Intakt - The female pioneers. The topics of the works focused time and again on women's experiences of discrimination and of the everyday experiences of housewife, which became the starting point for critical and ironic reflections on established gender roles. But other issues regarding identity, body, sexuality, and the positioning of the female subject were of great importance.
Renate Bertlmann (A), Moucle Blackout (A), Linda Christanell (A), Lotte Hendrich - Hassmann (A), Karin Mack (A), Margot Pilz (A), Jana Wisniewski (A)
Werkshau XIII is dedicated to the seven artists of INTAKT - the founders and pioneering women of the initial years from the fields photography, new media and film.
With the annual on going series Werkschau - retrospectives of Austrian artists, who contributed substantially to the development of artistic photography and new media in this country, the Fotogalerie Wien refers to outstanding and innovative achievements and offers an historical overview. So far a cross section was shown of the works by Jana Wisniewski, Manfred Willmann, VALIE EXPORT, Leo Kandl, Elfriede Mejchar, Heinz Cibulka, Renate Bertlmann, Josef Wais, Horakova+Maurer, Gottfried Bechtold, Friedl Kubelka and Branko Lenart.
The exhibition concept to Werkshau XIII: Intakt - The female pioneers offers the visitors two access points:
1. Documentation: What was Intakt (Internationale Aktionsgemeinschaft bildender Künstlerinnen / International Action Group of Visual Artists)? What occurred in the initial turbulent and militant years? Focus on 1975-1985. In the office: Intakt – some of their important happenings selectively singled out: Texts, concepts, articles, photos, posters… In the cinema: Various films and videos from Intakt - actions, exhibitions, gatherings, interviews…
2. ART: Since this series of exhibitions Werkshau were retrospectively conceived, each artist is represented with one or more works from both an earlier and a later creative period. In the center of the large gallery we especially designed an architectural feature for showing the catalogs of the artists, catalogs from the group Intakt, and furthermore various important magazines and books from the time, as well as collaborative works of the artists presented for viewing and browsing.
With many of the artists represented in the exhibition we have established a friendly relationship. Almost all of them, at one time or another, have shown in the Fotogalerie Wien.
It appears to us this renewed visualization and discussion of their artistic production, that in many ways their works were ahead of the time and were important and appropriate!
For example: media transgressive art, works in the field of artistic photography and new media, themes like political correctness - Women in the workforce - gender… and this already in the 70’s and 80’s!
A further important point is the socio-political importance of Intakt Changes, improvements for artists, breaking open of role assignments, the aspiration as an artist to be recognized and much more, were only made possible by the combative initial years of the Intakt and the Intakt artists!
Therefore a double meaning in the exhibition title Female Pioneer can be understood!
Since we have realized that some thirty years after the formation of the group Intakt that many knew little or nothing about the stories of their early years. We decided to dedicate this Werkshau to Intakt the period between 1975 and 1985. Bringing to light the importance of the creativity of seven excellent artists and their ideas and goals and their pioneer’s engagement and courage.
SOURCES OF FRICTION
With the slogan “The private is political!”, politically left women in Western Europe in the late 60s of the previous century called for a new understanding of politics. The question of women’s rights, understood as a “Nebenwiderspruch” in the context of class conflict, became the central theme for newly founded feminist groups who strived for no more and no less than to irrevocably unhinge the century-long male dominance to make room for a new egalitarian cooperation of the sexes. Shortly thereafter, in the early 70s, the fight for the right to abortion as well as the international demand for equal rights led to the formation of an autonomous women’s movement: In 1972, the “Aktion Unabhängiger Frauen” [Campaign of Independent Woman] (AUF) was founded in Austria. The premises included: equal opportunity to education and on the job market, equal pay for equal work, and the access to leadership positions in all socially relevant fields. Women’s everyday experiences and social conditions became central to feminist discourse, which was then extended within autonomous groups, in critical publications and last but not least, onto the streets infiltrating various social fields over the course of the 70s.
In 1974, it was women artists who put up protest in Vienna. An occasion offered a planned exhibition in the Museum of Ethnology (!). This exhibition, curated by a panel of exclusively men, was to present the works of Austrian women artists in 1975 – the internationally declared Women’s Year. After massive protests from the invited artists went unheard, 46 of the women artists withdrew their intent to participate. Shortly thereafter, the artists presented a catalogue of demands to the responsible cultural sites and institutions entitled “Verbesserung der Situation der bildenden Künstlerin in Österreich” [“Improvement of the Situation for the Woman Artist in Austria”]. In 1977, out of the originally loose formation, the “Internationale Aktionsgemeinschaft bildender Künstlerinnen – INTAKT” [International Action Community of Women Artists] was born. In the same year, INTAKT opened their own venue on Fleischmarkt in Vienna that was to serve as a meeting point and gallery for many years.
At the beginning, the founders’ commitment was primarily socio-political: to declare war on the exclusion of women artists from the public art scene and to create new spaces for the art of women. In the following years, the group carried out a plethora of political and artistic activities, many of which demonstrate strong performative character and INTAKT quickly established themselves as a well-noticed platform, internationally as well. With exhibitions, interventions, performances, community projects, and partly spectacular actions, they paved the way for a classical model of how women’s art would be curated and presented in the 80s. Theme festivals, like “Die andere Avantgarde” [The Other Avant-garde] in Linz, 1983 and exhibitions, like “Kunst mit Eigensinn” in Wien, 1985 – both representing artists from INTAKT – would not have been possible without the group’s preparatory work. Accompanying these festivals and exhibitions, in 1984, INTAKT held a group exhibition “Identitätsbilder” [Identity Images] at the Viennese Secession, illustrating – in accordance with their cultural-political premises – the diversity of the artistic approaches of the group’s represented artists.
Besides their pioneering role politically, the INTAKT artists – represented in this current exhibition – concerned themselves with the development of new artistic strategies, but who were also responsible for a thrust of innovation within the art scene in Austria, which still goes underappreciated today. Starting with the search for a specific “female aesthetic” and inspired by Fluxus, Happenings, and performance art, they crossed conventional boundaries between art forms and categories with their body and process oriented works and pushed forward into entirely new dimensions of representation. This meant making a radical break with the academically understood notion of art and questioning its outdated rules and traditions. The critique was directed at male-dominated art (history), which was interested in women as primarily an object of representation, whereas women as artists were only, on condition, seriously considered and went mostly unnoticed.
The women artists’ reaction to the experience of being doubly excluded was inventive and took the offensive. They experimented – as a counter concept to the elite concept of the artist as genius – with alternative forms of production: They worked in groups, founded collectives, and went to the public with community actions. They no longer only operated in the silent seclusion of studios or the exclusive atmosphere of the gallery, rather they went to the streets with their manifestations, performances, and installations. On the streets, they unashamedly negotiated the concerns of private everyday life, they proclaimed the most intimate as worthy of representation, thereby creating a bridge between art and life.
To support their statements and concepts with the most adequate expression, the artists of INTAKT gained many other skills and proficiencies. Special attention was paid to photography, film, and soon thereafter, also video – all media whose rich aesthetic potential would, through these efforts, gain centre stage for the first time. The media that had, until that point, primarily been used for documentation in the context of fine arts quickly became a relevant artistic means for expression. Innovative works developed from the interplay of performative practises, texts, audio and other media, which until then, had been considered beyond “art”. Above all, the works from the area of mixed media extended the horizon of aesthetic perception, which resulted in revolutionizing the understanding and the way that classical media (sculpture, painting, graphic arts) was dealt with, preparing the way for the open term, art or artist, as we know it today.
The topics of the works focused time and again on women’s experiences of discrimination and of the everyday experiences of “housewife”, which became the starting point for critical and ironic reflections on established gender roles. But other issues regarding identity, body, sexuality, and the positioning of the female subject were of great importance. Through methods of self-staging, the experience of alienation and the search for the self-image amongst traditional codes found a form of expression and at the same time, experimented with new possibilities of the figurative.
Now the accomplishments of these pioneers will be recognized in the context of a showcase. The FOTOGALERIE WIEN is showing selected works from Renate Bertlmann, Moucle Blackout, Linda Christanell, Lotte Hendrich-Hassmann, Karin Mack, Margot Pilz und Jana Wisniewski, where exemplary contributions from the 70s will be presented alongside current creations. This not only reveals how complex and multi-layered individual oeuvres are, it highlights specifically the sustainability and innovative power of the earlier contributions of the group’s artists to the fields of photography, film, installation and mixed media.
The palette of presented positions extends from subtle still life-like introspections, that impress with strict formality and intellectual clarity, to flippant crossing of borders between kitsch, art, taboo ridiculing the objects of women’s desire and thereby, nimble-footedly making a break with all conventions of taste. In disturbing sequences of images, icons of high culture are amalgamated with banal everyday objects becoming symbolic dismantlements of the conventional world view. Or the attempt is made to question the material reality through systematic analysis of its reflections, which are in turn compacted into imagery and once again, confronted with the context of its origin. In intimate inner spaces, the ambiguous play with fetish and mask is fashioned into memento mori, which is as frightening as it is luxurious. Or the multifaceted sensual appearance of our experienced realm is traced with a reserved, but nevertheless interrogative gaze. But these works always also concern themselves with space, with the personal free space that needed to be claimed by the woman’s view that needed to be explored and taken into possession, with determination – carefully, but insistently. Many of these conceptualizations and – as this exhibition demonstrates – the convincing further development of strategies and paradigms from the early 70s are still relevant and without them, many of the current artistic practices would simply not be conceivable. But still more, with the notion of “life”, the current focus in the artistic field is on doing away with differences between the individual, the other, and others. This implicitly positive forward-looking frame of mind is a continuation of precisely those approaches the pioneers worked so hard for.
Edith Almhofer, Gumpoldskirchen 2008
An unknown number of Austrian women artists are invited, for the International Women’s Year, to an official exhibition in the Museum of Ethnology (!), Vienna – the panel consists of men exclusively.
January 13, Künstlerhaus, Vienna: In a press conference, a group of women artists protest against these procedures and suggest alternatives. Because these are ignored, 46 women no longer participate in the exhibition. During several meetings and discussions, as well as an analysis of the public sponsoring of art, the cultural industry, the situation in higher education, etc. discrimination against women artists becomes ever more obvious. The women prepare a catalogue of demands, write letters, speak with politicians concerned with culture, but their words fall on deaf ears.
September 13, Modern Art Galerie, Vienna: The women artists, who have now given themselves the name “Aktionsgemeinschaft bildender Künstlerinnen” (Action Community of Women Artists), send a renewed invitation for a press conference to report about their experiences at the responsible institutions and to introduce their catalogue of demands.
January: Founding of “Internationalen Aktionsgemeinschaft bildender Künstlerinnen – INTAKT” (International Action Community of Women Artists).
Founding members: Linda Christanell, Christa Hauer, Hildegard Joos, Angelika Kaufmann, Doris Lötsch, Roswitha Lüder, Ingeborg Pluhar, Doris Reitter, Ise Schwartz, Edda Seidl-Reiter, Gerlinde Wurth.
Their goals: the improvement of the situation for women artists in the social and artistic field, active participation in current cultural political events, active involvement in the important issues influencing existence.
June: move into their own venue at Fleischmarkt 11 in Vienna’s centre. For many years, this serves as the “INTAKT – Treffpunkt und Galerie im Griechenbeisl” (INTAKT – Meeting point and Gallery in Griechenbeisl).
October: 1st Retzhof convention – Künstlerinnen heute (Women Artists Today). Positions of the woman artist are investigated based on their own biographies. Audio cassettes, photos, and one film are made. These results would then be shown in the first exhibition at the INTAKT gallery; a publication emerges.
September 23: The first big community action Künstlinge und Findlinge, where an object from a woman’s everyday life – a bed sheet – is artistically transformed. Circa 40 sheets, one photo documentation, and one film are produced.
October: 2nd Retzhof convention – FEMIFEST. The Femifest was developed. A publication with the goals of the groups’ results, with contributions from all members.
June: INTAKT-participation with the work Luise auf der Schaukel (Luise on the Swing) and INTAKT singt (INTAKT Sings) at the 1st free art exhibition in the Künstlerhaus, Vienna. At the INTAKT meeting point there is a Dinner Party based on Judy Chicago’s idea.
September: 3rd Retzhof convention – der Platz, an dem ich mich wohl fühle – ich bin das Zentrum meines Lebensraumes (The Place Where I Feel Well – I Am the Center of My Living Space). In the context of Steirischer Herbst, the sheets are exhibited in front of the Forum Stadtpark Graz, accompanied by the action das freudige Ereignis (The Happy Incident) and an intervention from Rita Furrer. Another publication emerges.
September 29 – October 4: Presentation of the work with the sheets at the 9th Kongress der IAA/AIAP vor der Liederhalle in Stuttgart with the action Leintuchschatten (Sheet Shadows) from Rita Furrer.
December, Galerie Krinzinger, Innsbruck: Exhibition with the sheets on occasion of Women’s Days in Innsbruck.
Publishing of the INTAKT catalogue with the questions: Warum bin ich bei der INTAKT – Was möchte ich im Rahmen der INTAKT tun? (Why am I a member of INTAKT – What do I want to do within the context of INTAKT?). Every member has 4 pages to design personally. Because of a lack of finances, the catalogue again appears only as a hectograph.
June: participation at “International Festival of Women Artists” in Copenhagen with postcard art, slides, films, … An idea originates to have a similar event in Vienna – concepts are developed.
September: 5th Bergkamener Bilder-Basar, BRD with a INTAKT-partition, whose walls and floors are covered with name cards of historical and contemporary women artists. Scheuchenaktion (Shoo Action): in a field in Lengenfeld, women artists and school children set up scarecrows. They remained there until March 1981. Films and photographic and slide documentation are produced, along with a Vogelscheuchen-Tagebuch (Scarecrow Diary).
October 20–25: INTAKT information week with a group exhibition at the gallery as well as lectures, videos, slides and a film program in the Museum des 20. Jhdts.
March: Künstlerhaus, Vienna: INTAKT participation at the exhibition Frauen, Macht und Ohnmacht (Women, Power and Powerlessness).
May 25–30: In the context of Wiener Festwochen and Projekt ARTIG the action INTAKT LACHT (INTAKT LAUGHS), a statement regarding the topic transportation is presented. An acoustic-visual action in the 80er Haus in the subwaystation Karlsplatz, at ORF and a city tour with a small bus and megaphone and accompanying this action, posters and stickers are made.
September: At “Frauen Sommer Museum” in Bonn, INTAKT takes part by bringing the work about the sheets with them and a photo documentation of their group activities, as well as individual contributions from several members, among others Ilse Teipelke with the action Zeitbahnen.
October: 4th Retzhof convention: Attempt at feminist art critique based on works shown. A first discussion about a large INTAKT-exhibition: working title Eigenräume (Own Spaces). Participation should be accessible to all members without a jury deciding who participates. Workshop with Anneke Barger.
May: participation in a peace march with the INTAKT contribution Wale statt Atomuboote (Whales instead of Nuclear Submarines).
Wiener Festwochen, alternative scene START at the open Karlsplatz: the sheets hang between the trees, in addition, Rita Furrer shows her intervention Leintuchschatten. Several women artists are represented with individual contributions at Karlsplatz: Fria Elfen, Lotte Hendrich-Hassmann, Margot Pilz and Viki Bixner. Several artworks are taken down by city officials – the response in the media is great, there is talk of censorship.
Summer months: circulating letters, questionnaires – the large planned INTAKT exhibition develops into a group dynamic process.
October: 5th Retzhof convention – work on an annual report regarding the INTAKT exhibition. Besides artistic exercises to loosen up, water colours, photographs and one film are produced.
January: INTAKT-participation in Jours des Femmes, Studio Moliere.
February: analysis of art report from the BMUK in regards to the situation of women artists – the situation hasn’t improved since 1975 – and with their comments on the report, it is sent to vice chancellor, Fred Sinowatz, and the city representative for culture, Helmut Zilk.
March: In the context of Women’s Week in Salzburg, INTAKT participates in Bildungsheim St. Virgil, with their contribution of Frauen sehen Frauen (Women See Women) from 22 women artists. The film Anna from Linda Christanell is shown; a catalogue is published. Galerie Grita Insam, Vienna: Zum Beispiel Steiermark (For Example, Styria), a photo documentation of the 3rd Retzhof convention, supplemented with contributions from Lotte Hendrich-Hassmann, Doris Lötsch and Doris Reitter.
May: Performance week at the INTAKT meeting point. Actions from Heidi Heide, Andrea Pisecky-Lipburger, Viki Bixner, Martina Gödeke, Ingrid Opitz, Brigitte Odenthal and Isolde Jurina.
June 10 – August 28: INTAKT-exhibition in the Galerie Stadtpark, Krems; Program: a performance and films; a catalogue is published.
October: 6th Retzhof convention – topics: Contribution regarding a peace march and INTAKT’s activity report. INTAKT participates in a peace march with a large peace banner. INTAKT’s activity report– meeting point and the gallery: to date, 40 exhibitions where held; the group meets regularly to discuss; individual INTAKT members or small groups have organised exhibitions in Austria or abroad or had their works shown in large exhibitions. INTAKT women are active and successful in cultural politics. INTAKT is an autonomous women’s group. INTAKT doesn’t orient itself to one specific art genre or direction. INTAKT represents the interests of ALL women artists and has about 100 members at this point.
September 13 – October 17, Secession, Vienna: In the context of “Aktion Brennpunkt Kunst von Frauen”, a large INTAKT exhibition Identitätsbilder (Identity Images) is shown; an accompanying catalogue is published. The exhibition is opened by minister Johanna Dohnal and the performance Klangraum (Sound Space) by Ilse Teipelke. The program includes 15 events with lectures, slideshows, a workshop by Anneke Barger and 12 readings..
September 19, Metropol, Vienna: DAS FEST ‘mit Musik von und mit Frauen und einer Performance der INTAKT-Frauen’ (THE PARTY ‘with music from and with women and a performance from the INTAKT women’) – the text on the invitation.
September 20 – 23, Museum des 20. Jhdts: INTAKT organises an international symposium with the topic: Man muss die Kunst beim Wort nehmen (One Must Take Art by its Word) (Hélène Cixous) / Weibliche Kreativität der Praxis – eine Zwischenbilanz (Female Creativity of Praxis – an interim review) (Organisation: Liesbeth Waechter-Böhm). Lecturers are: Alice Schwarzer (Cologne), Margarethe Jochimsen (Bonn), Kurt Lüthi (Vienna), Eva Meyer (Berlin), Lea Vergine (Milan), Hilde Maehlum (Oslo), Gabriele Honnef-Harling (Bonn), Heidi Grundmann (Vienna), Christa Hauer-Fruhmann (Vienna).
November: 7th Retzhof convention – Bilanz über 10 Jahre INTAKT & Zu¬kunfts¬perspektiven (Review of 10 Years of INTAKT & Future Perspectives).
December 1: contribution from INTAKT to the 10th Austrian Women’s Inquiry.
December: Protest resolution for the conservation of the Hainburger Au.
January 18 – March 15: Identitätsbilder, Women’s Museum, Bonn
April 19 – May 11: Identitätsbilder, Künstlerhaus Graz, with performances, films and a “Spectacle” from Marie Therese Escribano: Eine Frau auf Reisen (A Woman on a Journey).
October: 8th Retzhof convention – Reorganisation of INTAKT.
Image: Renate Bertlmann - Madonna im Rosenhag
Opening: Monday, 16. June, 6:00pm
Opening speech: Edith Almhofer
Wahringer Str. 59 - Wien
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