Fotobuch Nr. 45

“What constitutes identity today?” is one of the questions posed by the curatorial team at Fotogalerie Wien in the context of the annual Theme of Focus for 2010. The three-part exhibition series focuses on the issues of identity at present, in its multi-faceted and processual form. It also includes presenting artistic positions that mirror the inconclusive and, more particularly, the ambiguous aspects of identity of today’s late modernist subject: The artists visualize how the interwoven formation of personal and collective identities paradoxically oscillate between internal and external determinations of self.

The initial exhibition in this series, IDENTITY I: Biography, reflects upon the relationship of biography and identity, as the “ongoing process of day-to- day identity negotiation”. How does one deal with biographical self- awareness in today’s society? The selected artworks demonstrate how, for any phase of life and developmental task at hand, there exist various contradictory and divergent identity fragments that dominate in any given biography, which must be synthesized through the interplay of demands coming from within and without. Particularly the serial nature of all five of the artistic statements shown refers to the fragmented and inconstant quality of today’s subject.

The topic of the second exhibition, Identity II – Forming Identity, questions ambivalent models of interpreting the formation of identity, that, depending on the context, diverge between identification and ideologization: According to Jan Assmann, collective identity is only “as strong or as weak as it is alive in the thoughts and actions of the group members […]”. It is the expression of that which connects people to each other through homogeneous self- and cultural identifiers and is how individuals identify themselves.

The forming of identity however, becomes suspect of being ideology as soon as it begins to delineate the adoption of cultural homogeneity or historical continuity. The manipulative use of identity to form a symbolic entity shows how it can be instrumentalized for the construction of larger groups. Such universalizing tendencies reveal themselves as a normative suggestion, thereby manifesting the affiliation of identity with autonomy even more significantly.
For the final show in this series, IDENTITY III – Positioning, the curatorial collective at Fotogalerie Wien has invited artists who deal critically with the positioning of the subject in late modernism. While in early modernism, collective identities provided a secure framework, one in which individual identities also had their place, formerly stabilizing factors (such as class, nation, ethnicity, culture, religion or gender) are subject to tendencies that dissolve such categories in late modernism. From the current yearning for positioning, a desire to experience a sense of belonging and social recognition can be sensed, since the late modernist (post)colonialist world, as a result of globalization, is influenced by a world view without boundaries, in which the mediatization furthermore has a normative effect on identity. Such social processes of individualization as well as pluralization lead to the destabilization and fragmentation of identities. More than ever, the relevance of power structures thereby comes to the fore, in which the issue of social belonging drastically reveals itself as a struggle for inclusion and exclusion.

Images and texts: Oreet Ashery, Hubert Blanz, Katharina Cibulka, Shahram Entekhabi, Gianmaria Gava, Conny Habbel, Orit Ishay, Peter Köllerer, Friedl Kubelka, Astrid Korntheuer, Trish Morrissey, Julia Müller-Maenher, Liza Nguyen, Natascha Stellmach, Tim Sharp, Oliver Ressler & Dario Azzellini, Christian Wachter

Texts: Claudia Marion Stemberger

publisher: Fotogalerie Wien,
format: 22x19cm, dt./engl. 144 Seiten,
ISBN 978-3-902725-30-1

price: EUR 19,00 › Order

Katalog Werkschau Nr. 44

Texts: Kurt Kladler and Tim Sharp
A4, 40 pages, with full-color pages, German/English

In the annual series WERKSCHAU, the FOTOGALERIE WIEN presents retrospectives of Austrian artists who have contributed substantially to the development of artistic photography and new media in Austria, highlighting outstanding and innovative achievements and offering a historical overview. So far, a cross section of the oeuvres of Jana Wisniewski, Manfred Willmann, VALIE EXPORT, Leo Kandl, Elfriede Mejchar, Heinz Cibulka, Renate Bertlmann, Josef Wais, Horakova+Maurer, Gottfried Bechtold, Friedl Kubelka, Branko Lenart and INTAKT – The Female Pioneers (Renate Bertlmann, Moucle Blackout, Linda Christanell, Lotte Hendrich-Hassmann, Karin Mack, Margot Pilz, Jana Wisniewski) and Inge Dick has been shown.

In contrast to the Werkschau exhibitions that have taken place until now, Lisl Ponger’s WERKSCHAU is not a retrospective in the classical sense. It is, rather, a kind of “deconstructed Werkschau” (Ponger), an installation consisting of a photo studio, a darkroom, and a cinema. Ponger’s work is about stereotypes, racisms, and how, at the intersection of art, art history, and ethnology, ways of seeing are constructed. The Werkschau’s subtitle, Fact or Truth, is the exhibition’s leitmotif and refers to the thematic interests and investigations in Ponger’s work. The installation can be read as a sort of visualization of her methods, an example that can be walked through.

The work of photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952), renowned for the “Indian” photographs he produced over a period of more than thirty years, is the point of departure for the conceptual model that the installation builds upon. Using Curtis’ photographs and Ponger’s own images produced during a research trip in Vancouver, B.C., the dichotomous differentiation of documentary and staged photography, documentarism versus pictorialism, is questioned and the exoticising gaze is deconstructed. The central piece in the installation is Ponger’s staged photograph, Indian Jones I – Fact or Truth. Indian Jones stands in a photo studio with his back to the viewer gazing across a landscape, a pose that echoes Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). Indiana Jones – a fictitious character, an archaeologist, adventurer and professor with connections to museums – serves as an especially suitable figure for reflection on the destruction of non-European cultures and concurrent preservation of their material objects (in museums, as photographs, etc.). Using the medium of photography – supposedly a means to “represent reality” – Ponger dismantles the notion of authenticity, a notion that plays a major role in the desire to capture and preserve. In this way Curtis, with his romanticising photographs, had hoped to prevent the “Indians” of North America from “disappearing” by documenting, or rather staging, their “customs and traditions” before they were appropriated or prevented by white colonisers.

Along with the backdrop, photo equipment, and a reading corner with books, several of Ponger’s own photographic works can be seen in the photo studio as well as in the darkroom. The X plays an important role in the installation – as on a treasure map, the X refers to traces in the installation. Guided by texts, citations, photographs, postcards and labelled objects, these traces, leading through many layers of meaning, can be decoded. Each item in the installation is connected to others – whether by content, in its formal aspects or its appearance in various media. It is up to viewers whether they participate in the search for traces and deciphering of tracks.

publisher: Fotogalerie Wien,
format: A4,
ISBN 978-3-902725-29-5

price: EUR 11,00 › Order