The Paradise the Downfall

The Paradise the Downfall

Kunsthaus Graz

Hartmut Skerbisch, reden blattartig, 1976. © Estate Hartmut Skerbisch. Photo: Michael Schuster.
November 19, 2015
The Paradise the Downfall
Hartmut Skerbisch - Media Works
November 20, 2015–February 7, 2016
Kunsthaus Graz
Lendkai 1
8020 Graz

T +43 316 80179200

The Graz artist Hartmut Skerbisch (1945–2009) is considered one of Austria’s most distinguished contemporary artists, one whose works always contain within them a political intention. This retrospective in the Kunsthaus Graz focuses primarily on his media works.

Skerbisch was awarded the honorary prize for fine art of the Region of Styria at year-end 2009. Though this took place posthumously, the artist had long been worthy of such an award, his work having long been established as a contribution to a second generation of Austrian conceptual artists.

When Skerbisch arrived as an artist in 1969, an atmosphere of renewal prevailed in Graz—the process of interaction with international art developments was well under way. Information received before others and a bold commitment, not only on the part of provincial politicians, accounted for a highly advanced art scene.

Putting Allspace in a Notshall was the programmatic title of a conception that Skerbisch, together with the architect Manfred Wolff-Plottegg, planned for “trigon” in 1969. As a former student of architecture, Skerbisch was profoundly and unquestioningly occupied with problems of space and our perception of it. He analysed this central theme in the most varied ways throughout his artistic career.

The eponymous pun by James Joyce already refers to the fact that Skerbisch was striving towards compressing space, which not least of all can be deduced from the new media, and which the artist had recognised as a possibility from the outset. Electronic space removes places, brings the far-off nearer and redefines space; it attempts to lead us to our present. In this, art offers a framework in which the public is to have a share.

The term notshall refers to the word “nutshell,” and thus to a state of condensing—similar to “Aleph” in Jose Luis Borges. This bundling of simultaneities and apparent non-coherences is also found in Skerbisch’s later work. For the artist, art as the focus of what exists, both in real and in conceptual terms, was key. Categories such as architecture and sculpture become independent and dissolve—only to be found again in the context of conceptual or media art.

Starting from the central media installation Putting Allspace in a Notshall, which is owned today by the Universalmuseum Joanneum, the exhibition at the Kunsthaus Graz traces Skerbisch’s media-based works—a key role in which is played by the partial reconstruction of his legendary exhibition Zepter und gleißender Stein (“Sceptre and Glistening Stone”), which in 1977 was shown at the Neue Galerie Graz for the duration of just one hour.

Curated by Günther Holler-Schuster

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November 19, 2015

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