Critics’ Picks

View of “Constanze Ruhm,” 2015–16.

St. Pölten

Constanze Ruhm

Zeit Kunst Niederösterreich | Museum of Lower Austria
Kulturbezirk 5
September 26–January 24

Austrian artist and filmmaker Constanze Ruhm has been contributing to the discourse on moving images through her exhibitions, films, curatorial projects, and writing since the mid-1990s. Though she is primarily known for her films that update feminist film theory and Brechtian dramaturgy, what is instantly striking in this midcareer survey is another less discussed aspect of her practice—namely, the exploration of possibilities for presenting moving images in exhibition contexts. The show’s circular design, which is based on the shape of a 16-mm reel, with a specially constructed cinema in the center, has been developed in collaboration with architect Golmar-Mina Kempinger-Khatibi and elegantly brings together Ruhm’s oeuvre.

Central to the exhibition—the axle of the reel, so to speak—is the series “X Characters,” 2001–14, which comprises films, installations, photographs, and web-based projects. In this impressive body of work, Ruhm has resurrected and given voice to iconic female characters from cinema’s history, such as Hari from Solaris and Nana from Vivre sa Vie. Played by contemporary actors speaking in German, thereby expelling any lingering sense of reconstruction or tribute, these undead characters interrogate their newfound and bewildering agency while often being absurd and farcical.

Framing “X Characters” at one end of the exhibition, Ruhm’s early computer-generated animations reference architectural spaces used in films. At the other end is her newest work, produced in collaboration with French filmmaker Emilien Awada, Panoramis Paramount Paranormal, 2015, which investigates the Saint-Maurice film studios near Paris (established in 1913, overtaken by Paramount Pictures, and then leveled by a major fire in 1971), thus employing architecture as the link that joins her diverse output.