Recently in early 2019, at the UT Visual Art Center (VAC), Austin-based artist and curator Alyssa Taylor Wendt showed her video exhibition HAINT. A cinematic tryptic filmed in Detroit, Croatia and Texas over a three year span, Wendt shared a surreal reflection on multi-generational memory and the effects of the war.
One of the leaders of the Surrealist movement, Andre Breton, was deeply affected as a young wartime psychological medic working with soldiers suffering from shell-shock, or trauma. As an aspiring poet, he found their use of language fascinating, their “distant, often illogical, verbal relationships”. Around the same time he was becoming exposed to the work of Freud, concepts like the unconscious and its links to dreams.
HAINT is a testament to how the memories of families, conveyed across generations can become intertwined with dreams and nightmares. Drawing in part upon her family’s wartime tales and experiences yet overlapping with current locations it’s unclear where her family’s history ends and her own inner landscape begins.
Alyssa Taylor Wendt, “Baphomet,” 2014. Digital chromogenic print.
The tryptic features different scenes, stitched together with an inner logic, overlaid with drone music, Eastern European folk songs and opera. HAINT takes place within industrial ruins, open fields and abandoned homes. There we see a cast of mysterious characters interacting, singing and performing what resembles Butoh dance. There are dramatic and surreal reflections of violence, but we cannot know if these represents her own internal conflicts or are references to her family’s stories. What could be more apt for communicating the dance between memory and trauma?