THEMA:FRAUEN:THEMA III - "Körper - Sexualität" year: 2002,
THEMA:FRAUEN:THEMA III - "Körper - Sexualität"
Plastic Body Physicality between Sex and Gender
BILDER Nr. 183
Plastic Body
Physicality between Sex and Gender

Under the annual slogan of “THEMA:FRAUEN:THEMA” (Theme:Women:Theme), the FOTOGALERIE WIEN is showing three exhibitions, curated by Susanne Gamauf, concerned with different aspects of women’s life circumstances today. After the first two exhibitions, which were dedicated to the themes of "everyday life" and "mother," the third and last exposition revolves around the theme of "body-sexuality." With the media photography, video and installation, seven artists from Germany, Canada, Austria and Switzerland take up different approaches to the foreign and self-perception of the female body. On one hand, they react critically to the omnipresent doctrine of "sex sells,” to which the advertising industry and media, fashion and cosmetic industry, and not least, the medical industry owe their large profits. On the other hand they also adopt an artistic subject with which gender role clichés have always been fixed. With reference to an argument begun in the seventies it is again primarily the photographic work of female artists with which the discourses around sex and gender are advanced. The specific qualities of the medium are utilized completely in order to sound out the possibilities and borders of the sensual experience and experiment with new body images in the various settings of the feminine, which span from masquerade to surgical preparation.

With a combination of digital treatment and analogue photography Michaela Goeltl creates curious productions which show the human body as an object of irreversible manipulations. In close-ups, the structures of naked, hairless and wrinkleless skin, which are present in all their sensuality and vulnerability, merge with the cold gloss of flesh-coloured polyvinyl chloride, surfaces and definitions change. Between the eulogy to medicine and technology, as well as the vision of the "human machine" and the question of the fate of the organic in the age of its technical reproducibility, all interpretations seem permissible. Furthermore the biomorphic formations experiment with an innovative symbolism of the feminine: The transformation of erotic motives into unreal formations expresses a radically de-sexualized perception of the body, which liberates itself from any definition within traditional female gender role clichés.

Maria Hahnenkamp’s large-format compositions shift the anonymous body into the field of vision. The newest work series show female trunks clad in radiating red in frontal view. Colour symbolism and line work sketch an archetypal image of the body, cleansed of all individual moments, and concentrate the perception on the specifics of the female anatomy. The subjects’ presence gains through the narrowly chosen screen window and the ornamental arrangement of the motive. The latter seems strangely flat; it is missing plasticity. This distressing impression results from a cleverly devised setting in which the picture is realized as de facto imprint and impression. A torso is to be seen, whose raised parts are pressed against a glass plate: a puzzle picture, which forces the view between the body and the medium, thereby referring to the diverse valences of the medium.

Isabelle Mühlbacher empathetically approaches her own existence through the media photography and video. “Self-staging” and introspection are her means of choice to navigate the complex world of sensual perception. Whether the artist marks an area of 16 square meters on land or on sea, and explores with the video camera like a “Terra Incognita”, or whether she projects male nudes on photographic views of her naked body in order to plead for a mutual dependence of the sexes, she always aims towards (not only in our cultural context) a marginalised fact: The indispensability of the body as "conditio sine qua non" of any existence and enlightenment. This holistic concept is implemented by a pointedly rational handling of the representational technique. The shimmering picture-worlds grow up out of calculated manipulations, which combine foreign as own pictures and conceptions into ambiguous compositions.

Katharina Mouratidi intends “real-political” intervention with her project “breast cancer,” for which she portrayed 22 women, in half-nudes, who answered to an advert in the Berlin daily press. It was up to the models to present themselves within a simple setting, victims of what we can already call an epidemic in our society. After the photo shooting, the selection of the exhibited photos, which were carried by some women during the annual demonstration of the breast cancer initiative, was made together. The portrait series, which represents women between the ages of 25 to 63 years, refers with the immediacy of representation, which does not have a voyeuristic aspect, to a unique quality of photography beyond art: Only photography is able to isolate and durably fix the moment out of the experience continuum of perception for purposes of documentation or demonstration

Sascha Regina Reichstein recycles, with deeper meaning, old copies of women’s magazines in her installation "Subjections." She stacks the high-gloss products into slim towers and uses them as projection areas for erotic self-manifestations of women who exhibit their personal vision of a desirable body in the Internet. In continuous order, the revelations of 90 individuals flash up and offer a voyeuristic view. Poses and gestures of the actors are exclusively stereotypical, which makes frighteningly clear how emphatically socially defined codes of body ideals and desire dominate. The direct confrontation between the artificially generated and medially distributed women with individual representations of the intimate is controversial and merits discussion: The pornography of representation, the liberty of imagination, the longing to be desired, and the utopia of a self-determined female sexuality.

Diana Thorneycroft’s disturbing settings are reminiscent of the world of shapes of surrealism, which understands the body as a scene of diverging experiences and feelings. In theatrical, technically lavish arrangements, the picture of the naked female body is interwoven with representations of male nudes, dolls, animals as well as different props from the bizarre torture chamber of lust. The borders between reality and disguise thereby remain, as the sexual identity of the acting persons, in the uncertain. In nightmarish settings, hermaphroditic creatures visualize unusual sexual fantasies and sound out the psychological and physical dimensions of fear and pain. Despite the ambiguity of the pictures the relevance to reality is evident. A glance to the off-side reveals a repressed, but nevertheless powerful aspect of human existence: destructive imagination.

Andrea Zeitler is after the continuous substitution between freely fluctuating identities in her "Tableaux vivants,” with which she lustfully caricatures the publicised plurality of female gender roles in the age of globalization and multiculturalism. The equally funny as naive frames, which refer to the facet-rich tradition of photographic self-staging of artists, link together into a grotesque archive of stereotyped photographic hulls which can easily be decoded anywhere today: The constrained housewife, the wiry brat, the pin-up girl, the prostitute, the successful businesswoman, etc.. Contrary to those examples, functioning as perpetual calendars of female identification patterns, continuously spewing out high gloss products; these imaginations make the cruel dictatorship of the ritual masquerades to which women (today) submit themselves everywhere (more or less) voluntarily, in all their fragility and incompleteness, visible.

© Edith Almhofer, October 2002

BILDER Nr. 182

On "Toys" by Julia Kissina
by Boris von Brauchitsch

Human life is sacred – one could agree on this matter if required if one’s own interests do not stand in the way of such an ethical consensus. Life begins with conception – on this, too, consensus can usually be reached. But is this really already a human being – this tiny little thing without heart or feeling? Isn’t this first and foremost great material for experiments?

Do we not want in this world – this world which we have been trying to control for thousands of years and which the more cunningly we grasp into a stranglehold, the more it slips away – do we not want to at least take charge of our own demise in this world?

Julia Kissina approaches these ideas with disarming scurrility. Her photographic works create a bridge between mythology and the genetic gamble. The esthetics and capacity of the cross-matched creatures and mutants, at home in the worlds of spirits and gods of all cultures, are explored playfully. Biotopes are created for mythical creatures in her studio. Can nymphs with three legs really run faster? How useful are the birdlike arms of the forest fairy? Does sexual pleasure possibly double with two genitals?
Julia Kissina’s creatures have been assigned their roles. But instead of making the best of their flexible bones as stuntmen, or confusing their opponents at football with additional legs, they seem to refuse to work.

The counterworld to the dictation of beauty is of poetic subversion. In it lives a horde of fantastic, fabulous protagonists which appears to be harmless, but always implies the thesis of progress as an art. Kissina’s scenery is populated by the spirits that the genetic researchers have conjured up. As a countermove, the artist repeatedly yet gently and perseveringly poses the question of the options of the arts towards cultural crimes. Should here, too, form follow function, then the mutation will eventually inevitably transform into beauty. The portraits of disturbing esthetics, art works in the age of their biological reproducibility, transform the path to doom into a fairytale - upon whose transfigured romanticism the infamous reality flashes up again and again and challenges us to an offensive position.


‘Placed times – timed places’: On Michael Michlmayr’s most recent photographic works
by Theresia Prammer

“The realism of photography creates confusion as to what is real”
Susan Sontag

Passages – When considering the title the author has prefixed to his new picture sequences, it is difficult not to think of Walter Benjamin’s passage works: on strolling, on time intervals and time places, on passing time and losing time. But the stroller at work here is not on the look out for snapshots: he is creating a montage of snapshot moments. These photographs spot passages as threshold places, where something happens to someone, where someone passes something. These are places in which the passing manifestations of everyday life become intertwined into new contexts. He also methodically ties in conceptual artistic processes with these picture compositions: the series Passages, realized for the first time with digital means, corresponds one to one to the diverse documentation of time lapses of the gyratory work complex. But in addition to repetition, these works also play with the fragmentary, questioning it in a new, smooth composition: the coexistence of the separate picture moments produces successive new pictures, suggests a structural compactness which does not correspond to the individual picture. Passage follows upon passage, each of the passages undergoes different phases. Links, overlaps, compressions are won from ever varying constellations. The openness of the perspective lets the choice of the picture detail appear no less necessary: the picture itself thus becomes the passage, is the passage it is describing. Michlmayr confronts the real places with the imaginary with systematic care, he assembles captured moments into new time frescoes, multiplies the ‘seen’, lets the original disappear behind the duplicate. Places and times in the pictures communicate with one another and refer to a period in which ‘what has been’ and ‘what has not been’ coexist and in which the trust in the image function of the picture is suspended: time becomes readable through multiplication, alienation. What is perceived cannot be taken for ‘real’, there is no reality, only simultaneous or time-shifted realities<(i> which can be photographed as well as created. The results are actually similar to a stage: to an everyday absurd theater that pulls you into its spell, which passes by you like an illustrated book (cinematically). On the one hand, what we are dealing with here are photographs that create – at best - "posed", pre-contrived new connections; and on the other hand urban life with cheerful documentations: full of chance meetings, chance products: transferred into new constructions of meaning. The application of digital technology and the conscious manipulation of the picture surface that goes along with it strengthen the random effect of these photo works: " On the one hand temporal processes with digital means melted into a spatial whole, on the other hand, a ‘complete' panoramic view was temporally dissected", the author explains. But the estrangement does not result from the declared virtuality of the reproduction, but from the splitting of the pictures, from the strategy of ‘repetition’, which causes a kind of blow up effect for the viewer. Which reality reveals itself in these photos? Which reality stands out? Do they not reveal in addition to ‘what has been’ ‘what is possible’, and in every possible a new ‘has been’? These subjects (objects, animals, people), sought out or picked up by chance, seem to anticipate that they are one and many. The eye of the beholder wanders from face to face but always glances upon the same faces: duplicates, ever new fragmentations of a reality that come to light precisely through the uniformity of the presentation in its entire diversity. No passages without passers-by. The present work is not only a study of landscapes and ‘timescapes’, but also a study of the means of transportation of contemporaries: of people, who are intertwined and set against each other, of fitness and leisure boredom, of movement as an end in itself (Greifenstein) and fleeting contacts. The author is also quite able to gain comical sides out of his procedure (as in the Viennese impression Hundezone [dog's zone]), or oppressive ones as in the Prater Hauptallee. When digital photography was still relatively unknown, Roland Barthes was influenced by the concept "Ca a été". The photo as the real ‘has been’, as a trace of a material occurrence that took place, which must have taken place: the snapshot as recording of something real, the photograph as a more or less objective witness. With the emergence of digital technology came the radical weakening of these securities: the consultant as trigger, "instigator" of the optical process is no longer determinable with the same lucidity, the subjects have become unclear or - in spite of or precisely on account of the even more refined technical precision - become unclear again. So, too, with these photographs: though the manipulation takes a real scene as starting point, the reproduction loses on reliability. What was? The people and situations at the moment of the snapshot? The finished composition after the arrangement by the artist? What could be? What has taken place is fixed in a way that does not allow any clear reference anymore. The photograph takes place without warranty, cannot be verified. The viewer cannot grasp the timeframe of the picture, loses himself in the vexing games of the facets and vanishing points. In the blurring of the temporal structures Michlmayr’s approach also takes the snapshot to ad absurdum. The passages show people who seem like pictures of pictures; the photographic picture does not communicate the nature of these meetings, creates no immediacy, does not attempt any approach to the psychology. These photo works not only show people and objects: they transcend and produce them, depersonalize the meetings. The persons soon appear to be victim of a momentary anaesthesia, soon they become their own parody in their frenzied activities. Michael Michlmayr’s photographic compositions are reflections about this non-equivalence of the same, this margin of difference between same and equal, of ‘what was’ and the reconstructed, of discovering and relating to (fabrications), are attempts of the un-translatability of a matter unto itself. The reduction to (or concentration on) the minimal and essential becomes the principle in some pictures: this occurs most poignantly and most magically in the Meerblick (sea view), a picture in which only a single blue pours over the page, flooding the image carrier except for one - brighter, but also blue – strip, which is the horizon. Here the metaphor “strip horizon” is taken literally, the color becomes the ‘pars pro toto’ for the whole. Only the solitude of the swimmer before the background of the blue, in a strip of motorboats, makes the sea as such definable. And fetches the marvelling viewer from the clouds back down to earth.
BILDER Nr. 181

Artist Statement:

When I moved to New York in 1979, 1 made paintings for years until I was bored with painting itself and decided to switch to photography, or at least my version of photography. That was in 1991. 1 had been admiring Cindy Sherman's wonderful colored cibachrome versions of setups of herself. I spent several months thinking about my own kind of landscape setups in which I would keep everything in focus, as one would see the real landscape and not add any extra elements, like toy cars, dolls, or other figures. I would shoot with a large format (4x5) camera and I wouldn't worry about some areas being too abstract. I still apply these rules to all my work.
Working in my studio and shooting the 4x5 transparancies of the aquarium setup in my apartment is half the creative process. Getting the film back is when I really see if I have made something interesting or just average. Most are just average but sometimes I get that wonderful surprise and feeling of elation of seeing one that really works. The fact is, I have no idea whether the work will be interesting or not until I see the film. I'm usually shooting so fast, if one can shoot fast with a camera that large, that after 7 or 8 shots I don't know what I have. It's necessary to shoot quickly since the paint I pour into the water for clouds dissipates and moves around the plaster mountains in an unpredictable way as real clouds would through mountain passes.
It's so much fun to see the paint clouds move through the water and it all starts to look so real, I feel like I'm watching a movie or I've been transported to this lilliputian world of my own creation. I guess I'm an escapist at heart.
Over a period of time the plaster mountains start to erode and debris starts to pile up around them. With a little help, I cut river valleys through them and am reminded of the real erosion that mountains go through over millions of years. If I work with the same model for some months, the mountains erode down to hills. The more erosion that takes place, the more the model takes on a life of its own and begins to lose any quality of having been hand-built that it may have had. It all starts to look like "fractals", where small systems start to mimic large systems. For example, if one looks closely at an ocean shoreline of 50 miles of beach, the same linear patterns appear when observing thousands of miles of beach.
After running through 100 pieces of film, maybe there is one that really works. I like working like this. It would take forever to make 100 comparable paintings and I would still have to choose the best. I am often asked if I miss painting and I have to say not really. Having been an artist for some time, I can say this is the most important work I've ever done and that makes me very happy.
I have to be very careful making the work. The tank I work with holds over 100 gallons of water and I live on the 6th floor. By mistake, I have flooded my two downstairs neighbors twice. The first time they were somewhat forgiving but the second time they were understandably angry and I had to pay a lot of money for ceiling repairs. So now I try to be extra careful to avoid that third possible event. I now have various valves and precautions for the intake and draining of the water but am always a little fearful of another accident. I even have dreams of flooding them again. I wouldn't recommend this technique to anyone with downstairs neighbors.
Kim Keever, NYC 2002


The skin of ghosts
By Johannes Lothar Schröder
(Translation: Lydia Wazir)

Japanese pop singers are Noritoshi Motoda’s idols. He not only collects their CDs and videos, but posters and Fanzines as well, which he uses as raw materials for his installations and performances. The Shizuka Kudo video and pertinent photos show him in his room in rural Fukuoka, spending his time surrounded by images of his favourite singer. Their great number allows the fan to put them together in film-like sequences, which, in an increasingly hypnotic atmosphere with music by Shizuka Kudo, condense into one virtual figure. This way, hundreds of views appear, gaining additional bodily characteristics by reflections on the bright lustre printings, distortions on the curved pages and perspective shortenings. By allowing the penetration of erotic stimuli of the model with the sensuality of the print-graphic products to become visible, Motoda opens the eyes to the effects of glamour beyond the surfaces of markets, brands and media.
Intimacy and communication
As the climax of the Shizuka Kudo project, Motoda established the Shizuka Kudo house as an installation for the Shizuka Kudo Performance in 1999. Depending on the version, densely placed pillars of plastic mugs or Plexiglas cuboids placed on top of another form the walls. They are filled according to a plan with crumpled up magazine pages as well as photos glued to the panes, so that friezes and patterns stretch through the facades. Leashes and bamboo poles equipped with magazine pages form the blanket. The transparency of the whole construction culminates here, allowing the artist to work within and to meditate with his pictures, simultaneously allowing the public some insight.
The installation leaves the border between intimacy and communication open, by which it becomes a kind of temple in which the engulfment of a fan expresses itself as a ritual. In the field of tension between the power which he tries to attain over his idol, and the influence which pop culture has on him, he appears as the protagonist of a mass phenomenon in consumer societies. Perhaps Japan, as a country with its numerous shrines, is predestined to produce such excessive forms of cult around pop stars. Fans share their lives in a way similar to how their ancestors regarded natural phenomena, spirits and divinities, which they revere to this day in the pervasive Shinto-shrines.
Tea house and puppet theatre
With an area large enough only for himself or a few persons, Motoda's installations come close to the concept of a tea house. Particularly their fragile and half-transparent construction, with only slight interventions in the environment, speaks for it just as well as the branches and twigs used in the early stage of the Kudo project (1996). The later change to materials from the plastic industry replaced the traditional relationship with nature and concretized the transition of traditional aesthetic attitudes into an environment characterized by commodities and media.
The attention which the surfaces receive can be dissolved with aesthetic premises as they were developed in Japan in the 17th century by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. His theory of the J?ruri theatre required lending the theatre dolls strong charisma, so that their effect should surpass that of the Kabuki actors. His attention was concentrated on the dolls’ frames, under which up to three hands of puppet players were to produce movements which suggest human conditions. Therefore, clothes and appearance of the dolls were defined as a skin/membrane, leaving the audience with a compelling impression of human emotions. The illusion of humanity was to be provided solely by the effect of surfaces and thereby lend expression to the nature of being. Motoda corresponds triply to this aesthetic premise because the house, the surface of the pictures and, finally, their photographic reproduction, form a membrane between light and reality and intensify the immediate impression of lifeless materials - leaving strong emotions behind.
The fan as public Pygmalion
Motoda’s handling of the image material reverses Walter Benjamin’s thesis of the loss of aura due to the ability for reproduction to their opposite. With Motoda, these are the reproduced images and the ability to medially reproduce them which bring the model to life and finally not only replace the impression of the living person, but even exceed it for the fan. Motoda transfers the aesthetics of theatre dolls from the Japanese Edo time, which was to outdo the attraction of actors, to the surfaces of bright lustre printing and their photographic reproduction. In his performances, he imbues his pictures with life, going as far as transformation. Certainly, this kind of picture creation with the pygmy myth looks back on a long tradition, but the itinerant and ephemeral form which Motoda gives the object of his longing puts the spectators directly into the heart of events. The resonance which he receives when he shows his installations and performances on streets, in squares and shopping centres, gives an artistic value to an everyday phenomenon. This elevates his presence as well as the charisma of the objects.
Aside from the installations, the presentation of videos as well as sequences and clusters of photo-prints give the spectators the possibility to observe Motoda submerging into a condition inside his media world, coated by his ‘art world’, in which the boundaries between being and seeming blur and self-boundaries dissolve. The fan experiences the mutual transmission of characteristics between the object and the living world and honours a dysfunctional relationship in the traditional sense: He communicates with spirits and makes them his companions.
texts by: Edith Almhofer, Petra Ganglbauer

BILDER Nr. 180
Identity: Mother
New views of an ambivalent concept

"Theme:Women:Theme" is the current annual motto of the Fotogalerie Wien, with three exhibitions, curated by Susanne Gamauf, presenting innovative contributions to the central issues of feminine identity at the beginning of the new millennium. While the first show devotes itself to themes of "everyday life", the second exposition, titled "Mother," undertakes an evidence collection of feminine reproductivity. With photographs, videos, installations, photo objects and texts, eight artists from Germany, Finland, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Austria sketch a many-facetted scenario. The spectrum encloses strictly formal analyses of feminine self-perception as well as sarcastic caricatures of conventional gender roles clichés. It confronts the utopia of successful self-perception with the comic staging of the idealized nuclear family, and focuses on the timeless topicality of the generation conflict which is examined in the relations between mothers and daughters.

The social reality to which all contributions explicitly refer almost seems to provoke an insistent gaze. Today, certainly, the choice between different walks of life is largely a free one for women in western cultural circles. In progressive circles, the end of traditional gender roles is propagated: the self-determined construction of the self, which establishes itself as a permanently changing patchwork of multilayered, overlapping self- and other images, must take the place of gender-specific concepts. This opens up potentially unknown possibilities of realization beyond the borders of sex and gender. But the new freedom has its price. It requires the separation of the traditional social nets (family relationships) by new relationship clusters. That also means that the distribution of rights and responsibilities concerning reproduction must be renegotiated. This places women who decide to have children in front of a completely new challenge. In private as well as in public life, it is a matter of determining new positions beyond the inheritance of conservative clichés, and examining the adaptability of proven concepts.

As differentiated and controversial the concepts are with which women with children experiment today, as diverse and alive are the contributions of the contemporary artists who shed light on this topic from the most differing points of view.

Hildegund Bachler sarcastically decodes the Catholic ideal of women with montages that change between kitsch and art. She blends faces of models into popular pictures of the Madonna. Their immaculate beauty harmonizes perfectly with the religious setting, the conventional symbols of the unsullied conception and the painful mother of God.

Magdalena Frey interweaves an extremely private perception of the (own) feminine body with images of the media culture in digital picture combinations in a radical way. She consistently shows whatever shame and guilt force to silence: the ambiguous aspects of feminine reality in the field of tension between self-confidence and outside regulation.

Marikke Heinz Hök directs the attention back to her mother’s generation in her pictures and texts. In sensitive arrangements she confronts anonymous statements of contemporaries with portrait photographs of their mothers whom she changes by colour and structure interventions, to focus the eye away from the individual to an atmosphere of distance own to all points of view.

Ulla Jokisalo makes a theme of the process of her growing up in an equally poetic and uncompromising way. In quiet, lasting compositions she constitutes a new relationship to her mother, thereby sketching an iconography of similarities. The representation of the symbolic link between the generations is also considered a utopia of possible feminine relationship forms.

Ina Loitzl approaches the equally fascinating as distressing experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood in a lovingly ironic way in her videos. When Barbie recognizes in the delivery room that care of the brood and breeding are now her fulltime job, or when the artist stuffs the picture of her son with more and more baby food in a desperate effort, no eye stays dry.

Melanie Manchot minutely follows the changes of her pregnant body in systematically structured posters. Her chronological topology documents the artist’s perception, determined by her longings and fears, as well as the attempt to place her individual experience in a larger cultural and social context with photographs, ultrasound images and texts.

Isolde Loock plays different reality levels against each other in her installations and videos. When she places a small family of tiny plastic figures onto a photograph of her inordinately enlarged face, it raises doubts about the proportionality of our perception as with the video recording of the first cloned human embryo in the maternal uterus.

Margriet Smulders formulates a furious satire of the contemplative, small-familiar domesticity in her family portraits. In the lavish settings, everyday life emerges as a banal comedy in which the traditional roles have essentially not changed. The prototypical arrangements of father, mother and children hold all possible sensations between desire and sorrow ready for the woman.

Edith Almhofer, in 2002
Arbeiten von 1976 - 2002
texts by: Edith Almhofer

BILDER Nr. 179

Since the early 1970’s, “Amo ergo sum” has been the maxim of Renate Bertlmann’s artistic investigation of the timeless and provocative relationship of tension between Eros and Thanatos. In the sensitive border-zone between kitsch, art and taboo, her diverse creations celebrate the trivial myths of desire and research the ironic, utopian, and pornographic aspects of sexual love. In opulent, plastic and picturesque settings, which are analyzed with film and photography in a second work sequence, the artist visualizes the attraction of opposites and takes aspects of gender differences into consideration. Immediately touching pictures describe the power of desire as well as feelings of shame, and discover the sensual fascination which can express intimacy as well as distance.

As clearly as the artistic interest is formulated, the iconography with which exemplary aspects of gender differences are hypostatized appears as diverse. Impressed by the feminine discourse concerning feminine role models and the individual need for space from attacks of reality, symbols of utopian, egalitarian love dominate in her early work. In the sequence, “Zaertliche Beruehrung” (Gentle Touch), two contrasting- colored latex pacifiers explore the different stages of intimacy. The two equal cast members rub against each other uninhibitedly, wrap around and penetrate each other in an unmistakable representation of a sexual encounter. “Ex Voto,” a sculpture of the late 1980’s, is substantially more aggressive: feminine breasts, promising nourishment and care put forth an unexpected destructive quality. A sharp knife points out from a nipple of the heart-shaped styrofoam torso, presented like a valuable in a glass aquarium. The object of desire, the female body no longer signals vulnerability, but threatens injury, suddenly demands a respectful distance. The compositions of the past decade are dominated by a rather ironic gaze, preferably falling on the erect phallus appearing in the most unlikely costumes. A devotional is dedicated to “San Erectus” with glamour and glitter. Lavish, tailor-cut ladies’ robes decorate a group of colorful dildos, “les enfants terrible,” who have come together for an absurd fashion show. Seeking shelter underneath a glass bell with “Cheese from Austria” embossed on it, the seven dwarfs are dressed splendidly in their long pointed red caps. The cardinals bedded in silk and satin (from the computer animated sequence, “Zwitscher Litanei” [Chirping Litany]) prove that spiritual vestments suit the upright fellow very well. Depictions of the male organ no longer shock; they are rather appreciated as pleasure-bringing mediums. For Renate Bertlmann they are an ambiguous subject, which degenerate to toys under the glass lintel. “[All that remains of Eros’ elemental force are infantile fantasies which should be protected rather than destroyed]” (Konrad Paul Liessman)

The facet-rich work of the artist, who appreciates classical display methods as much as experiments with non-artistic media and materials, is formally penetrated by her explicitly photographic view of reality. All her works are of ephemeral nature, as performances, installations, or even conventional artworks are; they behave as raw material to an additional photographic setting. In countless individual pictures, Renate Bertlmann captures the sensory certainty of her existence onto celluloid and squeezes the last detail out of the photographs. This is how in over three decades, a truly monumental archive from which individual motives were isolated and programmatically condensed into cycles, sequences and series, and of recent, assembled into electronically generated picture sequences, came into existence. These ensembles obtain a completely independent significance within the context of the entire work. On one hand they tell the new story, not necessarily inherent in the work as accused, and on the other hand shift the act of aesthetic reflection to a meta-level. The camera creates a safe distance between the image object and the seeing eye, objectifying the conflict with socio-political problems in the context of the artwork as a whole. Suddenly artistic strategies of embodying immediate work on the subject are comparable to those which society demands of the individual. They appear as fake and as determined as that painful ritual to which body and soul are willfully servant. That defuses the explosive nature of the central theme and defers to the author, who questions herself in her photos: By consistently refusing the concretization of desire in every inner vision, she keeps the promise which every art possesses in balance. What remains is curiosity for reality, together with the hope for change.

Edith Almhofer
Gumpoldskirchen, in May 2002

BILDER Nr. 178
Korrelaatioita –Korrelationen – Correlations

The exhibition Korrelaatioita shows contemporary photographs by nine Finnish artists. The works were done mainly within the last three years. The exhibition shows artists´ analogous and parallel processes - not direct influences between them. Two themes, identity and space link these above-mentioned processes.

The theme identity in the works of Tiina Itkonen, Aino Kannisto, Toni Kitti and Perttu Saksa vary from the documentary work of Itkonen among the Polar Eskimos to the staged fictional role plays of Kannisto. Saksa documents the constructed identity of the new Northern nomads and Kitti has witnessed the change of his good friend Felix, demonstrating his/her returned or renewed sexual identity.

Space in general: sites, places or territories have been used to handle complex conceptual matters such as language, communication or feelings. Ari Saarto maps urban insecurity and menace in his series ‘Topography of Fear’. Jorma Puranen explores the limits of communication and relationship between language and space/landscape. Miklos Ga?l observes urban space and people from a neutral distance that turns familiar gatherings of masses into slightly alienated rituals. The space in the density-series of Pertti Kekarainen is transformed and converted without digital manipulation into something that calls into question both photography and our everyday perception. Marja Pirilä uses camera obscura to bring an image of external space into the personal domain and portrays the landscape within us.

Since the 70´s, Finnish photography has gone through various stages. It has changed into a polyphonic, dynamic and internationally active field of contemporary art. The education of photographers is on an internationally high professional level: the Turku Academy of Arts, the Institute of Design in Lahti, the National Academy of Arts and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki offer differing possibilities of study up to a doctoral degree. Lecturers, active and practising photographers encourage students to develop their subjective view and intuition.

The government, the Art Councils and the National Cultural Foundation offer financial support to artists, giving grants for projects and work - from six months to five years. Some of the grants are especially aimed at supporting young artists and exporting the exhibitions. State artist professorships for a three-year term, active local centres of photography running professional galleries and the Photographic Artists´ Association guarantee flexibility and a good national and international network for the artists.

BILDER Nr. 177
A quite normal reality
Women’s everyday life in focus

Fotogalerie Wien is dedicating 3 exhibitions to this year’s theme “Women” on the topics ‘everyday life’, ‘mother’, and ‘body’. The exhibitions are thereby taking into account a development that has been becoming ever more apparent over the years: artists are (again) dealing increasingly with specifically female matters. They are grappling with various aspects of women’s existence and are focussing on motifs which the cultural mainstream does not deem as worthy images of depiction. The artists’ interest lies in the private life which is becoming the preferred field of aesthetic research. The diversity and quantity of the contributions make an initial investigation that inquires of the motives and possibilities of contemporary art seem necessary, to solicit attention to the increasingly threatened project of equal rights.

A show with the title ‘everyday life’ forms the prelude of this ambitious project, that combines the works of media photography, video and installations of eight artists from Germany, the USA and Austria. The selection of works presents a trail through the private fields of perception. And suddenly insight is given on the moments of importance in women’s lives.

In picturesque picture sequences Iris Andraschek prefers to photograph her own life. The photographs, which have been laminated and bound into picture books, depict everyday situations that permanently recur in private life. In the technically manipulated close-ups, the scenarios of a quite normal reality – that were partly encountered as is and partly arranged - begin to vex and to blur into a mysterious, strange grotesqueness.

Heidi Czipin portraits handbags. Viewed from an always constant perspective, the handbags – which have been cautiously opened by a woman's hands - unconsciously awaken associations to the female sexual organs. Our gaze is then averted to an open and yet hidden inner, to the last remnants of privacy. This spurs our curiosity onto undiscovered secrets and incites to speculative conclusions about the owner, who remains anonymous.

Simonde Demandt deals with functionally altered recycling, whose form-manipulated prints illustrate chip baskets on a 1:1 scale and whose interior are lined with women's magazines. By being confronted with woman’s longing of the luxurious, with which the commercial glossy magazines terrorize us, the balance of power – such as in socially contrived gender roles - becomes oppressively transparent with the cheap baskets for fruit and vegetables woven by women's hands.

In her picture sequences, Rita Fabsits works with the colour red and isolates highly symbolic details which relate to the female body. A blood-soaked tampon is illustrated without commentary next to a woman's hand gripping the folds of a dress. Lovingly draped textiles represent sensuality. A vaginally connotative flower motif accompanies the view of the bared shame of a squatting menstruating woman.

Laurie Long acts as a spy in matters of love; she staged her dates with potential partners into performances and filmed them - including her comments on the respective situation - with a buttonhole camera. Private life, declared as artistic project, allowed her - as she is fully occupied with earning her living and creating art - to give in to her individual needs and to study, moreover, the functional mechanisms of internalized gender roles .

Anja Mafredi creates contemplative genre-paintings at the centre of which are women. They dominate in quiet contemplation without turning to look back at the viewer, the compositions complex in form and in content. Each of the economically used form elements in the bright rooms - accurately described to the smallest detail - is pregnant with meaning and supports the central moral message of the pictures: in the western worldview, sensuality must be controlled.

Fiona Rukschio documents the different manifestations of violence in her documentary photo and video works. In the individual example of a woman dressing up, what women most commonly do unto themselves is brought forward on the one hand. On the other hand contemporaries describe personal experiences with psychological and physical male violence and lift the blanket of silence spread over a social taboo.

Moira Zoitl investigates with the methods of ‘Oral History’ the occupational paths of employees of different social and age groups. Her installation, which is equipped with photo works and video films, reflects upon women and how they assert themselves in spite the discrimination they experience in their professional lives. However, the impressive homage to self-confident stubbornness also makes the nuances in the claims of their interview partners clear.

The strategies which the artists use are extremely differentiated. The picture-forming procedures range from participatory observation to subtle staging, from minute documentation to affirmative super-elevation, from objective analysis to critical alienation. Concerning the manifestations of the works it becomes apparent that the single picture loses meaning. Certainly, still lives and genre representations are represented in monumental tableaus. But picture series and combinations of the different media which, however, do not claim to be complete representations, are in the majority. This takes into account the experience that in the age of the electronic media stories have long since been replaced by catalogues. The clever collection of pictures, each of which courts the attention of the public for itself, shows accordingly no dramatisation or sequencialisation. It is an infinite loop and functions like a data bank. Creating correlations that make sense between the disparate information in the pictures remains a matter of how the receiver interprets it.

Edith Almhofer
Gunpoldskirchen, 2002

BILDER Nr. 176


Photos are the basis of all films - analogue as well as digital. These were processed at the computer and animated. All films shown in the exhibition have been set to music by rashim. The films do not show a possibility of virtuality, but a fact of reality.

on ILOX:
"Hardly noticeably, the vertical and dominantly red colour surfaces change intermittently to the rhythmically crackling soundtrack of rashim (Yasmina Haddad, Gina Hell). Sometimes, behind the coloured screen the shadow of a twig appears dimly. Precisely through this radical reduction the work creates an enormous stress field. Kar? Goldt animated for this purpose over two thousand digitally manipulated photographs, which she had made from a plant with red berries without green folio called "Ilox". One can also clearly recognise the influence of the “colour-field“-painters, such as Mark Rothko or Ad Reinhardt - on the author, who found her way to the motion picture film through painting and photography. Although sound and image were produced separately from one another, but in permanent dispute over statement and form, the three artists succeeded in reaching a harmonic conformity through a form of lyrical minimalism in the respective medium. Thus Kar? Goldt and rashim provide proof with this work, that consistently structured abstraction can be more gripping, than any thriller."


"...Likewise very much reduced and yet completely different in approach, Kar? Goldts’ work "ILOX" presents itself to the music of rashim. Determined by influences from the American abstract painting – most of all one is reminded of Rothko – one sees a succession of coloured surfaces, rhythmic through sound. Not only is the picture language within the framework of the digital production very unusual, the approach, too, differs from the other teams. The two artists discussed ideas, then worked separately. The resulting synthesis thereof reminds absolutely of experimental film classics like Oskar Fischinger, one can call them - to also use a term from the field of experimental films - "visual music"... "



Cutting out the Detail: Claudia Pilsl’s Museum Transformations

Since 1994 Claudia Pilsl has undertaken a serial consummation of her love affair with museum interiors. Across Europe, through her anarchic interventions with these spaces, she has forged new relationships with their distinctive mien. By stripping away their contents, removing the detail - through a deconstructive dissection of her photographs of these spaces – she reductively reveals their perforated and indented remains as the skeletal evidence of their architectural genesis. This is not a cathartic process, one of merely tidying-up, but a transformative one. Unlike the structural anarchy which has been wreaked upon buildings by such sculptors as Gordon Matta-Clarke or Richard Wilson, in their endeavours to transform and reconfigure, Pilsl’s deconstructive acts leave no mess to be cleared up afterwards, as they are perpetrated at a distance.

The tabulae rasa, whose lacunae are created here by her removal of wall-mounted exhibits from these walls, and doors from their mountings, offer a rich hunting ground for the viewer’s imagination, voids ripe for the creation of new meanings and new contexts. In Pilsl’s interactive installations, in which we can handle and juxtapose these altered images, the viewer is empowered to reconfigure and re-invent these spaces over and over again, thus elevating Hans Robert Jauss’ Reception Theory [1] – whereby the viewer completes the work through his or her unique perception of it – to new levels.

The formal volumes of these spaces are radically transmuted here. Their very identities shifted, their demeanours revert back to those of their conceptual origins, they are no longer expedient containers for artistic or historic exhibits but once again flout those raw dynamics of form, ripe with possibility, which the architect manipulated in order to arrive at his or her solutions. These stripped-down spaces become imbued with a sculptural resonance, their volumes, made up from juxtaposed solids and voids are given a compositional tension that serves to obscure the reality of what we are looking at here. Pilsl’s pictorial objectification of these institutional shrines to art, somehow energises them, infuses their spatial dynamic with a fresh momentum. An incongruity of purpose is exposed here. In the absence of the art, these spaces are propelled into a new ontological mode – instead of being the back-drop, the vehicle for the exhibits, their now imposing presence is invested with a new found significance.

The liberties that Pilsl takes with these architectural creations – rendered sacrosanct by their institutional status - at first come as a bit of a shock, but subsequently we feel a sense of release as we realise that she has given these spaces sanction to breathe again, to revert, once more to that spirit of creativity and invention out of which they originally sprang. We become active participants in these spaces instead of their passive observers; Pilsl’s transformative acts ultimately empower the viewer, perpetuating the creative processes which pervade the being of these spaces – an affirmation that process must be a continuum otherwise ossification is inevitable.

Roy Exley