Getting Ahead. Art Language Cinema Migration

Rainer Bellenbaum, Farida Heuck, Achim Lengerer, Susanne M. Winterling

Curated by Andrei Siclodi
Exhibition at the Kunstpavillon, 10.06.2011 to 23.07.2011

Getting Ahead. Art Language Cinema Migration dealt with the intertwining nature of art, language, and cinema before the background of migration and issues of identity: How are language positions constituted? How is language policy applied as a technique of governance, how is the sense of belonging to a “we” cultivated in the media? Who is inside or outside? And what defines the relationship between inside and outside? On the one hand, “Getting ahead” refers to the fundamental driving force behind the phenomenon of migration. Yet in this context, the phrase also stands for subjectifying and a thought process relevant to differentiated perception and a deeper understanding of our life in post-colonial society.

The exhibition evolved from an investigation into the projects, artistic ideas, and working methods of participants in the International Fellowship Program for Art and Theory—Rainer Bellenbaum, Farida Heuck, Achim Lengerer, and Susanne M. Winterling—at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen 2010/11. Their approaches, fields of exploration, and artistic themes became the starting point for the issues considered.

Farida Heuck deals with the conflicting field of art and politics in multimedia site- and context-related installations. She sees her work as an interface between actual conditions of migration and its representation in the media. The focus is on questions regarding the attribution of identity in everyday life, stereotyping, and the resulting criteria of inclusion and exclusion. In Büchsenhausen, she worked on the project Linguistic Policy as a Technique of Governance, which concerned development of multilingual utopias, with an emphasis on equality for the languages and cultures of migrants and refugees. Beginning with the introduction of the Red-White-Red Card, decided on by the Austrian National Council in May 2011, and the resulting “Integration Amendment”, Heuck devised a demonstration for multilingualism in Austria, which was held on May 21, 2011 in Innsbruck, on Maria-Theresien-Straße. A commission (supposedly appointed by the government to prepare the “Multilingualism Amendment” and subsequent introduction of obligatory courses in migrant languages for all Austrians) discussed this plan in public space. The intervention sought to shift the existing conditions between the majority society and migrant communities. In obliging citizens of the majority society to learn the languages of migrants in order to maintain their right to live in national territory, Heuck sheds new light on the unquestionable one-sidedness of the seemingly endless integration debate that has been continuing for years. The members of the commission—a representative from the Austrian Chamber of Labor, a linguist, a lawyer, a politician and an adult education specialist—appeared as experts presenting their own statements, which were text collages from the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Copenhagen documents for the protection of minorities, the Southern Tyrolean autonomy agreement and agreement on integration.

The installation A Rewarding Challenge shifted the conference table from public space to the art context, and showed two live recordings of the looped action. In assuming the positions of the relevant speakers at the table, visitors could listen to individual statements by members of the commission.

Rainer Bellenbaum spent his fellowship at Büchsenhausen working on his book project Cinematographic Action. In it, he investigates the impulses, potentials and effects of cinematographic action as articulated in today’s practice of gallery and installation film in particular. This art/film critical essay centers on works by artists whose oeuvre is characterized by their own experiences of migration.

For the exhibition Getting Ahead, Bellenbaum produced the experimental video Audience Post/Cinematographic Action. Starting out from a local television report about immigrant youths from North Africa, the legal identity of whom is apparently defined only by means of their criminal record, Bellenbaum investigated the media construct of belonging to the “we” on the basis of further interviews with those involved and the use of deconstructive montage techniques.

In his work Achim Lengerer is concerned with language-related questions, which he examines in performances or spatial installations. In Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen, he worked on a book publication in “narrative script form”, a further development of (or rather approach towards) an already existent script: François Truffaut and Jean Gruault’s L‘Enfant Sauvage from the year 1969.

The installation ZOOOOM—Little Body Heart Beating I: Rehearsals with Sally presented the Scriptings publication of the same name, produced in Büchsenhausen. The publication included a reprint of the film magazine L’Avant-Scène No. 107, October 1970, which was devoted to L‘Enfant Sauvage, and a “script”, which consisted of conversations and descriptions of situations from rehearsal sessions with Sally Musleh Jaber. The exhibition also included props from the performance Iris fade in, which was held during the exhibition opening at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen on June 9, 2011, as well as the audio piece Little Body Heart Beating I: Rehearsals with Sally (which was produced for Ö1 Kunstradio and cut on vinyl).

Susanne Martha Winterling’s work examines the connections between individualized identities, social power structures, and architecture—or rather their expression in artistic production. For the exhibition Getting Ahead, she developed a multi-part spatial installation especially for the Kunstpavillon. While on the one hand it examined the specific urbanity of the City of Innsbruck and the gender attributions inscribed into it, it also concretized the abstract relationship between inside and outside in different constellations, thereby shaking the foundations of this relationship. Winterling’s work employed visual, acoustic and olfactory means; the back wall of the Kunstpavillon’s interior was papered skin-like with a photographic image of Innsbruck’s night skyline in modernist black and white, the foreground of which was dominated not only by Zaha Hadid’s Hungerburg railway station but also by its phallic bridge supports, while a church tower flanked the background. The perception of this spatial shift from outside to inside was intensified by the noticeable smell of asphalt in the room. A table with a teapot standing on it served as a reference to the Kunstpavillon’s original function as a teahouse. On the other side, a 16mm projector showed a film loop of a bird’s nest on reflecting foil, a folded white cloth placed in front of it. The nest flutters slightly in the wind again and again, only to be blown away completely at the end of the sequence. This play with light reflections and surfaces, the fragility of the nest and its impossible anchorage in one place triggered numerous associations and created a dialogue with the works by Farida Heuck and Rainer Bellenbaum.

Rainer BELLENBAUM (*1957) is a Berlin- and Vienna-based media studies scholar, film and art critic. His work includes, among other things, artistic short films and collaborations (as from 1983), camera work, research and television contributions (1986-2005), texts for a number of art magazines (Texte zur Kunst, springerin, Camera Austria) and book publications (since 2004).

Farida HEUCK is a visual artist based in Berlin. Her work repeatedly confronts the area of tension between art and politics. She conceives of her multimedia site- and context-specific installations as an interface between the conditions and the media representation of migration. Central questions concern the inscribing of identity in everyday life, its stereotyping and the resulting criteria of inclusion and exclusion.

Achim LENGERER is an artist based in Berlin and Amsterdam. In his work he deals with questions of language, which he realizes in performances or in installations. He has initiated several collaborative projects including Freitagsküche in Frankfurt and Berlin and voiceoverhead, a collaboration with artist Dani Gal. He has been running Scriptings, a traveling exhibition space and publishing house, since 2009. Scriptings functions as a discursive platform, building on and running parallel to Lengerer’s projects. Scriptings is open to artists, writers, graphic designers, performers and publishers—all those who make use of “script” and “text” formats in their respective production processes.

Susanne M. WINTERLING is an artist whose various projects deal with topics of identity and individuality in conflict-laden society. She lives in Berlin.


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