Tanja Widmann »A world of pleasures to win«

Daria Martin/Bernd Krauß

18.2.2006 - 8.4.2006

Vienna. Shuffling, laying, turning/looking, placing, setting, dealing. In Daria Martin’s film »Close Up Gallery« (2003) card tricks are demonstrated but not shown – even if the gestures of the two actors at first sight lead us to believe that this is what they are doing. Instead we find ourselves watching a demonstration of the act of showing itself and it is this showing that is repeated. Here’s how it works: a card trick artist demonstrates movements, his partner, assistant and pupil copies them, apes them and learns them. A game of imitation with no rules and no direction. The showing is repeated with variations, glances are exchanged, ties adjusted, the two transparent plates of a table turned, cards are shuffled, leafed through, laid, picked up again etc. And then, when no one is showing us anything anymore, the film shows its tricks using the constantly altering constellation of the cards. Colour fields moved by an invisible hand, abstract choreographies.
When the game and the trick conceal themselves, are hidden in the movements, a comprehensible goal of the trick goes astray, other elements push their way to the forefront; such as the colours of the backs of the cards - red, blue, green or black and the materiality of these colours – sometimes sprayed, sometimes printed. The changing shirt of the trick artist, sometimes blue, sometimes black and the composition of his partner’s clothes, apparently the only one for whom the tricks are being demonstrated and for whom they take on a meaning. Martin’s game points in several directions: media specificity and abstraction as modernist pawns, an interplay of colours as deployed by De Stijl or the Bauhaus, seriality as a conceptual procedure, industrial manufacturing procedures versus manual dexterity, film as a miraculous achievement, as an apparatus to perform tricks.
The idiosyncrasies of the media are reflected in the way they are superposed. Film is able to show the arrangements of the cards, bright squares, as abstract moving images, is capable of evoking painting and demonstrating something filmic. Mondrian’s coloured shapes as a flying, random confusion of colours that have abandoned the grid of the square and now find their place in short-lived configurations and in relation to round surfaces. This »trick« of superposition, upsetting the laws of purity, also re-emerges in the play of colours and styles: thus for Martin green accompanies red and blue. However, yellow would be the third pure (primary) colour, which in alliance with the other two were utilised, along with black and white, in De Stijl and Bauhaus works or in Godard’s early films, whilst green, a hybrid colour that likes to disguise itself as a third, fourth primary colour had to be rejected to serve the purposes of a reductionist colour selection. In Martin’s work green stirs up the pure colours and has them return as the luminous colour spectrum of the eighties. There’s a hint of eighties retro chic too in the assistant’s outfit, which seems homemade, cobbled together, eccentrically varied and dotted with scraps of fur. But eighties retro style is once again rather passé after all and the film floats gaily and timelessly between ages and styles, modernism and modernity, the twenties and the eighties and the present that has just gone by.
Bernd Krauß’s objects continue the lines cast out in the film onwards into the space, demonstrate a related game in dealing with materials and references, a practice of deconstruction and détournement. Sometimes, as in »rigga« (2006), the net stocking creating spatial links between an orange rod assembly recalls details of clothing in the film and looks at the same time like a deformed sculpture by Moholy-Nagy. A curtain element on the wall might conceal windows, but doesn’t after all, is a theatrical element, sculpture and in this once again deception. It does not appear as a work in the exhibit list but is understood as a spatial commentary referring to the film. The border between artwork and non-artwork becomes blurred, the concept of a piece of art is playfully torpedoed. A small shoe box allows us to glance into an ark with tools, a desk lamp screwed onto a surface illuminates a sheet that seems to be staring at you through two holes, which makes me laugh. Everything is shown, there is nothing concealed, no backstage, no secret to be aired, in this concatenation of objects similar to an experimental set-up. Temporary states evoking a constant rebuilding, but also the potential disappearance of these constellations.
Tinkering or doing handicrafts generally refers to a-technical, amateur messing around with whatever there is to hand, perhaps with cheap material or left-over scraps. Krauß and Martin both recognise and exploit the glam effects in trashy material, trash glam. »My Little Diamond« intones a male voice accompanying a film in synth-sound. As was already apparent in Warhol’s Silver Factory, as we constantly learn in the cinema, film can do just that: make cheap material shine. But it is also among the myriad things that art can do to. In Martin’s and Krauß’ oeuvre this lustre is something that flakes away or is shown to lead nowhere, which objects and figures taking action ricochet off . A torch lights up a bathroom mirror mounted on the ceiling and the light reflex produced makes sanded-down,
crushed drinks cans – »o.T. (1994/2006)« – shimmer. The glitter reveals itself to be merely an effect and through a movement between the objects a relationship arises whereby one exhibits the other, at the same time also showing the process of exhibiting. A situational element perhaps too, which resonates in this practice in the sense adopted by Agamben, who sees in the situation not the »realisation of a potency, but rather the release of a further potency«.1 Agamben used the term »gesture« to describe »this intersection between life and art, act and potency, the general and the particular, text and performance«.2 And just as Agamben defines gesture as » characterised by the fact that in it one neither generates or makes nor executes or handles, but instead adopts and bears something«3, the works by Martin und Krauß demonstrate the capacity, the communicability of the media themselves – painting, film or sculpture – in their being-as-a-means. In this sense the title of the exhibition »A world of pleasures to win«, curated by Melanie Ohnemus for 13/2, references a potential, a desire that can still be achieved, a promise not yet fulfilled or a place that can perhaps be captured by means of these practices, critical, scruffily glittering and full of tricks.

Translation: Helen Ferguson

1 Giorgio Agamben: »Marginalien zu den Kommentaren zur Gesellschaft des Spektakels.« In: id., Mittel ohne Zweck. Noten zur Politik. Freiburg/Berlin 2001, p.78.
2 Ibidem
3 Giorgio Agamben: »Noten zur Geste.« In: id.: op. cit., p. 59.