With the series »Vienna Art Spaces«, PW-Magazine offers insights into the dynamic landscape of contemporary art spaces in Vienna.
Gallery AAAA is led by Aljoscha Ambrosch, a practicing artist-curator who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Martin Guttmann. Aljoscha co-founded an artist-run space with Jakob Rockenschaub in the 3rd district called Foundation on the basis of Andrea Fraser’s »institutional critique.« Now, he is focusing on a new cultural initiative in the 20th district.
Gallery AAAA visibly has a unique history of extremes – it has served as a Synagogue, Heurigen, supermarket, and then a storage – for a gallery. Can you tell us about it and why it’s important to transform it into a cultural platform for our present-day?
I felt the urge to establish a sphere which aims to combine the upsides of the various institutional structures already established. On paper it’s a commercial gallery, but I see Gallery AAAA more as a cultural platform, as its historical and institutional potential stands in the forefront compared to its commercial aspects. This building is a striking melting pot of the past, present, and future and I want it to be a place where people can gather, discuss and put an end to the building’s structural misuse.
What are the limitations and advantages of this type of environment, considering its particular history of multiple »makeovers«?
I want to be the least invasive with the space, allowing these multiple layers of histories and transformations to be present and not simply whitening it out. Of course, the space is challenging and has its limitations as the work presented is at risk of being »swallowed« by its in- and exteriors, but at the same time it is an opportunity to take rise and be confronted with the unique architecture and history. This process will hopefully trigger new dimensions of growth and unsuspecting conditions for the artist and their work, which is in effect another extension of the »makeover«.
There is a rawness to the interior, when preparing for the first series of exhibitions, you personally renovated and sanitized the space enabling you to physically discover the different layers of history and the capacity this space provides. Can you elaborate on how this has impacted the type of work being shown?
My renovation was mainly cleaning and unveiling any original parts of the space as much as possible. Through this process, I discovered the multiple transformations this space was afflicted by; contrasting to its original purpose as a Ezrat Nashim, which is the women’s section of a synagogue. This rawness inspired a space for experimentation, which has encouraged me to work with artists who are at the cusp between education and the art-market and push their output in new directions, as this space will most certainly have an impact on their work.
I noticed you are missing plugs and electricity, how will this reflect on your curatorial undertaking and programming? Who would you like to target?
This limited access reflects upon my approach with the space: transparent, spontaneous and embracing. Of course, there are ways to provide electricity to a media-based work or an extension of a plug to create light, but we first have to establish this infrastructure. Hence, the cabling would for example be visible or the supply for it will cost money, so in many ways things that are often »a given« are not in this space. Again, the rawness and honesty comes to light and artists and their work are invited to be confronted with it.
Through its cultural and physical magnitude, Gallery AAAA has a striking potential to grow and be challenged. After experiencing your first two shows one by Christian Egger and the other by Albin Bergström and Julia S. Goodman, how would you like the space to develop through your programming?
My personal goal is that the space becomes a collaborative platform for researchers, artists, and other inhabitants. The plan is to expand the physical space into the basement of the building and invite other cultural initiatives to develop a research-based project targeting politics, religion, or other histories (to name a few). In addition, to become more inviting, I will be using the exterior of the building to showcase ideas and works since it currently feels closed in. I want the programming to reflect an open dialogue between what the space suffered as well as its current freedom for reflection and experimentation. Therefore, Gallery AAAA is shifting away from the private sector into the public.
Can you tell us a little about your upcoming program?
Yes, I have been focusing mostly on duo exhibitions by taking into account the symmetrical layout of the building (two rooms that mirror each other) to enhance the idea of a dialogue of two artists are in conversation with one another and with the space. Additionally, for the time-being, I plan to work with international artists based in Vienna and from spring 2022 artists who live abroad, because it is so important for the artist who plans to show in this specific setting to have to personally experience it. After showing Malte Zander at Spark Art Fair Vienna, in July I’m happy to display another duo show by Stine Ølgod and Katharina Schilling, who aim to push the space into a different mythological sphere, by setting up an atmosphere inhabited by objects which may be perceived as tangible representatives and foggy delusions at the same time. Luring the visitors to drift alongside them, exiting the physical space for a little while. Following, in August I invited an artist and chef Takeshi Yoshida to set up an Izakaya – a japanese »tapas« bar–, including drinks and music, to continue to generate a place of togetherness.