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Johanna Hedva. Photo: Ian Byers-Gamber.


‘I had no idea how to document this,’ Johanna Hedva notes, ‘but I was deep into the idea of relics left over from performances being the only documentation.’ [1]

Rather than artefacts and artworks, Hedva treats the documentation in Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain as relic. In an ecclesial sense, these pieces all hold a relationship to celestial, spiritual or sometimes ancestral bodies. Together they toil in the text to build a body of work.


Like the crumbling of a body into relics, the extraction of a sentence from a poem, a script, a text into a quotation is a method of release.

‘I started to collect these pieces into a lawless document that felt rowdy and foolish.’ [2]

The above quote begins with order, ‘I started to collect’, and ends with disobedience. As with the struggles of capturing a performance in words or pictures, perhaps this defiance is a natural process in the atomisation of a body into relic and thus resurfaces throughout Minerva.

Much like their performances Motherload (2012), Odyssey Odyssey (2013) and She Work (2015), Minerva troubles the appendix of documentation.

By leaning into the fragmentation of Hedva’s relics, the text allows the dismembered pieces to evoke more than the remains of a play, performance or artwork. They exemplify that there once was a whole.


I think fragmentation only started bothering us—us historians—after someone noticed some of Sappho’s works were lost forever.

I revisit her work alongside this book, but also within it.


Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain is more of a shrine for the remains of Johanna Hedva’s performances, music, art and writing than an archive. Spanning over a decade of their work, the ten parts of the book meditate upon Hedva’s lived autopsy of tragedy, mythology, motherhood and pain.

With devoted fluidity, each section softens into a different style of documentation: a numbered list, a categorised and alphabetised index, poetry, and metadata from photographs of driveways and lizards. They all swaddle what remains of Hedva’s artworks, scattered between glimpses of their luminous thought.


In If not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Anne Carson writes, ‘In translating I tried to put down all that can be read of each poem in the plainest language… I like to think the more I stand out of the way, the more Sappho shines through.’[3]

There is a physicality to which Carson and Hedva work, in the placing and pasting of pieces and memories, of fragments and songs. These texts are different in intention, but their proximity to annihilation creates a focus on the fine particles left over from an artist’s life. In the spaces between these remnants, interpretation and imagination work to fill the gaps.


One of Johanna Hedva’s longer works resurfaces in the book, it is called The Greek Cycle, a series of four ancient plays reworked to position a feminist and queer perspective. Hedva recalls:

‘Nickels Sunshine approached me and asked me if we could work together. They said, “Because I want to be a queen.” And I said, “I know exactly which one.”’[4]

And so Euripides’ Medea (431 BC) was reborn as She Work. It’s the performance I can imagine the most from the pieces left shared in Minerva.

It will never be an exact replication of the performance, but it allows a different kind of preservation to happen in my mind.


Johanna Hedva’s work rarely falls into just one genre; the closest adjective I can find is ‘spiritual’, but even that neglects the type of corporality felt throughout their work. I fight my instinct to describe the book in terms of subjects, feeling it should rather be discussed through form.

While the body in Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain breaks and evaporates, fails and ascends, the use of relics allow for any gaps found in documentation to be filled with passages from Hedva’s own life. This allows the text to cope with the fundamental limits of expression and experience by allowing the surrounding atmosphere to seep in and be cherished.

This is exactly how a bone becomes a relic—by adding a story to it.


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Johanna Hedva, Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain, 2020. Published by Sming Sming and Wolfman Books.


[1] Johanna Hedva, ‘Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain’, (Sming Sming Books and Wolfman Books, USA, 2020), 63.

[2] Ibid, 180.

[3] Anne Carson, ‘If not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho’, (Virago Press, USA, 2003), x.

[4] Johanna Hedva, ‘Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain’, 31.


Nina Hanz is a German-American writer and poet. She recently graduated from the Royal College of Art and is living in London.

Johanna Hedva is a Korean-American writer, artist, musician, and astrologer. ‘Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain’ is available to pre-order here. Their first novel, ‘On Hell’, was published in 2018.