from 06.09.2000 to 30.09.2000

Magdalena Frey, Alfred Wetzelsdorfer, Candice Breitz, Daniel Brunemer


In the third part of the “Bodies” exhibition series, the FOTOGALERIE WIEN has selected four artists whose work addresses the pornographic representation of the body. The Greek word “pornographia” was originally used to refer to the lives, activities and customs of prostitutes. In the Hellenic world, sexual intercourse was understood as related to divine revelation and was thus treated as a legitimate source for poetry. With the dawn of the Christian Age, however, “pornographia” was increasingly used to refer more broadly to various descriptions of the sexual act. The Christian School coupled the act of sex with marital procreation, such that non-procreative sex was officially regarded as morally reprehensible. This point of view in turn influenced legal and civil guidelines, according to which certain pornographic were now classified as criminal. Pornographic images continue to elicit censorious responses today - such restrictions hint at the limitations prescribed by contemporary societies.
In her “Rorschach Series,” Candice Breitz reads beyond the pornographic image as it is captured photographically. Taking pictures from pornographic magazines as her raw material, she cuts these into fragments, then reassembles them newly, now mirrored symmetrically across a central axis. In psychiatric practice, the ‘Rorschach Test’ (in which the patient is asked to read a diagram originally formed by a blob of paint folded in the center of a piece of paper, such that a mirror image emerges), is used as a means of prompting free association, through which denied obsessions, wishes and fantasies can be expressed. Breitz’s “Rorschach Series” withdraws the pornographic body from familiarity, as individual legs, arms, chests, and eyes are newly combined into constellations which allude to ornamental design, vegetation or science fiction. In their ambivalence, they on the one hand evoke denied and unspoken fantasies, while on the other hand commenting on the serial reproducibility of the human body in the age of cloning and genetic engineering. Far removed from the pornographic material that is their starting point, Breitz’s images leave the explicit body in their wake as they confront questions of future bodies.
Alfred Wetzelsdorfer also draws on pornographic magazines, concentrating his photographic investigations on diverse props and sex toys. His manipulations are consciously aesthetic in their visual settings. The artist sets black and red latex masks, pulled over anonymous heads, in front of blue, pink and white backgrounds. The aestheticization of latex masks, usually associated primarily with sado-masochistic sexual practices, prevents the possibility of reflection on the context and event represented, and simultaneously allows ironic and playful moments to emerge. These photos are freed the restrictions set by porno magazines, in which men and women play predefined roles. Alfred Wetzelsdorfer’s work might instead be compared to the seduction mechanisms set in motion by the advertising industry, which tantalizingly places products against idealized backdrops.
Magdalena Frey’s photography "Quelle" draws on personal experience, moving towards the clarification of her material and experience. She points her lens at the female genitalia - too often described and repesented as shameful according to social discourse. While the penis enjoys the designation “phallus” – with the consequent connotations of power and intensity - there are no equally powerful connotations for the vagina. Instead, the female sex is usually concealed and only ever treated bashfully. Directly and analytically, the artist redresses these and other similar social definitions inherited from the past in her work.
In his photography, Daniel Brunemer deals with people who voluntarily allow themselves to be photographed during sexual intercourse. He makes announcements calling for subjects in newspapers, or responds to similar announcements. The resulting photographs are marked by ambiguity. Are we seeing these people from the point of view of the photographer or of those photographed? The artist claims that he is demonstrating the interaction between individuals or the loneliness of the individuals portrayed, more than the actual individuals themselves. It is finally left to the viewer to choose a perspective from which to view these charged scenes.

see Ernest Borneman, Lexicon of Love, Munich, 1968, page 243

Sabine Schaschl