A model example of Anti-art, Pawel Althamer’s piece at the Secession presents an object that is at once revered while also being completely dismissed. For his installation, Althamer built a tunnel connecting the front main street entrance with the rear exit door of the building’s space. Making this tunnel, the artist closed off not only the main hall gallery, but also the gift shop and the entrance foyer. Standing on the original Secession floor, the tunnel is composed of white walls like those of a pedestrian passage through a construction site. Here the normative expectations of visitors are not met as Althamer completely transforms the institution. There are no exhibition fees, there are no docents and there are no guards. In this piece, the artist converted the honored museum into a familiar and mundane public space.
On the walls of the tunnel are drawings, posters, prints, and graffiti tags. Althamer invited artists to participate in adding to the visual qualities of the tunnel and also left it open for any passerby or visitor to add their own mark. With a similar concept but significantly different materials, Rudolf Stingel produced stunning works. Here, the artist is unconcerned with aesthetics and walls of drawings look like the walls of a municipal toilet.
In the backyard of the Secession, Althamer’s tunnel is transformed into a theatrical entrance making a stage out of the world around the exhibition hall. In the open garden, the artist invited others to participate in happenings of music, installation, conversation and theater. With no hierarchy, remnants of previous happenings and Althamer’s handsomely crafted figure sculptures litter the lawn. Unlike Allan Kaprow’s ‘activities’ Althamer does not choreograph or dictate his agenda, rather he seems devoted to privileging impermanent institutional critique.
Wiener Secession, Association of Visual Artists Friedrichstraße 12, A-1010 Vienna
When an exhibition is denigrated by being held in an underground exhibition space, then the concept of a basement gallery is an oxymoron. One such unfortunate circumstance is in Marc-Alexandre Dumoulin’s The Innocents at the Ve.sch. Here the combination of the cave-like environment and the severe lighting strong-arm Dumoulin’s sculptures resulting in being re-contextualized to hipster bar props.
Looking like stalagmites that evolved from the gallery’s floorboards, three large sculptures stand in the main space. These works are principally black and white and made of spray paint, cardboard, foil, imitation flowers, ribbons and confetti. Both the materiality and the subjects depict a predictable medley for an artist working with Romantic themes, including an earthy tree stump, a gothic organ, and mineral growths.
In the back room is projected Dumoulin’s looping video also titled The Innocents. In this piece, a young woman takes a nighttime walk outdoors passing brush and ornate fences. The only light source for the walking figure is a spotlight seemingly held by the videographer. The crux of this work is the dark/light duality, but the creepy scene makes an unfortunate and dull Blair Witch Project allusion.
Though Dumoulin’s artist statement proposes a position of framing ambiguity, his follow through is un-substantive. It is not the un-ironic approach that is to blame, but the easy decisions and lack of a narrowed investigation leaving Dumoulin’s work looking less like Jay Heikes and more as Petah Coyne. Beyond the failures of this exhibition, the strength of Dumoulin’s practice is the play of material in his DIY constructions.
Ve.sch, Schikanedergasse 11 1040 Wien, 28.05. – 16.06.2009
Not the first time a young artist has turned to the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein for inspiration, but in this approach Bernhard Brungs uses the philosophically historical as a means threefold. Brungs depicts artistic ambition, the male gaze as well as the logical reasoning as an end unto itself. In his exhibition at Mittwochsbar, Brungs presented new works, which he completed while attending the Lenikus Collection residency in Vienna. These paintings illustrate four circumstances of Wittgenstein’s life: his isolation in Norway and writing the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus“; a complicated relationship with his professor turned colleague Bertrand Russell; his critical confrontation and challenge by Piero Sraffa; and his design and architectural accomplishment in the still-standing Wittgenstein Haus.
The finely crafted paintings are made on traditional chalk grounds and indirectly painted with layers of slight color shifts building to render the characters’ facial expressions, historical fashion, and architectural details. The figures are made to represent the legendary philosopher and his colleagues, but the depiction is not an actual replica, the images are not taken from photographs instead they are developed by the artist privately. Brungs smartly utilizes his philosophical interests to portray, like Elizabeth Peyton and Hernan Bas, the male-gaze.
As accustomed for Mittwochsbar, the exhibition was not held in a white-cube gallery, but this time in the residency’s atelier. Accompanying Brungs was another German artist, Therese Schult with a found object sculpture composed of a large glass bottle, an ‘Anker’ company sugar package and a candle. Next to the sculpture was a printed poem and in the main studio room Schult had one painting hanging on a grey painted wall. Schult’s small gestural painting of a crescent moon possibly explains the show’s title, Clair de lune.