– Summer 2013

‘Dein Muff makes me drunk’: The Films of Josef Dabernig

Daniel Fairfax

Tags: Josef Dabernig

Josef Dabernig, Wisla, 1996, 16mm film, black and white, sound, 8min, still. Courtesy the artist; Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna; and Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam

Con il numero uno — Taibi; con il numero due — Polonia; con il numero sei —Lucci, con il numero quattordici — Conte; con il numero cinque — Rossini…

The ground announcer continues to unenthusiastically read out the away team’s line-up through the tannoy system. The squad is that of Piacenza Calcio, an Emilia-Romagna football club known for its steadfast all-Italian selection policy. On Sunday, 5 May 1996, in the penultimate round of the Serie A season, the team travel to Udinese’s Stadio Friuli. With both sides winding up the campaign ensconced in mid-table mediocrity, they play out a dour nil-all draw, eliciting disgruntlement from the boisterous Udinese fans, whose main entertainment comes from chanting exhortations to their manager, Alberto Zaccheroni, alongside the inevitable cries of ‘Piacenza, vaffanculo!’ When the referee blows for full-time, the exasperated tifosi unleash a hail of whistles and jeers.1

Recordings from this match consume the soundscape of Josef Dabernig’s debut film Wisla (1996), still the best-known cinematic work by the Austrian artist. But the granular black-and-white images on screen present a decidedly disjunctive view. A panning shot opens the film, swooping from a concrete tower, across a grey sky lined with gloomy, leafless trees and dotted with apartment blocks in the distance, before resting on a neoclassical colonnade — the idiosyncratic architectural flourish of a mid-sized football ground. Inside the bowels of this stadium, two besuited men stride purposefully towards the camera, and take up their places on the team bench. But they are surrounded not, as the soundtrack would suggest, by Udinese’s animated arena, filled with clamorous fans and echoing to the metronomic Italian of the ground

  1. Acknowledgements for the details of this match must go to the illuminating website http://www.storiapiacenza1919. it, a painstaking chronicle of the less than illustrious history of Piacenza Calcio, which ceased operations in 2012 due to bankruptcy (last accessed on 5 March 2013).

  2. The 29th round of games actually took place four rounds before the Udinese-Piacenza game that otherwise occupies the soundtrack for the most part. The artist explains that he first recorded the Udinese–Fiorentina game on 14 March 1996, but due to the lack of quality of the recording, he went back to record the Udinese–Piacenza match. The final soundtrack mixes both recordings, hence the anachronism. With no small amount of historical irony, Wisła fans had dubbed this colonnade the ‘Brandenburg Gates’. For more information on the Stadion Miejski, which after a long period of renovation is presently almost unrecognisable from its state in the mid-1990s, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stadion_Miejski_in_Kraków (last accessed on 5 March 2013).

  3. Quoted in Christian Höller, ‘Unverträgliches zusammenführen: Gespräch mit Josef Dabernig über zwei seiner jüngsten Arbeiten’, springerin: Hefte für Gegenwartskunst, vol.18, no.2, Spring 2012, p.54.

  4. Ibid.

  5. This link is also affirmed by his long-term association with sixpack film, a distribution agency of artists’ moving image and experimental film works, founded in 1990 by Brigitta Burger-Utzer, Martin Arnold, Alexander Horwath, Lisl Ponger and Peter Tscherkassky. See http://www.sixpackfilm.com (last accessed on 5 March 2013).

  6. See Andréa Picard, ‘Viva voce: Josef Dabernig’s Operatic Avocations’, in Peter Tscherkassky (ed.), Film Unframed: A History of Austrian Avant-Garde Cinema, Vienna: FilmmuseumSynemaPublikationen and sixpackfilm, 2012, p.258; and Lukas Maurer, ‘Strukturelle Rätselspiele in Raum und Zeit’, Programmzeitschrift des Filmarchiv Austria, no.62, 2010, p.62. The influence of Tarr was avowed when Dabernig chose Sátántángo (1994) to be screened in the Galerie Andreas Huber as part of the 2009 Vienna

    Art Fair, the theme of which that year was ‘Art and Film’. See Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (ed.), Art & Film Curated by Vienna, Nuremburg: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2009, pp.

  7. Dabernig has said that ‘I often take photos of football grounds when I arrive in a place. […] They are almost never new sports facilities, but mostly sites which are already in a state of transformation.’ Quoted in C. Höller, ‘Unverträgliches zusammenführen’, op. cit., p.54.

  8. Viktor Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’ (1917, trans. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis); reprinted in David Lodge (ed.), Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, London: Longmans, 1988, p.21.

  9. Patricia Grzonka, ‘Systeme bürokratischer Systeme’, Kunst-Bulletin, no.9, September 2004, p.22.

  10. C. Höller, ‘Unvertärgliches zusammenführen’, op. cit., p.57.

  11. ‘Fascists, collaborators, partisans, nonbelievers, communists, informants, denouncers, counterrevolutionaries, restitutionists, Sudeten tourists…’. Translation Kimi Lum.

  12. This may be an allusion to Dukla Prague, a Czechoslovak football team with links to the army that dominated the national league until its demise in 1996.

  13. The artist explains that, even if apparently absurd, this expression is a riff on the use of language characteristic of the upper-classes, in which ‘Muff’ refers to the old-fashioned term for a tube made of fur into which the hands are placed for warmth, and functions here as a code for schnapps. Conversation with the artist, 30 March 2013.