Dorit Margreiter

Using concepts of the French sociologist Henri Lefebvre as a point of departure, Dorit Margreiter's exhibition “Everyday Life” involved various ways of showing how modern information technologies shape our social, economic, and cultural life, thereby also determining the conditions for the worlds of design, advertising, and production. The chief resource for Margreiter's reflections on content and aesthetics is television, that arguably most “everyday” and globally accessible of media. Drawing sophisticated parallels between reality and fiction, Margreiter examines the way daily life reflects the influence of Hollywood, especially the television industry with its soap-opera and sitcom formats, particularly in two biographical works. In Short Hills, 1999/2000, a portable DVD player becomes the medium of emigration and memory. The situation of a Hong Kong Chinese family living in suburban New Jersey is depicted by juxtaposing documentary footage with one family member's favorite Hong Kong soap opera. In Around the World, Around the World, 2001, Shanghai is the backdrop for stories dealing with the concept of place and other phantasms: belonging, origin, home, cultural and ethnic identities.

Margreiter's approach to staging draws on methods used in architecture and design, such as Frederick Kiesler's display systems, or elements from film sets and television studios, which function as meta-stages for her fictive-documentary storyboards. Everyday Life (Case Study #22), 2001, the most recent and central work of the exhibition, tells stories of the ideal life as manifested in the modernist houses of Southern California. The icon of the glass-and-steel miracle is Pierre Koenig's Case Study House sitting dramatically atop a hill overlooking Los Angeles and offering spectacular panoramic views of the city. Margreiter interviews the architect, the client (Carlotta Stahl, who still lives in the house), and the photographer Julius Shulman, whose famous image of the corner of the house floating in space above the nighttime grid of LA's lights has entered the visual archive of the twentieth century. For buildings as for people, the avoidance of the superfluous proves to be refreshing, as the remarkably youthful protagonists of the video—all in their late eighties—confirm. They speak of constructing, photographing, and living in a building conceived as ideal architecture, yet report personal experiences of contradictions within the utopian principles of modernism and its concrete, sociopolitical development. In her set—a stagelike architecture painted in Martha Stewart's creamy “Everyday” colors—the artist dashes the idea of architectonic form as a product of function and shows architecture as a facade behind which the private is detached from the public.

Margreiter's refined stage fittings build a framework for real and made-for-media situations, historical and contemporary models that can be applied to the concept of everyday life. She studies the fracture line where utopia meets banality. The symbolically loaded promises of the modern age; the credulity and optimism underlying modernist architecture; and the high honors heroically granted to “nature” by the Westerns of classical Hollywood (Long Shot [Monument Valley], 2001)—all these collide, formally enhanced with ciphers from film terminology, with the “everyday” of today: the world of advertising (Space Off, 1997) or the entertainment products of US television series broadcast around the world (Studio City, 1999). In times of efficient surface appearances, Margreiter works behind the scenes, scratching at the paint.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger