Group exhibition, Vienna/Austria:
Lifelong Learning (Iteration II, Knowledge)
Education, upbringing or simply just learning—the acquisition and transmission of knowledge are always structured on a variety of levels by power. On the one hand, these have a direct effect on the contents already learned, and to be learned, by way of inclusion and exclusion mechanisms; on the other hand, the power relations also have an effect on the manner in which knowledge is transmitted. The term ‘learning’ in this context is instead a much more open and constantly repeating training about life’s subjective realities and not just limited to the communication of academic knowledge.
The Lifelong Learning (Iteration II, Knowledge) exhibit shows eight positions of contemporary art examining power relations in the concept of ‘lifelong learning.’ Based on the idea of an infinite loop of communicative, media and societal contexts, the works focus on the function of language in the educational process as well as on the performative dimension of knowledge transfer and acquisition. Along with looking at individuals’ social engagement, economic and sociopolitical parameters are also examined, like the ability to compete, adaptation competencies and biographical freedom of planning. In a cross-cultural network and knowledge society, the keywords ‘lifelong learning’ have actually become the main criterion for the supply of societal resources, no longer just an aspect of education subjugated by educational institutions.
Repetition as a central method of structuring learning processes serves as a point of departure for the participating artists: Gerhard Dirmoser’s Verbs in CONTEXT: The Art of Action, for instance, shows at a glance the complex interconnections between more than 10 000 common verbs. Michael Kargl also helps himself to a similarly stored reference collection and compilation as the basis for knowledge acquisition with his installation configurations of knowledge [blackboards], in which he abstracts various standardized screen and monitor formats. In process analysis 1–3, Jochen Höller grapples with the self-reflective moment of contemplation in a series of drawings depicting it as a circular movement against a backdrop of relational approaches to the topics of ‘repetition’ and ‘knowledge.’
With the installation Figure 1, Kathi Hofer scrutinizes the relationship between knowledge and affect by encroaching upon the causal relationships of subject, image and reality in the continuous loop of image (re)production. Karo Szmit examines the reaction to repeating units of information in a changed context with her performance Remember Me, where she literally writes her memory onto the audience during the performance. The power of repetitive action is the focus of both Santiago Sierra’s 11 People Paid to Learn a Phrase as well as Anna Witt’s push. Sierra operates with the imitation of the sounds of speech emptied of all meaning, while Witt uses the imitation of powerful public authorities’ stereotypical gestures. In Education Archetype, Daniel Hafner ultimately focuses on the repetition of never-changing contexts in which he presents an interactive operational model of conventional teaching methods.
The process of transferring knowledge and acquiring such is brought into question in Lifelong Learning (Iteration II, Knowledge) in various contexts and beyond the mere accumulation of information. The artworks on display instead move into the centre of awareness the acquisition of various forms of communication: succumbing to power, exerting power, time and time again—with their focus firmly placed on others and on oneself.
Education Archetype (2010) | Installation, switch, cable, relays, alarm horn, lamps, adhesive letters
In Education Archetype, Daniel Hafner transfers the workings of conventional teaching methods and approaches to a mechanical and technically driven process and imagines it as an interactive installation. The descriptions of the installation’s individual components, steered by circuits, are synonymous for the stereotypical steps of knowledge transfer as a majority of viewers might recall from their own time in the classroom: ‘rules’ for the content to be learned, ‘options’ for quizzes, ‘processor’ for assessment, ‘authoritative element’ for the authoritarian power of individual faculty, ‘result’ for the grades and, finally, ‘operating power’ for the funding and controlling state entity. Getting to the heart of the typical school grading system, the possibilities are to pass or to fail, black or white, zero or one, yet despite limited options are ‘well trivialized.’
Daniel Hafner (born in Deutschlandsberg/Austria) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.
Figure 1 (2009) | Installation, b/w copies (folded and laminated), mirror
Kathi Hofer sets into scene one of the central findings of contemporary imagery with her installation Figure 1: the crisis of representation in which it has come to a reversal of causal relationships between subject, image and reality due to information’s media globalization and digital reproducibility—and thus repeatability. The artist writes, “Subjects today no longer represent the real world in images. Instead, images create virtual worlds that subjects in reality react to.” Hofer’s diagnosis of the times refers back to The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, a self-portrait of Austrian physicist Ernst Mach published in German in 1886. She places the focus of her observation on the perceiving subject’s moment of self-reflection—and learning, if one so chooses—as well as the problematisation of the ‘self’ in a continual circuit of image production and reproduction, of signifier and signified.
Kathi Hofer (born in Hallein/Austria) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.
Remember Me (2011) | Performance, stamp
In her performance, Remember Me, Karo Szmit reflects upon the anonymity of virtual space based on a collection of computer buttons, which often appear as an option on webpages to look at their contents at a later point in time, to read them or to interact with them. “Besides its practical function,” the artist says, “the phrase reminded me of a desperate entreaty not to be forgotten. The simple possibility to decide to be remembered seems like a trick within the anonymous online world. I was wondering what or who else one could address with the demand ‘remember me.’” Szmit, as a putative doorperson, uses art events to stamp visitors and to inscribe the words ‘remember me’ on foreign bodies. The opposing temporal movements of memory and repetition are knocked out of joint for a moment and brought to a standstill with this gentle, but no less authoritarian practice.
Karo Szmit (born in Warsaw/Poland) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.
Verbs in CONTEXT: The Art of Action (2004) | 4-part poster, à A0, C-print on paper
Human action through and with language is the centrepiece of this large-format poster installation Verbs in CONTEXT: The Art of Action. Gerhard Dirmoser presents a graphic representation of about 10 000 verbs woven into a semantic network, ordered according to theme and through the use of individual meaning clusters. A multidimensional categorization system makes possible a multilayered interpretation from sociopolitical, economical or power theory perspectives that correlates to states of being, relationships and forms of behavior. Dirmoser, who sees himself as a systems analyst, attempts to get to the bottom of the ability to understand linguistic knowledge in its apparent exhaustiveness and complexity when it can primarily be realized as a textual image in the form of a diagram. From a pragmatic point of view about the use of language, this examines not only the relationship between the linguistic signs and their users, but also with the linguistic system as the superordinate entity.
Gerhard Dirmoser (born in Freistadt/Austria) lives and works in Linz/Austria.
push (2006) | Video, 6:14 min, looped
An arrest as the everyday motif on the streets of Los Angeles, and as a classic motif of the film industry based there: with a secure neck hold and the arm pulled and twisted painfully behind the back, a person is pressed downward to both limit his capacity to act and to restrain him for the following measures by the police. For the performance push, which took place near the promenade at Venice Beach in Southern California, artist Anna Witt asked passersby to push her down onto the bonnet of a parked car. In return, the person also had to consent to being subject to the same act of physical violence. The exercising of power and powerlessness are made tangible on a firsthand basis in this constantly repeating, staged role-playing procedure. The participation of random pedestrians contributes to the visualization of cultural stereotypes and the positioning of subjects within societal structures.
Anna Witt (born in Wasserburg am Inn/Germany) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.
configurations of knowledge [blackboards] (2011) | Installation, 5 MDF-panels, blackboard paint, aluminum frame, variable installation size
If the term ‘knowledge’ is understood as a strategy to win a society’s cultural resources and thus to maintain the social system, it becomes obvious that knowledge is just as shaped by the culture as it itself shapes the culture. Michael Kargl gets started here at the interface of these pair of opposites, between passivity and activity, with configurations of knowledge [blackboards]. He presents everyday knowledge to viewers that in equal measure both specifies normative contexts and generates new meanings from exactly those contexts. The relationships of simple units of knowledge to one another create the focal point of this work, which is conceived as a multi-piece series: for instance, historic and contemporary film and computer displays encounter one another, as do international paper formats, or the parameters for spatial measurement that surround us daily. Categorization, classification and the relationship between normative sizes all inevitably lead to the question of who is considered responsible for the production of knowledge and with whom the power to define knowledge lies.
Michael Kargl (born in Hall in Tyrol/Austria) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.
11 People Paid to Learn a Phrase (2001) | Video, 12 min, looped
“I am getting paid to say something, the meaning of which I do not know.” Santiago Sierra assembled eleven Tzotzil women, an indigenous ethnic group from the Mexican federal state of Chiapas, to speak this sentence in Spanish (“Estoy siendo remunerado para decir algo cuyo significado ignoro”) and paid them two dollars each to do so. Thus the artist places within a social context the repetition of a sound sequence that is meaningless for the persons saying it—that absurd moment of foreign language acquisition when the sense of language seems to disappear, leaving only the sound’s material and form. Using members of the Tzotzil language community, one of the most vital Maya languages still existing, his conceptual intervention highlights global power relations and the dependency of the so-called “Third World” on the “First.” He is further pointing out the colonialization of language—marked by the flow of funds—through the Spanish language, which in addition to English has become one of the most important common languages of capitalist systems.
Santiago Sierra (born in Madrid/Spain) lives and works in Mexico City/Mexico.
process analysis 1–3 (2011) | 3 drawings, à 30 x 40 cm, framed
There are only a few cases in which the steps of a process lead in a straight line from one problem’s point of departure to one goal and a solution to the problem. Processes of all sorts—from global occurrences on down to the smallest units of personal contemplation and sensual experience—usually turn out to be circular motions in which a self-reflective moment must be inherent in order for it to develop at all. Jochen Höller’s series of drawings process analysis 1–3 depicts complex processes that can be read for viewers as an impetus to further processes – one’s own thinking processes. Represented by superimposed lines, circles and arrows, the artist leaves open which developmental processes his analyses are subject to. Ordered into several strands, the processes are visualized as a downward funnel-shaped, regenerating infinite loop, or in concentric circles, and lead to reflections about the process and, ultimately, learning about learning itself.
Jochen Höller (born in Amstetten/Austria) lives and works in Vienna/Austria.