Vienna

Markus Schinwald

Galerie Georg Kargl

A gray-black horizon. Twilight reveals horses grazing. Dark silhouettes of riders on a gently arched bridge, among stirring leaves. Monolithic shards of stone. Lonesome cowboys. A woman. And a guy who might be a philosopher, or at least an accountant. A bizarre building appears—half fort, half temple. Birds against the sky, sun behind trees. Sitting on the temple stairs, the philosopher bows his head. Clouds. The stereotypes of an American western against a background of Austrian Expressionism, in the form of Clemens Holzmeister’s crematorium in Vienna’s central cemetery and Fritz Wotruba’s church sculpture.

For this piece, Diarios (to you), 2003, Markus Schinwald used 160 individual images, a series of projected slides that took center stage at his first solo show here. By superimposing two projections, he puts the photographs in motion, resulting in a flowing rhythm that is suggestive of, and yet is not, film. Chris Marker, who established the principle of the photo-film with La Jetée (1962), is one reference; another is the panorama as a precursor to film, for Schinwald uses CinemaScope for his photographs. The animated slide show and the printed versions of selected images use layers and overlays as a heightening device.

The narrative framework of Diarios is full of gaps. It deals with a fragmentary story of disjointed emotions and longings, deliberately invoking narrative stereotypes and cultural clichés. For the sound track, he mixes a female and a male voice with synthesizer sounds. Lines from a screenplay and a romantic bit of love poetry alternate suggestively and disturbingly as both morph into incomprehensible speechlessness. The images do not illustrate the text, nor does the text comment on the images; instead, the sequences combine to create a highly emotional atmospheric image, a dangerous idyll that Schinwald also conjures in another work, Autumn, 2003. Here, having climbed through a wardrobe into the largest space of the gallery, one stood before a wall tapestry carrying a photographic reproduction of a nineteenth-century landscape painting. In front of this stood a life-size marionette of a portly man in a suit. One had the feeling of having entered the world of Freud’s 1919 essay “The Uncanny”—as if having seen all this already in a world of personal experiences and collective memory. With his series of computer manipulations of Viennese Biedermeier portrait engravings, too, Schinwald invites us to step beyond the usual bounds, to take a second look, to come to recognize what had mystified us but at the same time seemed strangely familiar.

And then there is Schinwald’s love of surfaces. Not for nothing was he trained as a fashion designer; his earliest artworks were deconstructed shirts, bizarre footwear, and other articles of clothing. For this exhibition he arranged several of these fetishes (together with film props and relics of performances) on Chinese-style lacquered shelves placed before photographs of Taiwanese contortionists. Here one also found perverse metal prosthetics, such as the harness for an index finger that plays a key role in Schinwald’s eccentric masterwork Dicitio pii (Dictation of the Blessings), 2001, a film driven by the logic of the unconscious and concerned with the power of gestures and the potential of the displeasing. Condensing images, codes, and conventions across genres and epochs, Schinwald baffles the mind but touches the emotions.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.