September 7, 2012 - Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) - Against the Specialist
September 7, 2012

Against the Specialist

DEPART, Still from Cloud Chamber Diaries, 2012. Courtesy of the artists.

Against the Specialist
Contemporary References to Arnold Schoenberg in Image and Sound

September 13, 2012–January 6, 2013

Opening: September 12, 6–8pm

Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street 
New York, NY 10022
Hours: daily 10–6pm

T 212 319 5300

Artists: Konrad Becker, John Brill, DEPART, Tina Frank/Florian Hecker, Robert Howsare, Rainer Kohlberger, Kurt Kren, Claudia Märzendorfer, Gerald Moser

Curated by Eva Fischer

A modern day appraisal of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg and his legacy forms the point of departure for the Austrian Cultural Forum’s fall 2012 exhibition, titled Against the Specialist. The show, which is being mounted in collaboration with the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, presents a group of international contemporary artists working at the intersection between seeing and hearing; image and sound; and avant-garde and experimental practice. 

The title of the exhibition is a direct quote by Schoenberg, from an essay he wrote in 1940, in which he argued for the necessity of multidisciplinarianism in the arts. It also hearkens back to Schoenberg’s differentiation between true artistic genius and talented craftspeople, as he saw the need to develop a command of and utilize many different disciplines as essential to the artistic process.

The juxtaposition of works by contemporary artists with excerpts and quotes from Arnold Schoenberg’s body of work exposes the complexity of this composer, visual artist, and vanguard who is today regarded as one of the most influential and visionary artists of the past century. Schoenberg’s interdisciplinary use of so many different means of expression renders him a precursor to what Rosalind Krauss calls the “age of the post-media condition.” 

Against the Specialist seeks to reflect these multi-media and interdisciplinary currents prevalent in contemporary arts, and in doing so, allows for a reassessment of the artist himself. 

The two Austrian audio-visual artists known collectively as DEPART directly reference Schoenberg’s War-Clouds Diary in a multi-screen installation and audio soundscape. Tina Frank‘s video—shown here as a large scale double-projection—focuses on the threshold of spatial perception: yellow and black patterns contract and unfold like a chromographic pendulum to pulsating rhythms by Florian Hecker. The late Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Kurt Kren deconstructs a painting by artist Helga Philipp in his analogue film, 11/65 – Bild Helga Philipp, using montage and editing to create rhythm—in the absence of an actual sound layer. 

Exhibition visitors are invited to interact with artist Gerald Moser‘s thicket of symmetrically aligned strings, giving them movement which in turn alters the images projected onto the strings and disturbs the structure. A question of space – a time to question alludes to Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique which Moser sees as oscillating between rigid structure and artistic freedom. Viennese sound artist Konrad Becker provides the audio for this piece, with five tracks from his ground-breaking 1982 album, Monotonprodukt 07. Rainer Kohlberger‘s multi-screen piece, Col,  represents a visual approach to mathematical and algorithmical structures, in which abstract shapes move toward and away from each other only to meet at random intervals, guided by variation, metrics, and chromatics.

With her ice-sculpture, Claudia Märzendorfer pays homage to Schoenberg’s never-realized mechanical note-writing machine: she speaks to the technological limitations of that time, in that her sculpture has no functionality. Ohio-native Robert Howsare‘s Drawing Apparatus, two turntables connected by a pen that creates drawings unique to the respective records’ speeds, represents another contemporary commentary on Arnold Schoenberg’s musical notation systems. As is the case with Moser’s installation, this piece also fluctuates between a structured system and artistic coincidence.

The photographs by New York-based artist John Brill capture emotions, visions, and surreal impressions, and as such reference Schoenberg’s paintings, his so-called “gazes,” which he saw as the most immediate means of emotional expression. 

The opening reception for Against the Specialist will take place on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, from 6pm to 8pm. It will be preceded by an artist talk featuring participating artists Robert Howsare, Rainer Kohlberger, Leonhard Lass, Gregor Ladenhauf (DEPART), Gerald Moser, and others (tba), and curator Eva Fischer. The talk will take place in the auditorium of the Austrian Cultural Forum from 5pm to 6pm. Admission is free. Due to limited seating, rsvp for the artist talk is required. Tickets are available here or by calling 212 319 5300 x 46.

Press images are available here.

About Eva Fischer 
Eva Fischer is an Austrian art historian, curator, and audio-visual artist, and the founder and director of the Vienna-based international sound:frame Festival for Audiovisual Expressions, now in its seventh year. Against the Specialist marks a return for Fischer, who curated the Austrian Cultural Forum’s 2009 video exhibition sound:frame:remix.

About the Austrian Cultural Forum New York 
With its architectural landmark building in Midtown Manhattan the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is the cultural embassy of Austria in the United States. It hosts more than 200 free events annually and showcases cutting-edge Austrian contemporary art, music, literature, and academic thought in New York. The year 2012 marks the ten-year anniversary of the building’s construction, and features many special programs and events commemorating this milestone.

Visit for more information. 

Subway: E, M Train to Fifth Avenue/53rd Street
B, D, F, M Train to 47-50 Street/Rockefeller Center
E, M, 6 Train to 51st Street/Lexington Avenue
Bus: M 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to 53rd Street

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Media Contact
Kerstin Schuetz-Mueller, ACFNY: / T 212 319 5300 x78

Admission to exhibitions, concerts, and other events is free.
Reserve tickets online at or call 212 319 5300 ext 46.

Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY)
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