artist / participant
Apartment 4: Iris Häussler and The Chipstone Foundation
23.06.2018 - 16.06.2018
Biography of a woman who never was…but could have been... in Apartment 4
On October 1, 1942, Milwaukee landlord Agnes Przybylski discovered an unusual scene in the apartment she had rented 15 years prior. Although everything in the space appeared eerily untouched—just as it was on the day it was rented—a storage room in the back was crammed wildly with her tenant’s things and densely filled with art works and altered clothing. The tenant, Florence Hasard, was nowhere to be found.
The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s new exhibition Apartment 4 brings the viewer back to that moment of discovery and invites them to uncover clues to Hasard’s life.
Based on a character developed by conceptual artist Iris Häussler, this exhibition combines the visual language of historic house museums with the experimental approach of the fictional biography in an exploration of the mysterious circumstances of Florence Hasard.
Due to many factors, little is known about Hasard. It has been up to Häussler, in collaboration with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) and the Chipstone Foundation, to piece a story together. Häussler believes Hasard was born in 1882, the only child of her unmarried mother, Jeanne Hasard. Florence grew up under modest circumstances, and left her hometown of Nogent-sur-Marne, France, at the age of 16 for Paris. There, she modeled in painters’ studios and at art schools. It is believed that during WWI, Hasard worked as a nurse at a military hospital. Confronted with the cruelty of war, she likely experienced extreme measures of trauma and depression. Although we lose track of her around 1918, records indicate that, in 1927, Hasard registered for immigration to the United States. She arrived in Milwaukee that same year and lived a modest lifestyle for 25 years.
Apartment 4 offers clues to her life in Milwaukee leading up to her disappearance in 1942.
As a conceptual artist, Häussler’s creative process includes blending biography, fiction, and her own art practice to build immersive installations. Häussler inserts herself, often under the guise of one of her characters, into the timelines of art history and regional history as a method of embodying her character. Oscillating in and out of her invented figures, Häussler asks questions related to her findings, offering an invitation for other parties to get involved.
In developing Florence Hasard and in imagining her home, Häussler said, “I equipped her with resilience, curiosity, self-confidence and an ability to adapt to any circumstance. I made her into a passionate lover, artist model, and self-taught experimental artist much ahead of her times. In Milwaukee, her oeuvre speaks of the vulnerability of the human body, deeply informed by her traumatic experiences as a nurse in WWI. Her work reveals the inevitable resurfacing of creative energy, that art can be a vehicle through which trauma is processed, and that process does not conform to any societal norms.” For more of Florence’s story see florencehasard.org.
Through this immersive experience, Apartment 4 brings to life Hasard’s lower-class status, her social life, her employment as a model and seamstress, her immigration status, and her private artistic practice. This project is a collaboration of the artist, JMKAC, and Chipstone Foundation, a leader in the field of object-based research and museum practices.
Apartment 4 is set in the Italianate home built by John Michael Kohler in 1883. The gallery space serves as the site for the Art Center’s newest exhibition program, the Open House Project. Artists and organizations are invited to collaborate and experiment with ideas of history, source material, contemporary practices, and site specificity.
This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by Chipstone Foundation, Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and the Frederic Cornell Kohler Charitable Trust.