‘On the New – Young Scenes in Vienna’


Featuring works by Sasha Auerbakh, Anna-Sophie Berger, Cäcilia Brown, Marc-Alexandre Dumoulin, Melanie Ebenhoch, Johannes Gierlinger, Birke Gorm, Maureen Kaegi, Barbara Kapusta, Angelika Loderer, Nana Mandl, Matthias Noggler, Lukas Posch, Lucia Elena Průša, Rosa Rendl & Lonely Boys, Marina Sula, Philipp Timischl and Edin Zenun; Andreas Harrer, Florian Pfaffenberger and Julian Turner, curated by Bar Du Bois; Steffi Alte, Harald Anderle, Owen Armour, Abdul Sharif Baruwa, Christoph Bruckner, Karoline Dausien, Veronika Eberhart, Søren Engsted, Exo Exo, Manuel Gorkiewicz, Robbin Heyker, Martin Hotter, Paul Housley, Terese Kasalicky, John Kilduff, Axel Koschier, Diana Lambert, Lukás Machalický, Maria Meinild, Jakob Neulinger, Georg Petermichl, Stefan Reiterer, Nora Rekade, Florian Rossmanith, Ellen Schafer, Constanze Schweiger, Ditte Soria and Julian Turner, curated by New Jörg; unknown author, Abdul Sharif Baruwa, Karoline Dausien, Nicole Haitzinger, Ludwig Kittinger, Anja Manfredi, Thea Moeller and Martin Vesely, curated by Ve.Sch; Florian Boka, Bartosz Dolhun, Kasper Hesselbjerg, Lisa Jäger, Suzie Léger & Katarina Csanyiova, Xenia Lesniewski, Claudia Lomoschitz, Bert Löschner, Line Lyhne, Maitane Midby, Philipp Pess, Tobias Pilz, Julia Riederer and Christian Rothwangl, curated by One Mess Gallery; Bildstein | Glatz, Melanie Ender, Jonas Feferle, Michael Gülzow, Simon Iurino, Eric Kläring, Jürgen Kleft, William Knaack, Axel Koschier, Magdalena Kreinecker, Matthias Krinzinger, Claudia Larcher, Sophia Mairer, Andreas Müller, Lukas Matuschek, Noële Ody, Vika Prokopaviciute, Jörg Reissner, Stefan Reiterer, Niclas Schöler, Leander Schönweger, Lena Sieder-Semlitsch, SOYBOT, Laura Wagner, Angelika Wischermann and Alexander Jackson Wyatt, curated by Pferd; Agnieszka Baginska, Juliane Bischoff, Martin Chramosta, Julia Grillmayr, Bob Schatzi Hausmann, Helmut Heiss, Nima Heschmat, Maruša Höglinger, Andrea Jäger, Lisa Kainz, Sebastian Klingovsky, Kluckyland, Sophia Mairer, Iwona Ornatowska-Semkovicz, Bianca Phos, Martyn Reynolds, Yves-Michel Saß, Anna Schachinger, Vanessa Schmidt, Joakim Martinussen & Agnes Schmidt-Martinussen, Paulina Semkowicz, Lena Sieder-Semlitsch, Sophie Tappeiner and Lukas Thaler, curated by SORT; Ale de la Puente, Luzie Meyer, Nathalie Koger, Nadia Perlov, Laure Prouvost, Niclas Riepshoff, Vladimir Vulević & Nina Zeljković, curated by Gärtnergasse; Nicoleta Auersperg, Gabriele Edlbauer, Maria Grün, Lore Heuermann, Laura Hinrichsmeyer, Nika Kupyrova, Mara Novak, Maša Stanić and Dorothea Trappel, curated by GOMO; Ramaya Tegegne, curated by Kevin Space; Kareem Lotfy, Evelyn Plaschg, Fabio Santacroce and Anne Schmidt, curated by Foundation; Titania Seidl, Lukas Thaler and Laura Yuile, curated by Mauve; Ivan Cheng, Christiane Heidrich, Iku, Evelyn Plaschg & Marielena Stark, Julius Pristauz, Daniel Rajcsanyi & Nils Amadeus Lange (curated by school), curated by Pina; curated by Severin Dünser and Luisa Ziaja

 

Belvedere 21, Vienna

1 March – 2 June 2019

 

The New, the Young, the Local, and Other Myths
Severin Dünser & Luisa Ziaja (translation: Ishbel Flett)

 

We have given this exhibition the title “On the New – Young Scenes in Vienna” in full awareness of the difficulties posed by the connotations associated with such terms as “new”, “young”, and “scene”, because these also reflect the difficulties of the format itself and bring it into perspective. We would like to explore these aspects and link them to the underlying ideas of the exhibition concept, before finally comparing them with specific artistic approaches.

 

On the new

 

The “new” in art is a highly charged concept in many ways. In modernism, it paradigmatically represents the endeavor of the artistic avantgardes to reject and overcome preceding movements, and to create not only a visionary new art, but to shape the individual and even the world anew. In this respect, the new is closely linked with political and social utopias, with hopes for a radical change of existing power structures and the human condition. Once the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century had utterly discredited the claim to absoluteness of such approaches, progress-oriented ideologies came to be regarded as untenable. Post-modernism consequently broke away from all of this, rejecting the quest for innovation, the dictate of the new and its utopian mindset.
By contrast, pluralism, polyphony and multiperspectivity became key concepts of a postmodernist aesthetic that dismantled the boundaries between genres, media, high culture and popular culture, between art and the everyday. Appropriation, quotation, repetition and recontextualization became central tenets of an artistic strategy that called into question not only such categories as originality and authenticity, but also norms, values, structural frameworks and working conditions. In short, this was about much more than just a new approach. Rather, it was about a different attitude, a whole new outlook that was not homogeneous, but diverse: dialectical, variously coded, citative, reflective, subjective, and open. Artists, to paraphrase the curator Dan Cameron, were “freed of the historical compulsion to produce stylistically innovative original art”.[1]
Against this backdrop, the concept of the new in art seemed inadequate and even, paradoxically, outmoded. Then, in the early 1990s, along came the cultural philosopher Boris Groys with his publication “On the New” in which he recalibrated the concept of the new by decoupling it from the modernist claim to norm, authenticity and utopia. According to Groys, “every occurrence of the new is basically the making of a new comparison of something never compared until then, because it never occurred to anyone to draw the comparison.”[2] He saw innovation as an act of overstepping the boundary between the archive of organized cultural memory and the realm of the profane, and as a “revaluation of values” by which “the true or the refined that is regarded as valuable is devalorized, while that which was formerly considered profane, alien, primitive or vulgar, and therefore valueless, is valorized.”[3] Accordingly, the new follows the principles of recombination, contextual shift and revaluation, producing a perceptual differentiation of the already familiar. Groys’ concept of the new does not create a new reality; rather, it presents the new as a play on the new.[4]
In the meantime, the epochal term postmodernism has been replaced by the notion of the contemporary. Accordingly, critical diagnoses of our time describe it as a permanent or endless present, as a bloated continuum under the conditions of network capitalism, which seems to preclude progress and the future. With our view ahead blurring into dystopian darkness, we are either faced with a past that is not yet gone, or consumed by yearning for what the social theorist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman described in his book “Retrotopia” as a “lost / stolen / abandoned but undead past”.[5]
This breakdown of linear continuity, resulting in a life in an endless present, was already analyzed by Fredric Jameson as the cultural logic of late capitalism that lacks adequate forms of expressing the contemporary.[6] Twenty years later, contemplating the omnipresence of a retroculture seemingly reflected in the depression, melancholy and nostalgia of his own generation, Mark Fisher referenced Jameson in a treatise about the present being haunted by the ghosts of the past, using the term “hauntology” coined by Jacques Derrida [7].
Due to a combination of overstimulation (through digital media, virally circulating images or content) and sheer exhaustion (through the constant recycling of cultural forms of expression) the very concept of the new has now been all but eradicated from contemporary thinking. The present has become so fully inundated by the past that any differentiation between them has been eroded. Buried, too, is the knowledge that none of this is new, that innovation was once a real possibility, and that a different reality was once actually conceivable. While the notion that there is no alternative to capitalism may be ubiquitous, Fisher posits that the ghosts of the past evoke a certain nostalgia for those lost futures that the twentieth century was still capable of conjuring. And that the current political and cultural conservatism can only be overcome if a radically different future can be envisaged once more.[8] Fisher’s “hauntology” was widely welcomed, and his combination of political theory and analysis of (pop-)cultural phenomena struck a certain chord that also resonates in the artistic output of a younger generation.
As this brief outline indicates, the concept of the new involves a clash of different discourses and schools of thought, which might be taken as the framework for current artistic production. At the same time, the quotidian nature of this term also arouses expectations that may well be thwarted. It is this discrepancy and the resulting need for discussion that we have chosen to evoke in choosing a title that not only cites Boris Groys directly, but also addresses issues far beyond his approach.

 

Young scenes in Vienna

 

The subtitle, too, is a citation—albeit modified, but context specific. From 1983 onwards, the Vienna Secession held a (originally) biannual exhibition series “Junge Szene” [Young Scene], dedicated initially to local artists but later extended to incorporate international positions, with the involvement of external curators, culminating in the 2010 show “where do we go from here?.” Another point of reference is the exhibition series “Lebt und arbeitet in Wien” [Lives and Works in Vienna] presented at Kunsthalle Wien in 2000, 2005 and 2010 by changing teams of three international curators. Based on an open-call system, the series then continued in adapted form under the title “Destination Wien 2015” with a distinctly Vienna-related slant as its underlying principle.
Basically, these exhibition formats serve to collate a survey of the local art scene with the aim of providing a platform for contemporary and emerging works by a young generation of artists, reflecting not only the distinctiveness of the place, but also its connectivity to a wider international context. These contrasting aspects bring their own challenges.
For instance, the geographic boundaries imposed on the selection of artists clashes starkly with developments in the age of the worldwide web. Artists living and working in Vienna today have access to information from all around the globe. They are mobile and they exchange information with colleagues throughout the world. The potential for mutual influence is vast by comparison to earlier times, with localized phenomena rapidly developing a global reach that makes it difficult to pinpoint any specific geographical or historical commonality. The assumption of a geographically determined or culturally homogeneous form of expression is no longer tenable.
Another problem lies in the limitations imposed by determining a specific age-span. Exhibitions based on generation-related criteria risk reducing the causality of individual phenomena to a single factor that precludes other relevant aspects such as gender, ethnicity, class, education, economic situation or social setting. Indeed, the category of “young art” is often so encumbered by stereotypes and assumptions of a fast-paced and overhyped “event culture” that perceptions of individual creativity and its underlying significance can become distorted.
What is more, especially within the context of institutions that still have the power to set definitive standards, such blanket overviews tend to raise expectations and demands in terms of objectivity, comprehensiveness and representativeness that simply cannot be met. While any curatorial selection is ultimately a subjective one and thus, by definition, incomplete, what is exhibited is nonetheless often perceived as a benchmark for other works and norms. At the same time, even such a fragmentary insight implicitly establishes a representational framework, if only temporarily.
In addition to these general specifications, the diversity of the viewing public is another factor that needs to be taken into account, especially within a museum setting. Not only do individual visitors bring their own ideas and views into play, but other interest groups such as gallerists, collectors, students, teachers, art critics and curators may have widely diverging needs and expectations. Finding the right balance in order to appeal to such a broad audience, without sacrificing intellectual depth in doing so, is one of the biggest challenges of all.
In short, there are many different projections of what a locally and generationally defined overview of the artistic scenes should entail. The categories in question seem limited in their capacity to act as cohesive elements in the creation of added perceptual value, though they may undoubtedly fuel assumptions and generalizations. So, why this exhibition at this point in time at Belvedere 21? And how could the problems outlined here be tackled conceptually?
Since the reopening of the former 20er Haus as a contemporary art venue incorporated into the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in 2011, the exhibition pavilion has become a central new location for local art production within an international context. In addition to various exhibition formats ranging from major overviews and retrospectives to themed group exhibitions and smaller solo shows, the program of the 21er Raum between 2012 and 2016 focused primarily on providing a platform for young and not yet established artists to show their works for the first time in a major institution. “On the New – Young Scenes in Vienna” continues in this vein and also links in with the exhibition formats of the Secession and Kunsthalle Wien. The subtitle references its now historic forerunner, but in the plural. Even in the 1980s, there probably was no single homogeneous “young scene”, though the situation back then may well have been somewhat more cohesive than it is today.
Certainly, the world of contemporary art in today’s Vienna is extremely varied and diverse: The city’s two art schools have become increasingly international, in outlook as well as in terms of teaching staff and students. The “Independent Space Index”, established in 2017, currently lists some sixty or so independent venues and project spaces marking a considerable increase in recent years. After a long period of stagnation several new galleries also opened in 2017 and art institutions have been very active indeed, in spite of the closure of some privately financed art associations. The production, presentation and discussion of art is as dynamic and vibrant as rarely before while the functions of the many and varied venues complement one another in spite of their widely differing economic frameworks.

 

On the concept of the exhibition

 

With this exhibition, we aim to reflect the diversity and vitality in the practice of artistic production and presentation by a young generation in Vienna and to showcase individual positions as well. Beyond merely providing the artists with a platform, we seek to contextualize their various different approaches and attitudes in relation to the forms of expression they use. We want to make their individual practices clearly tangible, without ascriptions or determinations. To this end, we combine artistic and curatorial formats to achieve a dynamic structure that changes throughout the duration of the exhibition.
The architecture for this takes the form of an open-plan spatial structure reminiscent of an evolved urban setting, whereby a grid layout has been deliberately avoided. Instead, narrow passages alternate with open spaces. The individual wall elements have a L-shaped ground plot, while the wall thickness tapers towards the ends. This results in different angles on the inner and outer sides, mostly without any right angles. We have aligned the individual wall elements in such a way that, with just three exceptions, no room-like spaces are formed that might suggest any kind of groupings or categorizations.
The works of 18 artists are displayed within this architectural structure. That means 18 individually collated combinations of existing and newly-created works, presented on either an inner or an outer partition wall, thereby giving an insight into the respective practices that underpin the oeuvre of each artist. In this way, by contextualizing the individual approach that shapes each respective body of work, we have sought to shift the interrelational weighting from that of an overarching viewpoint to a smaller-scale experience that brings the individual artistic positions into clearer focus. Our curatorial selection of 18 artists was based on two fundamental requirements: Vienna as the artist’s centre of life and work, and an upper age limit of 35. We decided on this relatively low age limit (rather than the more usual limit of 40) in a bid to narrow the potential pool of possible artists so as to ensure that there were not too many mid-career artists mingling with the emerging artists.
Of course, we are fully aware that our selection is small, subjective and incomplete. However, in order to reflect, at least to some extent, the diversity of the Vienna art scene, we have invited twelve project spaces to complement these 18 positions and to devise exhibitions within the exhibition. They expand, enhance and multiply our curatorial view, and perhaps comment on or even contradict us. Either way, they introduce new perspectives from the city into the exhibition.
At three-week intervals, the project spaces stage three concurrent exhibitions, with complete carte blanche and no holds barred regarding format, choice or number of artists. The resulting solo shows and extensive group exhibitions, performances and screenings involving younger, older, local and international artists reproduce not only the art scenes’ many-sidedness and varied fields of interest, but also shed light on curatorial practices.
Project spaces, needless to say, frequently operate on a fairly precarious financial basis and, compared to public institutions, are therefore highly dependent on self-organization, mutual exchange, and personal commitment. Against this backdrop, it was important to us that the twelve project spaces, as well as the 18 artists, should all have access to the same production budgets, freely available and without preconditions. We also hoped that our invitation would not be regarded as a form of institutional appropriation, but rather as an opportunity to gain another form of visibility and reach out to different audiences.

 

Approaches and tendencies

 

While we have avoided presenting the various artistic positions thematically, so as not to add any further impetus to some all-too-tempting attributions and categorizations, the sum of the single parts of the exhibition do reveal certain tendencies in art—as that’s one main potential of such a format.
Craftsmanship and a mastery of traditional techniques are key to many of the works shown here, often in conjunction with experimenting with materials and their specific qualities. Marc-Alexandre Dumoulin, for instance, creates lucid paintings of old-master perfection, while Edin Zenun works in oils, clay and pigment to produce works that raise questions about the immanent painterly nature of both the figurative and the abstract. Angelika Loderer, on the other hand, experiments with means drawn from the craft of metal-casting, like casting sand, pressing and stamping it into autonomous temporary sculptures. Meanwhile, Sasha Auerbakh does not follow the specific qualities or characteristics of her material so much as she obsessively overrides them. Cäcilia Brown plays with the contradictory connotations of the fleeting and the permanent, when she casts cardboard boxes that serve as temporary night shelters in concrete. And in Birke Gorm’s vase-like sand sculptures and wall pieces made of jute sacks, the aesthetics of the haptic and of craftmanship meet the digital.
The constraints of digitality and the ever more gapless incorporation in various media dispositifs are reflected either directly or indirectly in a number of works. Maureen Kaegi, for example, devotes her meticulous drawings, created through analogue processes, to the perceptual phenomena of the digital noise that she counters with contemplative depths. Lukas Posch, by contrast, addresses with his paintings the invasively stimulating effects of the digital on the individual’s body and mind, while Nana Mandl explores the faultlines of present-day visuality by recoupling the inflationary production and distribution of digital images to the analogue realm in her largescale material collages.
The internet offers freedoms and endless possibilities for development, fulfilment, information, entertainment and consumerism. The flawlessness of the digital exerts an enormous appeal, even on those who are aware that there are algorithms in play, which are aimed at creating a frictionless experience, while manipulating our online behavior. Even the most savvy users are so tempted by what the internet has to offer that they end up spending a great deal of their spare time online. That in itself involves a certain disembodiment, an alienation from one’s own physis. Running against the tide of this development, however, corporeality seems to be an important theme for several of the artists in the exhibition. Such as Birke Gorm, who translates the idealization of the digital into the imperfection of the physical, with particular emphasis on the aspect of manual labor. The work of Lucia Elena Průša addresses subjective perception of time triggered by bodily processes. For Barbara Kapusta, the body is relevant as a connecting link between the internal and the external. Cäcilia Brown places the body and its needs in relation to the public space, while Marina Sula is interested in how behaviors and attitudes can be altered by architectural structures. She sees the body as a biomass formed by genetic materials and external influences, and also reflects on it as an expression of belonging as well as in terms of a machine and working instrument whose efficiency increase and (self-) discipline leads to alienation from it. Sula contrasts the transformation of the body through prostheses as optimization and concomitant self-fragmentation with its presence as a vehicle for potential social interaction.
For Anna-Sophie Berger, too, physical presence is a factor within the context of her own mobility between various geographic centres of her life. This results in a certain diremption between the cosmopolitan and the rooted in the construction of identity—raising the question of belonging, which is also addressed by some of the other artists in the exhibition. Johannes Gierlinger, for instance, looks at past and present forms of political radicalization within the context of national identity models. Matthias Noggler, on the other hand, describes belonging as a group-dynamic process underpinned by mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion (a factor that can also be found in the work of Lucia Elena Průša), spawning forms of subjectification. Birke Gorm, by contrast, sees the individual as being exposed to social norms and expectations and having to react accordingly by taking a demonstrative stance. Rosa Rendl’s photographs centre around identity and the way it is conveyed, as well as focusing on the construction of authenticity, while Melanie Ebenhoch explores the reciprocal effects between the reception of artworks and the supposed projections onto the figure of the artist behind them as the starting point for her reflections on painting as a medium of representation. Philipp Timischl, who focuses on issues of origin and sexuality in terms of how these factors influence a sense of social belonging, channels the question of constructing identity into reflections on representation, respectively emancipation through forms of self-exposion.
Formulating notions of belonging and identity is something that goes hand in hand with processes of individualization. In the exhibition, this manifests itself not only on the meta-level of the conditions that underly the construction of identity. Instead, it is also evident in the endeavors to artistically express the individuality of one’s own identity beyond the bounds of universal validities and objectivities. In contrast to the individual mythologies outlined by the likes of Szeemann, there is little to be found herein the way of the archetypical or the obsessive, though some of the artists in the exhibition do indicate a tendency to withdraw into the private and subjective sphere. Bouyed by a desire for authenticity, emotions and empathy take centre stage in works putting the human condition of the individual in focus. That can be felt as keenly in the music videos of Lonely Boys as it can in the inner landscapes that Marc-Alexandre Dumoulin spreads out before us. Even when Lucia Elena Průša presents time as a subjective notion, or when Sasha Auerbakh explores the psychological outlier of unrequited love, or Barbara Kapusta merges desire, lust and pain in a cognitive dissonance, or Philipp Timischl bundles personal emotional states into a kind of retrospective introspective—then states of mind become expressions of worldviews that include the wider whole in the existential.
Between the individual and collective presentations of the exhibition, interests and positionings can be connected to vectors, that point to various directions. These are narratives that indicate rough intersections, but also simplify. They are our subjective curatorial projections on the wider field of production and practice by young local artists, and they have influenced our selection for this exhibition. Although these narratives may well have contributed towards the overall impression of the exhibition, they do not constitute the pillars on which it is built. Instead, it is the variety of synergies and interdependencies between individual artistic attitudes and approaches, curatorial ideas and strategies that converge in the exhibition. Perhaps it is here that we might find an answer to the question of the “new” and the loss of utopias and perspectives for the future: In the interplay of individualization and the desire for shared aims, that creates a dynamic.

 


[1] Cf. Dan Cameron, “Neo-This, Neo-That: Approaching Pop Art in the 1980s” in Marco Livingstone (ed.), “Pop Art”, London 1991, pp. 260–266, cited by Boris Groys in “On the New”, transl. M. Goshgarian, London 2014, p. 2.
[2] Boris Groys, “On the New”, transl. M. Goshgarian, London 2014, p. 55.
[3] Ibid., p. 10.
[4] Cf. Brigitte Werneburg, “Le postmodernisme n’existe pas. Zu Boris Groys’ Theorie des ‘Neuen’—Versuch einer Kulturökonomie”, in taz. Die Tageszeitung, 18.1.1993.
[5] Cf. Zygmunt Bauman, “Retrotopia”, Cambridge 2017, p. 5.
[6] Cf. Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”, London / New York 1991.
[7] Cf. Jacques Derrida, “Spectres de Marx”, Paris 1993.
[8] Cf. Mark Fisher, “What is Hauntology?”, in Film Quarterly, 66., No. 1, Autumn 2012, pp. 16–24. – Idem, “Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures”, Winchester/Washington 2014.

 

Exhibition catalogue:
On the New – Young Scenes in Vienna
Edited by Stella Rollig, Severin Dünser and Luisa Ziaja
Including Texts by Severin Dünser, Stella Rollig and Luisa Ziaja
Grafikdesign by FONDAZIONE Europa (Alexander Nußbaumer & Benjamin Zivota)
German/English
Hardcover with linen coating, 18.5 × 28.5 cm, 320 pages, 247 illustrations
ISBN 978-3-903114-74-6

 

Quick tour through the show (Video)

 

‘On the New – Young Art from Vienna’

Featuring works by Sasha Auerbakh, Anna-Sophie Berger, Cäcilia Brown, Marc-Alexandre Dumoulin, Melanie Ebenhoch, Johannes Gierlinger, Birke Gorm, Maureen Kaegi, Barbara Kapusta, Angelika Loderer, Nana Mandl, Matthias Noggler, Lukas Posch, Lucia Elena Průša, Rosa Rendl & Lonely Boys, Marina Sula, Philipp Timischl and Edin Zenun; curated by Severin Dünser and Luisa Ziaja

Kunstraum Innsbruck, 4 July – 31 August, 2019