After the Alpine Blessing: re-alpsegen
The Alpine Blessing, a protective prayer chant,
was and is still a ritual in Catholic parts of the Alps: every evening, the alpine herdsman and dairyman appeals saints
to ask for protection for his alp and cattle.
The Alpine Blessing is practised in the Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, in Sarganserland, the Pilatus region, Upper Valais and Surselva (Grisons).
As part of SARN to conference 2022 in the Gotthard region
of Uri, we carried out the protection call in the Urseren transit valley, which is connected to Ticino via the Gotthard Pass, to Grisons via Oberalp Pass and to Valais via Furka Pass.
Our idea was to examine the possibility, effect and influence of a contemporary call based on traditional versions, performed
by a female caller towards the valley, to us, the people, to our society. With the means of transformation, we question this intangible cultural heritage about its current relevance: To what extent does the ritual of calling for protection, which was originally a purely male domain, still reflect the social structure today, in particular that in the Alpine region?
Which lines could a prayer call contain in times global warming, macroeconomic changes and developments, what problems are inhabitants and managers of the Alpine region confronted with? Which authority could be called today, who is responsible? The Catholic tradition, which has used the apportionment of guilt as an instrument for executing and demonstrating power, delegates protective measures to superior (supernatural) instances.
We suspend the delegation and direct the call towards the valley, to urban structures, densely populated regions, where the majority of society and capitalist structures are located, to take responsibility together with and in society on one hand and on the other to demand it from current superordinate forms and instances, such as supra-regional to supra-national associations, (climate responsible) politicians, the inhabitants of the Alpine region of the affected cantons, of Switzerland, of the earth - in other words, society as a whole. We mean both society in the sense of a social structure, the sum of all people, and society as a corporate form, which should pursue the implementation of the interests of different groups in harmony with nature and all people equally.
re-BIRDING (in progress)
Poetic film interweaving ongoing worldwide bird extinction
with techniques of bird song and human song production.
Reconstruct, She Said
The installation Reconstruct, She Said is the translation of a filmic work into a spatial installation.
The essayistic documentary film re-GEO / rendering reconstructions of desire is unfolded and disassembled into individual components
to enable a different form of narrative.
rendering reconstructions of desire
re-GEO / rendering reconstructions of desire is a documentary about Georgette Klein
(1893-1963), a Swiss artist and philologist originating from Winterthur, and her self-designed house, the Casa Sciaredo,
first private modernist building in Ticino, which she set up together with her husband in 1932.
The film casts light on Georgette's life and her ambivalent personality and builds a bridge to the present and the conditions women artists are confronted with today. It is a poetic approach through the reconstruction of her house as
a model and the adaptation of her numerous diaries, notes
In the film, I set out on the trail of the loner, artist and convinced socialist Georgette Klein, primarily from the aspect of construction and the constructed image. Who was this woman who was sceptical about marriage, because it could harm her artistic work, who then fell out with her family precisely because of her improper marriage, who was a mediocre but persistent sculptor, whose way of life and thinking was self-confident and modernly oriented, and who never-
theless could not completely free herself from established social structures, who, as a doctor of German studies, not of architecture, tailored a house for herself and made dresses for friends and acquaintances until the 1950s, always realising her conceptual vision of freedom, and who placed this architectural jewel in the landscape of the Swiss Ticino? Why have neither Georgette Klein nor Casa Sciaredo received greater attention? Because the house was designed and built by a woman? Neither Georgette nor the building are known outside Switzerland.
The film examines the constant intertwining of reality and projection: Georgette’s lifelong longing for intellectual exchange which she couldn’t find in Ticino, also for an admired fellow student from her student days in Zurich, with whom she maintained a long correspondence, left a gap that only her artistic work and that in the property she designed, including the park and vegetable garden, could fill.
My cinematic works are "frameworks" that enable me to look at and negotiate an idea, a theme, more closely and objectively. Other terms for frame are framework, scaffolding, structure, staging and performance — they all outline very well my approach to cinematic reflection and realisation through fragmentary approximation and poetic image production. Thus, this is not an architectural film, but a fusion of personality, idea and housing.
The film consists of poetic images within an overall image, which corresponds to my fundamental approach and the way I deal with questions and narrative forms in a cinematic context. The approach and orientation of my work can be defined by these two thematic fields of re-paradise and re-staging: re-paradise comprises investigations of places and spaces that allow, evoke or reflect desire, longing, ideas, fantasy, hope, dreams, etc.; it is about constructions of heterotopic places, reconstructions of paradisiacal places and constructs and about the repair of destroyed paradises, formerly untouched places that have been almost or completely irretrievably lost through human intrusion.
In the re-staging projects, I investigate and develop forms of retelling existing narratives from the collective memory (which becomes pop-cultural, mimetic, collectively experienced, remembered material) in the form of re-enactments or reconstructions. As in earlier filmic works, each consisting of a single shot, a single space or a single existing image, the focus in re-GEO / rendering reconstructions of desire is also on the reduction of images and at the same time on the visualisation of an idea, a theoretical question, in this case that of construction — the construction of a building, which is negotiated in a reconstruction, like a constructed image, an image within an image. The frame here is not only a figure of thought, a frame, but a literal subject — in the form of the construction in the image, the construction of the idea, the image (of the casa), Georgette’s concept of life, her self-perception. The construction is also a re-construction: reconstruction of an idea, of Georgette’s reflections on the Casa and the building as a sketched model, also in the sense of a vehicle in approaching the development history of the Casa.
Georgette’s disruption gave birth to a house that was like a skin for her, a shell that protected her – from the world, from herself, from the compulsion to function in the system.
Experimental music theatre
Video documentation of the experimental music theatre piece Wechselwirkung (Mutual Reaction) by Pia Palme which was supposed to premiere in the frame of Wien Modern 2020.
Bodies moving, in space. She sings, wheezes, breathes – standing, turning –
she kneels, lies, rolls before my feet, her high voice walks along, I can hear it down to my soles. Get lost in these tense bodies
crawling all over the dance floor.
Trembling. So close to these people. Don’t stop singing now! She remembers: loneliness. She wants to be alone and doesn’t.
The sound of the words fascinates her, she listens inward, reading: Lasciatemi mori, then and now. She sighs: how do you rehearse, how do you compose, and please, how do you successfully plan a music theater performance during this pandemic?
She thinks and writes: How to build a bridge to the other shore, which twists, can’t be measured out in the fog?
This transdisciplinary collaboration consists of composer Pia Palme, dancer/choreographer Paola Bianchi, singer Juliet Fraser, dramaticist Irene Lehmann and musicologist Christina Lessiak. Since 2019 they have been working on the art-research project Wechselwirkung (Mutual Reaction) and other projects in Graz and Vienna. This growing collaborative structure surrounding Pia Palme has developed from earlier projects with Juliet Fraser and Paola Bianchi.
The group's experimental approach is rooted in the reciprocal influence of the individual actors and the interconnectedness of their different practices and pools of knowledge. (Pia Palme)
FWF PEEK Project On the fragility of Sounds AR 537, supported by the
University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Wien Modern coproduction 2020.
Historical, political, and social mechanisms are subject to a process of constant transformation.
If you look at the details, certain movement patterns in society come to the fore. The performative installation re-ASSEMBLY by Michaela Schwentner
investigates how these processes can be translated in the exhibition space and become tangible. To this end, the artist employs materials and everyday
objects found on site to (re-)format Kunstraum Lakeside over the course of several days, interpreting the semantic potentials of the term “assembly” as
gathering, accumulation, and composition.
The main element in this project is the high number of available chairs, which are time and again repositioned in the space as Michaela Schwentner searches for a balanced state. In re-ASSEMBLY the artist’s interventions leave traces in the exhibition space, creating both an expansive installation and a permanently changing sculpture. The assemblages that emerge in the production process are documented as spatial constructs throughout the various stages of their development until the tentative end. It remains open, however, whether the camera is a part of the performance or if it only serves as a documentary medium for the performative setting.
The choreography and progression of the performance are based on the subject of and the search for the absent and its affect: the longing for balance, equality, desire, utopia. Historical and contemporary political and social mechanisms along with their movement patterns and processes are revealed; social and political powers continuously build up in new and different ways. The reconfigurations of the spatial and infrastructural conditions of the exhibition space generated during the performative setting can be retraced on the basis of film sequences. But the question remains: Will the respective constellations of elements (as metaphors for all possible powers and mechanisms within society) ever arrive at a final arrangement?
(Kunstraum Lakeside exhibition text, 2020)
European Standards /
Europe / EU: construction, projection, framework, idea ... ?
What is the idea of a united Europe today? What does it mean in times of agent's wars, migration as consequence, over-population, growth, neoliberalism, climate change? What was the promise? Where are we now? What are these so-called European values?
The unjustifiably named refugee crisis never ever was a crisis caused by refugees but rather a crisis caused by cynical morale, democratic failure and unwillingness in terms of taking action of the political system of the Western world, in particular the EU.
Miranda from Shakespeare‘s Tempest, stranded and isolated, is surprised by the sight of people on the island who turn out to be rescuers in a way. Today, there's only little hope for salvage of people facing a similar fate. European migration politics has failed completely.
In a poetic setting the void and shallowness of this so-called community of (shared) values as well as the lack of will of EU-politics are revealed by displaying a makeshift construction of assembled debris, held together by belts.
re-FORM [again!] is both a film and an installation – the title is already a director's instruction.
The text and image material used in its sketched form refer to the absent and its impact: to longing, desire, utopia – here,
in the shape of reflections on the development of the Europe that we know, which has inscribed itself into our cultural and economic consciousness,
exerting its influence, and to which we still refer. The experimental arrangement consists in negating the filmic structure or opening it out.
The scenic does not follow a certain hierarchical order: here, the backdrop, scene, choir, action do not determine each other,
they are installed with equal status and rights.
The film-historical and theoretical reference material used in the model-like staging of a film production, as well as the ensuing material, serves as a starting point for her essayistic yet poetic visual language, which she presents on various stages within the gallery space. She weaves diverse narratives into the dramaturgy, including the great narratives of Shakespeare's dramas and Godard's political-critical films as well as sociopolitical themes. The model of the film set is fragmented, inscribed and expanded into the space to equal extents. The individual elements refer to basic principles of scenic production or adaptation (rehearsal, recitation, direction and action instructions, chorus). Possibilities, therefore, open up the space for different reflections on various levels, culminating in the last room: the instruction and invitation to re-form. (Excerpt from the exhibition booklet)
Masking [ISO 216 (DIN) AO]
Masking [ISO 216 (DIN) AO] is a project which negotiates forms of representation of desire,
the absent, and with forms of human traces, imprint of man, particularly in nature, in landscapes. We inscribe ourselves whereever we go, act, live, over-write,
cover, and thus leave marks. What does the vestige of our paths, actions and patterns look like?
The photographic series is the attempt of a poetic, condensed depiction of current reflections on the Anthropocene and what kind of marks humans leave on earth.
In the frame of a performative act a white rectangular sheet of cloth or paper sized DIN A0 is positioned in a natural environment – deliberately in a non-cultivated landscape –, held in front of the camera by a performer and by that, covers a field, a specific segment of the world. At the same time this action is an inscription into a spatial setting: The performer behind the mask is not seen but still leaves traces.
ISO 216, A series: A0 is an internationally standardised paper format which has become a technical convention and therefore is in a way universal.
A0 refers on the one hand to the letter A, the first one in the alphabet of our cultural environment (in Arabic: alif, in Hebrew: aleph), the beginning in general, the beginning of our cultural history, on the other hand to the sign 0, Zero, Null, Nothing: blank, projection surface – screen.
Masks are man-made and thus constitute a distinct opposite to nature – even if some masks definitely show mimetic features and attempt to imitate nature –; the mask: the screen, the sheet (of cloth, paper, etc) — the square angle is placed in the natural setting of landscape in a poetic form and asks what is possibly hidden behind, what is covered, or if it‘s the condensed rectangular evidence or sign of the Anthropocene, a Heideggerian Geviert (though I don‘t advocate Heidegger‘s thinking and opinions, still I find the term Geviert as ontological description mentionable in this context), too, a visualised way of thinking. Even the human body in this setting is masked, covered – only hands and feet can be seen — the performer is reduced to a carrier or supporter, an upholder.
White surfaces, often rectangular, are used in photography, like sheets for white balance or (white) reflector panels. With the applicaton of white rectangles in my photgraphic series I decidedly want to refer to specific processes within image production. Displaying work processes, conditions and mechanisms are recurrent principles of my artistic practice.
Chairs or seats are parts of social settings: we always find arrangements of chairs/seats
to organise collectives in communication, socially or politically participation, perception, education or administration processes or situations.
In this performance two performers assemble a variable, but rather large number of chairs of various forms and materials representing any kind of collective (such as audience, choir, socio-political forces, the people – society in general) configure and arrange them in different ways, re-configure and re-form these chair-assemblages in diverse ways trying to create an equilibrium. Since the two performers may have a different sense of balance, their individual arrangements would always be different.
The dialogue/interaction might be radical, trying, discoursive, diplomatic or gentle – the challenge is to achieve a state agreeable for both performers: If we want to change discomforting states or situations, we ourselves must act.
In the act of re-arranging, re-configuring, re-forming political and social mechanisms and their moving patterns are revealed. Social and political forces manifest themselves in new and diverse ways, some of dem repeated: it’s reproduction of history, mechanics and mechanisms, political measures and actions, social interactions, etc.
zwischen mir und der welt /
Hands in rubber gloves steadily re-arrange building blocks into new patterns. On the voice over are testimonials from people on the Autism spectrum.
Profound self-reflection makes it impossible to draw the line between normality and behaviour disorder, inviting a critical rethinking of systemic
conditions and social power structures. (Michelle Koch, Diagonale catalogue, 2020)
The playful impression disappears quickly. The wooden blocks are, indeed, luminous and colourful as bonbons, but the hands that constantly rearrange the objects for the camera are in rubber gloves. The incessant piling and arranging, twisting, turning, and moving is reminiscent of a restless search for the “right” constellation.
“But what is normal, anyway?” asks the voice superimposed over this arranging in zwischen mir und der welt / aufräumen. In the film, Michaela Schwentner gives people who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, more specifically, with Asperger syndrome, the chance to speak. They offer profound reflections on what isolates them from the so-called world out there, how their social handicap and the difficulties in communicating with others lead them to experience the disturbance as a prison. The limitations as well as the compulsion are reflected and intensified at the visual level: the organising of the geometric structures becomes a Sisyphean struggle; it is a symbol of the inability to grasp the structure of a social situation.
zwischen mir und der welt / aufräumen goes beyond the mere documentary element. When those affected by being stigmatised as “unnatural” or lacking empathy talk about hiding their “difference” and about Hans Asperger’s involvement in the eugenics of the Nazis at Spiegelgrund in Vienna, a flash of defiance emerges again and again, which casts doubt on the normalcy of dominant social systems. (Anne Katrin Feßler, sixpackfilm catalogue; translation: Lisa Rosenblatt)
Nominated for the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI Prize), partner prize at DOK Leipzig 2020
In this poetic-technical installation setting of text-to-speech transference, excerpts from John R. Searle's
The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse and Jacques Derrida's reply Signature Event Context which again was answered by Searle with
Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida.
By text to speech to sound translation and dynamic interactive process the emitted smoke of 2 fog machines positioned opposite each other was controlled to a certain degree. The differently coloured clouds of smoke would merge and take on new forms before they diffuse, dissolve and finally disappear.
This illustrates aspects of construction and deconstruction, presence and absence, visible and invisible at the same time. Furthermore, in this process aspects of unpredictability, randomness, and stochastic interplay are visualised.
Memories are fiction: Medial machines always reflect needs, motifs and phantasms and change us: by the use of, through échne the world is constituted, we construct the world in the particular contemporary way which contains the directorial, the imaginary and the poetic. This means, this work is both technical and poetic transference (of the visualisation) of a dialogue and its dissolution or displacement – the spoken word disappears. Why does the content not disappear, too? And if something remains, what exactly remains, what is it: ghost (in the meaning of phantom) or spirit? Nothing – in the sense of John Cage's no thing in his Zen Buddhism inspired Lecture on Nothing, but also in the sense of the ostensible dichotomy of absence / presence. Human spirit manifest itself through speech and writing. If the formal element, the sign, the signifier disappears, what remains? All those signs can be intertwined to what we call memory or memories. And what are memories, if not ghosts?
Transform She Said
In four episodes this film programme traces psychograms of female experiences and self assertion
alternating with environment and world
as well as their filmic representation.
Films by VALIE EXPORT, Marianna Simnett, Martha Rosler, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Ana Hoffner, Ulrike Müller, Laure Prouvost, Michaela Schwentner
of the Frame
The exhibition Choreography of the Frame investigates and negotiates positions and strategies of image production – through conceptual or
technical frameworks and shifts in the context of photography and moving image, images and statements are redefined and recontextualised.
The dissolution of established genre ascriptions, borders, and frameworks by individual artistic practices and strategies calls for a re-examination of the image.
Be it an enlarged photograph that takes on the dimensions of a wall or a space, a photograph that is folded into a sculpture, a photographic or filmic work that expands the mise-en-cadre to include or thematise the underlying conditions of image production – in all of the exhibited works the conventions are suspended, while the production process itself and its mechanisms, logics, and conditions are brought into focus.
Participating artists: Marwa Arsanios, Gwenneth Boelens, Maia Gusberti, Yasmina Haddad, Herbert Hofer, Tatiana Lecomte, Gabriela Löffel, Claudia Märzendorfer, Uriel Orlow, Petignat und Scholz, Michaela Schwentner, Lina Selander, Sophie Thun.
PLAY pt. 1
The Rehearsal /
of William Shakespeare’s
The video PLAY pt 1. The Rehearsal shows the staging of a text source and refers to one of the great narrations in the history of theatre in its subtitle. Here the organic-mechanic principle of repetition is replaced by the technical loop.
PLAY pt. 2
L’absence est présente
In PLAY pt 2. L’absence est présente a puzzle, after being put together, displays the text “L’absence est
presente”. It’s the playful attempt to make the absent, the still invisible, the non-perceptible present by the generation of text.
The 2 video works PLAY pt 1. The Rehearsal and PLAY pt 2. L’absence est présente negotiate the philosophical aspect of absence and how it comes into presence by artistic interpretation, particularly by staging a play or a film. Both works question how absence can be glimpsed or displayed.
A play has specific structures and rules. Inbetween those structures — in the interplay of repetition — we can glimpse absence. In this flickering between presence and absence a space unfolds which enables the emergence of poiesis in a hermeneutic sense.
In my artistic practice I examine structures, mechanics and mechanisms of art and image production itself, mainly the frame conditions and production processes. In this context for me the central aspect is the rehearsal as basic element of the realisation of (mostly) text interpretations with their relevant issues and decision-making processes regarding possible forms of staging.
The artistic rehearsal is repeatable. This repeatability is enabled by the repeatability of once present experience in and by remembering — in the play the absent is always revealed and negotiated: the absence of death, of endlessness in the repeated or repeatable imagination (idea/eidos) or in our memory.
Chorprobe / Choir practice
In the frame of the residency project Was Anderes?
I conceived a small piece for a choir. The reenactment of this choir practice was both choreography and social interaction as well as performance and rehearsal. This scenic fragment was the attempt to connect and combine our various approaches responding to the introducing question in a playful performative way, addressing communality, community and the collective itself. We performed and filmed the reenactment on site in Vairano. The result is the film fragment Chorprobe.
Facing the current populist developments in Western politics and society, it seemed to be useful and relevant to examine and revise popular and established terms in relation to their social and philosophical meaning. In order to grasp the notions of our time, we wanted to dispute these developments from an artistic perspective.
In an experimental setting, by collecting and developing methods of re-appropriating, re-connecting, re-understanding and embodying terms we investigated the experience of meaning of (socio)political terms.
Despite our diverse, individual ways of investigating and questioning we were collectively and continuously collaborating on instructions for an appropriate choreography within our social frame and on the depictions of personal strategies of social (inter)action. We were consistently searching, creating and collecting notions, vocabulary and ideas for our adaptive alphabet using new possibilities of perception, connotation, contextualisation and interpretation. An essential experimental stage of our reflections and investigations was learning and understanding by doing or acting: by taking action technical or social processes can be reconstructed, tracked or reenacted.
Zusammen (:) was anderes (!)
After 4 weeks of searching, collecting, comprehending and developing a new vocabulary, (self) investigations and developments of action strategies, we would be able to start the filling our abédédaire – C for Choir, Z for Zusammen, …
The Sasso residency collective in July/August 2017 consisted of performer Nicolas Galeazzi, artist Maia Gusberti, graphic designer Miriam Hempel, typographer and graphic designer Nik Thoenen and Michaela Schwentner.
This short film is a miniature about gazes and perception, about the experience of
observing and being observed. It consists of just one long, tableau-like shot including a quarter circle pan shot.
The narrative structure's vagueness suspends and questions
the boundaries of reality and illusion.
What do we see, when we look? What do we see, when we watch? What do we learn, what do we know then? Can we rely on our perception, since it is just a partial aspect, one perspective of reality?
The vague and intimate staging creates a surreal, oneiric atmosphere accompanied by a mysterious effect which generates a confusing feeling – we are exposed to the act of observing and thus forced to be voyeurs.
The film is a kind of a "gestell" – a framework for reflections on the essentials and mechanics of film as well as on film production itself. In this sense, the make up scene reveals the actress's transformation into the film figure. Thus, it also refers to Eleanor Antin's video performance Representational Painting from 1971 in which the act of putting on make-up as a traditional mode of self-expression was explored and staged, amplifying the observational aspect.
Also, connections to Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock are at hand when it comes to the concept of the figure(s): both figure and idea refer to Bergman’s Persona on the level of the internal conception, on the level of external conception to Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
The cinematic action that follows a prescribed plot was shot over the course of a day. Like in rehearsals, by repeating again and again iteratively the ideal take was worked out. Basically it‘s impossible to do exactly congruent repetitions, so every take within the scope of action is slightly different than others — even by the change of daylight throughout the day a different atmosphere and light situation was created.
The installation personne 1—7 negotiates aspects of film production itself (acting as work, rehearing, decision finding processes) as well as the construction or the backside of presentation. The frame (german: Gestell), the construction of the installation is partly exposed and by becoming visible turns into a part of the concept. 7 selected takes shown one after the other give an insight into the procedures of this particular film shooting. Thus, film production as well as acting or performing become the narrative subject and let us comprehend the realisation of the cinematic image.
The fragmented form of my film essays, which always means reflecting on film and its production in fragments, is mirrored in the installation.
a model for a film
scenery: Mediterrenean, Italian or Greek territory, coastal area
stage direction: chorus 1 [behind the curtain]
where are we now?
instruction: chorus 2 [off-stage]
is this Europe?
instruction: chorus 1 [entering stage]
what is Europe?
instruction: chorus 2 [entering stage]
democracy is protected order
a law of silence
instruction: chorus 1 [normal voice]
this is an act of treason
Europe sells herself
instruction: chorus 2 [whispering]
our protest is silent
instruction: chorus 1
what colour has protest?
instruction: chorus 2 [whispering]
our protest is black&white silence
instruction: chorus 1 [desirous, repeating]
o you are so technical!
instruction [voice lowered]
chorus 1 [sighing]
o you are so technical!
instruction [voice tempered]
chorus 1 [attempting]
o you are so technical!
chorus 1 [distinct]
o you are so technical!
instruction: chorus 2 [repeating] ------- [critique]
what are we without technology?
what are we without technology?
what would Shakespeare say today?
instruction: refrain chorus 1 [repeating]
together we fail
together we fail
together we fail
together we fail
instruction: play song
instruction: refrain chorus 2
everything depends on how you enter
instruction: chorus 1
instruction: chorus 1 & chorus 2 [together]
A model for a film. The set design is an assemblage of several small scenes.
The scenery includes some rather iconic images which refer to a sophisticated Europe and its highly developed state of civilisation with its democratic, political and critical consciousness.
Since it is to be feared that Europe is going to abandon its cultural standards, we as European citizens have to question this so-called system of values and even a lot more of our ideas.
This model film is supposed to be transformed into a musical performance with 2 chorus ensembles interpreting the dialogues.
(Women under influence)
The cinematic (action) image as a spatial object, providing a new perception
and interpretation of mechanisms and structures of film production (like staging, acting, etc.): Cinematic images of iconic films featuring modern women under
a certain kind of influence, though, are transferred into sculptures created of working and household tools.
By transference and the shifting of frames new reflections on aspects of work and conditions of artistic working processes may be initiated.
The asssemblages are named after the female leads of those particular films: Camille (Le mépris, J.-L. Godard, 1963), Martha (Martha, R. W. Fassbinder, 1974), Myrtle (Opening Night, John Cassavetes, 1977), Catherine (Jules et Jim, François Truffaut, 1962) and Giuliana (Il deserto rosso, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964).
The depictions of the arrangements don‘t provide possibilities of identification; the female film figures are not recognisable as such; instead these assemblages are complex images: the film concept, the tension of the plot and of the key scene as well as entire distances and motion sequences the protagonists cover are incorporated, condensed in a way. Thus, the meaning of body is questioned: How much knowledge informs a body, makes it tangible, experiencable, comprehensible, recognisable? A body is not just a physical sensation, a physical appearance, but also storage for all kinds of information (which over time is inscribed in the body). How much knowledge informs a body, makes it tangible, experiencable, comprehensible, recognisable?
What makes a cinematic figure? Why is it that not any actress or performer is able to play every role or character?
The short film essay Camille 1—3 is a demonstration of variations of performance (in the sense of acting but also in the sense of efficiency). It offers the possibility to watch 3 performers playing the same role repeatedly, filmed in different takes and to compare them. How much contributes the particular performer herself, how much is stage direction?
In Camille 1—3 the being-outside-the-role is essential component of the concept; only when one of the performers wears the bathrobe she is playing (the role).
This piece is at the same time reenactment of a film shooting, and hence the reenactment of Camille‘s role, a reenactment of an actress‘ acting abilities, a reenactment of Brigitte Bardot‘s performance and furthermore a demonstration of variations of acting.
Furthermore, content-related it is the performed act of Camille‘s emancipation, extracted and isolated, and repeated over and over again..
Fragmentary reenactment of the renowned 720º scene from Martha by Rainer Werner Fassbinder,
shot by his cinematographer Michael Ballhaus.
The camera shot is transformed into an installative performance with a variable amount of performers and each of their particular interpretation and enactment of Martha, actually their individual mode of slipping into a role by putting on a specific figure's costume.
IMAfiction portrait #08 Electric Indigo
Descending a staircase / in shifts
A woman in a yellow bathrobe is descending a staircase - over and over again.
This image of action refers to the film scene from Le mépris (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963).
The main "character" is in fact the significant prop of the scene, the yellow bathrobe.
The scene is performed by 3 different performers over the course of a day.
The piece is at the same time the reenactment of a film shooting, and hence the
reenactment of Camille's role, a reenactment of an actress' work, a reenactment of
Brigitte Bardot's performance and furthermore a demonstration of variations of acting.
It is the reenactment of the work of an actress, a spatial intervention, a performance,
the actual work of the performers and the video installation in public space.
in the scenery /
Penelope (Camille (Brigitte (Anna))):
Everything happened in the dizziness of a high
Our love was so vast
Everything was new and exciting
It was so good.
Penelope (Camille (Brigitte (Anna))):
Everything happened in the dizziness of a high
Our love was so vast!
Everything was new and exciting
It was so good!
The film shows two women sitting in the scenery of a theatre or in the backdrop of a film set.
It's not clear whether they
are already acting or waiting for their scene, trying to kill time by telling stories and reflecting on film-immanent matters.
Are they outside their role, outside the film set or are they acting in a film which is about two women playing in a play or a film, waiting for their scene and telling stories which (seemingly) have nothing to do with the situation they are in? Are they rehearsing?
Text inserts are displayed which show stage directions but also questions addressing the lead figure Penelope, asked by an invisible audience or other film figures as well as her reactions on them.
Some scenes are repeated several times, but still it is not a rehearsal, but instead a film that uses montage of image and sound to transfer figures from one context into another or a new one and by that question the previous one and furthermore question the production per se and its aesthetic realisation.
This film is on the one hand about Penelope, told from a contemporary and emancipated perspective, and on the other hand about storytelling, staging and playing itself: Penelope is knotting and interweaving fragments of her personal love stories, while she is also reflecting on film, acting and narration per se by retelling stories and by reenacting several iconic film scenes.
Fragments of stories are interlinked and interwoven to assemblages. These fragmented and re-arranged narrative threads which refer to different contexts create a new narration-image. The level of narrative partly follows the principle of the mise en abîme. The formal level also follows this principle and consists of fragmented images and reflections. The reflection on narration and on projection has its equivalent on the formal level in the sense of mirroring.
The film can also be read as a passionate tribute to film and film-making, as a reflection on film-making, the interest in modernism and its reproductive technicality. It also shows by recontectualising several iconic film scenes that film production is always connected with the time present.
This film is both cinematic reconstruction and staging and refers to a pop-cultural moment of 20th
century history. I was interested in the intersection of historic moments and aesthetical practices and in the examination of our relationship to collective
historic and visual experience. In a sequence of about five minutes The Contest shows two young female performers in a gymnastic performance
situation. The minimalistic setting of the scene filmed in a real but still staged studio unfolds in static shots and shows the performers primarily
in long shots by considering the symmetry of the image.
The performers' movements equal real practising movements of figures skaters, still the reduced image composition lets the choreography appear somehow artificial.
The formal aesthetic approach to the historic event which is grounded in the collective memory and visual archive on one hand and to the presentation of subjective experience on the other hand result in a stylised image which is supposed to merge into a timeless form. It was not my intention though, to dissolve the historic event in the aesthetic, but to objectify it by reducing all narrative moments.
The negotiated historic event was a spectacular case in the history of US-American figure skating: during a decider preparation for a championship one of two rivals was attacked and incapacitated; the other athlete got linked with the attack and was subsequently suspended from all further championships.
A STONE /
A WORD /
ABDUL SHARIF BARUWA // EVA BODNAR // HERBERT DE COLLE // PLAMEN DEJANOFF // HEINRICH DUNST // MARINA FAUST // VERONIKA HAUER // GERHARD HIMMER // SIGGI HOFER // NICOLAS JASMIN // DANIEL KNORR // ELKE SILVIA KRYSTUFEK // SONIA LEIMER // JOHANN LURF // CHRISTIAN MAYER // ALBERT MAYR //JOSH MÜLLER // MICHAEL PART // ELISABETH PENKER // ROMAN PFEFFER // JOSEF RAMASEDER // BERNHARD RAPPOLD // FRANZ SCHUBERT // CONSTANZE SCHWEIGER // MICHAELA SCHWENTNER // AXEL STOCKBURGER // CHRISTIAN STOCK
reconstruction of botanical archives
by reenacting representative complexities
Paradise: a state, a place, a garden, a greenhouse, a gift, a souvenir, colonised land, uprooted life?
This photographic work is based on botanical gardens in the Western world, mainly in Europe.
I was interested in the plants themselves and their existence as mute witnesses of (historical) political conquest.
The prefix re- in the work title refers to the reconstruction of an idea, an image, to the technical reproduction of the photographic material, on the other hand it is associated with the term repair which is linked to Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History. Repair is to be understood in a cultural, political or natural sense, but also as a socio-cultural, gender-geometric concept. All depicted plants (monstera deliciosa, ficus elastica, dypsis lutescens, livingstonia rotundifolia, banana) originate from regions which have been — and partly still are — colonised and exploited by the Western world. Thus, these plants found their ways to botanical gardens for research and educational reasons or to our living spaces for decorative purposes and simple pleasure. Walter Benjamin wrote, history only can be reconstructed when presence is manifest within. Thus, the botanical garden as an archive is useful for research and to comprehend the complexities of representation and to reconstruct history. Conflicts from the past can’t be rectified ex post facto, but our approach to history can be changed by contemporary reflection which might include reappropriation and repair.
The installation re-PARADISE combines selected text
and sound layers of my film Prospects, the Baryte print reconstruction of botanical archives by reenacting representative complexities in history #01 and an unfinished jigsaw puzzle for which the same motif of the baryte print served as a model.
reconstructing archives by rendering representative
complexities into moments of desire
In this installation photographed content of botanical archives is transferred into actual
context. In addition to digital prints "archived" techniques, technologies and materials are used, like transmission oil, a petroleum distillate,
and developing trays.
Oil seals material and timeliness like film. Film, the coat, transparent and impermeable like varnish, fixates and secures a painting, carries and transports (moving) images - film.
The pictures which were made in botanical gardens refer -
like a botanical garden itself – to something absent or past: plants as witnesses of colonial conquest, diplomatic, political, representative strategies.
The wish to fill a gap, to turn the significate into the sign itself, to manifest the referential; to fulfil the desire for transferring the absent or the past into something representative shifted,
is the idea of this poetic-technical arrangement.
Representative complexities create projection spaces and consist of superpositions, layerings, fragmentations and ambiguities in a social, historic, theoretic or interpretative sense. The assembled prints in the exhibition are layered images, originally taken in various botanical archives, which want to create a space of longing in this specific display.
Yet, the question of the intention of collecting must be asked, for archives are never innocent.
This film is a kind of rearrangement of Plato's Symposion based on philosophic essays on love and it is also inspired by the
Surrealists' Recherches sur la sexualité.
The film structure refers specifically to Sergej M. Eisenstein's definition of the mise en cadre and concentrates precisely on the possibilities of revealing or hiding substantial film-immanent information.
This work was created during my residency at a remote place near Rome.
It emerged from the situation I was in there for the period of four weeks.
The work was an examination of experiencing time and transience and its impact on me.
30-40 plants of different sizes and proveniences in pots (palm trees, ficus elastica, marginatas, fejkas, figue trees,
bananas, etc.) are arranged in a rectangle under a tent made of transparent plastic planes to protect them from heavy rainfalls.
The plants stand close with only little space between them. So it’s not really possible or easy for people to move between the plants, apart from the aspect of inconvenience there’s also the aspect of respect (risk of damaging the plants) and restriction (what does it mean to be not allowed to enter a space, even if it’s "just" plants?). How do plants grow under new, unknown conditions?
BILLBOARD. prospects modifiés
Modified version of the film essay Prospects (2011).
The term prospect is used in a more condensed way, in the way of a promise,
in the way travel agencies use it for their holiday offers. For this work interviews
from the essay have been reduced to simple, catchy slogans.
A film essay about women in the Mediterranean and their concepts of paradise.
It consists of interviews with women from this area and images of paradisiac places like public parks, private gardens,
The video is an assemblage of these images and the interviews and it is accompanied by field recordings and subtle sound pieces which have been composed particularly for this work.
La route du paradis
Side project of Prospects. The map of fixing pins shows the cities in the Mediterranean area I visited for my research and interview
It will all be differerent
Error correction by repetition?
Or realisation by repetition?
Can a wish become true if you repeatedly write it down some hundred times?
Live radio broadcast of a sound performance in the frame of Reheat Festival at Kleylehof Nickelsdorf, Austria.
The situation of a drive-in cinema was converted into a drive-in radio broadcast.
The live sound performance was broadcast via local radio frequencies and received via radios in cars parked at the venue. In German the pun makes more sense: the autokino is turned into an autoradio (which also means car radio).
des souvenirs vagues
Des souvenirs vagues is a film essay about visual memories and their repetitions, shifts and refractions
and about desire. Even the choice of the film material and aesthetics is an utterance of desire: the seemingly analog film aesthetics has
been created digitally. In this way it corresponds to desire as a longing for past times with the only existence of analog film.
It’s also a poetic reference, a blank which senses desire, which refers to an unknown, an unpronounceable desire.
The film's main elements are vaguely remembered, kind of stereotyped scenes en miniature – they could be from a film, but also someone's personal memories or desires.
Like in many of my works this film negotiates (re)constructions of female role models, depictions and images of women which are formed by the absence of the body and by almost pure reflection. In this way, only traces or fragments of actions or the body are perceptible.
A projection equipment which has been turned into a space-defining sculpture,
an adjustment with a new prefix. A miniature, adapted for a small sized exhibition space and its site-specific conditions.
The projected film itself is a demonstration of adapted relations: Images which were produced by webcams and saved, collected, sorted, assembled and animated, are available via mouse-click.
The poetic moment is generated from the apparatus, the installation, the illusionist machine, is detected. The apparatus is moved in its true light and therefore into the centre of perception.
Alpine Passage is a film comprising individual images about a journey across the
Swiss and Austrian Alps. The mountains, impressive as a painting, and in front
of them a sort of architecture that enables either a panoramic or a close view.
Snow, fog, clouds and in the midst of it all, a barely perceptible massif. Or, better yet, a white noise from which contours gradually emerge and just as steadily dissolve back into:
As though ghost lights in the digital image-fog that dominates the expanse of this composition. A mountain peak, only vaguely discernible
for the longest time, that halfway disappears again the moment it appears.
The starting material for Bellevue are webcam recordings from Grossglockner that she collected for months and condensed into a nine-minute time image.
Schwentner's method benefits from the rigid takes, mainly because within them, the interplay of appearing and eluding, of revealing and concealing, can develop the greatest possible effect. Thus, the figure of the mountain uncovers and covers itself in a constant, modulating movement: ridges and slopes peel from the whiteness of the surroundings, to then immediately vanish again within it.
Accompanied by a subtle ambient-like rustle, which Schwentner gathered from the direct transformation of the image into sound data, the vision continually clears up and becomes disarranged. As though the mountain, seen and photographed millions of times, does not want to disclose its identity so simply; yes, as though the apparently banal weather panorama recordings harbor a key of sorts to the disappearance of the supposedly most unchangeable natural things.
The beautiful view is fundamentally blurred as a result of Bellevue. Not by things incidentally blocking it, such as snow, fog, or clouds, but by a basic instability in the process of (electronic) seeing itself. The more persistently it pursues the phenomena, the more they keep themselves covered from time to time. (Christian Höller)
The sound installation Chanter toujours is an allegory: a special sound is extracted from its original
context and is transformed into an new one: the always singing cricket prolongs the summer and should be – as sound intervention – hopefully a nice surprise
in the cold season. At the same time Chanter toujours is an infinitive invitation to sing or make sound - more and almost any time!
Composition set //
image transformed //
The idea was to transform a picture of Mozart on the basis of a new composition arranged with
the so-called musical dice game, sound-controlled manipulation and also a dismantling of the common clean
and kitschy Mozart image.
A bright frontal picture postcard view of a Mozart statue is turned into a rough, decaying picture. This turnaround within an extremely short period of time also represents life's progress and decay. The alteration is equivalent to a life cycle: The lush color from the beginning fades, the leaves shrivel, the tree disappears, the postcard with Mozart's picture yellows and becomes a Mozart of stone.
The manipulation on the musical level was inspired by the musical dice game as played in Mozart's days.
The composer himself wrote short pieces and re-arranged the individual measures according to a roll of the dice. For the film short samples of violin concerto #3 and symphony #38 have been used and processed.
A bridge with an arched metal structure stretching over it is visible on a white field. The colours are subdued -
grey and black, various shades of brown, blue and green – though they seem quite intense on the light background. The places connected
by the bridge aren't visible; portrayed as an isolated structure, it becomes the focus of an analysis in the medium of film.
In contrast to some of the other videos made by Michaela Schwentner, the subject is easily recognisable in this case. At the same time the artist discovers an individual life in the architecture, which lets the concrete form slip into abstract patterns. The perspective shifts repeatedly, and different views of the structure appear. One shot fades into the next, and the movement of the pixels can literally be observed. This creates graphic and painterly moments, the play of light and shadow, lines and planes turns into a hypnotic game of deception.
The camera's gaze is directed at the structure's details and unusual views so that individual portions of the bridge no longer seem to be bound to a certain function, and other fields of association open up in its formal structures. The geometric shapes resemble sketches, the cables between the bridge and its superstructure are like drawn lines, which lends the originally monumental structure of concrete and steel something fragile, translucent and with that a buoyant lightness.
In contrast to a sketch, however, swinging also makes the three-dimensional character of its subject tangible, not least through the use of the soundtrack which was also created by Michaela Schwentner. The shimmering of the dimensions and the materiality of the representation are underlined by the audio level. Each kind of material seems to have its own characteristic sound, and after electronic alteration it creates an acoustic landscape surrounding the bridge, which seems to «swing» from time to time. (Andrea Pollach)
La petite illusion
A little story of passions is told in La petite illusion: heavy breathing garnished
by a jazzy bass line, a kiss, a woman falls into water at night.
While the work's title is an ironic reference to Jean Renoir's 1937 La grande illusion, the association is a dead end: Neither the images nor the soundtrack contains a direct quotation of Renoir's pacifist fable, nor is a similar motif touched upon. The patina of early sound film which is celebrated in La petite illusion stands as the sole vague connection to the La grande illusion - the sound and the look, the aesthetic stereotypes of Francophone cinema made between the wars.
Schwentner's chromatically ascetic electronic manipulation of found sounds and images is a study of emotional images from the history of cinema which is carefully kept in the air. The story told in La petite illusion is itself a kind of little illusion: It has the mere suggestion of a plot, a kind of mini-melodrama with built-in interference. While the narrative lines remain unresolved, irrationally linked as if in a dream, the film's images themselves become unstable: They seem to melt, run into one another; just after coming together they fall apart, speed up, slow down, hammered with the artist's omnipresent influence. Animated Cubism is the term she gave to her work method: The flat film images are committed to a virtual digital space, a different kind of illusion, and the material is released into a state of partial abstraction. In the referential space, filled with romantic ruins of images, fragments of emotional declamation and salon conversation in French, with canned music and the bright singing of anonymous film divas, emotions are transformed into signals, and the individual parts of trivial film tragedies are translated back into neutral cinematic symbols. (Stefan Grissemann)
Der Kopf des Vitus Bering
When Vitus Bering completed his circumnavigation of northeast Asia on August 13, 1728 to prove that Asia and America are
two separate continents, the coast of America was covered in fog and remained largely invisible to the discoverer.
On the tracks of discovery and at the same time groping through the dark; a confusing state, the various levels of which are made evident in Michaela Schwentner's video the head of Vitus Bering. The picture shows the black silhouette of a landscape emerging from a brilliant white. The landscape is grouped on a horizontal and in some places also on a vertical axis. It changes, seems to oscillate between various aggregate states. Forms become visible or invisible; colors fluctuate between white-gray-black. A type of fata morgana in a desert of ice.
Also the sound and the text make reference to a state of madness - or at least heightened sensibility; the violin bows are tense, the voices entangle and distort.
Konrad Bayer's text Der Kopf des Vitus Bering (1958 ff), which provides all of the quotations, is Schwentner's immediate reference point. Bayer is interested in the figure of Bering as a location from which relations can be created and quotes André Breton, according to whom reality is not the sum of the facts, but rather, the sum of possibilities. Bayer's text is a mosaic of facts, thus on the one hand history – and on the other, thoughts and speculations, mounted according to strict rules. He creates a dense atmosphere whose quality lies in the gaps that hold the knowledge of wealth, of reality. Also Schwentner's video breathes this intensity; text, sound, and image combine to something greater than the sum of what happens and what is heard. It presents the abundance in its emptiness. (Sylvia Szely)
On a white background, black rectangles fall from the left upper edge of the picture. They amass to form larger surfaces,
to then immediately thereafter shrink or shift on top of one another, and from time to time be lifted off each other by thin white lines.
Similar to the cinema screen, the rectangular surfaces carry the schematic, digitally processed image of a woman, which is difficult to recognize as such.
Instead, its large-pixel outline merges with the abstract forms, which constantly form anew. Like in a puzzle, individual facial details show up in different places;
the various parts are continually put together, yet without ever revealing a completed picture.
The stark, reduced soundtrack, which stems from Antonioni's Il deserto rosso, as does the initial visual material, emphasises the clarity of the images and opens the gaze to the constantly changing forms.
The face – reduced to flickering black and white areas – takes its place in this strict composition. At one point, the picture becomes almost completely black from the steady overlapping of different layers. Shortly thereafter, the schematic contours of the face push into the field of vision. In the end it seems to have almost won out over the abstract forms. This impression is supported by the replacement of the noise on the soundtrack with human voices. However, before the music (which begins suddenly), can spread out, and the black and white contours become completely recognizable as the reproduction of a human form, they turn quickly to the side and the picture disappears into the blackness. (Corinna Reicher)
XX Y X
Series of new and open formats and forms of representation
XX Y X Archive
VISUALISATION OF SOUND / COMPOSITIONS
A 2013 / Video / 4:3 / b+w / sound / 8 min
Mouvements/caduques III A 2010 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 10 min
Canranc A 2010 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 12 min
Speech A 2009 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 8 min
A 2004 / Vvideo / 4:3 / colour / sound / 6 min
Jet A 2003 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 6 min
r4 A 2000 / Video / 4:3 / b+w / sound / 5 min
Transistor A 2000 / Video / 4:3 / b+w / sound / 5 min
The future of human containment
A 2001 / Video 4:3 + 35mm / b+w / sound / 4 min, sound: Pure
A 2004 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 6 min, sound: Charmant Rouge
How do you want M.?
A 2003 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 4 min, sound: Heinz Dietsch
Take the bus
A 2002 / Video / 4:3 / b+w / sound / 4 min, sound: General Magic
A 2001 / Video / 4:3 / colour / sound / 6 min, sound: Fennesz