Matter of Negotiation

Madeleine Bernstorff, Ana Hoffner, Brigitta Kuster, Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor, Ina Wudtke, Inga Zimprich / The Faculty of Invisibility

Curated by Andrei Siclodi
Exhibiton at the Kunstpavillon, 11.06.2010 to 24.07.2010

“[…] the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common; and also that they have forgotten many things. […] The nations are not something eternal. They had their beginnings and they will end. A European confederation will very probably replace them.”

Ernest Renan, writer, historian, archaeologist, religious scholar, orientalist, anti-Semite and member of the Académie française in his speech, What is a nation? on March 11, 1882 at the Sorbonne.

What constitutes EUrope today? Is the European Union actually only an alliance of states for the purpose of setting up a neo-liberal domestic market? Or does the political merging of former East and West European countries—with once disconnected parts ostensibly joining into a “community of values and cultures”, now disguised as “reintegration,”—play an important, possibly critical role in implementing the West’s free market interests in former Eastern bloc countries? Ever since the large, Eastward expansion in 2004 (with the addition of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Hungary) and the smaller one of 2007 (Romania and Bulgaria), EUrope has been developing more and more characteristics of a nation. American political scientist Benedict Anderson defines a “nation” as an “imagined community”—a group of individuals that imagine themselves to be exclusive and sovereign. The politically unsuccessful, but nonetheless actively pursued (at least to 2004) development of an EU constitution and aggressive partitioning of the EU’s borders to the outside are clear signs of this tendency. The situation immediately raises questions as to the socio-political aims and mechanisms behind these developments, but also the historical preconditions that might be influencing them. And finally, the question: is this development (still) negotiable?

The exhibition Matter of Negotiation shed light on artistic negotiation and action policies that make use of articulation strategies such as language and memory, and could potentially prove important in the subjectivizing of a “new EUrope”. Queer activism past and present, institutional critique, the legacy of colonialism, and the question of post-communist society formed the topical background, against which the six discursive approaches were unfolded and related to one another.

The exhibition came from an investigation of the projects, artistic ideas and working methods used by participants in the International Fellowship Program for Art and Theory at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen 2009/10. Their artistic approaches, fields of research, and topics became a point of departure for the show. The curatorial concept envisaged a step-by-step evolution of the exhibition topic and display parallel to the progression of the projects. Madeleine Bernstorff examined the ways in which the suffragettes, the militant women’s rights activists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were represented in early silent film. In her artistic research project, Ana Hoffner investigated the organization of sexuality in contemporary Europe, as well as how the capitalist West instrumentalized this sexuality for the purpose of realizing a Eurocentric, colonial project in the former East. Meanwhile Ina Wudtke prepared Griot Girlz, an exhibition that presented feminist art in the context of music rooted in Afro-American traditions. And Inga Zimprich, together with the Faculty of Invisibility (Sönke Hallmann, et al.), investigated the performative promise of the United Nations, the exemplary, diplomatic negotiation space in which “language, law, and community collide” (Inga Zimprich).

These positions were supplemented by three former Büchsenhausen fellows who, in different ways, advocated an active reappraisal of history. Brigitta Kuster dealt with the colonial archive (or colonial library) and the ideas buried there—the effects of which continue to play an important role in the constitution of present-day EUrope, while Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor put forward remembering as an indispensable prerequisite for understanding our post-communist society. The artists’ work symbolically addressed the general social uncertainty caused by changing values over the past two decades.

An exhibition is always a negotiation in itself: the result of a complex negotiation process within the framework of its circumstances. Negotiations can end successfully, yet they can also fail. Matter of Negotiation deliberately put both these potential results up for discussion.


Exhibited works:

Madeleine Bernstorff
The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes …
(concept and research by Madeleine Bernstorff, editing by Angelika Levi)
DV, 17 min., 2009

At the beginning of the 20th century, the movement for women’s suffrage—the suffragette movement—became a subject for film. What had appeared on the streets of American and European cities no longer seemed containable, and triggered profound anxieties. Women (very often well-to-do members of the bourgeoisie, no less) were organizing themselves and were demanding the right to participate in democratic processes! In England, more than a thousand suffragettes were jailed for their political struggles.

Caricatures in print media were soon joined by newsreels, melodramas and countless comedies that—in their ambivalence of subversion and affirmation—made reference the movement. These media reels told audiences that women belonged in the home and not at the ballot box; that these crazed furies who had suddenly taken to the streets en masse were masculinized, neglected their families and even set fire to public buildings. These (anti-)suffragette films often show the feminists as misguided souls that need to be put in their place—with room for conspiratorial voyeurism on all sides. Men also dress up as suffragettes: is it to illustrate the inappropriate and grotesque transgression of the female role or, even wilder, to act against the established order?

The video Der Fanatismus der Suffragettes (en.: The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes) is a compilation of several early films from between 1906 and 1913, in which the movement for women’s suffrage is documented and occasionally ironized. It shows how the early film industry dealt with this no longer negligible political movement. A Berlin film magazine from 1912 states that: “The fanaticism of the suffragettes has already devised new fighting methods for bearing down on the deeply-despised male sex, but especially combating those of the government that would inhibit their efforts. At all future events and processions led by the suffragettes, they will be accompanied by female cinema operators so as to immediately, cinematically record all ‘attacks’ by the police.” Though footage from these “female cinema operators”, or activist camerawomen does not exist (anymore), there are countless films dealing with the spectacle of the vehement feminists. Like a trailer for a real or imaginary film screening, The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes shows … several clips from these (anti-)suffragette films and thus addresses aspects of the image politics of early cinema, the interweaving of fiction and nonfiction films, as well as the then-rigorous censorship.

The attention-economic strategies and struggles of the suffragettes around the public space and its symbolic appropriation of the road as a platform and assembly hall become apparent in their tension with anti-feminist stereotypes that sometimes seem more contemporary than not. In their varying degrees of quality, the materials—collected over a period of about ten years—also shed light on their accessibility in archives. (Text: Madeleine Bernstorff)

Madeleine Bernstorff
The Suffragettes, Having Been Rejected By the Congress, Attempt in Vain to Take Part in the Conquest of the North Pole.
Wood, LEDs, transparent film still, 20 x 26 cm, 4:3, 2010. Photo: Gerhard Ullmann from the stained/colorized 35 mm copy in the Filmmuseum München, © Filmmuseum München, Munich.

A light box with the photogram of an intertitle from the film À la conquête du pole (en.: The Conquest of the North Pole, Georges Méliès, France, 1912), in which the suffragettes attempt to join the expedition. The film focuses on a futile attempt to participate in society.

The cover of the October 1909 issue of the English magazine The Suffragist shows a woman in a fur coat who—suffragette sash and hammer in hand—pounds a “Votes for Women” flag in the ice. The illustration also works using the wordplay between poles (North/South poles) and polls (ballot box): “Women will soon reach the polls”. The rediscovered and restored copy with the suffragette scenes was presented at the Sommerkino in Bonn in 2001.

The light box refers to the transparency of the film image in the classic cinema projection. (Text: Madeleine Bernstorff)

Madeleine Bernstorff
Police Images and Files on Suffragettes
Wood frames, 107 x 136 cm, cloth, color photo-copies, 2010

A wooden frame with photographed files from the National Archives in Kew Gardens, London. Police photographed the most radical suffragettes, sometimes with hidden cameras and telescopic lenses, to identify the activists. The photographs were found in a file belonging to the Wallace art collection, which wanted to be prepared in the event of possible attack by suffragettes. In some places, suffragettes resorted to the means of iconoclasm and destroyed works of art in exhibitions. Police files demanded photographs of all women’s rights advocates in case they should try to defend themselves, and these should be taken covertly if necessary. The police also hired portrait photographers for this purpose, as files with code words will attest. Occasionally, a policeman’s arm would be airbrushed out of the frame, as defendants were often forced to have their pictures taken. (Text: Madeleine Bernstorff)


Ana Hoffner
Transitional Europe
DV, 22 min., 2010
Documentation of the lecture performance premiere, held 19.01.2010 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen

The Serb, as an object of European consideration, is cruel, violent and uncivilized; he is associated with brute sexuality and characterized as a rapist, but also seen as solely responsible for the war crimes of the 1990s.

Adding to the long list of Serb crimes are homophobic attacks, which since the 2001 gay pride march in Belgrade have been used to highlight the entire society as undemocratic, underdeveloped and non-EU ready. But while the Serbian homophobe is stigmatized as irretrievable, Serbian queers are to be welcomed into the European family. The splitting of the population into victim and perpetrator serves as a basis for legitimate intervention by the EU in political, social and especially economic terms. The lecture performance examines how homonormativity and queerness, used as sexual states of exception, construct a unified European space that ensures the boundless exploitation of Eastern European regions for the future. (Text: Ana Hoffner)

Ana Hoffner
I’m Too Sad To Tell You, Bosnian Girl
DV, 20 min., 2010
Documentation of the lecture performance premiere, held 18.05.2010 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen

The lecture performance investigates the practice of self-reflection which, along with the practice of self-presentation, represents one condition for the contemporary constitution of the subject. The space of self-reflection is viewed as one that eludes binary divisions, which refuses to draw a boundary between subject and object and collapses the roles of director and actor into one. The time of self-reflection is understood as one of eternal present that envisages an obsessive repetition of the same performative acts that may cause the subject to fall into ecstasy, an excess of presence. The concept of space and time defined as a result of this follows a model of civilization intended to produce security and control among equal citizens, though it also generates brutality and violence. The precondition for successful self-presentation is its failure at the point at which all human existence is defined: it is the non-human that is blamed transforming the civilizing model of space-time into a zone of barbarism, underdevelopment and uncontrolled affect, and which should be kept at all times a prisoner of its own retrograde past. (Text: Ana Hoffner)


Brigitta Kuster
À travers l’encoche d’un voyage dans la bibliothèque coloniale. Notes pittoresques
DV, 25 min., loop, 2009

Produced as part of the International Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2008/09.

The film takes a journey through the colonial library—meaning not only archives and documents, but also imaginary landscapes and epistemological frameworks. The target of this destination-less trip is to push through colonially-marked space. The central motif is a park landscape, a designation the colonists gave the very same cultural landscapes and vegetational spots considered savannahs today; the only oil painting by German colonial painter Rudolf Hellgrewe, depicting a scene from Berlin workers living in 1900: a sad couple taking an evening stroll through Victoria Park in Kreuzberg against the backdrop of bleak, modern industrial city; and the first written, account of the Balamba: the expedition report by Curt von Morgen. The story, which appeared in book form in 1893 with illustrations by Rudolf Hellgrewe, who never visited Cameroon himself, tells a story about Chief Bisselé. It evokes the mythical scene of the first contact with the whites. (Text: Brigitta Kuster)


Brigitta Kuster
Entkolonisierung (en.: Decolonization)
HDV, 5:26 min., loop, 2010

Entkolonisierung is a kind of inventory covering half a century of decolonization in the German-speaking world by means of a library card catalogue. Tagged with the keyword “Entkolonisierung” (decolonization) after the fact, this catalogue is “flipped through” across three video channels. On the audio track is an excerpt from Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Nouveau Roman La Jalousie (en.: Jealousy), which was written in a way that intentionally countered narrative, depth, engagement, humanism, and tragedy.

In this bit of text, which looks at the banana plantations around an estate somewhere in a colony, there is no agent, only a constellation of things, the meticulous counting of which transforms the novel form into a kind of inventory-taking process: “Without bothering with the order in which the actually visible banana trees and the cut banana trees occur, the sixth row gives the following numbers: twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen.” (from Alain Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957) (Text: Brigitta Kuster)


Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor
Il Mondo Nuovo
DV, 16 min., loop, 2004

Produced in the context of the residency program büchsenhausen.air 2004

The title and formal design of Il Mondo Nuovo are taken from the fresco of the same name by Italian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo. Rendered in 1791, the fresco is housed at the Ca’ Rezzonico museum in Venice. Mondo Nuovo was a carnival attraction, a predecessor to the “Laterna Magica”. In the late 18th century, it was common to show an audience of curious onlookers audience images from the “New World”, voyages of discovery, pictures of natives and cannibals, but also of unknown plants and (predatory) animals, birds of paradise, orchids, etc..

The video shows a group of casually conversing people standing at the edge of a construction pit, looking at and beyond it. But nothing is happening. The camera captures a critical moment: the experience of potential hopes and expectations in the face of what materializes before one’s eyes. (Text: Andrei Siclodi)


Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor
Întâlnire cu istoria (en: Encounter with History): Demonstratie la Basel, Demonstratie la Rostock, Rosa Luxemburg
3 x oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm each, 2009

The small-format paintings show masses at a demonstration. Moments of public protest are represented in a style that is formally related to a certain trend in socialist painting. Vătămanu & Tudor juxtapose historical subjects and representations of contemporary anti-globalization demos, recognizable by the black and red flags—an act of updating the relativity of sociopolitical relations in our post-socialist society. (Text: Andrei Siclodi)

Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor’s participation in the exhibition was supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute.


Ina Wudtke
DV, 10 min., loop, 2008

Ina Wudtke’s video herspace uses role play to critically address the working conditions of female DJs. The artist plays the four female DJ characters herself. The script was generated from interviews with international female break-beat DJs. DJ-specific mixing techniques transferred to techniques used to edit the video. The video talks about independent protagonists on the open market, at the same time these DJs serve as a blueprint for various professions. Breakbeat, a form of music rooted in the African tradition, becomes the language of an entire generation of European women. The language of the film is locally inflected English from the women’s respective countries of origin, thus representing the “new Europe” as an oral history. (Text Ina Wudtke)


Ina Wudtke
ask yo mama
five drawings, A4, felt pen on paper, 2010

The series of drawings was developed during the artist’s residency at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen.

They show Ina Wudtke’s imaginary mothers, great female musicians of yesteryear and into the present day: Bessie Smith, Gladys Bentley, Mary Lou Williams, Aretha Franklin and Missy Elliot. Wudtke’s selection points to new icons for a new Europe, one closely entwined with the history of the Allies, which has heavily influenced cultural developments in postwar Europe. Ask yo mama thus has a double meaning: besides being a reference to the “mothers” of today’s music, it also alludes to the “dirty dozens” wordplay, which founded rap music primarily with witty insults to the opponant’s mother. (Text: Ina Wudtke)


Inga Zimprich / The Faculty of Invisibility

Due to an irreconcilable conflict with another fellow, Inga Zimprich decided to call off her participation in the Matter of Negotiation exhibition shortly before the opening.


Madeleine BERNSTORFF (*1956) is a Berlin-based film curator, author, super-8 filmmaker and lecturer. Her works deal, among other things, with the representation of suffragettes in film. Madeleine Bernstorff is a co-founder of Kino Sputnik in Berlin Wedding.

Ana HOFFNER (*1980 in Yugoslavia) is an artist, theorist, performer and mentor based in Vienna. Hoffner studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and works in the fields of queer and migrant/postcolonial politics. Her projects include exhibitions, performances, lectures and publications in Austria and abroad.

Brigitta KUSTER, an artist, video-/filmmaker and author, lives in Berlin. Her work focuses on topics such as the representation of work, gender and sexual identity, (urban) space, migration, transnationality and (post-)colonialism.

Mona Vătămanu (*1968) and Florin Tudor (*1974) have been collaborating since 2000. Their work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions since 2004, including solo presentations at the Frankfurter Kunstverein (2013), the Vienna Secession (2009) and BAK Utrecht (2009). The duo has participated, among other things, in the 5th Berlin Biennale (2008) and the Venice Biennial (Romanian Pavilion, 2007). Vătămanu & Tudor live and work in Bucharest.

Ina WUDTKE (*1968) is an artist and DJ living in Berlin. She envisions her work as visual intercultural and interdisciplinary research. Her installations employ techniques such as mixing, seriality and re-representation, which were developed as methods of reappropriation and counterauthority in the context of the history of black culture and new feminism. She has also curated various international exhibitions related to this context.

Inga ZIMPRICH (*1979) is an artist and curator living in Berlin. The space of speech in contemporary art institutions has played a key role in the predominantly collaborative works in which she takes part. Zimprich has been developing various curatorial and artistic productions in Ukraine since 2006 and collaborates closely with Sönke Hallmann (theory) and Paul Gangloff (design), among others.


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