Helene's Story (2016-2017)

This project is loosely based on the story of Helene Rytman, who was murdered by her husband, prominent philosopher Louis Althusser, in 1980. Althusser faced no charges by reason of temporary insanity, and the crime he committed barely affected his reputation: his texts written before and after the murder continue to be published and read. Helene, on the other hand, is largely forgotten; in death, as in life, she remains silent – an insignificant woman lost in the shadow of her famous husband. In fact, Helene had played a crucial role in Althusser’s life and intellectual career. A Communist and political activist, she was responsible for Althusser’s conversion to Marxism, and provided him with the knowledge of social and political reality outside the university campus, where he developed his “theoretical weapon of revolution.” Helene’s death at the hands of her husband is still largely unexplained, as Althusser claimed he had no memory of the event. He described the history of his and Helene’s relationship in a widely-read memoir, The Future Lasts Forever - Helene, on the other hand, has had no chance to voice her side of the story.

The collaborative multi-media project consists of an artist book, a set of soft sculptures crafted by Canadian artist Mona Sharma, a puppet performanced staged for video and a series of works on paper. These works reconstruct the story from Helene's point of view and explore its implication for Althusser's theory. The project is suppored by the Puffin Foundation grant.

Helene's Story, page 25 of an artist book: black paper, cutout fragments from second-hand copies of “The future lasts forever” by Louis Althusser, 2017.

Still images from the puppet performance (performer Anna Gregor, puppets by Mona Sharma):

Philosophy of the Encounter: Helene's Story (highlight reel)

Selected excerpts from HD video, total running time 45:06 min., 2017. Performer Anna Gregor, puppets crafted by Mona Sharma, staged, directed and filmed by Tatiana Istomina.