artist statement

In my artistic practice I am particularly interested in material culture – that is »the relationships between people and their things: the making, history, preservation [or discarding], and interpretation of objects.« This entails an interest in craft, rituals, religious and esoteric practices, programming and electronics.

My work is inspired by a body of theory, notably, amongst others, Hannah Arendt and posthumanist or new materialist positions. While thinking and theory are crucial, I also simply love to 'make things'. 'Making things' and observing myself closely while I do so, therefore is an important artistic strategy.


Materialism

To give a short insight into how theory informs my work, I will cite a passage from New Materialisms. Ontology, Agency and Politics. Melissa A. Orlie writes:

»To say that the mind is embodied does not adequately convey what Nietzsche means when he says that soul, mind, or ego are different names for aspects of the body. For him, mind is body. This is not to say that mind or mindedness can be reduced to some particular physical location or organ, such as the brain; rather, it is to claim that various forms of mental activity are aspects or manifestations of matter. All mental activity, from the so called highest states of consciousness to what Freudians call primary process and refer to as unconscious, arises, according to this view, from the same basic material elements that compose the physical body. That human beings can think, read, and write, that they can give and receive instruction from one another and sometimes be changed by it, are capacities that are integral to the developmental trajectory of matter. Nietzsche's judgement is indeed that consciousness is the weakest, last, and least developed of our instincts. In his view all of our affects, from the most immediate physical sensations of pleasure and pain to the most refined aesthetic and moral judgements, grow from and change with our physis. He does not believe that moral and aesthetic judgements are reducible to basic sensory sensations and reactions – indeed, he designates these more mindful judgements as some of the 'subtlest nuances' of physis – but he does insist that critical judgement and creative deeds are born of, and known only by and as, matter.

If this is the case, why do we associate thinking, willing and acting with something immaterial, with 'spirit' rather than matter? […] The short answer is that the body despairs of the body when it cannot bear its own experience or digest its suffering. […] Nietzsche suggests that in those moments when something happens to the body that challenges its powers, an aspect of the body generates a defensive fantasy of its autonomy from and power over the body.«[1]


Deskilling in Art

Art (visual art), in the course of the 20th century, has been embarking on a trajectory that loosened its intricate engagement with 'craft', 'matter', 'the object' and 'the material' towards a more immaterial approach. From Malevich and Duchamp through Minimalism and Conceptual art up to contemporary media- and performance based or digital practices, art has become more a matter of concepts and ideas than a matter of 'making things'. In his book The Intangibilities of Form. Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade John Roberts explains this as a necessary and irreversible consequence of the transformations of what he calls 'general social technique', that is the transformation of productive labour and the social division of labour as a consequence of industrialisation and commodification. He writes: »[…] the split between artistic labour and the conventional craft-based signs of authorship which follows from this split, necessarily links artistic skill in late capitalist culture to a conception of artistic labour as immaterial production. Artistic skills find their application in the demonstration of conceptual acuity, not in the execution of forms of expressive mimeticism.«[2]

Roberts' analysis is complex and illuminating and he stresses, that »this does not mean that art is now a practice without the hands of the artist and without craft. […] On the contrary, art’s emancipatory possibilities lie in how the hand is put to work within, and by, general social technique (and therefore in relation to the techniques of copying and reproducibility), and not through the subordination of the hand to such techniques.«[3]

A lot of contemporary art though seems to do just that, subordinate itself (while at the same time still claiming a critical attitude). Instead of mimicking nature in paintings or sculpture, art today all too often mimicks capitalist modes of production. Tom Holert gives a more blatant account of these processes: »[…] durch die Rationalisierung, Mechanisierung, Industrialisierung der Produktion sind traditionelle Wissensbestände systematisch abgewertet worden, um […] die Arbeitskraft verfügbarer, disponibler, mobiler zu machen. […] Und das ist etwas, was durch die Kunst aufgenommen wird. Das ist eine Erkenntnis, die in das Prinzip der Delegation mündet. […] in der sich als kanonisch erweisenden Kunstgeschichte werden diejenigen Kunstformen prämiert, die sich auf diese gesellschaftliche Tatsache eines allgemeinen deskilling und reskilling einlassen bzw. auf diese reagieren. Das führt in den 1960er Jahren dazu, dass sich die amerikanischen Künstler […] zunehmend weniger als Handwerker, als Künstler, die in ihrem Atelier etwas herstellen, betrachten, sondern als Fabrikanten, auch als Manager ihrer eigenen Produktion, als Unternehmer. […] Und die Tendenz geht dahin, dass es immer mehr skills sind, die in einer white-collar-Arbeitswelt gefragt sind, also management skills, Programmierskills, im weitesten Sinne mit den neuen Informationstechnologien verbandelte skills.«[4]

While these accounts of the story are in itself coherent and have expanatory merits, they are neither the only possible narration nor do they provide guideance for the future; they simply explain the developments of the past. If someone were to write a 'canonical' art history of non-Western art, undoubtedly, the story would be narrated very differently.


Climate Crisis, Rising Income Inequality, Polarised Politics, …

Today we live in a world that has to bear the consequences of the ongoing transformations of 'general social technique' that Roberts and Holert describe so evenmindedly. As of 2020, scientists widely agree that climate crisis is the adequate term to describe the state of urgency that the threat to our biosphere due to over-exploitation of natural resources and excessive consumption has reached.[5] The overall sense of crisis is intensified by increasing levels of income and wealth inequality in most countries and regions since the 1980ies. These are closely connected to globalisation, which is »helping to shift the balance between labour vs. capital, delivering a larger share of income to the owners of capital, such as entrepreneurs, and a smaller share to the people who work for them.«[6] These rising inequalities have far-reaching consequences. Among the most visible in recent years is the polarisation of politics and the rise of - mostly - right-wing populism in the UK, the US and elsewhere around the developed world.[7] On a more personal and individual level in industrialised countries levels of anxiety, depression and burnout are on the rise.

All of this, I contend, is closely linked to the way we relate to our material world, to the things we surround ourselves with and the way these things are produced, used, interpreted and discarded. Precicely, the crisis we are in is a logical consequence of an attitude that despises and devalues matter, manual labour, traditionall skills and forms of production, the body and embodied knowledge; an attitude that sees matter as nothing else than an inert resource that can be exploited at will. In fact, this exploitative relationship we have with matter and things has started to extend to our relationships with each other and the relationship to ourselves and our own bodies.


electronic devices

Interestingly though, contemporary material culture is shaped by both, an unprecedented plethora of things and a relatively new category of objects: electronic devices. While the former speaks of the aforementioned relationship between humans and things characterised by consumerism and throw-away-mentality, the latter holds an interesting twist. With microchips increasingly embedded in all kinds of everyday tools and appliances (and in the future possibly globally linked with each other by technologies like the Internet of Things), things are said to become »intelligent«. Throughout human history, for the most part, things (or: matter) were (was) alredy belived to be - if not »intelligent« - then certainly »animate«. Recent technological developments may open up the chance to again transform the perception of the relationships between ourselves and our things - and engender new 'general social techniques' - or they may just amplify the status quo. I would like to contribute to the former.

»We simply are not very aware of our experience, of what is taking place within and about this body, on this earth, at any moment.«

(1) Orlie, Melissa A. (2010), "Impersonal Matter", in New Materialisms. Ontology, Agency and Politics, edited by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, Duke University Press, Durham London, pages 126ff.

(2) Roberts, John (2007), The Intangibilities of Form. Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade. Verso, page 3

(3) Ibid. page 4

(4) Interview with Tom Holert by Johanna Schaffer in "What is it That Makes Research in the Arts so Different, so Appealing?" (2011) Brochure edited by Johanna Schaffer on the occsion of the exhibition Troubling Research. Performing Knowledge in the Art, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

(5) BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 8–12 Link

(6) Keeley, Brian (2015), "Why is income inequality rising?", in Income Inequality: The Gap between Rich and Poor, OECD Publishing, Paris. Link

(7) Partington, Richard, (09/2019) "Inequality: is it rising, and can we reverse it?", The Guardian, Link


biography

Born in Lower Austria in 1968.
2002 Graduation from the University of Applied Arts/ Vienna
(Prof. Herbert Tasquil/ Prof.Isabelle Graw / 'Freie Klasse')
2003 — 2006 Research on concepts of space at the Universitiy of Tokyo, Department of Architecture, (Prof. Hiroyuki Suzuki)
Continuous artistic practice since 2011 (studio) /2015 (first exhibition).
Lives and works in Vienna.


raumen

[ʀaʊ̞mən] verb; raumte; geraumt 1. → to make space; every → activity, that produces intellectual, cultural, social, emotional and material spaces; Important is, that the → production of space takes place on different levels, material space is the basis though 2. → Atelier für künstlerisches Handeln, Schloss Hubertendorf (2009-2015) 3. Nautic language; the turning favourable of the wind; the action of a wind, that turns towards aft and therefore becomes more favourable; raumer Wind: backing wind, a wind, that comes more from aft in relation to the point of sail; ↔ schrallen. 4. (rare); latin transkription of the Japanese word ラーメン (Ramen = Asian noodle soup); the u is used as a character for a long a; Ra-men; Rahmen; Rāmen


contact

astrid edlinger
a.edlinger [at] raumen [dot] at
phone: +43 676 343 1662

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