Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven: Dadaist Iconoclast and Inspiration for Women in the Metaverse

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, born Else Hildegard Plötz on July 12, 1874, in Swinemünde, Germany, was a pioneering figure in the Dada movement, known for her radical performances, provocative poetry, and avant-garde art. Her fearless defiance of societal norms and her relentless creativity continue to inspire contemporary female artists, particularly as we explore the new digital frontier of the Metaverse.

A Revolutionary in Art and Life

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s life was as unconventional as her art. She moved to Berlin in her early twenties, where she became part of the bohemian scene. After marrying the Baron Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven, she relocated to the United States, where her artistic career truly flourished. In New York, she became a central figure in the Dada movement, mingling with artists like Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

Her work was characterized by its radical departure from traditional art forms. She created assemblages from found objects, turning everyday items into provocative pieces of art. Her performances, often involving elaborate costumes made from garbage and industrial materials, challenged contemporary norms of femininity and propriety. Through her art, von Freytag-Loringhoven questioned societal structures and championed individual freedom and expression.

A Life of Bold Expression

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s contributions to Dada were groundbreaking. Her readymades and performances prefigured many aspects of contemporary art. One of her most famous works, "God," a plumbing trap mounted on a miter box, was created in collaboration with Morton Schamberg. This piece, like much of her work, blurred the boundaries between art and everyday life, challenging the viewer’s perceptions and expectations.

Her poetry, equally radical, often employed unconventional structures and shocking imagery. Von Freytag-Loringhoven’s work was not widely recognized during her lifetime, but her influence has grown significantly in the decades since her death in 1927. Today, she is celebrated as a feminist icon and a pioneer of avant-garde art.

Inspiration for the Future

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s fearless creativity and rejection of conventional norms offer valuable lessons for female artists today, especially as we navigate the possibilities of the Metaverse. Her ability to transform mundane objects into powerful artistic statements can inspire similar innovation in digital spaces. In the Metaverse, where new cultural narratives are being written, there is a unique opportunity to ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are integral to these creations.

Education, Visibility, and Empowerment

To ensure that women can fully participate and lead in the Metaverse, we must focus on:

1. **Education**: Providing women with the skills and knowledge to navigate and shape the digital art world. This includes training in digital art techniques, blockchain technology, and virtual reality.

2. **Visibility**: Ensuring that the work of female artists is prominently featured in virtual galleries and platforms. This can be achieved through dedicated initiatives and advocacy for gender equality in digital spaces.

3. **Empowerment**: Creating supportive environments where women feel safe to experiment and express themselves. This involves fostering communities and implementing policies that protect against harassment and discrimination.

Unmentioned by Art Historians

In other words, there were indeed female artists, even in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They were fewer in number, but often exceptionally talented. Yet, they were not included in the art canon. The fact that art historians were predominantly men for a long time certainly played a role. As previously mentioned: history was often his story. Throughout history, there were many women who were well-known and even praised for their work in their time, but (art) historians did not see fit to mention them.

A rather shocking example of this is Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. She is the artist who, under the male pseudonym Richard Mutt, submitted the famous artwork Fountain for an exhibition in New York in 1917. You might be thinking: Fountain, isn't that by Marcel Duchamp? Well, no… The artwork has indeed been attributed to Marcel Duchamp by art critics, but it was actually created by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Duchamp himself did not find it necessary to correct this misunderstanding, although he did mention it in a letter to his sister. In the early 21st century, the work was declared one of the most influential artworks of the twentieth century. It is still often stubbornly linked to Duchamp’s name, even though it is now known that it was not his.

Not Signing Under Their Own Name

Another aspect that contributes to the anonymity of female artists is the fact that the only place where they could usually work was in another artist's studio—often a father, brother, or family friend. It was customary for the works leaving the studio to be signed by the head of the studio, usually a man. The name of the female artist typically faded into the folds of history.

A Call to Action

Just as Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s art defied conventional boundaries and expectations, we must work to ensure that the Metaverse does not replicate the biases of the physical world. By promoting education, visibility, and empowerment, we can create a digital future where female artists lead the way, using their creativity to shape a more inclusive and equitable virtual landscape.

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s life and work remain a source of inspiration, highlighting the power of art to challenge and transform societal norms. Let us honor her legacy by ensuring that women play a central role in the development of the Metaverse, creating spaces that are as vibrant and dynamic as her art.


By embracing the spirit of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and the principles she championed, we can contribute to a Metaverse that celebrates diversity and empowers female artists to thrive and lead.

read more: