Produced in conjunction with the 2007 exhibition Unterspiel
36 page, softcover, partial colour, 16.5cm x 23cm
Unterspiel is the catalogue for the exhibition by the same title, curated by Séamus Kealy and presented at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, as Kealy’s graduating practicum in the Critical and Curatorial Studies Program at U.B.C. in 2005. The exhibition features the work of a set of Viennese contemporary artists. When Kealy became Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery he introduced the Greater Toronto Area to these artists by bringing the exhibition to the Blackwood Gallery in 2007. The exhibition featured the work of Patrick Baumuller & Severin Hofmann, Catrin Bolt, Marlene Haring, monochrom, and Hans Schabus.
This exhibition accounts for a few artistic strategies that speak to problematics of contemporary art in Vienna. This art can sometimes be aligned within a specific, sometimes belated relation to a tradition of avant-gardism that had its origins in fin de siècle Vienna and re-emerged in post-war Vienna. Historical analyses such as this—comparing contemporary artists to their predecessors—come up against complications, some arising from artists themselves, but one may argue that the contesting nature of some contemporary Viennese art alludes to a Viennese avant-garde that persisted through the 1960s and 1970s. In the wake of this earlier, inherently political work, some Viennese art continually engages in socio-political issues, whether around notions of Austrian identity and history, or confrontational to political or art institutions.
In one form or another, all of the artists in Unterspiel—Hans Schabus, Catrin Bolt, Marlene Haring, Severin Hofmann and Patrick Baumüller, and the collective monochrome—are making work that is conscious of a tremendous history of tumultuous Viennese art. When initially arranging this exhibition, I had asked the artists to consider contributing work that specifically tackles an idea of Vienna to be transported to the context of Vancouver. I had then become a little familiar with the political with the political and artistic climate in Austria, observing interesting parallels and contrasts to that in Canada. What struck me at the time, before embarking into further research on Austrian art and politics that led to this exhibition and publication, was how young Viennese artists were engaging in work that was, in some form, a continuation of modernist tendencies, albeit with many divergence, specific to Vienna. That is, instead of of a more politically disengaged, theoretically focussed and often institutionally insular production—arguably prevalent features of North American contemporary art –these artists were making work that seemed politically committed. There was irony and even cynicism in much of this work. But that was not the defining principle of its production. Viennese art commonly maintains an intrinsic relationship with the city of Vienna itself, even when this work demonstrates an international style. This self-consciousness and self-analysis struggles with the history of Vienna and, in doing so, opens up fields of relations that make up Vienna, its citizens and inhabitants, its institutions, its complex history, its relation to the outside world, and its cultural representations. It is not possible to transplant this web of kultur into another socio-geographical context, but this exhibition attempts to transcribe a few currents of Viennese art and the complexities that give rise to it.
–excerpted from “Sketches on Recent Viennese Art: A Text for Unterspiel” by Séamus Kealy
Director’s Notes p. 3
Scott Watson and Christina Ritchie
Sketches on Recent Viennese Art: A Text for Unterspiel p. 4
Selected Projects and Exhibitions p. 34
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Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; The Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of British Columbia; The Austrian Federal Chancellery Kunst Program; The Austrian Foreign Ministry and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Ottawa.