In 1904 the 25-year old actress and photographer Amanda Kristina Pedersen was convicted of fraud and forgery in Falu district court. By then the trial had been in progress for a long time because of the difficulty of establishing Pedersen’s true identity. For several years she had been living under different names and alternating between living as a woman and a man.
The artist Kristina Bength is also 25-years old and grew up in Falun, and she is currently exhibiting a show that revolves around Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s different identities.
-I found her by coincidence in a thesis about photography and gender and I was fascinated by her portrait. She looked so cunning. When I did some research I found the verdict and photographs that she took, says Kristina.
Pedersen was poor and embezzled small change to survive. Today the punishment would have been mild, but in those times the verdict was harsh. Perhaps the court was appalled by her way of shifting identities and dressing up as a man. In the protocols Pedersen is describes as cunning, shrewd, “non-woman” and “non-man”.
- She questioned what a woman is, and she shifted the limits of what constitutes a man or a woman, true or false. I perceive it as if she in a playful manner tested the creation of the subject by taking on different roles. She demanded not to be encircled and defined as the part of a woman. It was very brave, says Kristina.
In the exhibition she herself has taken on a dubious role in the re-use of old archive material. Her water colours depict Pedersen’s story and has been installed in a way that creates rooms and stories that the viewer can enter and exit, just like Pedersen entered and exited her roles. In one room we also get to hear the verdict from the trial being read.
- But the exhibition isn’t biographical. Just like Pedersen I use references to theatre and photography to create a new story. I want to create a counter-memory that question the current memory and revaluate her fate.
text by Pernilla Ahlsén
published in Dagens Nyheter
translation by Sara Walker