press release

The exhibition of works by an austrian artist Josef Dabernig, which can be enjoyed at Bunkier Sztuki, presents a profile of his art and its various aspects, ranging from films (which had the widest reception), to photography, to hand-rewritten books, to rastr constructions.

Josef Dabernig has gained renown mainly as a film maker, and two of his films were created in Poland – they are: "Wars", which was filmed on a train going from Cracow to Warsaw, and "Wis©¯a" – filmed at the stadium of the Cracow’s football club. Also rastr constructions designed by Dabernig were presented to Polish audience. It was also here in Poland, and more specifically, in Nowa Huta, Cracow, Rzeszow, Katowice, Warsaw, in places near the Polish motorways, and on the Polish-Ukrainian border that a lot of the photos were taken which can now be seen at the exhibition.

The motto which unites the various aspects of the exhibition, such as: objects, texts, films, photographs, and sketches of architecture and interior designs, is the medium itself, as well as the circulation of motives which have been used by the artist. Therefore the curators of the exhibition, while arranging the works of art, decided to classify those motives which occur most often in his art by exposing similar elements in different projects. Dabernig himself claimed that the aim of the exhibition is to work out, on structural grounds, the recurrent/identical in the heterogenous understanding of the works od art.

Conceptual roots of Dabernig’s art ought to be remembered, since they are a significant source of his actions. Up to 1990’s the artist was engaged primarily in object and text works, and then proceeded to images which are recorded by a camera and a video camera, thus creating a new iconography and language of the performances. From that period he has retained an analytic attitude to text which manifests itself for example in the study of the relation of a description of a building to its actual appearance. Those descriptions, which were usually taken from guidebooks, reveal political and ideological attitudes of their authors which in turn affect the manner of presenting an edifice or an architectonic design. Dabernig follows those traces and deconstructs them in his works. The artist also emphasizes the historical aspect and analyzes how the elements which are introduced to a scenery re-interpret it or further define it.

Searching for a void and structuring it also plays a colossal role in Dabernig’s work. He looks for deserted and solitary places, or creates them himself if he cannot find them, through an adequate use of means that media such as film, photography, pencil and paper offer.

In his films he often deals with the subject of border and the inability of separating text from context, and what is in the frame from what is out of it, as well as art itself from the casual. Moreover, Dabernig follows the point of contact of imagination with reality and the relations between an action and its representation. References to fetishism for goods and other concepts of the Frankfurt school can be noticed in his films. He keeps on analyzing the media he uses and his own role as an artist.

Unlike widely spread film works by Dabernig, his photographs have never had such vast reception although he has been exploiting that medium since 1970’s, and has introduced them systematically in his exhibitions since the beginning of 21st century. The way the artist composes his photo series resembles D¿igi Viertow’s style of work with his theory of film making based on previously recorded material which acquires new meaning in the montage process.

In this way the series Proposal for a New Kunsthaus, not further develop was composed which was presented in 2004 as a series of photos taken during various travels of the artist in the years 1995-2003. Images of buildings, various interiors and architectural details between which there was no actual relation were presented as possible elements of a new Museum.

It is worth noticing that the artist does not separate what is private from what is artistic in his photo archives. Art mingles with every day life there. Images which are materialized in a photograph play the role of memories brought forward in some of his films – for example WARS – based on earlier experiences which are then discussed and aesthetically processed.

Another important sphere of Dabernig’s art is rewriting books. His debut as a scribe took place in 1977 when Dabernig rewrote "Schönheit und Verdauung. Die Verjüngung des Menschen durch fachgemäße Wartung des Darmes" (1920) by F.X. Mayr. Writing with his hand, he as if reverts the process of mechanisation and mass use of writing which started at the beginning of the 19th century with the introduction of the typewriter.

The procedure of rewriting books which are thematically related to architecture such as fragments of treatise or guidebooks, is accompanied by systematic statistics of various everyday activities of the artist. They are for example a recorded number of smoked cigarettes or the amount of petrol he bought and the place where he bought it. Dabernig performs both activies with equal conscientiousness. In this section of his creative work it is easiest to notice relations to conceptualism in which both text analysis and playing with it, as well as the statistics of every day life are among the most popular spheres of communicating the meanings.

The exhibition presents also sculptures which are an expression of the tendency of Dabernig’s art after the year 1990 when the artist started producing his objects from easily recognizable and simple construction elements. Those elements are set together so as to form rastrs which the artist uses to cover surfaces and spaces of galleries, and thus as if creating them anew. In those sculpted constructions a special role is assigned to spaces between particular elements of a given series. It ought to be mentioned that the sculptures made of frames and angle bars are installed afresh each time and thus adjusted to the architecture of a given gallery.

Josef Dabernig (born in 1956) - 1975-1983 studied at the Vienna Univeristy of Fine Arts. He presents black and white films. Their uniform narration which develops against precisely defined public places with easily recognizable features, gives his films unique quality. The films show recurrent, everyday activities. He directs the films, and appears in them, so as to portray slow movements and gestures which only seemengly confirm the triviality of those situations.

When taking a closer look at them we can discover a carefully conceived plan – a temporary and monotonous place shows an unnecessary void waiting for something new that will happen. The artist is deeply rooted in the real world. His films usually end in a moment when the audience think that the action is only just beginning. They present the essential problems by overcoming the present condition of the human being in the world.

Dabernig is in the real world and he is not trying to cut off from it. Yet, he is not interested in copying or symbolizing it. Reality does not provide an adequate vision of the future. The films show plenty of different situations, but they are all viewed from the same perspective. The director concentrates on the basic structures of human activity and interpersonal relations rather than on the plot of his films. He shows the world devoid of illusions which may inspire the viewers to re-reflect on relations with others and on the world in general. Individual international exhibitions – among others: Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig [2005]; Grazer Kunstverein [2004]; BAK - basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht [2003]; Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius [2002]; Galerie Display, Prague [2001]; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin [1997]; Potocka Gallery, Cracow [1994]; Wiener Secession [1992]; film presentations: Austrian Film Museum, Vienna [2005]; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris [2005]; Flandern Film Festival, Gandawa [2004]; Kino Aero, Prague [2004]; Museo Laboratorio/Università degli studi di Roma [2003]; filmarchiv austria, Vienna [2002]. His works were shown at Manifesta 3 in Lubljana [2000] and at The Biennale in Venice [2001 and 2003].


only in german

Josef Dabernig
Film Photography Text Object Construction
kuratoren: Barbara Steiner, Maria Anna Potocka
Kooperation: Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig; Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck