In Die Müdigkeit II, at Pina, Cäcilia Brown, Gabriele Edlbauer, Noële Ody and Eva Seiler present work manipulating varying materials delivering expressive gestures focused on each one’s means of dealing with the sculptural representation of the body. Material and form differentiate each artists’ particular interpretation of the show’s title, but there are some common themes: community, feminism, and capitalist critique – albeit some ironic and others sincere. In its way, the show provides an opportunity to view each artists’ work without encroaching comparisons or competition between positions, thereby presenting a unanimous front which maybe the gist of the show.
Die Müdigkeit II, at Pina, Photo by Jennifer Gelardo
Entering the space, a large blue vinyl floor rug – that looks like it could just as well be hung from the ceiling with metal rings – is like an arrow directing the visitor forward pointing to the hanging mobile assemblage of Noële Ody. While the large blue material lays on the floor, Ody’s hanging mobile does not touch the ground; it is supported by a combination of metal rods and strings to balance the combination of hanging two-dimensional materials from the ceiling. One part of the mobile is a car trunk security cover with a black and white photo print on the side. The image in the photo is of two of the sculptured columns on the Rathausplatz side entrance to the Austrian Parliament Building. The photo has been digitally altered so that one of the figures is extending her middle finger giving the hand gesture that can be read as “fuck you”. On the other side of the mobile is a very large sheet of carbonless copy paper with a large cutout hand that, although attached at the wrist, hangs flaccid. There are three other hands hanging on the mobile: two hands are paper brochures in the shape of work gloves from the AUVA insurance company. These brochures give visual instructions on when and how to wear work gloves. Also there is a plastic Mickey Mouse hand rice paddle. The double entendre is the societal role each hand represents hanging here as though in a limp marionette. Suggestively pointing a finger at workers’ insurance companies, capitalism and corporate markets, Ody presents visual inuendos provoking questions about safety, trust, and civil society. With the exception of the erect middle finger – a passively aggressive gesture combined with the automobile blind – the endulous sculpture does manifest exhaustion. This type of fatigue may be her comment on the seemingly formidable situation of our civil society that presently seems to hang by strings controlled by corporate entities and (recently elected) conservative and right-wing parties.
Also in the exhibition, on the floor, rolled up inside the blue vinyl floor carpet is a rubber rat toy only partially visible. The toy and the wall-mounted sculptures by Eva Seiler relate closely to the exhibition’s press release. The text focuses on the laziness of London’s pigeons, which are said to be travelling just as human commuters in and out of the city by train daily. The toy rat is a stand-in for the pigeons and is employed to emphasize Seiler’s sculptures as homages to nature and material with suggestion of feeders. But rather than being clear and direct in any way these sculptures do what abstraction does best: to put things of what has not before been realized into viewers’ minds and to make nonexistent combinations happen. Though these works play with wound-up and stacking organization, they present the opposite of uptightness; they are about lightness while establishing proprietorship of industrial designs. Like Charlotte Posenenske – not in scale and not-strictly minimalist – Seiler also addresses modification and social structures. Here in context with the play rat and absent lazy pigeon, Seiler’s work presents dual installation motivations: bird feeders and bird spikes. Formally dealing with the complex meaning of human and material relation she is also observing the natural world and initiating play. In her freestanding metal and wire sculpture, perhaps best described as a seated figure, Seiler depicts correlated outcomes of tiredness such as a lack of motivation and mild to severe stages of depression. Working in aluminum with balls and a faux-leather seat there is a slight metaphor of bondage as a device for release or for escapism, but the dominant characteristic is the figure’s body language – nearly collapsing. The figure personifies the carrying of an invisible weight stemming from exhaustion. The stick figure hangs its hollow head and powerless limbs in overt defeat.
Also in the back room of the space are Cäcilia Brown’s pocket-sized wax toylike sculptures. The small handmade forms are secured on her architectural intervention; similar to a clap down kitchen table it is a kind of styrofoam and plaster plinth supported by a four pole steel pedestal. Being used as a support for the small sculptures, the table evokes domestic spaces where small craft projects such as candle making and modelling clay projects are easily and frequently enjoyed. The wax forms are also formally as well as substantively sophomoric. Small rolled colored wax bits are connected by thin wires and small metal disks; each little enough to fit into the palm of a small hand. The diminutive sculptures are each titled by a different episode of the American television series Grey’s Anatomy. These titles present the campiness that Brown intends, but leave a void in meaning as to the references of the specific mainstream TV shows and result in only a superficial correlation between kitsch and infantilization. Unfortunately, the complex power of the architectural intervention is debased by its use as a countertop. Alone, the plaster, steel, and styrofoam body looks like a vestage of some apocalyptic event. Separate from the dolls, in this engagement with the space, Brown creates a substantial event speaking to the magnitude of epidemic environmental or human-made catastrophes that are frequently depicted in literature, movies and TV. Brown envisages decline by staging a dystopian interior.
Also employing figures Gabriele Edlbauer articulately addresses the complex role of archeological treasures representing female bodies. In the front room Edlbauer has installed a wooden display table with holes just large enough to facilitate the standing of her ceramic sculptures which are copies of the Venus figurines made in prehistoric eras. Most notably is the Venus of Willendorf, one of the world’s oldest art works, which was found in Willendorf, Austria and is housed in the Natural History Museum Vienna. Though there is no documentation to historicize the meaning and use of the Venus figurines there are theories that the exaggerated breasts and hips demonstrate the use of the figurines in fertility worship or as portraiture of individual women. Making her own interpretation, Edlbauer shows copies of six different figurines in ceramic that she has glazed in high-gloss chrome. The sculptures are hollowed cups some of which have lids in the form of the figure’s head. Others, instead of a lid, have an inverted stirring spoon functioning as a head stand-in. Being that the original artifacts have no specific facial descriptions, it follows that Edlbauer’s reuse of the figures is a re-enactment of their original design. With reflective surfaces the replica sculptures are blinged-out in an attempt to artificially embellish their appearance. In this gesture Edlbauer appropriately venerates the Venus figurines whose original stone and earthen material’s attractiveness is matchless, not to mention their priceless significance for humanity. But, Edlbauer’s Venus copies look like they could be found in a strange Tiki Bar: concurrently undervaluing the Venus figurines but also celebrating them and using them once again as effigies of virility allegorically inviting the viewer for a cocktail.
It seems like the four artists are citing exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue, as a description of the antithesis of their work. The four positions are active and even celebratory depicting analysis and dissection of societal pressures. Rather than idly succumbing to debility the show makes an appeal to action and participation.
– Ezara Spangl
Die Müdigkeit II
Cäcilia Brown, Gabriele Edlbauer, Noële Ody, Eva Seiler
October 17 — November 6, 2017
Große Neugasse 44, 1040 Vienna