Eigene Systeme

Kunstverein harburger bahnhof / institut für zeitgenössische kunst
Wolf Jahn
Artforum International, vol. XLI, No.10
June, 2003

The attemp to counter prevailing political, economic, and social realities with an alternative model may be the most ubiquitous impulse in modern and contemporary art. "Eigene System" (Autonomus system) tried to situate itsel in this dichotomy of "own" and "other". The emphasis was on experiment, the fictive, and individual spaces of freedom. But the real constrains of economy and ecology, urbanism and time were the borders of these realms, within which a total of eight artistic positions had room toplay and to work with their "autonomus systems".

In the video Being 2000-2001, Luis Felipe Ortegan undertakes his own personal form of time travel. Filmed during a road trip in Mexico, it thematizes Ortega's subjective percpetion of time. His attention fastens on tangential details like factory fans or a woman's feet and thusruns against an economy of time oriented toward productivity. Instead, the work tries to construe its own form of time based on constantly shifting ideas, metaphors, and spatial imaginings.

Ortega's video, with its emphsis on the subjective, was countered by the work of Nils Norman, wich occupied an arena more public than private. Besides proposing an ecologically valid architectural model -Proposal 10, 1998, the repurposing of Vienna's Generali Foundation as an ecosystem complete with mushroom and fish farming -Norman presented photographs from his archive of "Urbanomics", 1999-2002, in wich selected motifs of modern urban design are presented as means of social control. On the other hand, these same motifs -among others, the absurd fencing off of weeds- could also be read the other way, as metaphors, perhaps, for niches of protected spaces.

Works functioning as self-contained systems were contrasted in turn with ones that embedded themselves parasitically in extant structures in order to negate them. The most impresive of these, as a realized project, was Minerva Cuevas's Student ID Card, 2002, an office that produced convincinglooking student identification cards for anyone interested. Only the definition of this work as a one-time artistic intervention set a limit on its potential for undermining the distinctio between students and others.

"Eigene System" reads like a continuation and update of the old dialectic of "self" and "other", independence and colonization. What was strinking, though, was the lack of any polemical approach and the near-absence of any trace of the pathos of revolutionary plans for a better world. Instead, in comparasion with what one would have expected in the '60s and '70s, greater importance was attributed to the private, as in an untitled work from 2002 by Viola Klein, who combined a questionnaire about social behaivor with a personal iconography of palm leaves. When the colectivedid come into play, it was often treated as a screen or surface on which to make associations. Thus the Danish artists Rasmus Knud & Søren Andreasen presented five video that referred to, among other things, the discourses of architecture and technology. But they were done in the style of comercials, products of information and image overload. In this case, the task of establishing autonomy fell to the observer, whose task was to anthologize the offerings.

[Translated from German by Sara Ogger]