For his first solo show at an institution in Vienna, Kovanda has conceived a new installation specifically designed for the main hall at the Secession. In this new work, he continues his subtle praxis of minimal and offhand gestures. Upritchard develops a new installation whose themes include the exhibition history of the institution as well as Hippie or New Age counter-cultures. Artaker presents stereophotographs of the masks in specially designed display cases. Stereoscopic photography is an old and fairly simple photographic method that relies on the optical abilities of the human eye. Viewing the photographs in the right way produces the illusion of a three-dimensional object.
In the Czech artist Jiří Kovanda, the Secession once again presents an artist in an advanced stage of his career who is currently considered an important point of reference for younger artists. For his first solo show at an institution in Vienna, he has conceived a new installation specifically designed for the main hall at the Secession. In this new work, he continues his subtle praxis of minimal and offhand gestures.
The public perception of Jiří Kovanda’s work often focuses on his early interventions in the public space. During the second half of the 1970s, he implemented a series of performances in Prague that examined the socially familiar on the edge of invisibility, probing the leeway everyday life leaves the individual. For instance, he would stare, as though spellbound, in the eyes of people standing behind him on an escalator, or stand, arms spread wide, on the city’s central Wenceslas Square. In other works, he staged perfectly humble materials, such as piles of leaves or small towers made of sugar cubes, at selected sites in the city. After focusing on creating collages and assemblages during the1980s and 1990s, he has in recent years increasingly returned to ephemeral and situation-specific actions and installations. In Kissing Through Glass (2007), for instance, visitors to the Tate Modern, London, were invited to interact with the artist in the way indicated by the title; during the opening of the art fair Fiac (2007), he smuggled candies into visitors’ handbags; and on the occasion of an exhibition in Santiago de Compostela, he cut an antique round table into four parts, which he fitted into the corners of the room (2008).
The central element in Kovanda’s site-specific installation for the main hall at the Secession is a wall rising to the viewer’s eye level that divides the exhibition space into two halves; its layout includes a series of bays and salients. It creates tensions on various levels: between the empty space it leaves wide open and the niches it circumscribes, between sculptural autonomy and architectural function, between the exposed space in front and the concealed space behind. With the shape of the wall, and in particular with its height designed such that visitors can just barely look over it, Kovanda actively involves them in the play of hide and seek that is characteristic of his oeuvre. Within this architecture, he places, with an almost offhand gesture, various objects—though they are taken from domestic life, their subtexts readily suggest erotic connotations—: white blankets, a blue orchid, a red lamp, a yellow broom … In their presentation, Kovanda applies the poetic-Surrealist principle of transforming objects and situations by means of small alterations that displace them into more open significative contexts.
In addition to documenting the current project, the publication accompanying the exhibition will include a complete catalogue raisonné of Jiří Kovanda’s oeuvre since 2000 as well as an essay by Edith Jerabkova.
Jiří Kovanda (*1953) lives and works in Prague.
Solo shows (selection)
2009 Galerie Krobath, Berlin; 1, 2, 3, Wallspace, New York; 1, 2, 3, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, 2008 Pink Carpet, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela; Resistance, Dominik Art Edition, Krakau; Stains, Galerie Futura, Prag (mit E. Kotatkova); Two Cushions, gb agency, Paris; 2007 Jiří Kovanda vs Rest of the World, De Appel, Amsterdam; Centre d’Art Passerelle, Brest; Centre d’Art Santa Mónica, Barcelona.
Group shows (selection)
2010 Double Bind / Arretez d’essayer de me comprendre, Villa Arson, Nizza, 2009 40 Lives of One Space / Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Red October Chocolate Factory, Moscow; Energy and Proces (Landscape and Action), Tate Modern, London; The Death of the Audience, Secession, Vienna, Performing the East, Salzburger Kunstverein; Tschechische Fotografie des 20. Jahrhunderts, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der BRD, Bonn; 2008 Art Sheffield 08 – Yes, No & Other Options, Situ Gallery, Sheffield; You Are My Mirror 1: L’Infamille, FRAC Lorraine, Metz; La Foule / Zéro–Infini, Espace d’Art Contemporain la Tôlerie, Clermond Ferrand; Crossing 68/89, Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Mind Expanders, Museum moderner Kunst, Vienna; Collection premier mouvement. Des contes, des images, quelques tableaux et un théatre invisible, Musée Départemental d’Art Contemporain, Chateau de Rochechouart; 2007 Kontakt Belgrade, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Tanzen Sehen, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen; Actions and Interruptions, Tate Modern, London; A CDEFGHIJK MNOPQ STUV Z, Frac Ile de France / Le Plateau, Paris; Prague Biennale 3, Karlin Hall, Prague; Form Follows... Risk, Futura / Karlín Studios, Prag; Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava; documenta 12, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel.
IN DIE HÖHLE
Francis Upritchard creates sculptural installations in which human figures, painted in bright colours, inhabit a world replete with found objects and everyday items, modified to meet their needs. The inhabitants and their objects are shown on specially produced or found pieces of furniture. Paying as much attention to the furniture, to its careful refurbishment as to the figures themselves, her work gives equal weight to art, craft, and display: the design and staging within the exhibition space is an integral part of the work.
Upritchard suspends the usual attributions of value to specific materials and contexts; her figures, whose age, cultural origin and hierarchy is unclear, question the viewer's perceptions and preconceptions about worth. Her arrangements form artificial universes in which the figures embody the human condition in all its diversity – appearing introverted, cheerful, miserable, or uncomfortable. Upritchard cleverly perverts the usual view of products of human civilization by transforming everyday items from Western culture into instruments of cult ritual for fictitious archaic peoples, with badminton rackets as scepters and industrial imitations of Victorian vases as urns
For the Secession, Francis Upritchard is developing a new installation whose themes include the exhibition history of the institution as well as Hippie or New Age counter-cultures. With her installation IN DIE HÖHLE in the gallery space, Upritchard questions hegemonic attitudes of mainstream culture, and its definition, for example, of the ‘exotic’, or the differentiation between ‘critical’ and ‘decorative’.
By freely mixing up times and cultural references, Upritchard is interrogating the idea of popular art: Confronting banal notions of ‘culture’ with its counters and opposites, the tyranny of common-sense fragments to many possible readings and interpretations. It's all in together, lit by chandeliers modeled on the designs of Wiener Werkstätte - figures prised from their contexts (and sometimes from the grip of their original works, like Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze or Sol LeWitt's wall paintings), then loaned new stories: Maoris in Tartan, waiting for the End; imaginary members of the long-forgotten cult of a family member; sacred regalia rendered in spent cigarettes, Japanese and Indian traditions merged (as they have in the past) with Hippies; Cowboys hunting for the right hat; our beautiful dropouts and dregs, facing down the divine.
An artist book conceived by Francis Upritchard and åbake, a designer team based in London and Tokyo, and including a new short story by David Mitchell will be published on occasion of the exhibition.
Francis Upritchard (*1976 in New Zealand) lives and works in London.
Solo shows (selection)
2009 Save Yourself, 53rd Venice Biennale, New Zealand representation, Palazzo Mangilli-Valmarana; 2008 Rainwob II, Artspace Sydney and Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne; Rainwob I, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand; 2007 Bogagnome, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; 2006 Francis Upritchard, Kate MacGarry, London; 2005 Francis Upritchard, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York; Solo project for Salon 94, New York; Francis Upritchard, The Bakery, Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; Doomed, Doomed, All Doomed, Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand; 2004 Artist in Residence, Camden Arts Centre, London; 2003 Francis Upritchard, Kate MacGarry, London; New Work, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; 2001 Ich Dien, Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; Untitled (Boxing arms), Rear View, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand; 2000 Prince Charles, Antichrist, warehouse space, London.
Group shows (selection)
2009 Feierabend: Francis Upritchard, Martino Gamper, Karl Fritsch, Kate MacGarry, London; 2008 Free Radicals, Artnews Projects Berlin; Life is a Funny Old Dog, Tanja Pol Galerie, Munich; The Big Chill Festival, Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire; Dadadandy Boutique, Artprojx Space, London; The Institute of Psychoplasmics, Pump House Gallery, London; Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, Barbican Art Gallery, London; 2007 The Crown Jewels, Salon 94 Freemans, New York; Of Deities and Mortals, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand; An Archaeology, 176 -Zabludovicz Collection, London; Reboot, The Jim and Mary Barr Collection, Christchurch Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu and City Gallery Wellington Re/ Trato, Travelling Gallery, Scotland; Metrosideros Robusta, Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Germany; Tiere II, Overbeckgesellschaft Lübeck, Germany; Effigies, Stuart Shave/ Modern Art; 2006 Six Feet Under – Autopsy of Our Relation to the Dead, Kunstmuseum Bern; Le Nouveau Siécle, Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam; The Walters Prize 2006, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand; Around The World In Eighty Days, South London Gallery; Pasifika Styles – Artists inside the museum, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; HIGH TIDE: new currents in art from Australia and New Zealand, Zaçheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw & CAC - Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania.
Anna Artaker’s works examine visual production in the context of how history is written: she analyzes images that have been used in the construction and communication of history and have thus become part of a specific historiography.
In recent years, Artaker has closely studied the death masks created by the Armenian-Soviet sculptor Sergei Merkurov (1881–1952). Merkurov was a “National Artist” of the young Soviet Union and sculpted numerous monumental statues of the country’s heroes. In addition, he took death masks of prominent figures in Soviet history. These casts—of the faces of Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, of Sergei Eisenstein and Maxim Gorky, but also of party functionaries such as Felix Dzerzhinsky, director of the dreaded secret police, and Andrei Zhdanov, who was responsible for the repressive cultural policy and censorship under Stalin, among many others—became part of the official Soviet historiography. Given the religious-cultic origins of the form, the fact that these death masks were created as part of a modern historiographic project renders them unique.
In her solo show at the Secession, Artaker continues her work on these death masks, which she previously documented in a photographic series and two film versions bearing the identical title 48 Köpfe aus dem Merkurov Museum (48 Heads from the Merkurov Museum, 2008 and 2009). At the Secession, she will present stereophotographs of the masks in specially designed display cases. Stereoscopic photography is an old and fairly simple photographic method that relies on the optical abilities of the human eye. Viewing the photographs in the right way produces the illusion of a three-dimensional object.
By choosing this recording technology, the artist thematizes the mediatheoretical implications of the masks and their photographic reproduction. Both the death mask or facial imprint and photography are techniques that serve to transpose an object or body into a different order for purposes of conservation, multiplication, examination, etc. The kinship between the two media of photography and plaster cast is emphasized by the three-dimensional appearance created by stereophotography, which evokes the idea of photography as an imprint.
With reference to Walter Benjamin’s hypothesis that works of art lose their aura in technical reproduction, we can also read Anna Artaker’s exhibition as an examination of the aura, an issue that, since Benjamin, has been a question primarily of the medium.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Secession will publish a catalogue (German and English) featuring essays by Sabeth Buchmann and Thomas Macho, who address the historical and mediatheoretical aspects of Anna Artaker’s study of the death masks of the Soviet Union.
Anna Artaker (*1976 in Vienna) studied philosophy, political sciences, and art in Paris and Vienna. She lives and works in Vienna.
Solo shows (selection)
2009 Some of the names of Photoshop, Künstlerhaus (poster wall), Vienna; 48 Köpfe aus dem Merkurov Museum, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg; 2008 Show me yours, I’ll show you mine (with Marlene Haring and GirlsOnHorses), Mama’s Hostel, Krakow and Kronika Gallery, Bytom, Poland; 2003 Did you ever dream of becoming barbarian?, Public>, Paris (with Meike Schmidt-Gleim, Cat.).
Group shows (selection)
2010 El Principio Potosí, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (in preparation, Cat.); 10.000 Lives, Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea; 2009 Modernologies, MACBA, Barcelona (Cat.); Fortsetzung folgt, Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna; Europe: In Between Document and Fiction, National Centre of Dance, Bucharest (Cat.); Figure/ Ground, Galerie Transit, Mechelen, Belgium; 2008 Am Sprung, O.K. (Offenes Kulturhaus Oberösterreich), Linz; Urban Signs, Local Strategies, Fluc, Vienna; Transformation of History or Parallel Histories, 6th International Gyumri Biennal, Armenia (Cat.); as bring collective, Künstlerhaus, Passagengalerie, Vienna; 2007 Tension, Sex, Despair, Aber hallo, Wow/So What?, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna (Cat.); !Forradalom?, Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle, Budapest (Cat.); Lange nicht gesehen, Museum auf Abruf, Vienna (Cat.); 2006 !Revolution?, Collegium Hungaricum, Berlin (Cat.); 2005 Medialisierung/ Spatialisierung/Repolitisierung, Fluc, Vienna (Cat.); Tip 3, Art radonica Lazareti, Dubrovnik; 2004 Playlist, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (Cat.); 2003 Künstlerbücher, Kupferstichkabinett, Vienna; 2002 Rirkrit Tiravanija (Schindler Workshop), Secession, Vienna (Cat.); Schmarotzer, Semper Depot, Vienna (Cat.); Cinéma Générique, Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, Aubervilliers (workshop Fabrice Reymond).
Image: Jiří Kovanda, Kissing through Glass, Tate Modern 2007, Courtesy: Krobath, Wien/Berlin und Jiří Kovanda
For further information and photographic material please contact:
Urte Schmitt-Ulms Tel: +43-1-5875307-21, Fax: +43-1-5875307-34 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Thursday, April 29, 2010, 7p.m
Friedrichstrasse 12 - Wien
Tuesday through Sunday: 10 a.m. –6 p.m.
closed on: May 1, November 1, December 25