The annual gallery festival curated by is again a guest at 22 selected Viennese galleries. For this year’s theme »Circulation« we asked five of the participating curators about their exhibition concepts and their perspective on the city.
The title of this year’s edition of »curated by« is »Circulation«. How did you approach this topic?
Being the theme for such an event like »curated by«, circulation is fantastically open. I’m personally interested in how a sense of self is formed, maintained and mutated and when I think of circulation, I think of a form of immersive consumption you can’t escape, something we are all implicated in. Like the circulation of images that surround us, it can at times feel like an accurate rendering of reality, but it doesn’t take much to unpick, to reveal its biases and how they can quite radically depart from our lived experiences.
You’re an artist yourself. How was it for you to change perspective and curate an exhibition for a commercial gallery?
I’ve really enjoyed turning the tables. It’s been refreshing to see yourself and the artists around you from a curator’s perspective, one that is trying to create a narrative through the accumulation of these artists and their work. In a way, the show is a playlist for me, it has some greatest hits, some new tracks and hopefully an overall feel or mood.
Your practice is strongly connected to digital and post-internet art, which deals with algorithms, social media and crypto currencies. For your exhibition at Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer you have decided to present works by historical Austrian artists such as VALIE EXPORT, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler and the controversial Otto Muehl. Can you tell us a little about these decisions?
I started my trajectory very much in performance and these historic Austrian artists were an early influence for me. So, on one level their inclusion is from the perspective of a fan, but they all perfectly resonate with the theme of Cursed Images, all feeling very comfortable with unease.
Also, I am glad you mentioned the controversy surrounding Otto Muehl that is seen by many now as an abuse of power. And whatever you might think these latches on to the painting, it becomes an inescapable unsettling part of the work. I was walking in East London the other day and a convertible drove past with Michael Jackson playing full volume, the meaning of whatever that was had changed, no longer an innocent enjoyment of music, it had become inexorably tainted by Jackson’s abuse.
Taking into consideration the exhibition at large, Otto Muehl falls in line with »the curse«, embodying a »cursed artist« in the worst possible way. In Vienna such acknowledgment has begun to be made; brought to surface on an institutional level with his exhibitions at MAK and Leopold Museum in 2005 and 2010, but I think we could go a lot further. Also, for me, showing this work in a commercial gallery compound this. For example, if someone acquires the work, would they somehow become implicated in Muehl’s curse, spreading it and carrying it into their homes?
So, while some might advocate a boycotting of such work, I am of the opinion that these abuses may not affect the quality of a work or art, or music or a film but they should be acknowledged and will forever be the lens we see them through. So hopefully the inclusion of this painting can be part of the conversation on a subject that has become urgent and all too present.
One of the goals of »curated by« is to bring international positions to Vienna in order to make the local scene more internationally visible. What image of Vienna do you have personally and how has it changed through your work for the festival?
Before »curated by« I had only a little time in Vienna, then it nostalgically resonated with me, feeling like the embodiment of a sort of opulence that was very fashionable in the 1980s, a baroque sensibility that was badly mimicked in interiors and design choices across the UK.
Since working on the show, I have thankfully got to know another side of this city, got to layer a surface understanding with the depth and sometimes darkness of its artists. There definitely seems to be an energy that resonates across generations here, from Nitsch to Gelatin and beyond.
Through the festival, the galleries can also expand their international network. In your opinion, what other sustainable opportunities could such a festival offer?
I mean wouldn’t it be great if we could all become the bestest of friends?