April 20, 2004 - Stadtgalerie - Anxiety of Influence: Bachelors, Brides and a Family Romance
April 20, 2004

Anxiety of Influence: Bachelors, Brides and a Family Romance

Anxiety of Influence: Bachelors,Brides and a Family Romance
​23 April – 23 May 2004

Stadtgalerie, Schlachthaus Theater, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kino Kunstmuseum Bern


The conceptual territory of “Anxiety of Influence: Bachelors, Brides and a Family Romance” is to a large extent mapped out by the seminal writings of Harold Bloom, “The Anxiety of Influence. A Theory of Poetry” (1973) and “A Map of Misreading” (1975). In his “Manifesto for Antithetical Criticism” Bloom defines poetry as “the anxiety of influence, (is) misprision, (is) a disciplined perverseness. Poetry is misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misalliance. Poetry (Romance) is Family Romance. Poetry is the enchantment of incest, disciplined by resistance to that enchantment. Influence is Influenca – an astral disease”, and consequently the process of reading is a “belated and all-but-impossible act, and if strong is always a misreading”. Influence in Bloom’s elaboration “means that there are no texts, but only relationships between texts. These relationships depend upon a critical act, a misreading or misprision, that one poet performs upon another, and that does not differ in kind from the necessary critical acts performed by every strong reader upon every text he encounters”. Thus the history of misreading helps the poets to clear imaginative space for themselves.

Appropriating Bloom’s theory of influence in the field of poetry, the exhibition intends to analyse the essential problematic of artistic creative process linked to the troubled presence and importance of such notions like influence, inspiration and seduction. It aims at tracing the structure of artistic individuality in the framework of its stronger or weaker dependence on external forces and historical matrix . What is an autonomy of an art work? How does it function in the web of intra-artistic relationships? Influence in fact is viewed as both ‘transference of personality’ (Oscar Wilde) and the very essential part of intellectual revisionism (Bloom). Within such conceptual field and taking into consideration aesthetic, psychological and existential factors of artistic creation, the exhibition touches upon the issues related to the aspects of artistic origins and tradition and the stylistic and conceptual distinctiveness. It proposes a set of continuities and ruptures, sequences and broken narratives, a collection of truths and lies in the storage of appropriations and originality; it investigates melancholy states and anxiety dramas, but also unusual pleasures and challenges of seductive collaborations and discoveries; it invites to a biographical journey through primary stages of art making on the threshold of its entrance to a realm of conceptual multiplicity. The exhibition traces a nature of a reference, between the present (resistance to a world that surrounds me) and the past (history and the influential Other), the inside and the outside – a drama of a subject torn by contradictory impulses and immersed in a language of desire, desire for transparency; a subject suffering the condition of belatedness, in a trap of historicity and inertia Strength and the weakness, surface and depth are intertwined in this study of (im)possible narratives of cultural, historical and psychological continuity.

Andrea Schneemeier’s video installation semiconsciously plays upon irresistible sources of inspiration leading in a poignant trajectory from Duchampian enigmas of “brides descending” and “bachelors stripped” down to Batailian “inner experience”. Always socially and politically engaged, questioning gender stereotypes and spectators’ expectations, it is a provocative visual document where notions of alienation and community are the subject matter of artist’s profound act of self-reflection. The collaborative project by Denisa Lehocka and Boris Ondreicka explores intersections of memory and history in its highly personal and intimate structure built of both seductiveness of a moment and a promise of continuity. Ephemeral aspects of reality, transitoriness of an experience and fragility of perception on the edge of disappearance are intertwined in this spatial poem which echoes language experiments of the 60s and 70s. This same legacy of abstract and minimal art – from a formal and conceptual point of view – is of crucial importance for Barbora Klimova’s contemplative relief-like structures that always interact with the existing space of a gallery. It is mathematically balanced environment where a hyper-fertile field of cross-references (from functionalist architecture through tradition of pictoriality to the theories of Milos Vojtechovsky) overlaps with a very subjective and unique artist’s own approach to a frame and spatial limitations. Architecture (but also urbanism and design in connection with sociological studies and philosophy) marks a framework for Dominik Lejman’s investigation of relationships between the crowd (as both individual and mass unit, and ornament) and a variety of physical and mental oppression systems (surveillance, imposed regulations and instructions correcting human behaviour, etc.). Modernist language as artist’s lens and designer’s template dominates the frame and structures anew the issues regarding overwhelming immensity, lack (or rather abuse) of control, and spectators’ anonymity.

Kris Vleeschouwer’s strategy is similar to Lejman’s: the viewer is manipulated by a set of tools and devices elaborated by the artist and experimented on the senses and physicality of those who are willing to interact. Science and technology are smartly paired with psychology and nature in this examination of both viewer’s habits and an occurrence of chance. It is a sublime study of unusual dependencies and unexpected connections. What is at the core of our actions; what are their consequences; how far the (unconscious) influence go? These are the basic questions of this highly poetic and fragile work where an attempt to test predictability and randomness is at stake. The photographic and video work by Tim Lee explicitly deals with Harold Bloom’s notion of ‘misreading’, here applied to the work and writings of Robert Smithson, performed by Lee in a literal (however complex) act of misreading by impersonating an artist and reading his writings upside down. This carnivalesque feature of reversed reality and influence as a distorted mirror of your own self appears also in another work by Lee, his video installation “The Move, the Beastie Boys”, humorous and ironic translation of a popular standard, another attempt at defining influence as a masquerade. Human behaviour between mediation and uncontrolled spontaneity is of prime interest for Katarzyna Kozyra and her video installations where body and its cultural and physical textile constitute the most elemental aspect of identity’s grammar. Dance and theatre (and all other genre’s nuances of performing arts) are the most inspiring areas of research for this work which is strongly immersed in both an intertextual art historical forest of signs and forms as well as an intersubjective microcosm of artist’s private mythology.

Artists exhibiting in Stadtgalerie:
Barbora Klimova (1977, Czech Republic)
Tim Lee (1975, Canada)
Dominik Lejman (1969, Poland)
Boris Ondreicka (1969) & Denisa Lehocka (1971, Slovakia)
Kris Vleeschouvwer (1972, Belgium)

Exclusive presentations:
Katarzyna Kozyra (1963, Poland), Schlachthaus Theater
Andrea Schneemeier (1969, Hungary), Kunstmuseum Bern

Film and Video Programme curated by the artists
24th of April and 25th of April, 6.30 pm, Kino Kunstmuseum Bern

Symposium, Geography of Changes,
Kunstmuseum Bern, 23rd of May, 2004, 10.30 am-5.30pm Participants: Piotr Piotrowski, Andrzej Szczerski, Barnabas Bencsik, Michal Kolecek, Maria Hlavajova, Jens Hoffmann, Christoph Tannert

This exhibition is organized within a framework of the interdisciplinary festival “Centrelyuropdriims. Cultural Scene of Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary” put on by Pro Helvetia Swiss Foundation for Culture (April – October 2004) www.pro-helvetia.ch
Guest Curator: Adam Budak

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