“Into Position”


The big institutions of the Viennese art world are in turmoil, leading some observers to see a paradigm shift in the offing; in the meantime, independently organized projects are where much of the real energy is emerging. At Bauernmarkt, in the city center, for instance, the freelance curator Elsy Lahner, the philosopher Michael Göd, and gallery owner Emanuel Layr (of Galerie Layr & Wüstenhagen) made interim use of empty office spaces and apartments as well as artists’ studios for their curatorial venture “Into Position,” which encompassed discussion groups, a “Mittwochsbar” (Wednesday Bar), an archive in suitcases, and exhibitions of both emerging and established artists organized by a number of invited guests, including the editors of the Austrian art magazine Spike and the curators from the project space Temporary Contemporary in London.

The most impressive exhibition was put together by Severin Dünser, the curator of Galerie Krinzinger’s project space, and titled “Das Labor” (The Lab)—which was apt, because all the works could be seen as experiments of one sort or another; for instance, Martin Walde’s Battle Angel, 1993/2007, a forest made of measuring tapes, which seemed to be testing the boundary between fragility and stability. In Who Loves the Sun, 2007, Nikolaus Gansterer placed pots of sunflowers atop philosophical treatises, letting us interpret their flourishing in relation to their foundations. In the middle of the space, Johannes Vogl’s O.T. (Marmeladenbrotstreichmaschine) (Untitled [Jam Bread Spreading Machine]), 2007, spread jam on toast, which then fell to the floor from a conveyor belt. Objects move, thereby moving other things—a simple artistic model whose exemplar is Roman Signer, represented here by the video Old Shatterhand, 2007: With a massage strap around his hips, causing his whole body to vibrate, Signer attempts with trembling hand to hit a target with a pistol shot.

The contributions selected for “The Lab” could be read as a crosssection of contemporary art—from the self-referential through the discourse-oriented to the technoid, and including (more or less) traditional painting and sculpture. Thus, “The Lab” mirrored the entire project of “Into Position” on a smaller scale: No new ideologies were declared nor existing boundaries made manifest; instead, something like a survey was conducted. “Into Position” did not assert an alternative public space, as did many artists in the ’90s, nor set a limit on the art market. It was also not implicated in the process of gentrification: The area around the Bauernmarkt already includes the most expensive real estate in Vienna. Questions of general living and working conditions inflected our perception of the works without being foregrounded.

With this interfusion of work and context, differentiation as a hallmark of the modern was replaced by postmodern networking—the declared goal of “Into Position,” where established gallery artists met with students at the beginning of their careers, foreign organizers were invited along with locals, and an archive of all current, independently organized projects in Vienna was created. While the big art institutions run in circles in their search for definition and demarcation, collaboration was practiced here—the young scene in Vienna has taken off.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Diana Reese.