Lena Ditte Nissen

Tom Skinner (Documentation of a group therapy by Carl Rogers), "Journey into Self", film still, 1968.

Reflexive Alliance

In Reflexive Alliance Lena Ditte NISSEN engages with her family history and asks questions about transgenerational trauma, the transfer of knowledge and political and individual positioning.

“It is this fear of turning into stone when one looks back over one’s own shoulder into the past”, W.G. Sebald declares in his literary engagement with the German process of coping with the pastLena.* Ditte Nissen faces the exact same fear. Looking over her shoulder, she sees her great-grandmother, the ‚’Reichshebammenführerin’, the leading midwife of Nazi Germany, and her granduncle who as ‘Reichsgesundheitsführer’, the first doctor of Nazi Germany, was charged in the Nuremberg trials. Her grandmother recorded the flight of the family from the Allies in 1945 and described her worries about family and the fate of the Führer.

Together with her grandmother’s diary, this flight diary forms the raw material for the engagement with the Nazi history of the own family. Lena Ditte Nissen has decided against an individual or isolated process and chosen a specific form of collective analysis and accomplishment for the texts: the artist uses the method of the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘, developed for behavioral scientists in the 1990s by Swiss cultural anthropologist and psychoanalyst Prof. Dr. Maya Nadig. A diverse group of participants reads, discusses and analyses the text passages together in self-reflective talks. This method contextualizes the source material – the personal memoirs of the grandmother – and considers the very personal, social and cultural backgrounds of the protagonists of the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘. Unconscious dynamics and the subjective experience are actively integrated in this process and provide valuable psychoanalytical conclusions. The group-based analytical sessions are documented by the artist and are lead by Dr. Jochen Bonz who has worked with Prof. Dr. Maya Nadig and has many years of experience employing the ‘Deutungswerkstatt‘ method.

“In the current political situation with rising nationalism in Germany and Europe, I want to use my resources and possibilities to comment on this development and position myself clearly, publicly and artistically, arguing through my work and using it as a basis for discussions“, Lena Ditte Nissen declares. In 2018, she intensively began to engage with the transgenerational transfer of knowledge and memory in works like There Is and Questions Without Answers. In the framework of the Fellowship Büchsenhausen Lena Ditte Nissen will drill deeper into her own past and ask herself questions about identity and family trauma.

Text by Anne Mager

* Sebald to Hage, in: Volker Hage, Zeugen der Zerstörung. Die Literaten und der Luftkrieg. Essays und Gespräche, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2003: 268.

The Danish-German artist and filmmaker Lena Ditte NISSEN (1987*, Munich) studied film and media art at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Her films, performances and installations have been shown at international institutions and film festivals such as the Museo de Arte Moderno Rio de Janeiro, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Museo del Banco de la República Bogotá, ACUD MACHT NEU in Berlin, the film museum in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, KAI10 Athena Foundation, Rubenstein Art Center, CCA Center for Contemporary Art Tbilisi, the International Film Festivals in Edinburgh and Belo Horizonte, the CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, WNDX Festival of Moving Image, 25FPS Zagreb, Festival de nouveau cinéma Montréal and the Anthology Film Archive NYC amongst others. Lena has been in residence at SOMA Mexico, LIGHT CONE in Paris and lugar a dudas in Cali, Colombia.

In addition to her artistic career, Ditte Nissen has also curated various film and video programs since 2013 that have been shown at international venues including Cinemateca Nacional de Colombia and the FAR OFF fair for contemporary art in Cologne, Germany. In 2018 she held a studio scholarship at Bonner Kunstverein together with Alisa Berger, with whom she works in the artist-duo bergernissen.