– Autumn/Winter 2010

Events, Works, Exhibitions

On Entering the Room

Tanja Widmann

On entering the room I was overcome by relief. What was displayed before me was comical and exuded something promptly understandable: four hollow plinths made out of flat white panels elevating four ceramic vases. The vases, covered with a milky white glaze, were each upside down. Faces were outlined on them in a few brushstrokes of black lacquer. One of them had wavy lines that flowed down its cheeks from a pair of empty eyes; some had wrinkles drawn across their foreheads; and most of the mouths were straight or slightly frowning, as if reflecting on a serious situation or feeling of despair. The painted faces turned the vases into elongated, pear-shaped heads, sometimes with handle ears, sometimes without. two large collages were also displayed in the gallery, each of which depicted a figure made of grey folds with a scribbled-on face. They looked like a pair of anthropomorphised laptops, male and female respectively. The light grey screens were their head and chest, while the dark grey keyboards formed the rest of their bodies. And so we saw this pair, sitting there in the slumped position created by the laptop's half-open angle, with empty gazes, ink-drawn hands in their laps, beige packing-paper legs dangling, thick lacquer curls as hair, ink lines shaping a hat. The colour of the works, and the atmosphere they evoked, were restrained and serious. Such was the evocation but not the effect of Exhausted Vases and Waiting Laptops (both 2009) in the show 'some end of things', at Galerie Andreas Huber in Vienna earlier this year.

These sculptures and collages at once seemed to me like the punch line to my state

  1. This caricature-like quality is no coincidence. In 'some end of things', Judith Hopf refers to or quotes the Romanian-American cartoonist Saul Steinberg, who is predominantly known for his work for The New Yorker

  2. Diedrich Diederichsen, 'Outboard Motor', in Judith Hopf (exh. cat.), Vienna: Secession, 2007, p.8.

  3. These works, among others, are collaborations with Deborah Schamoni.

  4. See Richard Dyer, 'Entertainment and Utopia', Only Entertainment, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, pp.19-35.

  5. Ibid., p.20.

  6. Virno makes this observation throughout the text: '[W]hile the comical dimension can be completely, or only in part, non-linguistic, the joke is exclusively verbal.' Paolo Virno, Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation (trans. James Cascaito), Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008, p.79.

  7. Juliane Rebentisch, Ästhetik der Installation, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2003, p.94. Translation Margarethe Clausen's.

  8. See P. Virno, Multitude, op. cit., p.163.

  9. Ibid., p.81. Virno is quoting Freud from Jokes and Their Relation to the Subconscious (1905).

  10. Ibid., pp.155-56.

  11. See J. Rebentisch, 'Zur Aktualität ästhetischer Autonomie: Juliane Rebentisch im Gespräch', in Inaesthetik: Theses on Contemporary Art, no.0, 2008, p.116.

  12. See J. Rebentisch, Ästhetik der Installation, op. cit., p.289.

  13. That the Minimalist practices (industrialised materials and objects, reproducibility, serial and additive logic, the simplicity of geometric forms) aimed at creating distance are also always ambivalent - unable to rid themselves of the shadow of commodified production and the future logo-culture of corporations - has been extensively discussed. See, for example, Hal Foster, 'The Crux of Minimalism', The Return of the Real: The Avant-garde at the End of the Century, Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 1996; Rosalind Krauss 'The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum', October, vol.54, Fall 1990, pp.3-17.

  14. See H. Foster, 'The Crux of Minimalism', op. cit.

  15. See Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996; and J. Rebentisch's elaborate analysis in the chapter 'Theatralität und die Autonomie der Kunst', Ästhetik der Installation, op. cit., pp.40-78.

  16. Gilles Deleuze, 'The Exhausted', Essays Critical and Clinical (trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p.153.