Rosa Rendl

»What You Desire«


21er Raum at 21er Haus, Vienna

April 15 — June 7, 2015


Wanting, desiring, longing for something – that’s the condition that Rosa Rendl addresses in her exhibition. These days we seem to be in a state of perpetual longing. We are constantly faced with seductive worlds of images. Social media sites especially are places that generate non-stop stimuli to which we also contribute as users. In online forums we are continuously reproducing and positioning ourselves as well as awakening longings – for not only do we desire but we also want to be desired.

But virtual space is not physical space, but a mediated one. This means there is a filter between what we desire and ourselves. We look at the world through a window of cold light. This perception of the world has become the norm: We spend a large part of our time on the internet, go to bed with a computer that seems to know us better than our closest friends.

We have an almost intimate relationship with our smartphones, laptops, and tablets. We touch these devices to use them, scroll through content with our fingers as if stroking them. The tactile quality helps to establish a different relationship with this medium, compared to, say, with a TV. It is more immediate, and the boundaries between the physical and virtual world thus seem to blur. And that’s also supported by the circulating images, which we do not encounter with the same frequency in our analogue lives.

These pictures communicate closeness and seem familiar. They are taken with smartphones, often out of focus, and celebrate their casualness. They represent the everyday while the special is embedded within them. The democratization of photography and its rise to become a medium of communication also opened the way for banal images, not made for posterity, but establishing some space for muted subtext.

In her exhibition, Rosa Rendl also shows a series of pictures taken with her smartphone. Their aspect ratio is just the same as an iPhone touchscreen and they also feature the characteristic chromatic noise. They show small gestures like touches, a moment of watching films in bed, the detail of a body, a smartphone on a bed, a glimpse through a person’s thighs, a still life of a silk flower, a selfie, food on the bed, one’s shadow cast on the wall, a cat. They are staged photographs that engage with, or rather imitate, the pictorial language of social networks.

The images revolve around contemporary life torn between privacy and publicity, presence and virtuality. The leaking of our private lives redefines privacy today, while at the same time we can be anonymous and disappear among the masses. But we are still sitting somewhere while surfing the internet. That’s often in the comfort of our own homes. We can stay warm in bed while being far away virtually. But it’s not really satisfying. Because we are constantly being seduced, but cannot be satisfied as fast as the visual worlds suggest. The touching of the screen is not enough, as the desire for a reality beyond its imagery lingers on.

But this dissolving of boundaries is manifested at another level as well. Sometimes printed on both sides, these photographs simultaneously present a world above the glossy surfaces – details like cigarettes lying around, blazing flames or a hand swiping across the screen are all indications. In these works, both levels merge into a single image and staged daily life becomes one with the equally staged reality on top. Here there is an intermingling of what is increasingly merging today: digital and analogue social life. In the light of the screen it is not unusual for us to lose sight of our rhythms of day and night. A distance to our own body evolves as we increasingly regard it as a tool and yet still yearn to be touched. Egocentricity and isolation are held in balance with our longing for closeness. And longing and desire are all that remain, both in Rendl’s mirror image of our reality and in a world in which the interplay of truth and illusion is constantly creating new realities.


Born in 1983, Rosa Rendl lives and works in Vienna. Her work was recently on display in the exhibitions “How Alive Are You”, Bar Du Bois, Vienna (2014), “Let’s Mingle”, Franz Josefs Kai 3, Vienna (2014) and “Rendl-Wittmann & Buschmann”, Parallel Fair Vienna, Vienna (in collaboration with Adrian Buschmann, 2014). In 2010, Daphne Ahlers and Rendl formed the band Lonely Boys. Their latest performances include concerts at Künstlerhaus, Graz (2015) and Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna (2014).


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