September 19, 2007 - Landesmuseum Joanneum - Landesmuseum Joanneum presents Volksgarten Politics of Belonging
September 19, 2007

Landesmuseum Joanneum presents Volksgarten Politics of Belonging

Politics of Belonging

September 22, 2007 – January 13, 2008

Curators: Adam Budak, Peter Pakesch,
Katia Schurl

Opening: Saturday, September 22, 2007, 11am
Tue – Sun 10am-6pm
Kunsthaus Graz am
Landesmuseum Joanneum
Lendkai 1, A8020 Graz

T +43-316/8017-9200, F -9212
info [​at​]

In a world of hysterically accelerated globalisation, the issues of hyper-locality and the community-generated space are getting on a particular urgency. Such urgency is at the centre of the exhibition “Volksgarten. Politics of Belonging” which aims at portraying two districts of the micro-city organism of Graz, Lend and Gries, in the nearest neighbourhood of Kunsthaus Graz, on a division line between two distinctive and diversified parts of the city. The Volksgarten — as a title concept — implicates an abstract and a concrete site of an open and democratic space where a variety of identities is being shaped and consequently negotiated. Ethnically complex, multicultural and socially diverse, Lend and Gries function as a metaphor of urban, political, cultural and national transformations. Geometry of difference brought in by a dense population of immigrants, visible signs of economic failure, thus generated social frustration and division constitute the everyday-life aspects of newly born and adapted economies. The exhibition investigates identification systems and strategies of belonging within given hybrid neighbourhoods and communities. What are the forms of co-habitation? How social utopias are being constructed? What are the possible scenarios of collective and communal life? How (public) intimacy endures in the landscape of group-like common-life impositions and memberships? Volksgarten is a playground where a complex production of social space occurs: here, the legality and legitimacy of space are tested; here, too, spaces accessibility is challenged through a dense network of multiply human relations on the crossway of local and global economies. Last but not least, this exhibition explores the role of an art institution, such as Kunsthaus Graz and its landmark architecture (designed by star architects, Peter Cook and Colin Fournier) as a possible and potential catalyst for changes and revitalisation of the troubled districts. This very architecture had been baptized by the architects with a nickname “Friendly Alien”. Such oscillation between estrangement and friendliness marks not only the formal solutions for the Kunsthaus’ architecture; it also describes very well its psychology and the external resonance.

Following Jean-Luc Nancy’s elaborations of community and his grammar of “with”, the artists of this exhibition perform a desire to rework or rather unwork the very construct of the (real or imaginative) community as the dominant Western political formation, founded upon an exclusionary myth of national, rational or religious unity in order to accommodate more inclusive and plural forms of Being-in-common and of dwelling together in the world. Here, there is a collection of belongings as mosaics of “with”: the very properties that constitute the identity (folds of proximity and distance) but also the constructions (modulations and tensions of proximity and distance) that shape their politics and mode of operating.

The Swiss art collective, airline is setting up a place of encounter (airtrain, 2007) in the Grazer Volksgarten, inviting visitors to take part in a variety of activities and seeking lively interaction with the local residents. Airline is taking on a journey into a life of real communities, elaborating (interdisciplinary) agenda of intercultural practice and mentality’s training for an open guesthouse where hospitality and authenticity of a minimal gesture operate beyond any particular politics of belonging. Here, at the airtrain station in the Volksgarten, there is a construction site of a ready-made belonging, ephemeral in its existence, though elemental in its essence, half-way utopian though haptic too. The Greek artist, Maria Papadimitriou is assembling an orchestra composed of immigrants (Volksgarten Orchestra, 2007), which will premiere at the Grazer Concert Hall, Orpheum on the day after the exhibition opening. The immigrants’ polyphony of diverse musical styles, traditions, voices, sounds, instruments, etc. is a convincing expression of possibility of a new language, a new communication, opening up new encounters, waking up (social and individual) potentialities. Meanwhile, the Austrian artistic duo Johanna and Helmut Kandl take the happiness of the people of Lend and Gries as their theme. Brightly coloured balloons will be handed out, inscribed in 15 different languages with a bold assertion: We will live here and be happy, 2007. Such is Kandl’s response to the exhibitions topic of belonging and a specific ethnic complexity of Lend and Gries: a self-imposed statement of a peculiar simplicity, if not elemental sincere obviousness a necessity of happiness as a basic and sufficient condition of life, its sense, feeling and quality, in a place which due to various reasons happened to become your (second) home.

In the exhibition space of the Kunsthaus Graz, the theme of living together is dealt with at a general level. Sharon Lockhart’s field-works research both the mechanisms of collectivity and the subjectivity of an individual, conditioned by the communities’ belonging and identification. Conceived in a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Lockhart’s film, “Pine Flat” is the artists first project to focus on a community in her native country, the United States. In a typical for her, formally concise but intimate, manner, the artist traces and records the contemporary rural life with a particular attention paid to the interactions and behaviour of the local community’s children, engaged in everyday activities played out in a picturesque natural landscape immersed in seasonal changes. “Pine Flat” is Lockhart’s most sincere to date and almost autobiographical “collective journey”. The Turkish artist, Özlem Sulak revisits the biography of her own family in order to depict the poignancy of 20th century political and social history. Her video work Granny is a private, captivating confession of those who survived a true gehenna of European forced migration and ethnic relocation. Realized for the exhibition Volksgarten, Thomas Hirschhorns sculpture Concept-Car is a journey into the artists own identity and its rich network of connections and conceptual itineraries. Who am I? Where do I stand? What is my belief? asks the artist in a labyrinthine diagram which serves as an engine of his vehicle of concepts and precious possessions. Here is the archive of private mythology, intellectual skeleton of artists identity and of his dense work between distinctive subjectivity and external influence. As a catalogue of references and tools, Concept Car focuses on the understanding of belonging(s) as an intellectual property thus provides the viewer with a unique insight into the artists atelier and the constitutive production process. Stephen Willats two series from the end of the 70s, Sorting Out Other Peoples Lives (1978) and A Conflict of Identities (1979) aim at weaving the complex fabrics of belonging on the crossway of personal desire and communal expectation and thus developing new codes for social structure and the role of an individual.

Participating artists: Airline / Switzerland, Pawel Althamer / Poland, Bik van der Pol / Holland, Maria Papadimitriou / Greece, Daniel Roth / Germany, Thomas Hirschhorn / Switzerland, Manfred Willmann / Austria, Los Carpinteros / Cuba, Ozlem Sulak / Turkey, Helmut & Johanna Kandl / Austria, Absalon / Israel, Gordon Matta-Clark / USA, Stephen Willats / UK, Sharon Lockhart / USA, Pierre Huyghe / France, Jean-Luc Moulene / France, resanita / Austria.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue which contains text contributions by Nira Yuval Davis, Suzana Milevska, Katia Schurl, Sissi Tax, Özlem Sulak, Bik Van der Pol, Helmut Konrad, Christian Kravagna, Adam Budak, Thomas Hirschhorn, Stephen Willats as well as an introduction by Peter Pakesch and a rich visual material, related to the art works on view and the special projects developed in collaboration with the local community.

Volksgarten. Politics of Belonging includes a programme of the following events:

Saturday, Sept 22, 2007
3pm: Talks with Thomas Hirschhorn and Stephen Willats, Space04
From 5pm: Picnic in the Volksgarten (Der Pavillion)

Sunday, Sept 23, 2007/7pm, Orpheum Graz/Concert
Maria Papadimitriou: Volksgarten Orchestra

Tuesday, Oct 2, 2007/7pm, Space04/Lectures
Suzana Milevska: The Phantasm of Belonging
Nira Yuval-Davis: The Politics of Belonging and the
Construction of Boundaries

Tuesday, Oct 9, 2007/8.30pm, augartenkino kiz//Film Screening
Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007/7pm, Space04/Lecture
Rainer Münz: Too Many People?

Friday, Dec 7, 2007/10am2am, Space04/Symposium
Stories — Places — Identities

The exhibition has been realized in collaboration with the Festival Styrian Autumn

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