November, 23. 2010 – Januar, 15. 2011
Opening: November, 20. 2010, 6 – 9 p.m.
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The exhibition Architecture and Body explores how physical gestures can be represented in the context of specific spatial scenarios. It elaborates on how spatial and temporal conditions can mirror body language and its inherent psychosocial effects. The choice of the artists and works lends the exhibition various historical representations and temporal levels. The artists draw on a modernist form language and try to translate historical references into a contemporary visual language. In doing so, they create connections to early 20th century avant-garde movements by referencing the accomplishments of some of the period’s key protagonists in the fields of painting, architecture, design and theatre (Malewitsch/Hoffmann/Breuer/Schlemmer). In the artworks presented here, a central feature in this translation process is the female gaze, which in Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis1 is considered a reaction to the male gaze, or rather as correction of a lack (manque). The artists seek to address this lack with the presence of the female body. However, these bodies do not compensate for the lack (manque) in the male expression, but rather constitute an autonomous subject position.
The artworks have different approaches to illustrating how subjects and bodies act in architectural spheres of influence. The photo series presented here range from classical if alienating portraits in various settings to detailed studies that contain encoded references to architectural history. The photo series all take different visual approaches, exploring the possibilities of the photographic dispositif. What they all have in common is a performative character that takes up the language of film, theatre and advertising. Here, photographic gestures transport meanings, with the body as the signifier (the denominating element) referring to the architectural signified (the indicated meaning or concept). The signifier concept plays a key role in Lacan’s work as it is an element of the symbolic in the psyche. According to Lacan, the mix of forms and ideas creates a content and awareness building signifier that is always part of a syntagmatic system, i.e. a coherent thread connecting individual units of meaning. This thread of meaning can be found in this exhibition in the serial character of the photographic works and the resulting narrative lines. Here, too, form and idea are the predominant visual features, which place the subjects and subject parts in a context. Despite the images being clearly related to occasions or historical events, there is broad scope for interpreting the pictorial signifiers, thus not allowing for an explicit identification or definition of the signified. In their symbiosis, architecture and body generate an extensive range of interrelated meanings that play a major role in the viewer’s perception of the works.
(English translation: Mandana Taban)
Artists and their works
In her works, Katrina Daschner deals with the performative aspects of the female body by addressing the dichotomy between fetish and desire. According to Lacan, the ultimate desire can never be satisfied as it is always related to a lack, so objects compensate for those moments that cannot be filled with the physical body. In her works, Daschner very often uses her own body that, combined with various phallic symbols, always refers to psychoanalytical moments and repressed sexual fantasies. She presents moments of femininity and masculinity ironically and refers to various ethnic and cultural rituals.
The works of Maria Hahnenkamp deal with the architectural language of bodies and their cultural significance. The photos presented in this exhibition are portraits of actor Michael Mertens and actress Regina Fritsch. Hahnenkamp photographed them in the architectural setting of a stage for the Vienna Burgtheater’s portrait gallery. Merten’s floating body and his covert glance show both the ease with which actors present their bodies on stage and people’s shyness when subjected to the public eye. In her portrait, Fritsch poses with stage props taken from the everyday requisites used at the theatre with a rather traditional-looking gesture.
The Srebrenica massacre is considered one of the most brutal genocide crimes to have taken place in Europe since World War II. In July 1995 approximately 8,000 Bosnian men were massacred on orders of the Serbian army. A piece of graffiti that Kamerić found in a Dutch army barracks from the time serves as a textual reference for the work Bosnian Girl. The hopeless situation of the UN soldiers, who appeared powerless in the face of the Serbian army, is reflected in a chauvinistic resentment of the local population and the misogynistic slogan. Kamerić uses the slogan to show the stigma surrounding her situation as a woman and a Bosnian. In her work Frei, which she staged 2004 as a public intervention for the club transmediale in Berlin, Kamerić addressed the confining character of historical trends and the supposedly liberalising power of globalisation.
In her photography and film work, Ursula Mayer deals with the interaction between modernist architecture and the performative qualities of the female body and female subjects within that architecture. Mayer also uses historical references in the photos presented here, showing a female student of the Bauhaus school wearing a mask by Oskar Schlemmer sitting in a Marcel Breuer chair. The artist is referring to the theatre production props created by the Bauhaus school, an all-encompassing design and architecture workshop, bringing to the fore Schlemmer’s works for the stage. The inclusion of female students and artists in the Bauhaus’ work and teaching is testament to the school’s openness towards women, which was quite unusual in the interwar period.
The photo series Pavilion by Dorit Margreiter refers to the Austrian pavilion in Venice, which provided the backdrop for the identically titled film installation that she presented at the 2009 Biennale. Only parts of the modernist building, which was designed by Joseph Hoffmann in 1934, can be made out in Margreiter’s film installation. The pavilion’s structural design and materials are revealed in extreme close-ups, however. Actresses are shown getting ready for a performance, which is merely implied using various props. Margreiter’s photos therefore serve as stills of a film production that itself only hints at a possible plot. Here, architecture and body interact to indicate the necessary parameters for a performative act.
In her works, Esther Stocker deals with the specific structures of a modernist form language. In this photo series, Stocker, whose main medium is painting, refers to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, a key work of the Russian Suprematist movement. In its reduction to abstract geometric forms, it draws on the principles of cognitive perception and intellectual superiority. Like Malevich, who painted many different versions of the square, Stocker explores the various possibilities for presenting positive and negative images of the square as pictorial gestures on the human body. The performative aspect of this work presents the hand as the main tool of artistic activity, while at the same time taking it to the level of abstraction in the image, which can also be seen as a product of the painting.
(English translation: Mandana Taban)