Body and Territory: Art and Borders in Today's Austria
Curated by Jasna Jakšić & Radmila Iva Janković, organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb. December 2022.
The exhibition Body and Territory: Art and Borders in Today's Austria actualises the questions of national representativity, starting from two dominant tendencies that mark contemporary art in Austria. It focuses on the tradition of radical performance and feminist legacy while giving a voice to those who are silenced—women, queer individuals, immigrants, refugees and migrants.
The body and its vulnerability emerged in Austrian art as a dominant topic in the early 20th century; by the late 1960s, it became the main medium of radical forms of political resistance. The subversive performances of Günter Brus occurred in the very convergence of body and territory. The body is also the main medium of feminist advancement into marginal practices represented by VALIE EXPORT, an artist whose works constitute another important framework of this exhibition. Following modified political circumstances and by opening up to the global flux of capital and money, the regime of political borders was replaced by one of economic borders. The territory is inscribed into bodies through new, variable paradigms of identity.
The historical works are inter alia related to the former tri-country (Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia) Trigon Biennial, which took place in Graz until the 1990s. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, it was one of the key events that contributed to the internationalisation of the participating countries’ art scenes. Alongside topics such as urban interventions, video art, the artistic process and gender roles, the Trigon exhibitions also contributed to the broadening and exchange of new artistic practices, which found the function of art beyond the formal idiom or folklore that is commonly associated with cultural diplomacies. One of the last editions, which took place at the onset of the Yugoslav wars in 1992, was dedicated to differences and identity. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Austria became a bridge towards the rediscovered Central and Eastern Europe, the visible and invisible fluxes and networks of people, commodities and capital. That which has principally marked Austrian art in recent decades is its international spirit, which implies the rights of citizenry in the art world’s fluid territory, and which is built—as boldly as in the revolutionary 1960s and 1970s—on the fragile poetics of Otherness
Following up on radical historical strides, the contemporary practices confront us with the fact that the internationalism of these bodies is based on their nonbelonging. The corporeal is excessive and obscene, a mechanism of derailment from the nation and the capital. As a homeless international which mimics and spreads as a virus, the body also recognises corporeality as the basic unit of resistance. The regulation of the body, but also its opposition to classifications and categories, is the topic of a series of recent works at the exhibition. From obsessive to carnivalesque tactics, all the way to nostalgia and mystification, the bodies, their histories and their futures are formed towards and opposite of different regimes, thereby introducing us to spaces of unexpected propinquities and freedoms through nuances of discomfort and aversion.
Curated by Jasna Jakšić and Radmila Iva Janković.
Main partner: Austrian Cultural Forum Zagreb.