Anna Artaker/Tatiana Lecomte
Curator: Moritz Stipsicz
Duration of the exhibition: May 9th - extended until December 29th
The exhibition of Anna Artaker and Tatiana Lecomte at the Josephinum combines works by two important contemporary artists from Austria who, in their oeuvre, usually reference historical developments and/or scientific practices of the 20th century and explore their social and psychological impact. The use of historical material and its showcasing in altered form and context is a way of highlighting scars that exist in our societal system and of revealing fundamental patterns of thought in modern western civilisations. The two artists specifically examine the application of scientific or pseudo-scientific techniques as a means of justifying exclusion, discrimination and racism.
The critique at which they hint is often accompanied by questioning the capacity of the actual media used in terms of adequately reflecting historical events, and their suitability as a reliable tool in social and natural sciences.
In the course of the 20th century, photography and film became so sophisticated and so widespread that we struggle to cast doubt over the general validity of what we see depicted before us (an analogy to the phenomenon of social media today). And yet, photography and film only partially represent the reality that actually was; instead, they rather depict what someone wanted to see and represent. In the sciences, they illustrate categorisations underpinned by specific systems of thought, suggesting that the only possible point of view is the one proposed. By the same token, historical collections – whether they are art collections or scientific collections – do not simply preserve exhibits; they also provide insights into the world-views of the respective collectors.
In her works Tatiana Lecomte reveals the power structures that are at play in human relations. The relationship between the photographer and the person photographed corresponds to a constellation of subject and object, of doer and done-to, that also manifests itself in other relationships with varying intensity and brutality. In the most extreme case, between oppressor and oppressed, hunter and hunted, but also, by their very nature, in everyday human interactions – between teacher and pupil, employer and employee, researcher and test person, doctor and patient – where inequities in the balance of power can be abused.
Anna Artaker’s works in the exhibition explore the judgement and condemnation of ‘the Other’ based on outward appearances. Whenever we look at the face of a fellow human being, we cannot help ourselves from ascribing moral, psychological or character-based attributes to these ‘Others’ and to relate those attributes to ourselves. And yet, the notion that certain facial features are indicative of similarly determined character traits and behavioural patterns is culturally conditioned. It is a practice that gives rise to arbitrary categorisations and can be used to justify discrimination and marginalisation. One of her works on show refers to the 1960 film 48 Heads from the Szondi-Test by Kurt Kren, which is also screened in the exhibition.
This presentation is a contribution to the exhibition The Vienna Faculty of Medicine 1938 to 1945 that is being shown in parallel at the Josephinum. However, the works on show do not explicitly refer to this particular period of time and the atrocities committed during the Third Reich. Rather, they refer by way of example to patterns of thought and behaviour that exist in all human societies, patterns which can, at any time, provide the basis for the sort of cruelties that human beings are capable of inflicting on one another.
Anna Artaker *1976 in Vienna – Studied philosophy and political science at the University of Vienna and the Université Paris VIII as well as conceptual art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna – Lives and works in Vienna.
Tatiana Lecomte *1971 in Bordeaux – Studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Lyon; the master class for painting, Graz; the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam – Lives and works in Vienna.
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