There’s a prefab housing development just outside the gates of Vienna called the Blue Lagoon—an idyll of single-family homes erected between a shopping mall and the Autobahn. “Experience your dream life,” promises the brochure. This artificial suburbia is the background for Muntean/Rosenblum’s parable of lost identities, “Lost in the Savage Wilderness of Civil Life.” It’s an apt title for this exhibition, in which these ethnographers of youth culture have turned their thematic home base into a nearly universal category.

Behind the gallery doors was the facade of what looked like a house from a Playmobil or Barbie set, in bright children’s colors; there were windows on either side of the door leading into the exhibition spaces. There we found the video work, from 2001, whose title is that of the show. On location at the Blue Lagoon, Muntean/Rosenblum had teenagers in jeans and sneakers pose in front of the eerily aseptic and featureless house facades, filming them head-on for one minute. Each zoom shot begins, with a close-up of a face in front of an abstract color background, travels along the T-shirt, which is printed with a motif drawn by Muntean/Rosenblum, and only reveals the setting once the entire figure is in the picture. The calculated contrast between the archaic motionlessness of these human sculptures and the shrill, hyperreal backdrop in harsh daylight is increased by a no less oblique sound track. Muntean/Rosenblum set the zoom shots to aria settings of the lament of the prophet Elijah, a musical subject popular in the Baroque. The regal pathos of Scarlatti & Co. achieved a sense of perspective or distance. Frozen footage became thawed through sound and emotion. A parallel series of portrait photos of the teenagers gave the subjects greater specificity in time and space. Muntean/Rosenblum agree only partially with the poststructuralist thesis of the end of the subject, of the subject as phenomenon of the text or the flow of symbols: The video loop presents a litany of possible identities, the photo portraits a confirmation of their incomprehensibility.

Exhibitions by Markus Muntean and Adi Rosenblum are always polyphonic structures. Large-format acrylic paintings meet tableaux vivants; graphic picture stories meet sculpturally interpreted icons of the everyday. This time the icon was a toy motor scooter that had been blown up to adult scale (Untitled, 2001). Meanwhile, on spacious canvases, teenage dream dancers appeared in urban wastelands or interiors, wearing globally familiar outfits but looking out at the viewer like medieval saints. Melancholic sayings and pearls of common sense are scratched in the paintings’ margins—texts and images sampled from the treasure troves of fashion-magazine and advertising trivia, precise commentary on our collective state. Construction and transformation are the magic words: Reality is never allowed to be too genuine, or to come too close. Painting, which stands for individuality and subjectivity, is inserted into the anti-individualistic world of global youth culture. “Sometimes you get overly absorbed with how exact segments of time are consumed,” we read in one of Muntean/Rosenblum’s earlier paintings, “and you begin to feel a pleasure with life that is hopelessly tinged with longing.”

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.