At the end of a long journey – On The Road Again at the Künstlerhaus Vereinigung
In its current exhibition, the Künstlerhaus takes us once almost around the world. A text by Sabine B. Vogel.
For almost fifty years, the artists’ association, founded in 1861, had sole ownership of its Künstlerhaus on Karlsplatz, which opened in 1868. That ended in 2015, since when it has held only a blocking minority; the rest belongs to the Haselsteiner Family Private Foundation, which in turn rents it to the Albertina. Since then, the artists’ association has only had the upper floor of its main building at its disposal. With the current exhibition, however, the few rooms expand out into the whole world. For it is here that far-reaching projects come together under the post-Corona title “On the road again.” It is not a normal group exhibition.
Curated by Christian Helbock and Simon Mraz, the 24 projects were first shown in 23 different cities thanks to the network of Austrian Cultural Fora abroad. Not all together as a touring exhibition, but each divided into individual locations, some of them in Austrian Cultural Forums. The selection of these cities could hardly be more diverse: Arad, Belgrade, Berlin, Bratislava, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Kiev, Krakow, Ljubljana, London, Mexico City, New York, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Sarajevo, Tehran, Beijing, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington, Zagreb. In an open call for entries, concepts developed for one city each were requested. The overarching theme was “upheaval in society and ecology” – open enough for many things, concrete enough for vividness. From the almost 500 submissions, the curator duo selected emerging artists to established artists. From the very beginning, the plan was to show all the projects together in Vienna at the Künstlerhaus.
In some cases, however, reality overtook the concept: Jelena Micić was unable to carry out her contribution about the ban on single-use plastic using cotton swabs in Kiev because of the Russian war of aggression. She developed her project for the Künstlerhaus instead. Due to the political unrest in Tehran, Linda Berger had to reschedule her project and is now showing an oversized, colorful wall piece at the Künstlerhaus that is determined by the amount of strokes and their connections, fullness, energy. Anna Witt wanted to develop sculptural prototypes for exoskeletons for Tokyo, but could not travel there. Stefanie Moshammer did not show her videos and textile collages about the references between the fashion industry and mass fashion in Beijing as planned, but sent it to the Yuan Art Museum in Tianjin. Others went as planned, such as the small group exhibition in Budapest with five young artists on the theme of the Danube. Or Christian Kosmas Mayer’s research presented in New York on the African-American high jump athlete Cornelius Cooper Johnson, who won the gold medal in Nazi Germany in 1936. For Mexico City, Darja Shatalova created “1030 Days”: the number refers to the period of the pandemic from February 2020 to March 2022. The days are translated colorfully, graphically and spatially into a complex, cryptic, diagram-like structure, a multicolored flow of data, “measurable and felt time spans of a space-time that manifests itself in a work of art,” as Marija Nujic writes about it.
Each individual project could now be addressed here, because they are consistently exciting preoccupations with the venues. Surprisingly, the many highly diverse contributions now here in Vienna, so close together in the rooms of the Künstlerhaus, consistently find enough space to unfold their scope(s). Or even to reinforce each other, like Shatalova’s transparent foils next to Olaf Osten’s “Home Sweet Home” curtains, which he created for Sarajevo. Osten thus addresses “the complexity of multiple homelands.” “On the road again” takes us on a journey through the cultural forums around the world, where the artists take up the discourses that are currently being negotiated at the global biennials.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Artists once almost around the world
Curated by Simon Mraz and Christian Helbock