Film Screening
The Body as Trigger: Confronting Landscapes of Trauma via Performance Art

Filmstill, Aiming for Hopelessness, Elana Katz, 2021
Filmstill, Aiming for Hopelessness, Elana Katz, 2021 | © Elana Katz

Performance film screening by Elana Katz

Goethe-Institut New York

In the framework of our Shaping the Past series, The Body as Trigger: Confronting Landscapes of Trauma via Performance Art features works by Berlin-based artist Elana Katz. Two films resulting from Katz’s site-specific performances in public space about social trauma and collective memory, Aiming for Hopelessness (Romania, 2016-21) and Running on Empty (Serbia, 2017-18) will be screened in exhibition windows in New York and Berlin, available online, and analyzed in a concluding online discussion with artist Elana Katz, curator and interdisciplinary artist Melissa Hilliard Potter, and moderated by David C. Terry, Director of C24 Gallery, New York. These performance films are the concluding works of Katz’s 7-year initiative in the Balkans, Spaced Memory (2011-2018), in which the artist researched and produced site-specific work in the region of former Yugoslavia, Moldova, and Romania, addressing the pervasive topics of memory, postmemory, and presence of absence at locations of historical erasure.

There will be screenings in New York, Berlin, and online:

30 January – 5 February 2021, daily
Window projection at the Goethe-Institut New York, 30 Irving Place, 10003 New York, NY & online
(Links will be sent out Jan 30- 5 Feb)

29 & 30 January & 3 – 7 February 2021, 4pm - 8pm CET
Galerie KWADRAT, Reichenbergerstraße 125, Berlin from 4pm-8pm CET

Aiming for Hopelessness (2021)
Film, 24min, by Elana Katz
The subject of this film is a 16-hour durational performance in which the artist walks a historic route of the death train, on still active train tracks in the Moldavian region of Romania. The death train, a transport carried out by Romanian authorities during the Holocaust, ran two respective routes. These train killings were part of the Iasi Pogrom and resulted in the death of approximately 4,000 Jews in 1941. The artist’s body reactivates this space of historical social trauma, a history that is often locally silenced, and remains largely unknown. The performance had no destination, paralleling the historical conditions of the transport: while the route was merely 27 kilometers, the death train traveled approximately 9 hours — back and forth, stopping and starting — to achieve its objective of exterminating those within, via dehydration and suffocation. The performance’s resulting film (2021), edited 5 years after the 2016 performance, is a split-screen video that has no chronological sense. It plays with distortion of its subject matter and principally focuses on the disorientation of time.
Aiming for Hopelessness, film (24min), by Elana Katz, 2021 (performance: 2016) |Montage: Branka Pavlović | Camera: Mihai Leaha, Maria Nastase, Branka Pavlović, Nikola Polić| Production & research management: Alexandru Bounegru | Realized in cooperation with The Goethe Institute of Bucharest, The Goethe Center of Iasi, and the Embassy of Israel of Bucharest.
Running on Empty (2018)  * Only screened online
Film, 1hr 01min, by Elana Katz
The subject of this film is a site-specific performance for which the artist ran the 15km historic route of the “gas van” – a mobile gas chamber used during the Holocaust in Serbia during a 3‐month period in 1942. The piece deals with memory, post-memory, and dissociative tendencies, using the body to reactivate a landscape of trauma that has been integrated into the mundane local urban and suburban surroundings. A film has resulted from this performance that works with imagery and sound to both document and distort the performance-action as a subject, focusing on bodily limitations, capacities, and functions. The film’s emphasis on sound carries a distinct significance as it uses repetition, reverberation, and feedback loops to manipulate and distort the original content; thus mirroring the experience of trauma, and its explicit and procedural memory.
Running on Empty, film (1hr 01min), Elana Katz, 2018 (performance: 2017) | Camera: Mihai Andrei Leaha, Maria Nastase, Nikola Polić | Montage: Branka Pavlović |Sound Design: Exildiscount
Performance production was sponsored by the Trust for Mutual Understanding of New York and realized in cooperation with REX Cultural Center of Belgrade and DFBL8R Performance Art Gallery of Chicago.

For online viewing please write us an email

(Links will be sent out Jan 30-5 Feb)

Elana Katz is a conceptual artist working primarily in the medium of performance art. Katz’s work confronts cultural conventions, critically examines the complexity that lies within contradictions and thus aims to provoke experiences of unlearning the assumed. Katz has exhibited/ performed all over the world, including at the Museum of Sundsvall, Sweden (2019-20), where her work has been acquired into the museum’s permanent collection. She is a recipient of the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art (2011), and her research-based work in the Balkans has been supported by the US Embassy of Kosovo, Israeli Embassies of Belgrade & Bucharest, Goethe Institute of Bucharest, Goethe Centers of Cluj & Iasi, and Trust for Mutual Understanding of New York. In 2020, in cooperation with Gallery KWADRAT, she founded the Berlin contemporary art space House for the End of the World, where she curates an ongoing program focused on site-specificity.  

For more information about the panel discussion, please visit our joint event 
Memory Laps: A Conversation with Artist Elana Katz.

This program is in partnership with C24 Gallery, New York, and Galerie KWADRAT, Berlin.


Goethe-Institut New York

30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

Language: English
Price: Free

Window projection & online screening