December 12, 2003 - Cairo International Biennale - Austrian contribution – Johanna Kandl
December 12, 2003

Austrian contribution – Johanna Kandl

Johanna Kandl: Speaking in Public
12/12/2003 – 12/02/2004

The 9th Cairo International Biennale
Austrian contribution to the 9th Cairo International Biennale
Commissioner: Christa Steinle
Akhnaton Galleries, Center of Art
1, Sharia Aziz Abaza
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt

Opening: Saturday, 13 December 2003, 7 p.m.

Opening: Saturday, 13 December 2003, 7 p.m.

General-Commissaire: Ahmed Fouad Selim

Ministry of Culture, Sector of Fine Arts, Cairo

Image: Johanna Kandl, Courtesy Christine König Gallery, Vienna

As a consequence of globalisation, the non-European art world is increasingly becoming an area for reflection for European artists too. Johanna Kandl’s experiences during an one-year study visit in Belgrade in 1979/1980 induced in her an interest in developing further artistic projects in countries such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria or Yugoslavia. Thus she was one of the first Austrian artists to enter into an artistic discourse about the changes globalisation has brought to these regions. She has critically observed living conditions, mainly of women, without neglecting Austria and its problematic attitude towards foreigners and foreign countries and their cultures. She reacts to the difficult rules and consequences of diverse market-political situations – here in the capitalist West, an excessive supply of consumer goods governed by trade rules, regulated working hours and social support, there – rampant street markets and illegal businesses in backyards and no social support.

In her understanding of cultural relativism, that people should allow other cultures to keep their individuality and their own life structures, Johanna Kandl follows the theory of Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend, the spiritual mentor of the 9th Cairo Biennale. This cultural relativism, which ascribes the same value to other cultures, is an important response to globalisation in the sense of hegemony, uniformity and levelling.

Developed for the Cairo Biennale, Johanna Kandl’s mobile social sculpture represents an intervention in public space. An exhibition space is filled with coloured balloons carrying messages, which the public can take away with them. Classical public sculpture also holds inscriptions, texts commemorating people, heroic acts, historical events or poetry and religious texts. Instead of these texts, which usually look back on the past, Johanna Kandl uses texts that are messages for the future, diagnoses, prognoses and other quotations from eminent women such as Rosa Luxemburg, Indira Gandhi, Virginia Woolf or Hada Bejar. These texts are however not inscribed in heavy marble or steel, but instead printed on the lightest possible material, on thin rubber skin, filled with air and carried by the air.

Hence they are “air texts”, air objects that float in the sky, messages that disappear into thin air, but also messages that remind us of the promise to free humans from the bonds of gravity, the Earth and work. Thus balloons are the genuine medium, functioning both critically and affirmatively.


Sponsored by the Austrian Federal Chancellery and supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum in Cairo

Cairo International Biennale
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