Christine And Irene Hohenbüchler With Elfriede Skramovsky

Raum Aktueller Kunst Martin Janda

The Hohenbüchler twins have chosen to exhibit their own works with those of Elfriede Skramovsky, a retarded woman from the Kunstwerkstatt Lienz. Over the past four years, Christine and Irene Hohenbüchler have worked with the Kunstwerkstatt numerous times and in various ways. This collaboration is the longest among the many working relationships with “nonartists” of differing social origins, physically challenged individuals, prisoners, and psychiatric patients. The change of partners demonstrates that the artists are not working toward developing a team approach or a common, collaborative work. Rather, they value a “multiple authorship” that remains clearly evident in the final product.

The pictures by Irene, the sculptures by Christine, and the drawings and ceramics of Skramovsky are recognizable as the esthetic products of different personalities. But there are clear connections and mutual dependencies among the works. For example, the sculptural vitrines by Christine serve as display cases for the painted fabric by Skramovsky. Decorated with ornamental aluminum grating, they reflect both their protective and decorative functions. Irene’s oil paintings and amorphous shaped canvases correspond to Skramovsky’s manically repeated shapes; they could almost be portions of her ornamental structures. Indeed, the twins’ work questions the differences between works produced by artists and those produced by nonartists. Valorizing the former would be reactionary, the latter, illusory. As Christine remarked about her third, emotionally disturbed sister in an interview, there is a difference. “You sometimes wonder what normal or abnormal means, but when you see someone deteriorate, then you realize the difference very clearly.”

The principle behind multiple authorship implies a critique of artistic authorship. This is precisely what separates the Hohenbüchlers from other artists who have worked with “outsiders.” They are concerned with the complications and discursive detours that occur in communicating with others, whether and how the different worlds beyond the halls of power can understand each other. As twins, they have always been confronted with a reflected ego, and through their collaboration they broaden this problematic identity to include differing spiritual worlds. There are necessary detours on this path that preclude a finished product and manifest themselves as incoherence, but the Hohenbüchlers understand their methods of working as a manifestation of female thoughts and methods that oppose masculine goal-oriented reductionism. Perhaps one should be wary of such gender bias, and perhaps, in the end, the Hohenbüchler’s theories fall into an essentialism they so masterfully avoid in their dealings with art brut.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.