Work presentation of the AiR in the 4th quarter of 2018 of The Federal Chancellery and KulturKontakt Austria
Work presentation of the Artists in Residence in the 4th quarter of 2018
The Federal Chancellery (BKA) and KulturKontakt Austria (KKA), from December 3rd, 2018 onwards, is showing the works of the following Artists in Residence who have been living and working in Vienna since October 2018 at the invitation of BKA and KKA: Duo: Karolina Balcer and Iwona Ogrodzka (Poland), Heather Beardsley (USA), Britta Benno (Estonia), Carina Emery (Switzerland), Demetris Shammas (Cyprus), Erdem Taşdelen (Canada/Turkey).
The following text about their art practices and artworks showcased in the exhibition was written by Eva Kovač, associate of BLOCKFREI on the project Curators’ Agenda curatorial program for KulturKontakt Austria.
Exhibition on view:
04. – 13. 12. 2018
Monday – Friday, from 10 am – 5 pm
Bundeskanzleramt event room
About the exhibition and the arists in residence:
Duo: Karolina Balcer and Iwona Ogrodzka | Poland
During their current time in Vienna Karolina Balcer and Iwona Ogrodzka are working as an artistic duo, researching the influence of architecture and public housing policies on social and private lives of the citizens. Their project titled “The place which could become” comprises several different media in an effort to present a unique story. The brightly coloured sculptural installation functions as a kind of scenography – the smaller version of it was used for the filming of the video piece, while the larger uncompleted version is used for the video projection as the image carrier. The video itself is not long in its duration and was filmed in a timeless, undefinable way which impedes the viewer’s ability to determine the time period of the footage. The slow, hypnotizing yet disturbing shots are edited into an aesthetically pleasing whole. The images are abstracted and almost mysterious, showing only the specially designed scenography and colours as the carriers of significance and meaning. The colour changes follow another crucial element of the composition – the story featured in the video’s voiceover. Based on found material from various sources – personal stories, internet research, and historical facts – the unique narrative is a joint effort of the two artists.
The main inspiration of the piece are the public housing projects of the Red Vienna (Rotes Wien) period when, between 1918 and 1934, in the aftermath of World War I, the demand for affordable housing skyrocketed and public housing projects became one of the main concerns of the Viennese Social Democratic city government. Balcer and Ogrodzka tackle the socialist idea of using public housing to create a utopian place. Even though the awareness of the vital role of the public housing in Vienna managed to survive until today, the entire idea is very much endangered on the account of the growing gentrification and other interests backed by big capital.
Karolina Balcer, born 1988, lives and works in Wroclaw. She graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw in 2014. She completed doctoral studies at the same academy in 2017. Currently, she is working on her dissertation, covering issues of architecture as a tool for organizing social life. Karolina is active in various artistic fields, including painting, video, and installations in public spaces. Since 2015, she has been co-running the Wykwit gallery.
Iwona Ogrodzka, born 1991, is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, where she continues to live and work. Iwona is active in the fields of new media art, installation art, and painting.
Iwona Ogrodzka and Karolina Balcer share the preoccupation with installation art, new media art, and painting. Within the KulturKontakt Austria’s Artists-in-Residence programme, Ogrodzka and Balcer work as an artistic duo. Previously, the two have collaborated together, as a duet, on various projects and as co-authors and members of the collective Wykwitex. They both appreciate collaboration, group work, or simply surrounding themselves with a circle of friendly people since it can result in many more opportunities than working solo.
Heather Beardsley | USA
The artwork of Heather Beardsley focuses on the exploration of the intersection of art and science. Her series of meticulous and delicate pieces emulate the scientists’ way of working. The works presented in this exhibition deal mainly with the topic of the human body. Even though our whole experience of the world seems to be limited to the sensory, the human body is often taken for granted. The general understanding of bodily functions is limited and the indispensability of the proper functioning is often overlooked.
In her precise and often tedious way of making art Beardsley deals with various media. For the project presented here, along with drawing, dimensional sculptural embroidery, and cyanotype, the artist used polymer plastic film – known as shrink film. When heat is applied, this transparent material shrinks and hardens. With the addition of drawing and lacemaking, the two-dimensional shapes are turned into detailed images of human body parts. The application of these quite simple, manual, but very precise techniques makes Beardsley’s work visually attractive, tactile and highlights her focus on materiality. Although such techniques are often described, sometimes dismissively, as ‘crafts’, the high level of proficiency, exhibited by the artist and combined with the respect for their scientific uses, elevates the crafts to a professional artistic medium. Another element of the project is a series of cyanotype photograms of small-scale human-body-part sculptures. Cyanotype, one of the oldest photographic techniques, has its’ history of use for scientific purposes.
Beardsley’s overall artistic aesthetic is borrowed from the visual language of scientific research presentation – primarily the one through which science is communicated to a non-expert public. Her exhibit illustrates an intersection between art, museum, and scientific display. Some inspiration comes from historical scientific models of the human body, such as the medical anatomical wax models of the Josephinum Collections of the Medical University of Vienna. Models such as these, quite literally, embody and illustrate the development of the human understanding of the body and remind us of its undeniable importance.
Heather Beardsley, born 1987, is an American visual artist from Virginia Beach, VA. She received her BA from the University of Virginia in 2009, and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fibers and Material Studies in 2015. Beardsley was granted a Fulbright Scholarship for Installation Art in Vienna, Austria for the 2015/16 academic year in collaboration with the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. She has exhibited work throughout the United States and Europe, including New York, Chicago, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, the UK, and Ireland. In 2016 she was awarded a twelve-month Braunschweig Projects International Artist Scholarship by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, Germany in affiliation with the University of Fine Arts, Braunschweig. Recent exhibitions include Department Of, at the University of Fine Arts- Braunschweig, in Germany, Books Undone at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Fake, at Science Gallery, in Dublin, Ireland.
Britta Benno | Estonia
Britta Benno exhibits works from the series made especially for the residency in Vienna, though it derives from the city-specific works that the artist has been doing in Tallinn for more than a year. The series of adapted paintings combined with drawings and other graphics, titled “Dystopic Austria”, depicts urban landscapes after the imagined extinction of human beings.
Paintings bought at flea markets in Vienna were appropriated by the artist and modified through the techniques of collage and manual montage. These works can be described as hybrid historical paintings for the future. The artist places images of buildings – reproductions, drawings, etc. – in Biedermeier-like kitschy landscapes of the existing paintings. Images of houses, people, and other figures, which these re-used paintings once contained, were erased, deleted, and overpainted. Their absence highlights the all-conquering power of nature. The depicted buildings are recognisable – they are the ones currently symbolizing power, culture, money, tradition, religion, business, and other institutions. The works remind us that sometime in the future all those buildings may lose their meaning and become old ruins – leftovers of once powerful civilisations. The aesthetics of the images might even evoke a ‘romantic’ kind of nostalgia. What could be described as ‘Ruinenlust’ – the excitement or pleasure that comes from seeing old ruins – reveals a self-ironic stance, common in contemporary societies.
In a more sinister way, the project points out the negligence and destruction of the environment and nature achieved through the still withstanding capitalist system. The popular media and news reports present us with dystopic imaginary on daily basis. Yet, one rarely dares to ask: Have we become completely desensitised? Are we oblivious enough not to be shaken out of the common complacency even when it is demonstrated how tiny and powerless we really are? Benno aims to open up these questions and present us with her specific stack of pessimism, feelings of angst, and personal fears which are, sadly, often relatable and not unknown to the viewer.
Britta Benno, born 1984, is a printmaker and drawing artist living and working in Tallinn, Estonia. Her artworks present autobiographical narratives in a personal graphic language while using various techniques – drawing, printmaking, animation, and installation. She is currently preparing her doctoral research thesis at the Estonian Academy of Arts, focusing on Estonian contemporary female printmaking artists and their spaces, identities, and mediums. In 2009 Benno founded an independent printmaking studio Grafodroom. She has taught various art courses, participated in art groups, curated group exhibitions, and organized art events.
Carina Emery | Switzerland
Though in a completely different way, Carina Emery is also interested in the local Viennese architecture. Emery works primarily in sculpture and installation art. Interested in permeable and porous surfaces she creates large, often metal, structures combined with different materials. The constellations emulate emotions; they circulate, stagnate, and leak. They present fluid bodies, dependent on creating and releasing tension. Typically, Emery’s sculptures are interactive as the visitors are often able to walk through and communicate with structures and materials. She is interested in the respective resemblance of techniques and materials to organic and psychic sensations, individual or social states of bodies. The different materials are connected in unusual ways. For example, the artist applies tape and bent tin to hold the elements together. The connections between materials carry metaphors for emotions and relationships.
The inspiration for Emery’s pieces, exhibited in this exhibition, comes in part from the Viennese Jugendstil architecture, its’ elements, and in particular its’ organic and curvilinear ornaments. She is interested in these striated, textured surfaces, their openings and potential space for folding and unfolding, as well as the way how they are linked to questions of sexuality, gender, and fluidity. Through its’ way of tracing limits and operating passages, architecture conditions our way of inhabiting space. The artist, thus, sets out to observe the architecture and its’ influence on life.
Not unlike the Jugendstil ornaments, Emery’s sculptures avoid straight lines and limiting angles. The bending is mostly done cold – handmade without the application of heat. The artist immerses herself into direct physical work in order to create objects of physical and emotional aggregation. She divides, folds, curves, pierces, and tears the materials, which through the process become vehicles of embodied knowledge. The sense and the act of touch are crucial. Finally, the sculptures adapt to the given space and are, in that way, space-specific. As we often tend to forget how permeable and layered the grounds on which we live are, Emery’s sculptures remind us that the surface we exist on is neither firm, closed, nor stable.
Carina Emery, born 1991 in Thun, lives and works in Paris. She first studied theory at the Zurich University of the Arts, then fine art with Dominique Figarella at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. In this context, she wrote her master’s thesis titled “The permeability of the soil – the open is habitable”, mentored by Pierre Alferi. Carina Emery creates mainly expansive installations and sculptural works that somehow function as kind of organisms. In doing so, she deals with the permeability of bodies and surfaces and is particularly interested in how gestures and emotions are embodied, how they circulate and stagnate.
Demetris Shammas | Cyprus
In this contemporary moment, our private as well as professional lives are highly influenced by and mediated through the latest technologies and invisible processes of data gathering, filtering, and managing. It is not excessive to wonder: To what extent is our memory influenced and dominated by technological processes? What would be the result if we used similar technologies in an attempt to break down, retrace, and remap the process of remembering? Demetris Shammas, an architect and information artist, is exploring, breaking down, and repeating the very processes of memory and remembrance using technological, algorithmic means. His “False Memory Machine” is an algorithm trained to remember and instructed to produce material objects. A mountain bike, a classical guitar, a glove, etc. present the artefacts – the copies of memories of items of emotional importance.
Shammas’s inspiration comes from the story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges, focused on the discovery of the mysterious fictional world of Tlön – a utopia inhabited by idealistic people. In the artist’s own words: “The search for something lost, as it is remembered, can resolve to a finding that keeps up with one’s initial expectations. A Hrönir, of the planet Tlön, is an object of this kind. An object produced by the act of remembering. Remembering the way it was; the way one thinks it was; the way one hopes it was; the way one wants it to have been.”
A set of data of one hundred and forty-four objects from the artist’s memories was ‘fed’ to the previously developed computer algorithm. The main task of this machine is to remember – that is – to recreate a past event. “The Machine navigates through this space just as a potter moulds their clay, going through various forms, distorting, melding, blurring edges, at times coming across familiar details, and renders new objects real; never perfect, never true.”
Demetris Shammas, born 1984, is a Cyprus-based architect–turned–information artist. He employs data as compositional tools, overlaying the digital onto the physical to form instances of ‘algorithmic experience’. While following a seemingly rational path, his work is driven by an attraction towards the unrepresentable, the unbuilt; by an eagerness to examine the possible as that which can never be fully captured. The steps are themselves uncertain and mixed with arbitrarily set rules, as they follow at first a ‘recording of experience’, then an ‘encoding of experience’ and finally the ‘synthesis of a virtual interpretation’ that can again be brought into the real. Demetris holds a master’s degree from the Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design at ETH Zurich and a Diploma of Architecture from the NTU-Athens, and has taught algorithmic design at the ETH Zurich and at the Basel Academy of Art and Design.
Erdem Taşdelen | Canada/Turkey
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” is a quote widely attributed to Albert Camus. Its’ authorship has been disputed, which, ironically, makes the sentence even more accurate. In his own way, Erdem Taşdelen explores the intriguing relationship between fact and lie, fiction and truth. His projects often draw from unique historical narratives to address the complexities of current socio-political issues. The project displayed here is no exception.
The artist presents his new work in progress titled “I am Manifest Proof of Deviation”. The video piece offers a unique insight into the artist’s creative process and methodology. The main reference of the project, though not made explicit in the video itself, is the public confession of Mehdi Hashemi – a former official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, subsequently accused of treason. Hashemi read and performed his confession on Iranian national television in 1987, not long before his execution. Nonetheless, there are confident claims that he was intensely pressured to confess. He has been interrogated for months until, finally, the confession was taped and printed in newspapers under the headline: “I am Manifest Proof of Deviation” from which the artist borrows his title. Taşdelen acquired the full transcription of the confession in the original Farsi language and had it translated into English. This text and the exploration of how would/do forced confessions look like in the contemporary technologized world, form the base of this piece.
Currently, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are able to both realistically map a speaker’s face onto someone else’s and create a vocal avatar that mimics their speech and intonation. The video aims to reveal the background of these, potentially dangerous, technological applications. It shows an actor performing an adjusted, abstracted version of Hashemi’s confessional text while highlighting the performative aspect of the ‘confession’ whose purpose is to convince. The historical facts surrounding Hashemi’s confession are abstracted and fictionalised resulting in a new, semi-fictitious narrative. The accompanying audio track artificially combines music, sounds, and reading to create an atmosphere of suspense and prompt the viewer’s awareness of the fabricated nature of that what is seen.
Erdem Taşdelen, born 1985, is a Turkish-Canadian artist based in Toronto. His practice is rooted in conceptualism and involves a range of media including installation, video, sculpture, sound, and artist books. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally and reviewed in publications including Artforum, Flash Art, ArtAsiaPacific, Financial Times, Canadian Art, and C Magazine. Taşdelen was awarded the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in Visual Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts in 2016, and the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists by the Hnatyshyn Foundation in 2014. His projects have received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, British Columbia Arts Council, Royal College of Art in Stockholm, and the SAHA Association in Istanbul. Taşdelen will be an artist in residence at Rupert centre in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2019.
Text by Eva Kovač
Eva Kovač, born in 1989, is an art historian based in Vienna, where she is completing her master’s degree at the
Department of History of Art, University of Vienna. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Art History from the Faculty of
Arts, University of Ljubljana. Her field of interest covers contemporary art production, exhibitions, performance art,
nationalism, and anti-nationalism, predominantly in connection with Central and Southeastern European contexts.
Eva is one of the founding and active members of frustracиja. art collective established in summer 2015. She is also
the coordinator of the 2018’s edition of the BLOCKFREI’s Curators’ Agenda program.
The Federal Chancellery (BKA ), in cooperation with KulturKontakt Austria (KKA), offers residence scholarships in Vienna. The scholarship holders are funded by the BKA within the framework of the Artists in Residence programme and are supported by KKA in an advisory and organizational capacity.
Text and photos © 2018 KulturKontakt. All rights reserved.