viennacontemporary 2023
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Vienna contemporary: In Search of European  Alternatives

Impressions  & Highlights 

Swirling through the condensed programme funneling the local Viennese art scene, the city absorbs me for a weekend in a dynamic spiral of openings and events, in the context of Viennacontemporary, a young regional art fair at its ninth edition, and other parallel projects activating independent spaces and institutions.

In the green surroundings of the Stadtpark, the Kursalon confirms the Viennese experience. The city is impeccably polished. Inside the 19th-century Renaissance-style palace, everything is well crafted, as is often the case in sales-oriented events, yet a curatorial intention delineates a different attempt. The Statement of this edition, 'Political Homelessness and Contemporary Citizenship', invites reflection on the condition of belonging and non-belonging in the wider scenario of migration in Europe, reinforced by the exhibition Not Either Or, But And curated by Laura Amann at das weisse haus.

By giving specific attention to independent galleries from Eastern Europe, which are seldom in the art market's spotlight, it manifests a desire to blur definitions and open a dialogue about zones of contact, while also reestablishing the capital's role as a junction between East and West. With the participation of 61 galleries, at least a third from Central and Eastern Europe, Viennacontemporary involves the participation of both independent and established galleries, together with a selection of ten emergent artists by curator Francesca Gavin, collected under the ZONE 1 section

After passing through the spaces of the fair several times, I encounter constants and variations in the work of newcomers. Few small elements become narrative nodes, through repetitions and partial quoting. I delve my attention around and by the theme of scrap. Narrative scraps reinvested as fabulation. Fabulation as fraudulent infiltration. Urban scraps encrusted in assemblages. And again, discarded subjectivities, borderline territories and digital rubbish.

Installation view: Abdul Sharif Oluwafemi Baruwa, 2023
Courtesy of the artist and EXILE GALLERY, Vienna.

We encounter humble materials such as pastels on cardboard, pencil on paper, and at times even beetroot on canvas or discarded furniture in the installation by Abdul Sharif Oluwafemi Baruwa (born in 1975). The winner of the Bildrecht SOLO Award exposes materials that collectively create a depiction of transient domesticity at EXILE gallery (Vienna).

Installation view (detail): Marko Obradović, Foreshadowing (2023)
Photo: Jennifer Gelardo, Courtesy OF the artist and Eugster Belgrade

The inventory of liminal situations and abject subjects inhabit the canvases by Marko Obradović (b.1998) presented by Serbian gallery Eugster Belgrade (Belgrade). Derived from the cinematic genre of horror and suspense, pop culture and Bosnian mythology, as in the case of a new cycle of works that draws inspiration from the modern myth that enchants the ancient pyramid-hills in Bosnia with mysterious energies and healing properties, whose doubts about its original formation are fuelled by local superstition and scientific reappraisals. The iconography of the myth is differently traversed by Jędrzej Bieńko (b. 2000), represented by Pola magnetyczne (Warsaw): here, archetypal symbols are traced on large, rough canvases, sometimes diptychs, treated according to preparation processes typical of medieval painting. Figures of man-birds in hazy atmospheres manifest stasis of decomposition and transformation, failure and healing, almost disappearing in the dust of pigment. 

Jędrzej Bieńko, A walk with a human (2023)
& Untitled (2022)
Courtesy OF the artist

At Vienna-based house of spouse, the historical and domestic motifs of Katharina Schilling’s (b.1984) canvases are isolated from their context of origin, enlarged and repeated as graphic elements, sourced from the illustrations of medieval manuscripts. As a collateral exhibition, Fabulation, Feigning and Fibbing happened a few blocks away from the fair, in the small apartment occupied by house of spouse. In the Viennese condo, the collective show included works by three young artists based in the city — Luīze Nežberte, Igor Blomberg Tranæus, Juan Francisco Vera. Scanned collaged documents, notes and photographs framed in glass displays, on the walls, surround three metallic hangers twirling in rusty flowers at the center of the room. A displaced map of the exhibition generates confusion as one enters the space, and after some attempts  to find a logic with the actual positioning of the works, one realises that something is deliberately off. The exhibition title anticipated the intentions, until I asked my self: To what extent does fiction remain fiction and not end in a hoax?” The moment I stepped inside, a whimsical sense of trickery immediately washed over me. The neon-green glow of the bathroom set the stage, and as I entered I was greeted by a playful sound recording, "The Clown”

Back to the fair, deliberate small subtractions and intentional errors - cracks, holes, creases  in representations of household objects are constants in the work of Croatian artist Dino Zrnec (b. 1983), presented by VIN VIN (Vienna, Naples), which, on the occasion of Curated by, held the beautiful group show Motherless Daughters, curated by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti.

Installation view: Jakub Choma,
Untitled_5 (The Cycle of Acceptance), 2023

An opulent archaeological display of cybernetic debris takes place in the confined boot of Polanski (Prague, Brno), a multimedia installation composed of plexiglass, dirt, minerals and cork by Slovakian artist Jakub Choma (b. 1995), resembling an urban construction site inspired by the immaterial domain of digital world building (WoW). At the uplifted floor of the ZONE 1 section, Julia Znoj's (b. 1990) thermoplastic castings and encrusted plastic beans are part of a study on processes of material layering of time and discarded objects belonging to her personal past.

Installation View  : Elisabet Molin, Shadows

Photo:   Manuel Lopez 


The black silhouettes of stereotypical cartoon  characters — a waving hand, a stain, a pair of buttoned trousers — are for Elisabeth Molin (b. 1985) transitory signifiers, perpetually exposed to the possibility of an unpredictable and dreamlike transformation, at times ironic, fragile and intimist. In the words of the artist: "It is often something that assimilates or associates to something else, like fragility embodied in an eggshell and how that eggshell is later transformed into a hat for protection, or the feeling of mischief, or even make-believe spurred in characters hiding in gloves or a crow feather that makes a character believe they can fly. In all of them there is this sense of transformation, a potential, a morphing or something being on the verge of becoming something else”.

Text: Federica Nicastro

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