Johnny and Bella

Johnny and Bella (first published March 6, 2016) is my blog text at What if? Your participatory arts community on identity, created by Barbara Lüneburg. What if? is part of „TransCoding–From ‚Highbrow Art‘ to Participatory Culture“, an arts-based research project conceived of by the artist and researcher Dr. Barbara Lüneburg (project leader), funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (PEEK AR 259-G21) and located at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz/Austria. The project is run by an international team of artists (e.g. composer Clio Montrey as social media strategist) and researchers from 1.2.2014 – 30.1.2017.

#GYHAFY–Give yourself a holiday away from yourself

#GYHAFY is part of ‚What if?‘. I’ve been invited by Barbara to be a part of it. Weeks ago before the invite I saw this picture on tagg magazine’s site about historical lesbian couples. To me this picture of these amazing persons is something magical. But the life of this couple is completely unknown. A wonderful occasion on giving an identity! Barbara asked some questions…the idea behind: be another (invented) person…the following story is a mix of invention, history, and my personal experiences…Johnny and Bella…a very special couple…the beginning of a new story…

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„…ein prächtiges Ding…“

Facebook-Blog, September 18, 2013

In the Meersburg, Lake Constance

„Mein Thurm ist köstlich, d.h. meinem Geschmacke nach einsam, graulich, – heimliche Stiegen in den Mauern – Fensterscheiben mit Sprüchen von Gefangenen eingeschnitten – eine eiserne Thür die zu Gewölben führt wo es Nachts klirrt und rasselt – und nun drinnen mein lieber warmer Ofen, – mein guter, großer Tisch mit Allem darauf, was mein Herz verlangt, Bücher, Schreibereyen, Mineralien, – und als Hospitant mein klein Kanarienvögelchen, das mir aus der Hand frisst und die Federn verschleppt. O, es ist ein prächtiges Ding, der runde Thurm! ich sitze darin wie ein Vogel im Ey, und mit viel weniger Lust heraus zu kommen…“*

(„My tower is delicious, that means for my flavor forlorn, graulich, – secret stairs in the walls – panes with patterns of imprisoners engraved – an iron door who leads to an arch where it’s clanging and rattling in the night – and now inside I have my good warm oven, – my good big desk with all of it what my heart is longing for, books, inkstands, minerals,  and as a trainee my smallish canary eating from the palm of my hand, losing its feathers. O, it is a splendid thing, the round tower! I sit in it like a bird in its nest, and with very less desire to go out…“)

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848) wrote this in 1844 few years before she died, living in the old Meersburg at Lake Constance. There she has found – due to the marriage of her sister Jenny with Joseph von Laßberg – her nest und there she was able to work on her own (miles away from her often almighty, overwhelming mother). Annette was not an – often critical and satirical – author only: she was a composer, too: she wrote nice songs for voice and piano for domestic use. In her youth she was a very good singer – her voice often had been compared with the voice of the former superstar Angelica Catalani (1780-1849).

Furthermore, Annette was one of the first people searching for music of the Middle Ages: she edited the melodies of the „Lochamer Liederbuch“ (~1460) and created four libretti for operas (fragmentarily keeped). With the help of the music she was able to forget: the opprobrium of a youth trauma. Two young men have bet that they will get Annette „ready for sex“. Annette first felt very carressed – but then the two men dumped her feelings. For 12 years Annette avoided to get in their near. With her stepson Levin Schücking she never had had a love affair, he was just her muse. Annette complained in a letter about why the society isn’t able to accept platonic friendships between women and men.

Because Annette was a lesbian. She has had an affair with Sibylle Mertens-Schaaffhausen (1797-1857), the beautiful „Rheingräfin“ who was an amour of Adele Schopenhauer (1797-1849). With Amalie Hassenpflug (1800-1871), the sister-in-law of the sole sister of the brothers Grimm, Annette lived an off and on relationship. Side by side the two women are buried in a grave (Meersburg cemetery) hiding some secrets I’m looking for.

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