Das Rendezvous-problem. Through a process of assimilation and approach that included many visits to Bregenz over a period of more than a year, the artist has planned an exhibition that will encompass the entire building. His experiences, the train ride to Bregenz - especially the tunnel section and the 'artistic structures' along the Arlberg line - will all be part of the exhibition. Destructing, investigating, erecting anew: the work of Schabus always addresses the theme of the role of the artist in space and, vicariously, the role of the viewer as travelers inward into the realms of their conscious and subconscious.
â€œDas Rendezvous-problem â€
When at Frankfurt's Manifesta IV the artist Hans Schabus (born in 1970 in Watschig, Austria) showed a video of himself on his boat "forlorn" on a strange journey through Vienna's sewer system, it became clear that here a new and complex artistic work was unfolding. In another major work, "Astronaut" (2003), the artist also created an interdisciplinary maze using filmic work, spatial installations, architectural fragments, and linguistic references. The entrances to the exhibition spaces were blocked. Instead, the unsuspecting visitor was sent along a path through labyrinthine basement corridors. Coming from below through the historical building, one emerged in the 1:1 scale model of the artist's bare studio, which had been erected as a complex sculptural construct in the middle of the exhibition.
Destructing, investigating, erecting anew: the work of Hans Schabus always addresses the theme of the role of the artist in space and, vicariously, the role of the viewer as travelers inward into the realms of their conscious and subconscious. It relates to such artistic traditions as the approaches of Bruce Nauman and Gordon Matta-Clark but also, in a wider context, to the literary work of Otto von Guericke, who in 1672 in his study "New Magdeburg Experiments About the Vacuum" wrote about "place and time," the "vacuum," and "space."
Carrying on the tradition of the Kunsthaus Bregenz and its exhibitions of the work of Daniel Buren, Olafur Eliasson, or Pierre Huyghe, among others, Hans Schabus transforms the entire building into a complex and convoluted architectonic and mental path of discovery in search of the self.
Through a process of assimilation and approach that included many visits to Bregenz over a period of more than a year, the artist has planned an exhibition that will encompass the entire building. His experiences, the train ride to Bregenz - especially the tunnel section and the "artistic structures" along the Arlberg line - will all be part of the exhibition.
A real and fictive referential network stretches from the artist's studio and work place in Vienna to Bregenz, penetrating and altering the Kunsthaus. Through his precise knowledge about the site, history of the building, and inaccessible zones of the Kunsthaus and its engineering facilities, Hans Schabus offers visitors new and unfamiliar insights and experiences. His thoughts, sketches, and plans, the gradual process of concretization the exhibition went through, have all been recorded by the artist in his agenda, which will be published as an artist's book in conjunction with the exhibition.
While painstakingly researching the history of the region, Schabus discovered that the exhibition opening fell on the exact same date as that of a historic rendezvous problem: the breakthrough of the Arlberg tunnel. 121 years ago, on 19 November 1883, this symbolic geographic dividing wall between Vorarlberg and the rest of Austria was penetrated. Coincidentally, the projection of the extension of the Arlberg tunnel railway forms a precise right angle to the Kunsthaus. Thus, according to Schabus, all preparations were complete for launching his great undertaking.
As an invisible part of the exhibition, Schabus takes the extension of the Arlberg tunnel down to the second basement of the Zumthor building. He sees the imaginary junction in the storeroom and workshop areas, which are off limits to visitors. Shabus continues to elaborate this picture: he fills the first basement with part of the excavated material and dumps the rest of this virtual earth over the Bregenz train station. More references come together like the strands of a dense fabric, for while the dumping of earth is based on the actual construction of the Bahnhof Langen (the train station was built in 1884 on earth excavated from the Arlberg tunnel), the idea of a never-ending tunnel headed for the center of the earth also makes reference to Friedrich DÃ¼rrenmatt's short story "The Tunnel."
The main entrance of the Kunsthaus Bregenz is blocked. Instead, the visitor enters the building via a wooden walkway that runs along at the height of the delivery ramp of the freight elevator, passes through it, and from there leads down to the ground floor. The entire floor area has been protected with pond liner and secured at the walls with approx. 1,000 sandbags. Puddles of water, fire hoses, and pumps call to mind the state of the building during the deluge of 1999, when the Kunsthaus was flooded from three sides by Lake Constance. The hoses lead into the twelve-meter-deep collector duct encircling the entire building, the lowest level of the structure. The groundwater entering this facility is pumped out onto the ground floor, thus producing an "inner, inverted" deluge. The architectural circuits are in this way redirected against the building itself.
The first floor is a harbor for countless stranded boats scattered throughout the room. Like a multitude of fish species, the sundry types of boats are a contrast to the hermetic atmosphere of the exhibition space. Looking out at nearby Lake Constance, the rendezvous problem becomes pressing. Among the boats one also finds the "Optimist," specially built by Schabus for his expedition through the sewers of Vienna.
The darkened second floor becomes an enormous projection space. Hans Schabus projects the train trip to the Kunsthaus onto the three supporting wall segments. The artist - like the student in DÃ¼renmatt's short story - moves as the protagonist through the service and storerooms of the building, finally being transported upstairs by the freight elevator. The visitor's real movement through the exhibition coincides here with the artist's filmic journey through the tunnel. At the end of all the exhibition spaces, the journey comes to a temporary halt with a panoramic view from the roof of the Kunsthaus.
Modernist art is marked by the idea of the "white cube," an ideal exhibition space that recedes as much as possible in order to let art fully come to the fore. It springs from the notion of a self-referential art beyond political, economic, or social components. In his installation on the third floor of the Kunsthaus, Hans Schabus reflects this framework of thoughts by undermining it. The extension of the supporting wall segments (and thus the reality of the architecture) gives rise to a rectangular area in which Schabus erects a space out of pallets stood on end on top of a double layer of soft drink crates. The interior of this space is completely lined with white cardboard, thus producing a perfect "white cube." Schabus also refers to the so-called "whiteout effect," as described by those who have encountered extreme situations while on polar expeditions or Atlantic crossings. What is meant by this is the loss of physical and mental orientation in the empty space of a contourless, glaring white landscape. This ideal space construction is similar in outward appearance to the artist's work for the Bonn Kunstverein "Transport" (2003) - a projection space assembled out of existing partition walls. A link to its surroundings can also be seen in the building's substructure as a historical reference to the pile foundation structure typical of Lake Constance or to Peter Zumthor's first model of the Kunsthaus, which was perched on piers.
Opening: Friday, 19 November 2004, 8 pm.
Karl Tizian Platz