Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein

Representation requires radicalization and comes from coercion.
– Ingeborg Bachmann¹

Since its foundation in 1895—and, therefore, as the oldest international art exhibition—the Venice Biennale has served as a model for all big contemporary exhibitions. Its history is also a cultural-political narrative of the European twentieth and global twenty-first centuries. Above all it is a history of exhibitions and their spectacular provocations that has consistently seen art as a challenge. Even a cursory look back at the artists previously presented at the Austrian Pavilion, which was built by Josef Hoffmann and Robert Kramreiter and has been Austria’s national pavilion since 1934, shows the diversity and heterogeneity of art’s expressions and positions.

2019 will mark the first time in the history of Austria’s participation in the Venice Biennale that a female artist, namely Renate Bertlmann, will put on a solo presentation at the Pavilion. With this, we are setting an example as a society; an example that is in accordance with the idea of art and examines structural imbalances.

In Renate Bertlmann, I have chosen an artist whose methods in terms of both concepts and aesthetics will continue a Venetian art history of provocation in the best sense of the word.

In Austria, Renate Bertlmann has long been regarded as a leading feminist artist and a pioneer of performance art. In recognition of her groundbreaking work, she was awarded the Grand Austrian State Prize in 2017. Her works were presented at large events, such as the Gwangju Biennale, as well as in seminal exhibitions, such as The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern, London (2014), Self-Timer Stories at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York (2014), Renate Bertlmann – Maria Lassnig at Sotheby’s Gallery, London (2017), and Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics, Richard Saltoun Gallery, Frieze Art Fair, London (2017).

Bertlmann can look back at a complex oeuvre that is both aesthetically and conceptually intricately connected to an aesthetics of risk. Always keeping a keen eye on the transformational potential of difference as a counterweight to power, the artist oscillates performative, sculptural, graphic, photographic, filmic, and textual aspects between the past and the present, between dispossession and covetousness, between the everyday and the unusual, between art and life. Renate Bertlmann not only distinguishes herself through her extraordinary formal and conceptual precision, the agitative programmatic character of her work under the artistic motto “Amo Ergo Sum” and her obsessive exploration of body images directly address the sociopolitics of popular culture. Already at the beginning of her artistic career, Renate Bertlmann knew to question institutional conditions and concepts of art both critically and enthusiastically by using the individuality of materials as a jumping-off point for her analytical feminist reflections and laying bare the mechanisms of the art system. It is all the more formidable, then, how she manages to sensuously and impressively negotiate these questions in a synthetic act using performative and traditional forms of expressions.

For her exhibition at the Austrian Pavilion, Renate Bertlmann will present selected works as well as a piece commissioned specifically for the Biennale.


¹ Text message from Renate Bertlmann to the curator from March 21, 2018, 8:20 p.m. Quoted in Ingeborg Bachmann, “Ein Ort für Zufälle,” Georg Büchner Prize acceptance speech, Darmstadt, 10/17/1964.

Biography

Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein is a curator, art historian, and professor at the Institute of Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
She has headed several research projects, such as the Cathrin Pichler Archive for Science, Art, and Curatorial Practice. In her work as a teacher, researcher, lecturer, and exhibition maker, she has been focused on themes of contemporary art, modern art, arts-based research as well as feminist theory and art practice, body and spatial production. She is a member of the curatorial board of the mumok – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Vienna.
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein is the author and editor of several texts and publications.

Curated Exhibitions (Selection)

  • 2008 SynChroniCity, Austria’s contribution to the 11th Cairo Biennale
  • 2010 Hans Weigand, Deep Water Horizon at the University Art Gallery, San Diego, Calif.
  • 2012 Roberta Lima, Aesthetics of Risk, curated by_vienna 2012, Galerie Charim, Wien
  • 2014 Self-Timer Stories at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York
  • 2015 Self-Timer Stories at Museum der Moderne Salzburg
  • Self-Timer Stories at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León
  • 2016 Pro(s)thesis (cocurated by Berenice Pahl) at the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
  • Albert Mayr. Orchestrated View, Neuer Kunstverein Wien, Vienna
  • Painting is not the Issue, Neuer Kunstverein Wien, Vienna
  • Toni Schmale. Feuerbock, Neuer Kunstverein Wien, Vienna
  • Elisabeth von Samsonow. Transplants, Zeitkunst Niederösterreich, Krems
  • Fyodor’s Performance Carousel, Vienna Festival, Vienna
  • 2017 Material Traces at Charim Galerie in Vienna
  • Feminicities at Solyanka State Gallery in Moscow
  • Yingmei Duan, Neuer Kunstverein Wien, Vienna


Publications (Selection)

  • Synchronicity, Walther König, Köln 2009
  • Performanz und ihre räumlichen Bedingungen. Perspektiven einer Kunstgeschichte, Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2012
  • Performing the Sentence. Research and Teaching in Performative Fine Arts (with Carola Dertnig), Sternberg Press, Berlin 2014
  • Self-Timer Stories, Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna 2015
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