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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner
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Photo by Marie Haefner

Aline Rainer: Growing Thorns Instead of Thicker Skin

February 7, 2020
Text by Lewon Heublein
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Photo by Marie Haefner

Inspired by literature, art history and everyday life, Aline Rainer blends texts, heavy materials, their surfaces and the emotions they evoke, creating gentle, poetic settings in which small gestures can cloud one’s mind.

Aline Rainer describes her work as sculptural reflections in space. Lewon Heublein meets the artist on the occasion of her most recent exhibition »Hibernation and the sea as a possible cure« in the so-called Aquarium at Kurzbauergasse 9, where the sculpture departments of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna are located.

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Photo by Marie Haefner

The starting point for your artistic work is mainly literature. But you also produce texts, essayistic poems that become part of installations and turn them into reading performances. Can you outline your writing process?

My writing process is pretty chaotic. I read, rip lines out of books, out of context and mix them marked as quotations with the parts I wrote myself. I do keep a diary, but I don’t write every day… I often use a train of thought I had from there. I capture snippets of conversation; ideas from my notepad on the phone or scribble them quickly into one of my notebooks. Out of all these pieces, and after what feels like an eternity of deleting and adding, a text like »Hibernation and the sea as a possible cure« is created.

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One important point of reference for your recent installation »Hibernation and the sea as a possible cure« seems to be Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel »My Year of Rest and Relaxation«. The centerpiece is a metal bed with indigo blue sheets. What fascinated you most about the novel?

The idea of hibernation for a human being to heal itself and/or to escape an unbearable situation fascinated me immensely. Moshfegh’s anti-heroine, bursting with ennui and disgust, her denial of existing, appealed to me.

Without mincing words, she uses her smart manner and black humor to make me feel uncomfortable as a reader, something you have to deal with. I like that, the courage and wit with which she writes impresses me.

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But there are other literary references. Besides theory, a special affinity to auto-fiction can be found.

That’s right. Text has been part of my artistic work from the very beginning, but first with a rather theoretical attempt. Over time I have dared to play with different types of texts and mix categories such as fable, essay, poem, while I do not want to put anything I write into any kind of category. It might be important to know that I started writing in English and still primarily do so, as I feel that I am able to speak more bluntly and openly, even though English is not my mother tongue. Maybe that’s why. I like these weird sentences, constructions that emerge, where one might see that my language usage is clearly influenced by German.

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Just recently I have started to write some parts in German too. I like to use words that exist only in the specificity of a certain language and that seem untranslatable. For example, the word »Zerrissenheit« is so perfect that I can’t translate it into English, or »flotter« in French generates a completely different image than »schweben« in German. I have always enjoyed learning languages and mixing them in my texts. Ever since I went to Tokyo and Paris, I’ve also been playing a little bit with French and Japanese.

To fight my insecurities in writing, I started to read a lot of texts written by artists. For example, Jutta Koether’s »f.«, »Dreaming Turtle« by Josef Strau, Anna-Sophie Berger’s and Lucia Elena Průša’s »Pandora« or Eva Hesse’s »Diaries«, Peter Wächtler’s »Come On«. That helped me a lot.

As my interest in theory started to have more influence on how I engaged with my life as an artist, I moved on to reading autofictional/autobiographical texts. Maggie Nelson’s »Bluets«, for example, accompanied me intensively during my time in Tokyo, before that »Aliens & Anorexia« and »I love Dick« by Chris Kraus.

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Photo by Marie Haefner

The serial character of your sculptures is very intriguing. Just to name a few recurring themes: the bed or sofa furniture, which seems like an invitation to a participatory passivity, the candlesticks or the photocopies of text excerpts. Most striking, however, are the fairytale thorns that guard the bed in »Hibernation and the sea as a possible cure«. Your very dense drawings seem like multi-layered dream diaries, yet they feature both independent figurative elements and convey loose emotional states. Are your dreams becoming a form of self-produced Internet?

You observed that pretty well, some elements reappear in my work. There are definitely some themes that I’m attached to for longer than to others, and that still keeps me busy. One of them is this limbo between passive and active artistic production processes and the duality within these processes. Another one is what it means to be a woman now and in the past. I often work with histories of certain women, but also with my own, the thoughts and emotions connected to them.

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Photo by Marie Haefner

Going back in time women were often overshadowed by men. I think of Clara Schumann, Camille Claudel, Simone de Beauvoir or my grandmother, among others. If you compare the past and the present, things may have changed, but the power structures are still there and it’s still a long way to go before equality is achieved. Looking at the future, I agree with Adrian Piper’s statements in her lecture »Second Wave Feminism: Unfinished Business«: Loyalty, trust and mutual support among women are equally important in building a strong community. Women working against women will not get us anywhere. Women must act in solidarity (Adrian Piper, Second Wave Feminism: Unfinished Business, Lecture/Discussion, 2014). I think that this is an important factor on our way to equality.

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Photo by Marie Haefner

The twisted thread details, which you deciphered as thorny tendrils, are an element of strength. The rose is a rather tender flower but has thorns that it can and should use to defend itself. I thought of the line »Growing thorns instead of thicker skin« a while ago, it has accompanied me ever since. Instead of a thicker skin I’m growing thorns. I think it is primarily women who are told not to be over-sensitive and to just grow a thicker skin. I hate this remark.

Just briefly about my drawings: I’ve been drawing ever since I was little, I’ve always drawn, everywhere. It’s something that is very natural for me, it’s like thinking. Soon after I started to sew and got interested in sculptural experiments in space. My drawings serve as a visual diary: I draw during or shortly after reading and while scrolling through my phone. My drawings are strongly influenced by the emotional states I’m in, by my surroundings.

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Photo by Marie Haefner

I believe that my artworks are always autobiographical. You could even say all art is autobiographical, I mean, there’s always something of yourself in it, right? I don’t see any point in separating myself from my art. My drawings are not so much connected to dreams. If anything, they are imaginary dreams as I never remember my dreams.

I like your earlier thought of generating a self-produced Internet, whatever that is supposed to mean. Actually, I’m beginning to suffer from my Internet brain. Where have the days gone where you sit for hours in front of a book without nervously focusing on thousands of other things at the same time?

Next article

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»Das Ökonomieballett«, ERSTE Campus, Januar 2020. Foto von Oliver Ottenschläger

»Das Ökonomieballett« im ERSTE Campus: Die Performance des Gelds

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.