Sahulkastrasse 3, 1100 Vienna, 14th to 21st October 2011
Curated by Robert Punkenhofer, Gerald Straub and Katarzyna Uszynska
Artists: Regula Dettwiler, Mirjana Djordjevic, Thomas Draschan, Aldo Gianotti, IEFS Kiesling & Stolberg (Ursula Kiesling, Maki Stolberg), Paul Albert Leitner, Marko Lulic, Mahony (Clemens Leuschner, Stephan Kobatsch, Jenny Wolka), Lukas Pusch, Johanna Reiner and Axel Stockburger.
What happens when people meet together? Questions are asked, curiosity is aroused, answers are reflected upon and experiences are shared. These moments form the memories of the future: new stories.
And this is exactly what the Karl Wrba Estate as Art Host project was about; about the coming into being of stories which otherwise would not be able to be told.
So, how did these stories come into being?
The project was realised in October 2011 on the initiative of KOR, Art in Public Places, Vienna, in collaboration with wohnpartner, the Neighbourhood Service in Viennese Council Housing. Above all else, the project was about an encounter between art, artists and the residents of the Karl Wrba Estate, a council housing estate in the 10th District of Vienna.
Invitations to participate in the project were sent to all the residents in summer 2011. Shortly afterwards, which of the residents had decided to join in was confirmed; at the same time, the selected artists were invited. The residents hosted a work of art in their homes. Their homes were opened to the public at certain times on four afternoons so that the artworks, the artists and their hosts could get to know each other. Ultimately, the residents of 11 different flats accommodated 12 different works of art by 12 artists (one flat hosted 2 works of art). There was also an expense allowance, with the opportunity to use this as a budget to purchase the respective artwork. That happened, as well.
This project was not about cashing in or about eliciting popular perceptions of contemporary art or of living on a council estate, but, first and foremost, about facilitating conversations and experiences which would remain in the memory of all the participants in the long term, as experienced stories. The focus was directed towards encouraging dialogue. That aspects of privacy also mutated into exhibition pieces in this context, was down to the nature of things – a major challenge for the residents first and foremost, but also for visitors.
Countless topics arose the preliminary talks with the tenants. A great number of issues had to be clarified: Slippers, yes or no? Which rooms will be accessible, which rooms inaccessible? Who will be there and when? What nails could be hammered into what wall? Who’s going to come? And: Who will the artist be, with which work of art? All concerns and requests were able to be discussed when the artists and residents met for the first time. There were more visitors than expected on the actual exhibition days – with countless questions and answers from all sides.
It is beyond the scope of this article to describe the stories generated on the spot in detail, but the following brief descriptions of individual works may serve to stimulate individual associations:
Regula Dettwiler’s delicate plant sculptures were immersed quite naturally into the surroundings; almost invisible, they were erected on the staircase leading to the upper floor of the flat. The family parrot was delighted about the new carpet of sound – and the visitors were sometimes unsure who was making what sounds. “Is he real?”
Mirjana Djordjević’s video work was optimally suspended in the sitting room. The flatscreen stood centrally in the middle of the event, with the visitors all around. “Is there something moving there?”
The photographic work by Lukas Pusch was brought alive by his storytelling – and by the questions he was asked. “What, Siberia?”, “Who stole the lorry?”
For many residents, Marko Lulić’s text was associated with culinary memories. “Yes, I recognise that.”
IEFS Kiesling & Stolberg turned the tables by turning the visitors into the exhibition piece. The sofa, as always, was used for people to rest on. Looking at the photo wall: “Oh dear, was he here already?”, “Where did those birds on the wall come from?”
Axel Stockburger’s digital photo / video frame on Chinese cosplayers, on the shelf below the family photographs, was not obvious at first glance. “Those are home-made costumes?”, “And where is your son living now?”
Aldo Gianotti’s light sculpture stood there as if it had been cast in place. The new kitchen was a highlight. “Where is the artwork?”, “What’s a pizza-schnitzel?”
Thomas Draschan made reference to the residents’ grandfather’s copper work, which has reappeared in consequence of the project. “Fantastic view!”, “And what has that got to do with dog days?”
Paul Albert Leitner’s photographic works were an introduction to the “Klobutschar Collection”: photographs, stories full of surprises. “You work with a computer?”
Johanna Reiner anticipated the question about where she works and, coincidentally, the relatives come from the place where the artist staged a project last year. “Please give them my best regards.”
The work of the Mahony artists’ group was framed by two artworks by the resident and was brought to the audience’s awareness by his special introductory talk. “Bir Tawil suits Nefertiti perfectly.”
Something in the reference system of each participant was shifted. It became clear that certain installations are not necessarily in accord with certain realities. Moods, furniture, opinions and views: often quite different from what was expected. New experiences were gained. Sustainability in the mind.
First and foremost, this publication is a visual re-telling and it is a potted description of the events on site, supported by the artists’, residents’ and visitors’ quotes.
Thank you to everyone who participated,
especially the hosts and the artists.
Photos: © Wolfgang Thaler