‘Plexus’ is a photographic case study through archival still lifes, highlighting the effects of inherited trauma and postmemory, and providing a familiar terrain to explore the influence of the family on psychological and cultural processes within history. In this work, I investigate the complex routes of my ancestors using my family home and archive. Finding documents and artifacts which lost their history and became indecipherable, I add my own narrative to what is left unknown, to create a metaphor transgressing personal and national boundaries.
When attempting to reconnect these fragments, the term ‘remembering’ becomes literal: I piece together the limbs of a body of events I have never fully seen or experienced, to understand the past, the present, and ultimately, the impact this kind of baggage has had on myself and the world around me. I use the objects and architecture of the house as parabolic proxies, turning them into gates connecting the past and the present. This creation of dream-like environments and symbols interlinks all that is remembered and simultaneously forgotten.
Even though history never repeats in the same way, I can observe cyclical patterns reappearing, and catch myself repeating the behaviours of my mother and grandmother that so greatly influenced me. Creating a new sense of identity by confronting the past, spanning across four generations, provides grounds for a detailed investigation of postmemory, mental health, war, and history.
“Das ist das Böse. Alle haben es in sich, keiner will es haben, und wo soll es hin?
In die Luft? Es ist in der Luft, aber da bleibt’s nicht lang, es muss in einen Menschen hinein,
damit sie’s eines Tages packen und töten können.”
Max Frisch, Andorra
Elena Helfrecht (b. 1992 in Bavaria; based in London and Bavaria) is a visual artist working with photography.
In 2019 she completed her MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London, after receiving her BA in Art History and Book Science from Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen in 2015 and briefly studying Art and Image History at Humboldt-University in Berlin from 2016 to 2017.
Elena’s work 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 characterised by a visceral iconography. Within her practice, she regards photography as a performative action and an extended form of procreation. Engaging in experimentation and play becomes a direct connection between the internal and the external realm. Through this process, she relates individual experiences to a collective history and turns personal involvement into a shared understanding. Growing up in the Bavarian countryside, the folklore and landscapes from her childhood are rooted in her heart and continuously influence her work, as does her love for Art History, Literature, and Psychology.