Austrian Pavilion, 59th International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia
Invitation of the Soft Machine and Her Angry Body Parts by Karola Kraus
Giardini della Biennale, Venezia
April 23 – November 27, 2022
Preparations for the Austrian contribution to the 59th Biennale in Venice, commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, are making great strides: the interplay of the groups of works by Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl reflect the symmetrical architecture while the magazine being published to accompany the exhibition reflects its content. The new exhibition space of Phileas in Vienna will also allow visitors an adapted version of the Austrian Pavilion presentation.
For the Austrian Pavilion in Venice in 2022, Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl have conceived stage-like installations, entitled Invitation of the Soft Machine and Her Angry Body Parts, in which they unfurl their entire artistic cosmos – from paintings, sculptures, textile works, photographs, text and video to a fashion collection and a publication in the form of a magazine. These “spaces of desire” upset conventional notions of museum presentations and subvert the hierarchies of art and design, of high and low. They analyse the operations of the mechanism which becomes a co-producer of constructions of identity as well as the role of desire and sensory experience within this context. By reflecting on the idea of “liberation” from conventions, they open up spaces that viewers can experience by way of play, becoming protagonists in stage-like environments.
Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl focus on the situation of the symmetrical architecture of the Austrian Pavilion, which is both divided and connected by a colonnade. The two sections each bear the mark of one of the two artists. While distinguishing the two distinct positions, this also ensures that they remain in conversation with each other so as to emphasise the artist duo at appropriate points. Various materials, modes of operation, symbols and forms, for example, appear to oscillate between the two presentations, duplicated and mirrored and translated into the preferred artistic practice in each case. Jakob Lena Knebl’s expansive installations elude clear-cut classifications, deliberately breaking with accustomed norms. The artist’s current interrogation of the 1970s, the sociopolitical issues and the history of art and design of that decade reflects their potent influence on the present day. Key aspects in this context include identity and the possibilities of its transformation, the places of its staging, and the question of co-producers and mechanisms of exclusion.
Ashley Hans Scheirl’s installation is a walk-in self-portrait as a painter. As in a theatre proscenium, we see a staggered arrangement of flat pieces of scenery, that are at the same time the layers of this fold-out painting. This scenery is made up of architectural interventions, paintings, printed wallpapers and objects of various materials. It is a walk-in, “accessible” painting and at the same time a theatre stage that is moved into and even under the auditorium, with one of the architectural peculiarities of the Pavilion being that visitors descend two steps from the entrance into the two sunken main rooms.