Vienna

Barbara Holub

Galerie Hohenlohe & Kalb

SUBURBIA IS BOOMING—not just in terms of population, but as a subject for both video art and movies. And in discussions of architecture, Celebration, Florida, Disney's “model” community, is sure to come up, usually as an example of the interplay between deregulated corporate development and the replacement of public pace by private architectures of security or aesthetic “retropias.” In Austria, the number of single-family dwellings is rising dramatically, and Fontana, a development near Vienna, is a kind of counterpart to Celebration. It is the subject of Barbara Holub's exhibition “Set!” A photographic frieze running above the gallery's windows (all works 2000) presented pictures of the development: the Empire villa with Texan accents, the sandbox, the doghouse, the garden fence, the hedges. Among the other shots are images of construction workers laying the asphalt floor of an interior (not in Fontana but in the artist's own studio): The figures, shrouded in fog, seem to hover like ghosts of the industrial age beside the ideals of a middle-class dream. The frieze ends with an image of a vegetable garden: Living more beautifully is also work.

Next, a kind of coffee table was covered with a tablecloth printed with the motif of a wooden garden fence and laid out with sandboxes as if they were place mats. There were also several rows of toy figures on the floor: animals, cowboys, Indians, knights. And a pair of mats was printed with the image of a swimming pool. By treating large and small as equivalent, Holub knit the different material layers of daily culture into a unified, all—encompassing whole. What the knights' castle is to the children, the domicile is to their parent—a house of endless regressions.

What role is left to artistic production on the margin of this overflowing aesthetic self-furnishing? Holub pursues this question in Zwischen Rollen (Between roles), a video that takes place in her studio. The asphalt floor is the stage; a bit of lawn and a garden fence are the setting for conversations among one of the artist's friends. The topic is the fence. But what they say makes little sense—their talk becomes a kind of ornament, like a wallpaper of speech balloons. In the gallery corridor there are shots of the sets for the video being placed in the studio and transcripts of the dialogues. Thus Holub contravenes the documentary character of her architectural research and places the art space in the foreground. At the same time, she produces a variation—quite a fashionable one, I might add—on the discussion initiated by Robert Smith on of the representability of nonart sites in a gallery space, by reversing its logic. The question is no longer whether the gallery space can be permeated by other spaces of social activity; rather, Holub makes reference to a vernacular architecture that provides no real resistance to the creative workshop: The artist's studio is everywhere. Whether this regressive participation model of the domicile really needs an aesthetic doubling in art remains an open question. One looks in vain here for the dark side of the idyll, the et in Arcadia ego. The children have been in control for a long time now.

Matthias Dusini

Translated from German by Sara Ogger