Octavian Trauttmansdorff

Galerie Krobath Wimmer

In this gallery, like many others, there are discrete spaces for exhibitions and offices. In his recent show, Octavian Trauttmansdorff inverted the function of the two areas: The gallerists worked in the exhibition space, directly in front of a picture window, while the artist installed photographs and a video in the traditional working space. This process of making the gallery’s working conditions and business visible is, of course, reminiscent of Michael Asher’s T975 gesture concerning the material “support system” of the apparently neutral aesthetic experience.

The walls around the new desk areas were covered with the works of artists represented by the gallery, run by former employees of the Galerie Pakesch, a crucial venue in Vienna in the ’80s and early ’90s. Although some “new” artists were on view, the majority of the work shown represented a piece of (art) history—a lively moment in which today’s generation of thirty- to forty-year-olds “grew up” artistically.

Trauttmansdorff placed himself in that context by positioning his photographs amid all the others. His grainy, black-and-white images show different degrees of participation in an art-world microcosm: the “big” artists, the kids, the major players, the fringe figures. In his double status as “young artist” and artist’s assistant, Trauttmansdorff assumes the role of participant-observer. In this way, the work has a biographical as well as a “socio-graphical” component but cannot be reduced to either one of these aspects.

The influence of social, architectural, and built environments on the comportment of individuals, a persistent theme in Trauttmansdorffs work, is reflected in his manner of setting up the work space of the gallery. The tables, chairs, and computers were elevated on a platform supported byViennese telephone directories. This slight adjustment gave the visitor the sense of a stage, creating a peculiar distance in conversations with the gallerists. One was also faced with the decision of whether or not to step onto the podium. And in the back space, Trauttmansdorffs use of “Viennese orange”—a purposefully artificial, almost futuristic color introduced during the ’70s modernization campaign in the city—evoked the unredeemed social utopias of the time. Trauttmansdorff installed a row of connected plastic seats in this orange as if for a waiting room; the monitor resting on this row of seats played a video that showed similar seating in the city’s psychiatric hospital, with shots of hurried legs passing in front of it.

The hospital was at the center of one of the country’s biggest construction scandals in decades, one in which the Social Democratic party was heavily implicated. Among its other effects, this crisis of socialism has led to the rise of the right-wing populist Freiheitlichen Partei inVienna, which won 27.9 percent of the vote in the last election. (The show takes as its title “2.7.9%.”) Thus, the platform on which the activities of the art dealers take place is pitched at a 27.9-degree angle. In such gestures, this project may have been a bit overcoded; political reflections were layered with institutional critique and biography. While Trauttmansdorff showed that these fields are not autonomous, he gave little indication of the structure of their relation.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Diana Reese.