Critics’ Picks

View of Katharina Gruzei, “Bodies of Work,” 2019.

Vienna

Katharina Gruzei

Charim Galerie
Dorotheergasse 12/1 1st
March 22–May 11, 2019

In this exhibition, Katharina Gruzei is showing “Bodies of Work,” 2017, a series of photographs taken in Austria’s last shipyard on the Danube, located in the industrial city of Linz. In the city that is also home to the Voest steel company (founded by the Nazis and formerly known as Reichswerke Herman Göring), the artist has captured metalworkers, welders, and ship-builders in the rough environment of a working port. In one image, a worker’s body seems to fuse with the artificial textiles and tubes of his protective gear, the instrument and product of labor becoming one. Such moments set the mood for an exhibition that can be read like a storyboard for a fascinating and terrifying science-fiction dystopia. Photographs of the sober, neon lighting of welding equipment feature next to images of natural light shining through the massive ship-production hall, yet the overall tone of the exhibition persists in grays and greens.

One might not necessarily think of traditional photography when looking at these works, which are positioned individually or in pairs and groups. Instead, their affect points more toward the painterly and cinematographic. The narrative quality of the photos sharply contrasts with the rather structural video workers leaving the factory (again), 2012, which flickers between light and darkness to produce a visual rhythm that corresponds to its sounds. Developed steadily over the past decade, the artist’s subtle body of work takes the readily rendered clichés of the post-human—the vulnerable human body coming up against the harshness of industrial production, the organic mixing with the machine, grime with slick surfaces—and breathes fresh life into them.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.