Sunday, 01 July 2018 13:16

‘Specular Windows – Reflections on the Self and the Wider World’


Marc Adrian, Martin Arnold, Vittorio Brodmann, Georg Chaimowicz, Adriana Czernin, Josef Dabernig, Gunter Damisch, VALIE EXPORT, Judith Fegerl, Michael Franz / Nadim Vardag, Padhi Frieberger, Bernhard Frue, Walter Gamerith, Bruno Gironcoli, Samara Golden, Judith Hopf, Alfred Hrdlicka, Iman Issa, Martha Jungwirth, Jesper Just, Tillman Kaiser, Johanna Kandl, Joseph Kosuth, Susanne Kriemann, Friedl Kubelka/Peter Weibel, Luiza Margan, Till Megerle, Henri Michaux, Muntean Rosenblum, Walter Pichler, Tobias Pils, Arnulf Rainer, Ugo Rondinone, Isa Rosenberger, Gerhard Rühm, Markus Schinwald, Toni Schmale, Anne Schneider, Richard Teschner, Simon Wachsmuth, Rudolf Wacker, Anna Witt; curated by Severin Dünser and Luisa Ziaja


21er Haus, Vienna

22 June 2017 – 14 January 2018


The point of departure of every thematic group exhibition is the spatiotemporal difference of its parts, bearing in mind that they each stem from specific contexts that are more or less explicit in their aesthetic appearance. By bringing together these parts and especially by positioning individual works in specific constellations, inconspicuous connections between them become discernible, contexts of meaning emerge or are reinforced, and occasionally contradictions arise. The fact that the exhibition as a medium has such an ability to generate meaning makes it a space of negotiation where the visual and narrative threads presented are repeatedly picked up, spun further, dropped, or linked with another point by us as observers. Our curatorial selection and combination of works from the collections of the Belvedere and the Artothek des Bundes is motivated by the question of relevance for the here and now with regard to the tensions addressed in the title ‘Specular Windows: Reflections on the Self and the Wider World’: windows mark the threshold between private and public, they are openings that frame our view of the outside from the inside, whereas from the outside we see ourselves reflected in them. Both motifs—the mirror and the window—are known in the fine arts as metaphors for our perception of the world and our perception of self. This view of the internal, the external, and their interaction is the focus of this exhibition. The show opens with works whose topic is, in the widest sense, the subject’s ability to articulate in the face of an ongoing state of crisis. Joseph Kosuth, for instance, quite literally shines a light on a passage of text from Sigmund Freud’s ‘Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ on linguistic slips in times of war, while Muntean/Rosenblum connect the scene of a violent clash between demonstrators and police with the dissonance between individual memory and official historiography, and Anna Witt encourages viewers to ‘Radical Thinking’ and to sketching a different reality with her video installation. The photographs by Bernhard Frue and Nadim Vardag tell of the body’s presence in its absence: Frue’s negative print ‘Samthansen’ makes plain how the shadow economy of sex work leaves its mark on a public park in the form of improvised screens; in contrast, Vardag exposes mechanisms of fetishization by defamiliarizing an iconic image. ‘A Vicious Undertow’ by Jesper Just revolves around the production of desire in mainstream cinema and means to thwart it; Luiza Margan turns our attention to traditional gender relations by staging a gesture carried out by couples in public spaces, while VALIE EXPORT draws a connection between the normalization of the female body and urban architecture. Both Anne Schneider and Judith Hopf work with anthropomorphic qualities, though on very different levels: Schneider’s ‘Bodyguards’ stand their ground between figuration and abstraction while oscillating in their materiality and chromaticity, whereas Hopf’s waiting, seemingly permanently poised laptop as a quasi-animated object makes reference to the burnout-stricken individual. Finally, Till Megerle’s human wheelbarrow bears witness to a game of dominance and submission, which affects body and mind in equal measure.
Drawings by Megerle can also be found in the following constellation, which is dedicated to phenomena of the spiritual and inquires after the contemporary significance of religious symbols. His drawings of donkeys’ heads reference Georges Bataille, who interpreted them as the ‘most virulent manifestation’ of base materialism in the sense of the Gnostics. Marc Adrian, on the other hand, quotes Goethe’s striking proverb ‘No one against God but God Himself,’ positioning it in a polytheistic context with his depiction of a pagan idol. Adriana Czernin’s abstract drawings unmistakably allude to Islamic art while at the same time metaphorically breaking their symmetry, whereas Simon Wachsmuth’s video shows Iranian men doing physical exercises that date back to clandestine martial arts training and that have been ritualized and imbued with spiritual content over the centuries. Physical rituals as an expression of coping with social, economic, and political escalations are also represented in the works of Walther Gamerith, Isa Rosenberger, and Alfred Hrdlicka. Gamerith’s ‘Dance of the Cripples’ is testament to the woeful state of the war-wounded who must march to the beat of Death incarnate’s drum; he reappears in Rosenberger’s video work ‘Espiral’ in the supratemporal motif of the dance of death and is enmeshed in a dense fabric of references to and continuities since the first global financial crisis. On the other hand, ‘Bal des victimes’ by Hrdlicka deals with the phenomenon of the reputedly cathartic balls said to have been hosted by the survivors of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution in commemoration of their guillotined relatives. In turn, Iman Issa’s installation sets in motion an intellectual game that is rich in associations and revolves around whether we associate a bygone era of luxury and decadence with melancholy or revolution. And Johanna Kandl’s painting focuses on the fringes of the economy and on the precariousness of the everyday in societies shaken by turbo-charged capitalism. Nature and the laws of physics provide the focus of another room. As metaphors for society or the body, analogies emerge here from which conclusions are drawn and passed on to the observers. Peter Weibel, for example, quite literally realizes his appeal for ‘More Warmth among People’. In her work, Susanne Kriemann portrays a monolith of red granite and thus also the artist Robert Smithson, at the site of whose death the stone was erected. Judith Fegerl’s piece uses soldering to connect pieces of copper wire into a fragile installation that reveals a relationship between physics and the physical. Lastly, with the aid of the laws of physics the film ‘Entropy’ by Michael Franz and Nadim Vardag describes an atmosphere in the cultural field that faces a slow emptying of meaning and hence stagnation. The protagonists of ‘Hotel Roccalba’ by Josef Dabernig on the other hand seem to surrender themselves to a conscious, paradoxically positive emptying of meaning when they collectively yet separately pursue activities—though ultimately nothing happens. The intensification of this instance of banality, which shifts into the uncanny or culminates in the horror of the everyday, is testified to in works like Markus Schinwald’s life-size doll ‘Betty’, who swings apathetically— as if controlled by an external source—back and forth on a chair, and Samara Golden’s photograph ‘Mass Murder, Blue Room’, which portrays a hallucinatory room—in which past, present, and future are entwined—as a potential crime scene. In Walter Pichler’s drawing ‘Sleeping Man’, the resting position becomes an existential act and is associated with sickness and death, whereas Martin Arnold’s video ‘Passage à l’acte’ exposes the psychological tension and latent aggression in the idyll of a family scene and Tillman Kaiser’s disconcerting wallpaper ‘Habitación retorcida’ translates the loaded relationship between mother and child into a spatial visualization. This work is linked to another constellation in which everything revolves around the self. Ugo Rondinone’s protagonist in ‘Cigarettesandwich’ saunters along a wall in a loop: in its repetition, the movement becomes a meditative, timeless rotation around himself. Another product of self-reflection is the drawing ‘Me—Embedded Somewhere in (or out) There’ by Gerhard Rühm, in which the artist has used circular hand movements to write the word ‘ich’ (English: ‘I’ or ‘me’) innumerable times in the same place; in contrast, Adriana Czernin transforms internal processes into an interplay between figuration and abstraction in her self-portrait. Self-awareness and exploring one’s own psyche as well as the emphatically anti-rationalist creation of individual, surreal pictorial worlds are themes that unite a whole array of works. The ‘Self-Portrait’ by Georg Chaimowicz, for instance, shows the artist’s head dissolving and testifies to the existential search for identity after the Shoah. Martha Jungwirth’s fantastical ‘Beetle Creature’ arises from associating subconscious gestures with conscious experiences, while Richard Teschner’s ‘Downpour’ personifies the force of nature and depicts it as a monster-like being. On the other hand, with his comic-like anthropomorphic figures Vittorio Brodmann creates intensive visual worlds of emotion just like Gunter Damisch, whose composition originates in its own cosmos beyond our collective understanding of reality. In contrast, the aesthetics of Neue Sachlichkeit set the tone for Rudolf Wacker’s still life ‘Two Heads’, which thrives on the symbolic interplay of its pictorial elements. Henri Michaux’ écriture automatique oscillates between painting and poetry, figure and writing, and was seemingly transferred directly from his subconscious onto the paper. ‘Dealing with Small Quantities’ by Tillman Kaiser suggests the fantasy of a substance-induced journey through space, and with his ‘Pig Altar’ Padhi Frieberger produces a memorial to a fictitious religion while satirizing the idolatrous worship of things in our world. Bruno Gironcoli’s space-consuming sculpture ‘Maternal, Paternal’ represents an enigmatic universe of forms and symbols that appears to address human existence in terms of the physical and the psychological. This intertwining of internal and external worlds also lies at the heart of the works by Tobias Pils and Toni Schmale: Pils’ genuine formal vocabulary holds his works in a limbo between reality and mental imagination, while Schmale’s pieces of nitro frottage on concrete exercise and sketch out a destabilization of conventional interpretive patterns of how desire can be translated into objects. This narrative description of the exhibition is our attempt to briefly outline the interplay of works on display, in the knowledge that it is in fact much more multifaceted and complex, and occasionally more fragile. It is intended to serve as a springboard for new, subjective associations and narratives that intertwine different threads than those we interweave here. As the sum of its parts, the exhibition makes it possible to experience the modern-day tensions between individual and society and simultaneously reflects—appropriately enough for specular windows—effects on the body and mind.


Exhibition catalogue:
Specular Windows – Reflections on the Self and the Wider World
Edited by Stella Rollig, Severin Dünser and Luisa Ziaja
Including texts by Véronique Abpurg, Severin Dünser, Alexander Klee, Michaela Köppl, Naima Wieltschnig, Claudia Slanar and Luisa Ziaja on works by Marc Adrian, Martin Arnold, Vittorio Brodmann, Georg Chaimowicz, Adriana Czernin, Josef Dabernig, Gunter Damisch, VALIE EXPORT, Judith Fegerl, Michael Franz / Nadim Vardag, Padhi Frieberger, Bernhard Frue, Walter Gamerith, Bruno Gironcoli, Samara Golden, Judith Hopf, Alfred Hrdlicka, Iman Issa, Martha Jungwirth, Jesper Just, Tillman Kaiser, Johanna Kandl, Joseph Kosuth, Susanne Kriemann, Friedl Kubelka/Peter Weibel, Luiza Margan, Till Megerle, Henri Michaux, Muntean Rosenblum, Walter Pichler, Tobias Pils, Arnulf Rainer, Ugo Rondinone, Isa Rosenberger, Gerhard Rühm, Markus Schinwald, Toni Schmale, Anne Schneider, Richard Teschner, Simon Wachsmuth, Rudolf Wacker and Anna Witt
Graphic design by Atelier Liska Wesle, Vienna/Berlin
Softcover, 19 × 24 cm, 136 pages, numerous illustrations in color
Belvedere Vienna, 2017
ISBN 978-3-903114-36-4

Published in Ausstellungsdetails
Friday, 06 December 2013 13:18

Vittorio Brodmann

»Ups and Downs«


21er Raum at 21er Haus, Vienna

November 20, 2013 — January 6, 2014


Currently, the odds for painting are anything but favourable: art is presently negotiated post-ideologically, post-categorically, and post-classificatorily. It is produced in a post-avant-garde fashion and in post-studio practice. “I’ll be off then,” art whispers to modernism while it checks on Facebook where the town is being painted red. So what has happened? The belief in an artist’s genius already disappeared from the scene in the 1960s, and since the late 1990s it has become extremely difficult to agree on least common denominators when it comes to ideas and ideals. Instead, the motto is “anything goes”. In any event, it now takes the greatest effort imaginable to discuss the individual art disciplines separately from each other – artists stopped limiting themselves to a single medium, let alone a permanent studio, a considerable while ago. Under these prerequisites, one would assume, the endeavour of painting should long have been dismissed.

Yet today the very contrast between our daily lives, permeated with digital media, and the physical world seems to make painting attractive again. It is no longer expected to represent reality and is therefore above any suspicion of manipulation. And, what is more, it has remained direct and authentic. It is the actual proof for the existence of an acting subject: it seems that through it one is able to catch a glimpse of a paint-smeared artist’s psyche. As nostalgic as this understanding of painting may be, the desire for closeness appears to be all the more real. Nevertheless painting seems to embody all the resentments one might harbor towards art today: it is like a poor parody of art. These are the circumstances under which art is produced nowadays, especially that of Vittorio Brodmann.

His paintings are small, rather not meant to be viewed from a distance, and they depict anthropomorphic creatures. Would it be necessary to assign them to a genre, it would probably be fantasy – if only because of the colors. His characters walk, lean, sit, look around, stand upright, and recline within a picture’s space, with figurative and abstract elements creating an equilibrium between the respective pictorial worlds. The artist produces little narratives with his protagonists making use of the space of color as a stage for totally ordinary postures.

An exaggeration of everyday life to the degree of dysfunctionality is the specialty of daily cartoons and comic strips. It can hardly be overlooked that Brodmann has appropriated their language. His artistic practice relies on comedy and is potentially linked to slapstick. Situation comedy always requires a space for action – in Brodmann’s art, this starts with equating the figures depicted with painterly gestures and extends as far as performance, which the artist increasingly allows to accompany his pictorial work. He has thus begun to enlarge the sum of gestures referred to as painting.

Within the pictorial space as such, though, he limits himself to painterly narration. His anthropomorphic figures are character heads one readily associates with certain traits. The colors also leave room for speculative conclusions as to the states of mind of the figures and the artist behind them. The artist suggests and imitates emotional worlds that encourage interpretation.

Brodmann plays with the allegations made towards expressive painting and with the expectations towards the medium in general. He exaggerates the gestures of painting in order expose them as projections. He does not paint stereotype paintings, but uses clichés from the everyday life of art as a meta-motif.

The representation of creatures in combination with the display of gestures related to them results in pictures that do not give an atmospheric impression, but rather appear to be characters themselves, with their own peculiarities. They are complex types presenting the various aspects of their personalities. In fact, they are nothing but the wider circle of friends one primarily perceives via postings on the Internet.

In the end, Brodmann’s fantastic images subsume the essence of what painting is capable of accomplishing today: they are friable in their presentation of reality and at the same time representative in their reference to a system of visual signifiers. 


Vittorio Brodmann, born in Ettingen (Switzerland) in 1987, lives and works in Vienna. Most recently, his works were shown at the Leslie Fritz Gallery, New York (2013), the CEO Gallery, Malmö (2013), the Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich (2012), Graff Mourgue d’Algue, Geneva (2012), the Halle für Kunst Lüneburg (2012), the Kunsthalle Bern (2012), the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2011), the Kunsthaus Glarus (2010), the Galerie 1m3, Lausanne (2010), and New Jerseyy, Basel (2009).


Exhibition catalogue:
21er Raum 2012 – 2016
Edited by Agnes Husslein-Arco and Severin Dünser
Including texts by Severin Dünser, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Paul Feigelfeld, Agnes Husslein-Arco, Lili Reynaud-Dewar and Luisa Ziaja on exhibitions by Anna-Sophie Berger, Andy Boot, Vittorio Brodmann, Andy Coolquitt, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Iman Issa, Barbara Kapusta, Susanne Kriemann, Adriana Lara, Till Megerle, Adrien Missika, Noële Ody, Sarah Ortmeyer, Mathias Pöschl, Rosa Rendl, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Anja Ronacher, Constanze Schweiger, Zin Taylor, Philipp Timischl, Rita Vitorelli and Salvatore Viviano
Graphic design by Atelier Liska Wesle, Vienna/Berlin
Softcover, 21 × 29,7 cm, 272 pages, numerous illustrations in color
Belvedere, Vienna, 2016
ISBN 978-3-903114-18-0

Published in Ausstellungsdetails