Marcus Geiger and Peter Kogler

BAWAG Contemporary

Both Marcus Geiger and Peter Kogler have made their mark through their approach to surfaces—whether by valuing them (Kogler, “Le Grand Récit,” Documenta 10, 1997) or devaluing them (Geiger, “100 Years of Secession,” Vienna Secession, 1998). Their joint exhibition “HALLO BAWAG” was a sensation, evoking sharp cries of excitement and happy sighs, like those of Sarah Jessica Parker at the sight of the latest Manolos. Indeed, the ethos of Sex and the City is not far removed: The Bawag Foundation is sited in the most fashionable part of Vienna, surrounded by trendy restaurants and designer boutiques. Geiger had styled the foyer of the foundation as a flagship store window with mannequins dressed in terry-cloth suits and matching footwear, in front of a curtain of toiletpaper strips; a pile of neon tubes provides the finishing touch. Austria’s premier fashion photographer, Elfie Semotan, had been commissioned to take portraits of everyone from the former Secession president to the city’s former cultural council in terrycloth outfits in pink (Geiger) or ant prints (Kogler); these pictures adorned display cases and the catalogue’s cover.

A tornado raged in the lobby. A wind tunnel made of Kogler’s cloth led to a disco-cave in the basement, which the artists, amusedly recalling the basement parties of their youth, had furnished in a way that evoked a sort of psychedelic vertigo: Geiger’s hybrid take on painting—carpeting made of cheap felt—stretched like the most wondrous fairy-tale landscape across the floor and hallway and up the wall, lit by a plastic bucket lamp shaped like Brancusi’s endless columns. Kogler’s revolving stage, decked in kaleidoscopic prints, stood ready for dancing or just delirious hanging out, while the walls were haunted by his video of the scene-makers who frequented the hotspot Mavo in the ’80s. Geiger’s color-field slide show played counterpoint.

The foundation’s main room looked like a shopping mall made out of cheap wooden modules. Knickknacks were presented in a trashy display: devotional objects sporting the artists’ brand-name signature motifs. Kogler’s logos—computer-generated motifs such as ants, tubes, and brains—trample over whatever stands in their way, be it neo-geo boxes from the ’80s or yellow kitchen gloves. Geiger’s materia prima, pastel-colored terry cloth, had mutated into soccer balls, laundry bags, and a red Swiss passport. Trashy architectural models and hand-stitched exhibition posters trumpeted the finest installations by the two artists, who studied together and now work as a team in the most varied of contexts.

In the very back of the exhibition space waited Kogler’s contribution to the antiglobalization movement: an image of the earth projected onto the wall; it rotated on its axis, but he, entirely the “Master of the Universe,” slowed or sped it up as he pleased. Geiger, for his part, through an extension of the angled gallery ramp, paid homage to destabilization and the loss of solid ground beneath our feet. And finally, on a block of ten monitors, all the most twisted bits of the artists’ video library were sampled: rooms morphing, tubes looping, ants spinning on a turning record. Anyone who’s ever wanted to experience firsthand a washing machine’s spin cycle must have been well pleased. And then there was the text-TV, poetry from the house of Geiger: “OK! No! Twit! Hello!” Awesome.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.