Haus is creating a new collaborative exhibition format besides the usual art fairs. Paula Thomaka talked to the founding board about collaborative work, their experimental approach, and Vienna’s art scene.
Who or what is Haus?
Haus is a new annual exhibition format for Vienna, organized by Marie-Claire Gagnon, Fanny Hauser, Bruno Mokross, Julius Pristauz, Johanna Thorell and Edin Zenun. The project is conceived as a rather intimate and community-oriented addition to the existing fairs and showcase formats that are annually held in Vienna in September, and aims to bring together a variety of formats under one roof. The inaugural edition will take place from September 21 to 27, 2020.
All of us organizing the project have roots in the independent art scene in Vienna, having contributed to various exhibition projects and initiatives. Most notably, Bruno and Edin are running the exhibition space Pina, Marie-Claire and Julius are the co-founders of Hugo Zorn magazine, among other activities, and Johanna and Fanny are both working as freelance curators in Vienna and abroad, with Fanny also co-running Kevin Space in Vienna. We are also in touch with many other people from the field, who support us with their time and expertise, and the team will most likely grow over time, as we are pursuing a participatory and open approach.
Recently, you published an open call for artists, curators, and galleries. Who can participate, and how does it work?
Haus is open to all kinds of contributions from the field of contemporary art. All necessary information can be found on our website, but we hope to be able to welcome artists and artist-run initiatives just as much as commercial galleries, curators, researchers, magazines and institutions.
In order to guarantee a fair and open selection process, we have invited a wonderful jury who – together with the founding team of Haus, as a single additional voice – will select the participants for the first edition. The jury consists of Kimberly Bradley, a Berlin-based art critic and writer, who until recently lived in Vienna, Cédric Fauq, recently appointed curator at Palais the Tokyo, Aziza Harmel, co-curator of the last Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial and in the curatorial team of Kunsthalle Wien, as well as Francis Ruyter, Vienna-based artist and member of the Board at Secession.
The first edition will take place in September 2020. Where is your location and what was important for your decision-making process?
The opening of Haus will take place in an abandoned building right at the U3 station Simmering. It was important for us to find a venue that would allow for a certain flexibility, and we are extremely happy to have found it in the shape of a former apartment complex. The location consists of a former car repair garage, several adjacent apartments and a garden, and can be entered on the ground level via a beautiful courtyard. There are approximately 20 rooms in varying conditions as well as two outside areas available to be used by participants.
In what way do you plan to turn this location into a non-commercial meeting place for people interested in art and culture?
What the actual content of the exhibition will look like in the end will strongly depend on the outcome of the open call. When the selection process is done, we will start to actually »curate« the exhibition, which means that we are going to work closely with all confirmed participants in order to make Haus an all-encompassing experience.
We envision this first edition as a pilot project that allows us to explore the possibilities of such a format, to mature and to be able to react to the needs and feedback of our participants for future editions. Hence, the experimental character of both the project and the venue are important to us. The small scale and openness of the format should allow for a friendly, informal environment, where participants and visitors alike can exchange, hang out and experience contemporary art and the surrounding community without any kind of pressure or expectation.
Initiatives that create counter-models to art fairs often end up being commercialized and economized. How do you want to position yourself in regard to such mechanisms?
While providing a basic infrastructure and investing our collective time and efforts, the project is organized without any major funding for now. To make such a structure sustainable and make it last, it will naturally need to become economically viable, and we are currently far from reaching that point.
However, with our individual backgrounds and an understanding of the project as being rooted in the independent and non-commercial art scene, Haus is set up as a non-profit organization. Our collective working methods and decision-making processes are quite similar to the structures of artist-run and non-commercial spaces. We want to keep on financing the project by alternative means, rather than through participation or entrance fees, and we don’t focus on growth in an economic sense. We don’t know yet how exactly these ideals will translate in the future, but taking a stance against commercialization and, simultaneously, exploitation is important to us.
With curated by, viennacontemporary, Parallel Vienna, Vienna Art Week or the Independent Space Index, Vienna has already many similar formats to offer. What do you think Haus can contribute to the local scene?
The idea for Haus emerged from a genuine admiration and respect for the work of our colleagues from both the independent as well as the commercial and institutional field in Vienna. The city has already a lot to offer when it comes to contemporary art and, with Haus, we hope to contribute to this diversity.
Commercial endeavors, such as viennacontemporary, Parallel art fair or curated_by, have become crucial and indispensable players within Vienna’s art world and, given the specific time frame we chose for Haus, it is of course tempting to label Haus just another »alternative art fair«. However, we understand Haus as a non-commercial means to challenge the strict categorization of local scenes and we are, as mentioned earlier, also trying to find new ways of collaboration and financing.
Although Haus is conceived as an international project, the current situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic will most likely result in a first edition in which primarily local artists and initiatives will participate. Thus, one might also be able to view Haus in the context of projects and formats such as »Über das Neue« at Belvedere21 or »Lebt und arbeitet in Wien« at Kunsthalle Wien.