Graz

Max Böhme et al.

Grazer Kunstverein

Without a title, without an overriding theme, this exhibition—comprised of two videos and a small wall installation—established many connections between artistic intent and modes of presentation. All the artists shown here belong to the generation that emerged at the beginning of the ’90s which viewed artistic practice as directed more toward projects than toward subjective expression. This turn occurred later in Vienna and was less radical than in other cities. Max Böhme, Octavian Trauttmansdorff, and the trio Andrea Clavadetscher, Martin Hodel, and Eric Schuhmacher, who originally came from Switzerland, represent part of this transitional generation which is critical of the ’80s artist and also critical of the new didacticism associated with certain political and analytical “schools.” In contrast to these two modes of artmaking, the works of these artists show moments of ease, of playfulness, and of the personal.

This transitional state is clearest in the video work of Böhme. It documents the destruction of his last exhibition at Galerie Pakesch in Vienna—a small room covered by a latex skin. There he created what could be called an Ur cave of artistic presentation, pointing to the gallery as a uterine space that functions as a refuge from the pressures of daily life. The video—sober images punctuated by an original sound track—showed the artist tearing the tough, sticky mass from the walls. The refusal to stage the action produces both boring and spectacular scenes, but nothing that goes beyond the actual work process. When physical strength is necessary, then there are pseudo-expressionistic scenes that have an Actionistic pathos, but any heroic associations are deflated by the triviality of the action.

Even more sober, but more exciting, was the video by Trautmansdorff, the best work in the exhibition. From a fixed angle, one can see through an open door into a small room. Street noise permeates the sparsely furnished room. For a long time nothing happens, but then a table leg moves, breaks, and the table falls apart. On the street everything remains the same. After some time the other furniture begins to fall apart. Outside everything seems normal. Finally, the door is closed. No one was there; no one is responsible for the action. No one cares about the cheap furniture. But taken as a metaphor for the human condition, this slapstick becomes a social accusation.

Clavadetscher, Hodel, and Schuhmacher create a kind of frame for the videos. Using black paint, they extended the floor to about the height of an armchair and created a landscape around the room that looked like a post-Modern reinterpretation of Richard Serra’s Splashing, 1968. The specks on the edge of the wall or floor were no longer purely material; they had more to do with Leonardo’s dots into which one can read battle scenes. The landscapelike set elevated the room into a shifting plane, maintaining the other works in a precarious position. Such a romantic background for contemporary art corresponds to the cliche of Swiss Alpine life that decorates the back covers of important art magazines.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.