This month ikono presents a choice of films by Hans Schabus, an outstanding artist from Austria, who represented his home country at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Schabus works with spaces and their perception, transforming them to his own liking in a very precise way: He flooded a gallery, transported a bridge from Austria to Germany, and his seemingly pointless film journeys and mind-boggling tunneling works have received praise and attention from all over the world.
Born in Watschig/Kaernten in 1970, Hans Schabus studied under sculptor Bruno Gironcoli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he is still living and working. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout Europe as well as in the USA, Mexiko and Sri Lanka. For his films he often works together with his brother, the filmmaker Robert Schabus.
Hans Schabus on ikonoTV
The films of Hans Schabus selected by ikono cover the artist’s highlights from 2000 until today, representing three of his main artistic aspects:
The artist’s sedulous effort and failure is addressed in Atelier (2010) and Echo (2009). In Atelier Hans Schabus works with his own studio space, which played a role in his earlier works already, restaging the finale of Sam Peckinpah’s western classic The Wild Bunch (1969). Echo is observing a man on the run through the mucky wetlands of the Danube. The protagonist keeps falling into the mud, but continues trying to escape from something or someone the viewer never gets to see.
Phantasmagoric journeys through the secret places of everyday life are the themes of Passagier (2000), Western (2002) and Astronaut (2003). For Passagier Schabus built an elaborate railway for a toy train with a camera being led through the hidden spaces behind the walls of the studio. In Western Schabus is rowing a sailing boat through the same dirty Viennese sewer seen in the film classic The Third Man (1949), while in Astronaut he is digging a shaft in the floor of his studio, filling up the room with soil before exploring the dark world he has created with his own hands.
Laßnitz (2012), with 78 minutes the longest of Schabus’ films to be on view on ikono, deals with the aesthetic transformation of a certain object by decontextualizing and displacing it. The original proposal simply read: »The work’s title is the name of the river, which was originally crossed by the railway bridge.«This abandoned bridge is sent on a 1000 miles long journey from Austria to the village Ohne in Germany, where Schabus declared it to be a sculpture from now on.
ikono invites Ars Electronica, an interdisciplinary hub and one of the world’s leading media art festivals based in Linz, Austria, to present two of their wonderful projects: the ZeitRaum installation, designed by the Ars Electronica Futurelab for the Vienna International Airport in 2012, and a film on Franz Gesellmann’s famous Weltmaschine:
The Ars Electronica Futurelab inaugurated a new virtual space inside the new terminal of Vienna’s airport to be passed by more than five billion strangers a year – five billion people on a journey through an imaginary interzone between security checkpoint and takeoff.
ZeitRaum embeds art in a public space where people are more open to artistic ideas while waiting for their flight. Caught up between time zones and connecting flights the visitors encounter the ZeitRaum space for the first time at Check In 3 area, where a large screen reacts to the motions of each new guest arriving by releasing letters of scientific or poetic texts. Arriving and departing planes create data mountains of information before dissolving into thin digital air again.
After leaving Check In 3, everyone will encounter further artworks connected to time and space: Yugo Nakamura’s Industrious Clock uses handdrawn digits for the digital clock, while the Last Clock by Jussi Ängeslevä and Ross Cooper display live footage from the airport in three rings updated by the hour, minute or the second. AIRPORT SOUNDSCAPES #1 by Rupert Huber is a datasonification project turning data from the tower into audioscapes surrounding the visitors with the sound of traffic.
The Weltmaschine of Franz Gsellmann
The Weltmaschine (World Machine) is a kinetic installations built by austrian farmer Franz Gsellmann (1910-1981). Without any special knowledge or an artistic background and inspired by a religious vision, Gsellmann started working on the machine after seeing the Atomium at the World’s Fair 1958 in Bruxelles and finished it right before his death in 1981.
Built by discarded everyday objects and material, the Weltmaschine looks like an elaborate Hollywood prop from the lab of a mad scientist or the steam engine of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. It’s four meters long, two meters wide and four meters high. It has around 2000 pieces, including a toy rocket Gsellmann had imported from Japan. Long forgotten the Weltmaschine was rediscovered and filmed in action by Ars Electronica in 2011, while the real one is still on view in a private museum in Edelsbach near Feldbach, Austria.
Being accomodated within a gem of the European Baroque architecture, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna owns a unique collection of Austrian and European art from medieval times until today. Masterpieces from the Late Gothic Michael Pacher (around 1435 – 1498) to romanticists such as Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), from Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s (1736-1783) grotesque Character Heads (after 1770) to the light-flooded landscapes of Claude Monet (1840-1926) are presented within the impressive architecture of the Belvedere’s palaces, the Upper and Lower Belvedere. Built in the early 18th century by Johann Lucas Hildebrandt, one of the most significant Baroque architects, and surrounded by a representative garden, the palaces have been serving as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), in due course an important general and influential patron for the arts.
To pay tribute to the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere as one of the most important Museums of the World, ikono dedicates two productions to a milestone of the Belvedere’s collection: As main representative of the Viennese Modern Age, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) had an inimitable influence on the art of the Austrian fin de siècle. The Belvedere owns the major part of Klimt’s Oeuvre, which doubtlessly finds its highlights in his most famous paintings, Kiss and Judith, to be presented by ikono during the upcoming weeks.
Please find below the Belvedere’s detailed introduction into Klimt’s masterpieces:
Gustav Klimt: Judith (1901)
The title Judith for this portrait of a young, seductive beauty – adorned with golden jewellery, her breast half exposed – has nothing in common with the traditional image of the heroine from the Old Testament. In the 19th century the image of Judith as the chaste woman, serving her people, was transformed into a man-eating, self-gratifying, and emancipated symbolic figure. Gustav Klimt is clearly adhering to this interpretation and showing that he is familiar with the current discussion about the new role of woman and the relationship between the sexes. It therefore comes as no surprise that even contemporary critics called this painting ‘Salome’ as well, and that the head of Holofernes is like the face of a saint. In this context, the gold background adds a touch of confusion, as in both Gothic painting and in Ancient Egyptian civilization this was regarded as the epitome of the divine. Here Klimt seems to be paying tribute to a new religion – to Eros. This can be read from the encoded decoration, which can be interpreted in different ways. The apples, for example, suspended from the background trees that look like five fingers, recall the traditional symbol of temptation, and the abstract scales call to mind the snake in paradise.
Yet ultimately it is the painting, dissolved into small brushstrokes, seen in combination with the beguiling gleam of the gold that conveys the seductive sensuality of the woman. This would still be the case even without all the decoration and its potential symbolism.
Gustav Klimt: Kiss (1908)
The Kiss, probably the most popular work by Gustav Klimt, was first exhibited in 1908 at the Kunstschau art exhibition on the site of today’s Konzerthaus in Vienna. The Ministry bought it from there for the sum of 25,000 Kronen, and thus secured for the state one of the icons of Viennese Jugendstil and indeed of European modern art.
It undoubtedly represents the culmination of the phase known as the ‘Golden Epoch’. In this decade, the artist created a puzzling, ornamental encoded programme that revolved around the mystery of existence, love and fulfilment through art. Klimt gained initial inspiration for this in 1903 on a journey to Ravenna to see the Byzantine mosaics. In addition, the painting contains a myriad of motifs from various cultural epochs, above all from Ancient Egyptian mythology. Most recent research has, however, revealed that it is not enough to read the ornaments in the picture just as symbols rooted in tradition aiming to convey a timelessly valid message. They reveal more, such as references to Klimt’s love for Emilie Flöge and the artist’s exploration of the sculptor Auguste Rodin’s art.
The couple is on a base formed by a narrow strip of a flowery meadow set against an abyss suffused with golden dust. The woman in a magnificent floral dress is being tenderly embraced by the man, whose body is entirely concealed by a golden robe. In blissful rapture she turns her head towards the viewer; their hands touch with sensual tenderness.
The gold of the background is primarily interpreted as an ancient symbol of the divine or the sun, that becomes united with the flowery meadow, symbol of the earth. The rectangles on the robe are synonymous with the male principle; the oval-shaped flowers with the female. On the other hand, comparison with the Stoclet Frieze (pron: Stoclettfries) of the same time, could suggest that the glittering gold background represents a metaphysically exalted idea of Lake Attersee and the narrow meadow the lake shore. Based on this location, the couple must be Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge.
One source of confusion is the kneeling pose of the woman and the fact that her face turns away from the kiss. Does this show a love that was never fulfilled and never expressly declared between the couple? Or does this show the ambivalence between submission and rejection between the sexes? Love as the cosmic law for the life-giving union between man and woman or the document of a love that perhaps experienced its most wondrous time at Lake Attersee?
Painted by Albrecht Altdorfer (around 1480-1538) and his workshop between 1512 and 1515, the triumphal frieze of Maximilian I. of Habsburg (1459-1519) is an imaginary parade of the most important encounters, events and achievements of the emperor’s life. The frieze has been comissioned by Maximilian I. himself, who was a great patron for the arts of his time. Originally more than 100 meters long, only the second part of the precious vellum paintings has been preserved. Today the elaborately restored frieze is part of the collection of the Viennese museum Albertina, which in 2012 has been presenting the scenes for the first time as continuous series due to a particular exhibition design.
ikono is very happy to having the opportunity of showcasing this gem of Northern alpine Renaissance painting. In close collaboration with the Albertina we produced a 15 minutes journey through the life of the Habsburg emperor, focusing on the details and refinements of Altdorfer’s monumental masterpiece.
Please read the introduction by Dr. Eva Michel, curator at the Albertina’s Graphic Art Collection, for getting more information on this unique rediscovered heritage, and follow the link for gaining an overview over the frieze’s single scenes: Altdorfer’s triumphal procession of Maximilian I., Contents of sheets
ALBRECHT ALTDORFER and workshop
TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION OF EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN I, c. 1512 – 1515
Pen drawings with watercolor and gouache, gold and silver heightening, on vellum;
c. 45 x 95 cm each (total length of surviving sheets 49 – 109, incl. the authors’ page, when lined up as a painted frieze: 53.8 m)
Vienna, Albertina, Inv. 25205 – 25263
By Eva Michel
The Triumphal Procession was commissioned by Maximilian I of Habsburg (1459 – 1519), elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The cycle of originally 109 large-format colored pen-drawings was executed in 1512 – 1515 by the famous German artist Albrecht Altdorfer and his workshop as a frieze with a total length of more than 100 meters. Unlike the woodcut version of the Triumph Procession published from 1516 onwards, the exquisite paintings on costly parchment were certainly intended as an exclusive display copy for the emperor’s own personal use.
This outstanding work exists only as a fragment today. The original first part (sheets 1 to 48) of the Triumphal Procession has been lost, nothing is known of its fate or whereabouts; only a transcript of Maximilian’s written concept of 1512 and two later copies allow it to be reconstructed. The second part – sheets 49 to 109, measuring about 45 by 95 centimetres each – has survived and is preserved in the Albertina Museum in Vienna (Austria), where it was the focus of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer” (September 2012 to January 2013).
The subject of the Triumph dates back to antiquity and to the practice of staging processions to mark the ceremonial entry of victorious Roman generals. It was popularized via humanist literary descriptions and their adaptations during the Italian Renaissance. Maximilian’s Triumphal Procession reveals a new conception of the ancient model, drawing its rhetoric authority into the orbit of imperial aims. The pageant depicted never actually took place, nor does it mark any one victory in the field. It is rather an idealized review of the most important persons and events of the Maximilian’s life, intended to link himself and the House of Habsburg to prestigious Roman origins, to glorify the emperor during his lifetime and to keep his memory alive for all eternity. It displays family and lineage, military campaigns, private pastimes such as jousting, hunting, and music-making, and imperial demonstrations of power in the form of coats of arms and standards. The protagonists are not dressed up in classical garb, but the parade is made up of contemporary lansquenets and knights. The classical elements are thus partly overshadowed by late-medieval entry pageantry and references to Maximilian’s personality and life. The sequence of the sheets and the reading direction run from right to left, against the direction of the procession. This creates the effect of the participants of the Triumphal Procession encountering the viewer moving in the opposite direction.
The beginning of that part of the program that has been preserved in the Albertina marks the depiction of Maximilian’s marriage to Mary of Burgundy in Ghent on 19 August 1477. The golden chariot bearing symbols of the cities and castles is followed by a magnificent display of spectacular battle scenes on painted banners and by chariots laden with trophies and war booty. This fictional showcasing of Maximilian’s military prowess leads to the imperial artillery with its state-of-the-art cannons and artillery pieces and then to the carriages laden with the emperor’s sacred and secular treasures, displayed here to prove that the emperor had riches beyond imagining. The battlefield feats are followed by historic key events in Maximilian’s life, such as the marriage of his son Philip the Fair to Joanna of Castile in 1496. A series of statues of Maximilian’s ancestors underscores his noble descent. They are followed in turn by the prisoners of war, the antique bearers of victory, and the trumpeters and heralds announcing the arrival of Maximilian’s mother on her chariot. The emperor himself, clad in full regalia with crown, scepter, and palm frond (a traditional symbol of victory), is enthroned on a triumphal chariot drawn by twelve white horses. Before him are his first wife, Mary of Burgundy, and their daughter Margaret, and seated in front of them are his son Philip with Joanna and their children. This depiction of the emperor’s immediate family sharing the same chariot was intended to stress the importance that he himself attached to family and to the perpetuation of the Habsburg Dynasty. Following the imperial chariot in order of rank are numerous princes, counts, lords, knights, and lansquenets, a wagon fort and the “kalikutischen Leut,” here represented by the Indians, as an allusion to Maximilian’s hegemonic claims to territories outside Europe. The Baggage Section —a motley group of ordinary men, women, and children— follows the army. Apart from the landscape backdrop to one part of the Baggage Section, the protagonists march against the neutral ground of unpainted parchment. This forces us to focus our attention on the figures and scenes themselves, whose purpose, being cut off from time and place, is to glorify Maximilian in the collective memory.
The impressive length of Maximilian’s purely imaginary Triumphal Procession at over 100 meters raises the question of its original presentation and storage: The parchments seem too small-scale in terms of their imagery for a mural decoration, and too well preserved to have been hung for a long period. Diagonal folds and evidence of rubbing on the surfaces of the parchments seem to have been caused by the rolling them up, which fits perfectly to the rhetoric effect of classical rotuli, thus using an antiquizing format for the antiquizing content. The parchment band could have been used in the manner of a scroll that is viewed manually, with one hand unrolling, and the other rolling up, according to similar principles as prayer scrolls and the Torah. The exquisitness and sensitivity of the material, as well as its dimensions, meant, that the miniature Triumphal Procession – in contrast to the later woodcut version – remained a magnificent treasure, reserved only for the emperor and a small group of selected courtiers. The Triumphal Procession, which in reality never took place, is a celebration of Maximilian’s life and works and thus became a triumph over death and time.
For more information, please consult the catalogue of the exhibition “Emperor Maximilian I. and the Age of Dürer”, ed. by Eva Michel and Maria-Luise Sternath, Albertina, Prestel Verlag, Munich 2012.
When Freedom Graffiti (2013) popped up on Saatchi’s Facebook page, the image from the Syrian artist’s series The Syrian Museum was shared all over the Internet and made it into many international publications: Tammam Azzam has digitally projected Gustav Klimt’s Kiss from 1908 upon a wall full of bullet holes, reminders of the civil war in the artist’s home country.
Not long after the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the artist lost his studio in Damascus and his means of production. Under the impression of the violence the people in Syria have to face on a daily base, Azzam turned to digital art, looking at the desperation and the many victims in Syria from inside the safety of the computer screen. With his latest series The Syrian Museum Azzam worked iconic faces of western art into images of battlezones in Syria. Using paintings by Henri Matisse, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Francisco de Goya or Andy Warhol, he wants “to demonstrate that Syria has no world-class museums and the regime is presently killing its own cultural heritage.” By projecting Klimt on a destroyed facade Azzam confronts a couple’s intimacy with the cruelty of war: “The Kiss shows the love and relationship between people,” the artist stated in a recent interview, “and I have juxtaposed this with the capacity of hate the regime holds for its people.”
Tammam Azzam was born in Damascus in 1980 and graduated from the Syrian’s capital Faculty of Fine Arts. He was featured at the Scope Art Fair Basel in 2009 and at Art Miami 2010. He also had various solo shows at the Ayyam Gallery, Damascus and Dubai.