Poetics of Change

Poetics of Change

Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Hans Hollein in his Mobile Office, 1969. © Generali Foundation Collection. Permanent loan to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.

April 15, 2016
Poetics of Change
Works from the Collections
April 23–October 9, 2016
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm,
Wednesday 10am–8pm

T +43 662 842220403

Periods of transformative change hold distinctive poetic potential, as the new presentation of art from the collections at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg illustrates. The exhibition will feature a new version of Hans Haacke’s World Poll, an audience survey that the artist conducted at last year’s Venice Biennale and has now revised for Salzburg.

In cooperation with the Generali Foundation, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg is installing a new thematically focused presentation of selections from the extensive collections on level two of its Mönchsberg building. The exhibition showcases numerous eminent works from the museum’s own holdings as well as the collections entrusted to it—the MAP Collection, the Austrian Federal Photography Collection, and the renowned Generali Foundation Collection—including newly acquired pieces and works that merit rediscovery. With an array of several large installations as well as prints, photographs, paintings, and sculptures, the show explores the poetic potential artists discover in processes of social, cultural, and political change. “The new presentation from the collections focuses on the aesthetic and iconic qualities of conceptual art and works of social critique to highlight their poetic facets,” Sabine Breitwieser, the museum’s director and lead curator of the exhibition, explains. “The works we have selected show artists responding to processes of change, to modifications of the immediate environments of their daily lives and shifts that affect their own identities, but also to innovations in the history of art. Some even proffer proposals for change that limn an alternative future.” The show features around 60 works by almost 30 artists from nine countries.

Structural transformations are one central theme of the itinerary through the new survey of the collections. The architect and artist Azra Aksamija has created a striking illustration of what people can achieve when they take the initiative. Arizona Road (2002), a study of an officially established black market that grows into a city unto itself, dates from the first years after the war that ravaged the artist’s native Bosnia. Dan Graham and Robin Hurst’s Private ‘Public’ Space: The Corporate Atrium (1987) highlights the conditions and consequences of the privatization of public space in the example of developments in contemporary New York. In the 1960s, Hans Hollein anticipated the way we work and live now that mobile computing and the internet have made many of us independent of designated workplaces: his Proposal for Expansion of the University of Vienna (1966) envisions not a building but a network faculty and students plug into, and the Mobile Office (1969) unfolds out of a suitcase—an inflatable study that can be set up anywhere and at any time. The inspiration rapidly changing urban settings hold for artists is evident in Isa Genzken’s collage books titled I Love New York, Crazy City (1996). Divertissement (after Pascal), a sculpture Franz West made in 1987, revolves around the ways people kill time in the city. It is the first time the work is shown to a general audience since its most recent presentation at the Generali Foundation in 1997.

The Poetry of Change is also palpable in the works of Nilbar Güreş, which are among the most recent acquisitions in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection and make their public debut in Salzburg. The artist, whose success belies her relative youth, examines gender issues with a critical eye and dismantles widespread stereotypes and simplistic role models in order to paint a more nuanced picture. In the exhibition, her works are brought in relationship to an installation by the American Ree Morton, who came up in the minimalist scene of 1960s New York, but devised her own distinctive method and language. The critique of the past, the overcoming of traditional norms, and the acceptance of an ever-evolving present are recurrent themes in several of the works on display. Elke Krystufek’s series of photomontages Elke Krystufek Reads Otto Weininger (1993) confronts us with misogynistic passages from the Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger’s 1903 treatise Sex and Character.

If these works reflect the transformations of the lifeworld or lay out visions of its future, others aim for revolutionary change through acts of transgression or situations of matching action and reaction like those provoked by Günter Brus. Responding to the threatened exclusion of his Actionist art from an exhibition, he staged Viennese Walk, for which he promenaded as a “living picture”; the action on July 5, 1965, ended with the artist’s arrest. Other works in this group include VALIE EXPORT and Peter Weibel’s Portfolio of Doggedness (1968) and Nerve Spasm, a set of photographic works Arnulf Rainer created in 1969–70.

Complementing the poetic and positive voices as well as those urging change are others that articulate a critique of the repercussions of change, as in the realm of mass media and the world of work. Richard Kriesche’s audio-video installation 14 Minutes in the Life of (1977) focuses on a lack of variation or, to put it more harshly, on monotony by offering a real-time portrait of industrial labor. Observing the unchanging set of movements performed by a worker in the Puch bicycle factory for a 14-minute time window each day of the week, we clearly grasp how industrial progress is a step backwards for the individual.

The examination of the possibilities and repercussions of change is reflected in the prevailing artistic strategies and techniques such as the principle of collage and assemblage. Oswald Oberhuber has gone so far as to make “perpetual transformation” the cornerstone of his art. Deliberately eschewing the development of a unified and recognizable style, he never stops calling himself and his expressive means in question. Transformation is also central in the work of Gerhard Rühm, a prominent representative of the so-called Vienna Group (1954–64). In the “Typocollages” he created between 1955 and 1963, he placed letters and words from newspapers in poetic arrangements. Similarly, the Polish artist Ewa Partum’s video Active Poetry (1971/1973) shows her scattering letters over a field or spilling them into the sea, making nature her partner in the composition of a new poem. Another artist in whose oeuvre language plays a crucial role is Josef Strau. J: Inside the Letter-Hole (Joseph for Children), a sort of tunnel in the shape of a letter, tells the story of Joseph from the Old Testament from a variety of perspectives. The object’s dimensions are calculated to accommodate children, but all visitors are invited to step inside.

The Thousand-Part Portrait is a photographic monument to my mother. Her thoughts touch on the past, present, and future,” Friedl Kubelka writes about her work, created in 1980. What looks at first glance like the endless identical repetition of a passport photograph of a stranger turns out to be a study of possibilities: in which ways can an individual and her relationships with her personal environment and the world as she experiences it change? Change is certainly possible, as Robert Barry noted in the 20 statements of his slide installation It can change… (1970/71), which seek to define the qualities that are conducive to transformative processes. In the exhibition, the work appears in dialogue with an ensemble of 27 small paper pieces by Heimo Zobernig that systematically lays out the transmutations of a single shape produced by color and the application of paint.

Hans Haacke’s World Poll, which premiered at the 2015 Venice Biennale, is the most recent in the artist’s series of audience-survey works, the earliest of which date back to the 1960s. Using iPads installed in the gallery, visitors can participate in the poll, which Haacke has revised for Salzburg, and access the continually updated results. The work lets the viewer experience how change is an active process driven by direct involvement and evident also in technological progress: as early as 1969, Haacke used questionnaires and ballots to expose and critique the workings of social and political systems. Comparison with documents and results from the survey Visitors’ Profile, Directions 3: Eight Artists, Milwaukee Art Center, June 19 through August 8 (1971), a work in the Generali Foundation Collection that makes its debut in Salzburg, demonstrates how this instrument of Haacke’s art has itself changed.

With works by Fareed Armaly, Robert Barry, Gottfried Bechtold, Günter Brus, VALIE EXPORT/Peter Weibel, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham/Robin Hurst, Nilbar Güreş, Hans Haacke, Hans Hollein, Richard Kriesche, Elke Krystufek, Friedl Kubelka (Friedl vom Gröller), Markus Lüpertz, Ree Morton, Oswald Oberhuber, Ewa Partum, Arnulf Rainer, Gerhard Rühm, Curt Stenvert, Josef Strau, Franz West, and Heimo Zobernig.

Curators: Sabine Breitwieser, Director and Lead Curator; Antonia Lotz, Generali Foundation Collection Curator; Christina Penetsdorfer, Assistant Curator

Presented by Generali Foundation

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April 15, 2016

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