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Monko, Marge

b. 1976, Tallin, Estonia; lives and works in Tallin

Nora’s Sisters, 2009 Single channel video of photographs, 7 min. 

Gender and class identities form two sides of the same coin in Marge Monko’s research on the way modern subjectivity is constantly redefined by the conditions of production. Both in photography and videos, Monko produces narratives that underline the way the women’s aspirations are entangled with the fate of the economic system. Like her series of photographs The Fall of Manufacture (2009), Nora’s Sisters grows out of images of the Krenholm textile factory in Narva, Estonia. Formerly one of the Soviet Union’s biggest factories, with 120,000 workers, its numbers have been in steady decline since the fall of the regime. Instead of documenting the decay of the workshop, however, Monko has chosen to produce a clash between economic times and artistic languages, allegorising the predicament of women’s emancipation in relation to the restructuring of industry under capitalism. Monko uses historical photographs of women workers at Krenholm to animate a fragment of a play written by Austrian Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek (b. 1946), who is famous for addressing the difficulties of women’s lives in our times. The contrast between the aesthetic optimism of the images of propaganda of women’s work under socialism and a story about the closure of factories in post-industrial Europe results in a humorous and cunning reading of the uncertainties of women’s condition across decades and social systems. CM