Elizabeth Presa

Dr Elizabeth Presa is a sculptor and installation artist and is the head of the interdisciplinary Centre for Ideas in the Faculty of the VCA & MCM, the University of Melbourne.  Her research focuses on the poetics of the text and she often works with philosophers.

She has been artist-in-residence at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, and the recipient of the Power Institute Scholarship for a six-month residency at Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. Éditions Galilée, Paris, presented an exhibition of her work made in response to Chaque Fois Unique by Jacques Derrida, which was later exhibited at the Musee de Livres D’ Artistes Contemporains.
Her research on the interconnections between Rodin, Rilke and Blanchot is published in After Blanchot: Literature, Criticism and Philosophy (University of Delaware, 2006).  In 2006 she was awarded a three month residency by the French Government to develop video installations based on works in the collection of the Louvre Museum. She has presented installation work on Spinoza’s ‘Algebraic Calculation of the Rainbow and JJ Rousseau’s ‘Confessions’ . In 2010 Five College’s Women’s Research Centre, Massachusetts, awarded her a Research Fellowship to develop work on St Teresa of Avila. She continues her work on textual translation in a project at Yokobo Art Space, Tokyo in June 2012.

Elizabeth sometimes collaborates with her daughter, video artist, Anastasia Klose . Elizabeth Presa’s work is featured in Verwisch Die Spuren (Diaphanes) by the philosopher Alexander Garcia Düttmann.


  • Artist statement
  • Title: Material Translations
  • Talk for the overarching session titled:Transcontinental Translations
  • 4.30-7pm, 16 June 2012
  • ACMI Theatrette

“I will discuss a series of projects all involving processes of translation and transformation from a literary text to a visual arts practice.  As an artist I am particularly interested in giving a material form or image to metaphors and tropes found in poetry and written texts.   I will outline my plans for a translation project commencing in Tokyo in June 2012. The work is made with reference to the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a tenth century courtesan, who wrote detailed anecdotes, lists and insights into court life.  The starting point for this project of translation is a statement from Chris Marker’s 1983 film Sans Soleil /Sunless:

“He spoke to me of Sei Shonagon, a lady in waiting to Princess Sadako at

the beginning of the 11th century, in the Heian period. Do we ever know

where history is really made? Rulers ruled and used complicated strategies to fight one another. Real power was in the hands of a family of hereditary regents; the emperor’s court had become nothing more than a place of intrigues and intellectual games. But by learning to draw a sort of melancholy comfort from the contemplation of the tiniest things this small group of idlers left a mark on Japanese sensibility much deeper than the mediocre thundering of the politicians…. He wrote me: coming back through the Chiba coast I thought of Shonagon’s list, of all those signs one has only to name to quicken the heart, just name. To us, a sun is not quite a sun unless it’s radiant, and a spring not quite a spring unless it is limpid. Here to place adjectives would be so rude as leaving price tags on purchases.

I explore the interconnecting thematics of translation and transformation as a meditation on the nature of memory and the need to give a material form to the transient sensations and emotions experienced in everyday life. The material translation of  Sei Shonagon’s intimate detailed observations of everyday life creates affectivity through the starkness of condensed time, surfaces and shifting light. “


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