Elke Krystufek

Cinema is at the center of Elke Krystufek’s marvelous exhibition “Liquid Logic: The Height of Knowledge and the Speed of Thought.” Dividing the gallery space with white sheets of plastic that extend from floor to ceiling, she shields her new video, Dr. Love on Easter Island, 2006, from intrusion from the rest of the museum. After all, her theme is the life of the artist and the disappearance of this specific way of being under pressure from the institutions of art. The video shows Krystufek following in the footsteps of Bas Jan Ader, who was lost at sea in 1975 while attempting to cross the Atlantic in a small boat. She sets out for Easter Island, swimming the last few meters to shore and emerging from the sea like Ursula Andress in Dr. No. Krystufek calls herself She-Bas and stages Ader’s mysterious disappearance as a Robinson Crusoe–style adventure story. In dialogue with an invisible, annoyingly authoritarian male voice (that of Dr. Love), she analyzes the value of art and the meaning of cultural institutions, bemoaning the power of the archive and the artist’s loss of control over her own work. Yet Krystufek’s Bond-girl act allows us to entertain a glimmer of hope: Maybe sometimes it’s enough simply to emerge at the right time and place to succeed in the role of superstar.

The video’s restrained tone reflects the mood of Ader’s I’m too sad to tell you, 1970, and the melancholy of his photograph Farewell to Faraway Friends, 1971, which shows Ader standing at the edge of a bay at sunset. These two approaches to his work, the reserved and the romantic, are combined by Krystufek in one of the most remarkable paintings in the exhibition, Farewell to I’m too sad to tell you, 2005: Ader becomes the latest object of her fandom, following Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Edie Sedgwick, and Francesca Woodman.

The models of various cult objects and designer goods that She-Bas “discovers” as driftwood on Easter Island—sculptures by Krystufek—also appear in the exhibition. When you exit the cinema, with its white seating and white plastic walls—the chill-out zone at the center of the exhibition—you enter a warmer space featuring shelving in the form of a brain, a penis-shaped table, and murals of candy-colored body parts. Objects from the legendary (though lamentably little-known) collection of MAK, the former Austrian Museum for Art and Industry, make guest appearances. Krystufek’s selections from its stockpiles of exemplary good taste relate to her work’s themes of sexuality, power, fetishism, and cults. A new variant of institutional critique is born: The museum becomes a resonator for the artist’s self-dramatization.

As is her wont, Krystufek turns her irony back on herself as well: From numerous grandiose self-portraits on the walls, she gazes contentedly at her stash—a sea of objects in which her own art is drowning, a wall of display cases towering in front of her original works, all the stuff that is in the way. “You can choose your behavior in the museum,” Dr. Love says in the film. She-Bas replies: “Roller-skating like Godard in the Louvre!”

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Susan Bernofsky.