1-2-3-4: Reinsberg in Its Fourth Round
Susanne Neuburger, 2011
Since the first project, A Common Thing in 1999, art in public space has certainly greatly changed, but not the basic location in Reinsberg, which remains a place divided into two camps. Art in public space has long become an institutionalized field, is taught at universities, and has also become pretty fashionable today. Like nearly no other place in Lower Austria, Reinsberg can demonstrate long-term experience with the practices of space, and is thus very familiar with the methods of site-specifics and participation. In a balance between the local situation and the great global issues, the polarization of which again and again includes and touches on realities in Reinsberg, between the demands placed on art and the needs of the place, Reinsberg is now issuing its number four, entitled Divided Confidence. This project searches for a perspective on the globalized world, and is also skeptical about how we try to rely on common ground, as Alain Badiou says: “What does that mean—there is one world?” At the same time the project appeals to the productive side of “divided opinion,” which does not polarize but rather creates a discursive platform, as was the case in the previous three projects. Both the people of Reinsberg and the six invited artists are invited to go very divided ways, but yet still to be part of a common movement that sets the place and its ordering systems in motion—so as to form spaces and allow them to come about, quite in the sense of Michel de Certeau.
Not only in their work as curators, but also as artists, Iris Andraschek and Hubert Lobnig guide us both to Reinsberg and directly to the art. Right next to the church there is a modified white cube that acts as a schnaps bar, which is also included in the Reinsberg Nights when open. It has turned ist inside onto the outside, and against a white background displays texts that come from a survey carried out locally. Under the motto “What should I do?” Andraschek and Lobnig sent five questions to the people of Reinsberg, asking about social relations in the community. As the white cube is not only the epitome of modernist exhibition spaces, but also has ideological implications that embody both theory and practice, the position that the artist-curators Andraschek and Lobnig occupy in Reinsberg is here highlighted. Working with the strategies of space is one of the greatest challenges of art since the 1970s. As institutional critique meant that the museum as a white cube increasingly fell into disrepute, the place unfamiliar to art was discovered as a scene for what had previously happened exclusively in museums. More and more, art took place in public spaces which in turn were subjected to just as radical restructuring as art itself. The latter was then termed “place-specific” if the place in question was included in and interpreted by the artistic work.
Place-specific art was also understood as an attack on the ideologically interpreted white cube of the museum, and particularly in the 1990s it was seen as an advanced art practice and a counter-strategy to exhibiting in museums. Today these parameters have become historical conditions, but they are also often overloaded. The question, “what should I do?” thus ultimately addresses art itself, so as to liberate itself and throw off historical ballast. Generally, Andraschek and Lobnig do not see the broad area of art in public space in terms of any doctrine, but as open, while they make use of spheres of action in a thematic manner so as to draw out the concrete, individual, and the common ground that is inherent to an abstract space.
The interest in the place also determines the work Never walk alone by Michael Hieslmair and Michael Zinganel. The two artists undertook comprehensive research on the subject of football and its spezial manifestations in Reinsberg. Now the duo exhibit a mobile audio sculpture, a fan tribune which includes an outsized football trophy placed within the mobile. The size of this makes it a sculptural object that can be employed from case to case, and which distantly reminds us that sculpture was once the leading medium in public space, before the theory and practice of the 1960s began to see the public arena as an “expanded field” within which spatial practices questioned the aesthetics of the genre of sculpture. In postmodernism, the architectural fragment seemed to offer an alternative that frequently came along as outsized quotation, often involved a walk-in solution, and thus directly involved the audience. But this mobile and functional stage that can be used on many occasions is not a relaunch of historical postmodernism, but rather places context and content above reference systems immanent to art.
Matthias Klos wished to leave no tracks in the physical space of Reinsberg, and worked on the basis of wanting to remain a stranger. He sent his publication Stories Tell Themselves and Motives Have No Behavior to all households. With an edition of 500, this work is an image-text story about Reinsberg. When Klos, unlike in the other projects, takes a position of distance, then this is nonetheless included within the invisible cycle of the postal system. His work can be seen as a reference to mail art, which distanced itself from the art system and mistrusted its forms of distribution and representation. According to Michel de Certeau, language is also a space, the space of reading, which now has set the location of a sign system into motion.
In One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Johanna Tinzl and Stefan Flunger intervene directly in the village’s order, as embodied by the church steeple and its clock. They seem to outplay space with time. The new “clockhand,” which originally was to have been attached to the church steeple, is now on a hill that is clearly in line with the steeple. It is a freestanding sculpture, a kinetic object, and a spatial and temporal construct that simulates a concrete situation or rather contrasts with it via repetition. This can mean both Reinsberg and the big wide world.
In contrast to the city, the public realm seems to be less dematerialized in rural space, still searching for the concrete place that it has long lost in the city, where it drifts away in an arbitrary lack of content. There are few works that look directly at the situation in Lower Austria or Styria, and hook onto the topic of farming, as does Antje Schiffers, who is now showing a selection of her video works in the Gruber department store. Antje Schiffers explores the ways of life of farmers, including the political and economic conditions. Her method is based on an exchange deal, in that she swaps video for painting, as in Large Farming Theater, made together with Thomas Sprenger. While the farmers use video cameras to portray their working day, their farms and their families, and comment farming policy and market trends, Schiffers transforms the situation into paintings.
Anna Fabricius seems to fulfill one of the great demands made of art in public space—to create a situationally appropriate representation of a totality that cannot be represented. Under the title Techné, she filters parts out of the whole, follows their movements and spaces—mostly those of clubs, associations, or professional groups. She brings concrete images into the place, installed as large photo panels in the village. Her work also reminds us that Reinsberg has long been a place for photography and also performance.
On the opening evening, Kozek hörlonski performed LGBQT and confronted the visitors with a very Dada and heterotopical setting. The two artists emerged from hiding to face the audience in black and white, coming from a kind of hut that looked a bit like a grave or ritual site. They were like mirror images of each other, with whatever clothing or props were white in one case being black in the other. They acted as a divided figure full of mutual references, reminding us of both Günter Brus and H.C. Artmann, who staged his literary walk, “Une soiree aux amants funèbres,” with members of the Vienna Group from the Vienna opera to the Prater, all dressed in black with faces made up in white. Kozek hörlonski processed with a little cart up to the castle arena, that cultural venue that polarizes Reinsberg. There the performance ended with two black-and-white constellations, also as mirror images. They remained in the rain like two solitary figures sealing off a treasure or a message. – On this evening at least, there could be no talk of return to the “normal village” that part of Reinsberg longs for.
Art historian and curator, since 1983 at the Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien. Exhibitions, projects, and texts on contemporar